Business Theatre Live combines entertainment and professional development.

Movie clips. Business lessons. Dramatic skits. Networking. In most settings, these things don’t have much in common. But at Business Theatre Live, participants can get all four for the price of one.

Business Theatre Live is a new concept that combines business education, networking, and theater in one creative package at monthly events in Bellevue. Tired of the same old networking and speaking events, Jenni Butz and Christina Marie Kimball sought to help professionals grow their businesses while expanding their knowledge and having a little fun. As they tossed around ideas, Kimball says there was “an explosion of both of our brains.”

“What if we combined the fun and art of theater and allow speakers to have a fresh venue — a real black box — to present what they are teaching in professional development?” Kimball says. “Why aren’t we tapping into art, literature, music, and movies to help reinforce the integration of business principles? Let’s make a platform for people to present and learn.”

The result of their brainstorming is Business Theatre Live. Each monthly show is held at the Bellevue Youth Theatre and features three speakers in a TED Talks-type format with theater and business promotion sprinkled in.

The goal is to provide professional-development speakers new avenues to share their knowledge, and create an opportunity to bring together participants who wouldn’t normally meet in a traditional networking setting.

Founders Jenni Butz, left, and Christina Marie Kimball. Photo by Mike Nakamura.

Founders Jenni Butz, left, and Christina Marie Kimball. Photo by Mike Nakamura.

“We want this to be practical edutainment,” Butz says.

Professional development is facilitated for many by their employers, Kimball says. Entrepreneurs don’t always have that opportunity, yet they still need to engage in community development and networking. Business Theatre Live provides business owners and other professionals a chance to grow their community presence and to forge new relationships in a fresh, fun way.

“We’re hoping this becomes a very powerful crossroads for the regional network,” Kimball adds.

Kimball and Butz hope the events are helpful for those who are new to networking, are returning to the workforce after an absence, or have few local contacts. Mosby Cogswell of Pacific Learning Academy in Issaquah attended the October event, which was themed “You’ve Got to Rise to Shine.” It was Cogswell’s second time attending Business Theatre Live.

“It’s a nice introduction to networking — a combination of speakers, learning, and networking,” Cogswell says.

Steve Juetten of Juetten Personal Financial Planning in Bellevue attended his first event in October on the recommendation of his wife, who had attended in September.

“As a seasoned businessperson, I’m looking for something different. The three parts — networking, entertainment, and education — were unique, and they are why I will go back next month. It’s a different take on networking,” Juetten says.

Juetten particularly enjoyed the live commercials from sponsors between speakers and the fresh spin on networking that takes place before the event, during intermission, as part of the closing act, and following the event at an optional after-hours function. This structure gives participants four chances to talk to each other, a focal point to discuss, and an opportunity to wrap up the experience by discussing their takeaways at the end of the event.

“It engages a different part of my brain and takes me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing,” he says.

Juetten’s favorite speaker at the October event was Bruce Pflaumer, an image consultant who talked about the ABCs of style (assessment, boldness, and confidence). The other speakers were Arden Clise, an etiquette expert who discussed the difference between etiquette and manners, and real estate agent Tony Butz, who tackled the challenge of embracing and learning from failure. Financial advisor Tracy Crowley of Redmond has attended Business Theatre Live three times, and she plans to keep going.

“The format for this event is so fresh and the speakers so relevant, I won’t miss it,” Crowley says. “Each time I go I get information and training I can act on right away, and I keep meeting the most amazing people. The freshness of this event translates to its attendees. They are charismatic and connected, as well as passionate about learning and sharing.”

Kimball considers the events successful in attracting speakers with valuable information to share. She’d like to see the audience grow to about 200 or so, and she and Butz want to host Business Theatre Live events in Seattle and Tacoma in 2015. Programs in New York and Los Angeles also could be on the horizon.

“We want to build a sustainable audience that is really seeing the value of professional development and networking. It’s a fresh concept,” Kimball says. “We aren’t against technology, but we enjoy the idea of bringing people back into face-to-face contact.”

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