Dennis Finnegan is the owner and founder of Luminescence, a full service event production firm that has its roots in, you guessed it, lighting. I first met Dennis back in 2011 when he was exhibiting an exciting new product at BizBash – battery powered, programmable uplights. Having come from the event tech world, I was pretty psyched at the thought of not having to deal with those damn cables! I was so excited about Dennis, that I recommended him to Liz King for her next event. Aaaand, the rest is history.
Well, Luminescence provides much more than portable uplights. If you attended this year’s techsytalk LIVE, then you remember the shimmering holographic smoke “wall” that framed the event entrance. It made quite a dramatic statement. In fact, Dennis and his technical team provide a full suite of event services including trussing and staging, audio, video, furniture & décor, lasers, and other special effects.
Dennis and I sat down to talk about the development of his business and explore some of the qualities that make him and his company unique.
Deborah – About those lights – have you patented them?
Dennis – No, we’re the dealer, not the developer. The story behind that is a very magical kind of thing, one of those things that’s just supposed to happen. I was talking to a gentleman who knew me from the industry, and he just leaned in and said, “This deal just fell through, you need to meet this guy…” So I took a chance and I flew to London, and I met with him and stayed in town for a few days just about an hour west of London, and I took this uplighter and I tried to break it. I knew what I wanted, I knew what I needed tech-wise, I knew what I needed durability-wise, but more than anything I knew what I needed it to look like when we ran the lights, because I play with the lights. I joke around, I say we DJ with the lights.
I take what we do for events from my background from doing theater shows and from doing touring shows, so we translate that to the event space. I can’t have a chase running over fade time, and have one light come down fast, one light come down in steps. Everything in the room needs to work to response when we push a button. Instantly. And these were the only fixtures at the time that had that technology figured out. That, plus the fact that they were water resistant, indoor-outdoor, the battery life was phenomenal… When we first got delivery on them, I could do two jobs out of one charge. The way that they recycled was very intelligent. The guy over-engineered this stuff and he just didn’t have a channel for it yet, so I set up the first importing channel for these fixtures.
Deborah – Are there other people doing them now?
Dennis – Yeah, there’s other distributors now that picked it up in the south region. I think there’s one out west as well… My original fleet is still in service along with all the new fixtures. That’s five years later of hard touring!
Deborah – How many do you have now?
Dennis – We have about a hundred. And there’s various series. I think we have three of the old series, and then one of the new series. The old ones were called .20’s, and the new ones are called Colorpoints, from a company called Core in Europe. The new ones are great, because the cost has been reduced to half, the driver output is increased, their smaller, same footprint but the tech on the drivers have been cleaned up a little bit, the battery life has been almost doubled… When the uplighter product came around, there was a lot of stuff going on… and you know when you just feel like you’re stuck in a rut and you need another branch to swing to? I was there. I was totally there. It was about 2010, we’d been open for a couple of years… I made the difficult decision to trim the fat, get rid of the customers that [didn’t] work, get rid of the people that we [didn’t] vibe with… And it was hard. [There was] a good period of time where we lost revenue because of this, but it opened up a hole that made other things possible… It was a necessary move. We wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t do that.
Deborah – The reason I ask is, many people have talked about that topic from different angles. Not only making decisions about severing working relationships with clients but employees that don’t work. Those are serious issues for entrepreneurs contending with building our businesses.
Dennis – We’ve had people come through that didn’t even make it through the first job… hey, this is not for you. It’s the hardest job there is, where you have to wear so many hats. Especially on the tech side because of the physical demands and the tech demands, logistical demands, making sure of timetables… when everyone else fails at it, we thrive… Technicians and production people in general thrive on chaos, on controlled chaos and organization. We’re kind of misfits in life – we’re geeks, we’re all a little strange, but for some reason this industry makes us function correctly.
Deborah – It’s the right fit.
Dennis – What was important to me is that I wanted to do what I do, just a little bit differently, in the ways that I see as the correct ways. I’ve been a manager of people for other companies, but you don’t have the freedom to make those choices. I needed to start my own enterprise to do that.
Deborah – What makes your company unique?
Dennis – Tech is tech. Gear is gear. A lot of production companies love to tell you about their inventory, and I could take you into my warehouse and show you all my racks of gear and how great it is – I have the newest gear. It’s our people. Our people make us special. I think that I have really great people around me. I try to do that in my personal life, and I try to do that in my professional life. I’m very selective of the people I let into my sphere of energy. It’s a combined effort, and I like everybody that I work with. Like I said, we’re all strange cats in our own realm, but we’re a small family. You’ll see. Even though it’s a hard day, we’re still laughing.
Deborah – Everytime I see you, you always have good people.
Dennis – That’s the thing about keeping our size down, too. I’ve got five people on staff and a call list of about 30. A call list is good, but when you bring people in, you’ve got to be selective with that as well. I don’t think that our clients use us because we have the best inventory. I think they use us because we’re easy to get along with and we’re 100% reliable. There’s a lot of checks and balances in the background to make sure the orders are correct, but things do happen. I do what I have to do to make it right. I don’t pass the buck, and we also don’t farm out work to other people. I don’t subcontract crew or gear. 98% of our equipment on any job is in our inventory, controlled by us, so I know that it’s serviced, I know that it’s clean, and that’s why I’m in a comfortable place. We’re big enough to handle medium to large shows, and we do touring work, I travel to Vegas, Miami – we work. But I still have a good amount of control over everything.
Deborah – It’s true, production people are a weird bunch. To be conscientious and reliable and consistent, means that you are different, because everyone in this business is nuts.
What makes you most excited about the work that you do?
Dennis – I still get to be creative… I used to really get a kick out of flying the console and being in the front of the house and being the guy who pushed the buttons and making it all react, and every once in a while I’ll still jump in the seat and push the buttons, but that’s translated now to the bigger picture and making sure that all the assembly is correct… I like going into a raw space and figuring out every move from the moment it comes into the building to the moment it leaves the building and all the moving parts that go in between… The thing that’s so cool about what we do, and it’s almost like a spiritual thing, is that time no longer exists. You’re stuck in linear time, you have a curtain call, and no matter what happens, you must make your curtain call on time. There’s no, “I hurt myself,” there’s none of that. You get in the groove and time stops. And it’s moment by moment, priority by priority, A list to B list to C list to D list, to show and then Go. At the end of the day, you close everything up and you send it off and you go, Wow, we just went through 18 hours, where did it go? It’s like when athletes say, we’re in the moment. Our moment lasts all day.
Deborah – It’s a zone you go into.
Dennis – I think it’s one of the times when you’re being as true to yourself as you could possibly be, because you’re expressing from within and it’s just pouring out of you.
Deborah – The hologram. Every time I walk through that thing it’s like a religious experience.
Dennis – So this is a technology that I found about five years ago, and I knew I couldn’t handle it then. I knew that we weren’t ready for it. But it’s been simmering in the back of my brain, and I knew we needed to figure out a way… We launched at BizBash in October…
We pushed the water screens out first, because it gave me a chance to get over the bumps… It’s a rear projection system using elements, so we played with that first, and once that ran its course, it was time to move onto the fog screen, so now here it is.
Deborah – Any lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share?
Dennis – One of the reasons why I started my own business is, coming up in production, coming up in touring, it’s a very macho driven industry and a lot of these guys are “Hey you, f-in new guy, get over here.” You know, I never liked it, I came up in it, I dealt with it, and I developed a thick skin about it… but you don’t learn by being beaten down, you don’t learn by being insulted, and the whole thing is, all this positioning, all this posturing, I’ve never understood how you expect someone to thrive by insulting them. So when I started my thing, for better or for worse, we’re going to do it differently…
So my shop is a teaching shop. One of my guys took a hiatus and jumped into a shop in Australia, and he was interviewing with them, a bigger shop, and they asked him, “What do you know?” And I always said to the guys, “You’ve never worked in a big shop. You’re a face in a crowd of faces, you never really get in the hot seat, you never really get any experience, it takes years to get on the console or to learn. Here, you’re gonna learn every job and you’re gonna learn fast.”
When he was telling them all the experience he had, they didn’t believe him. They wanted references from me, said, “Where did you learn all this?” Learned from doing. And if you do something wrong, we correct, we remind and train. We’ll break your hump a little, cuz like I said, we’re a family. But very rarely have I raised my voice in anger to anyone on my team, because I don’t understand the necessity for it, and I think that’s why we get along so well. Even on the difficult days, we pull it through. There are days when we don’t eat. There are days when we don’t sleep. But we get it done, because we’re all in it together and we know that we’re working for the greater good. So I think that was one of the things I learned.
But we definitely review every job, in the truck on the ride home – “OK, we hit traffic, oh, we forgot this one item, OK, we worked around it this way, but let’s put a new process in place,” and everybody has input. We have no choice – we don’t work any other way.
Deborah – OK, so commitment, creativity, integrity – any other lessons?
Dennis – Stay true to yourself. There are times when I take risks with the company taking on a project that may require us to stretch or reach a little bit further, but I’ve seen people make the mistakes of trying to do it all, or trying to do what they don’t do. If we don’t have people on the team who can do a certain part of the production, I tell my clients, “Hey, we can’t work with you like this. Maybe I can recommend someone else.”
Luckily, we’re in a place right now where we have a good broad reach for everything, but I think that staying true to what makes you YOU, and keeping your identity – do what you do and do it well. There’s a market for everybody. We’re in the heart of the world, there’s so much work to go around. Find the clients that make sense for you, do the work that makes sense for you, and be great at it. You’re gonna fail if you try to do everything.
Matchmaking Stories from Techsytalk LIVE – ClearHart’s Clara de Soto Meets Event Farm’s Brennan McReynolds
Welcome to the first article in our new series, Matchmaking Stories from techsytalk LIVE, chronicling the matchmaking power of our annual marquee event tech conference and showcase.
Just completing its seventh year, techsytalk LIVE (formerly known as Plannertech) has established itself as THE place to learn about the latest resources and best practices for using technology in the event planning and meetings industry. In addition to its awesome educational content, the event has become a hotbed for community building and collaboration. We are thrilled to bring you the first in what we hope will be a long series of matchmaking success stories that started at techsytalk LIVE.
Our first tale involves two of our regular techsytalk LIVE presenters, Clara de Soto, Co-Founder of ClearHart, now SVP of Business & Product Development at Event Farm, and Brennan McReynolds, COO of Event Farm. Did you catch how they are both at Event Farm now? Let’s take a look back and see how that happened.
In 2011, Clara, along with Co-Founder, Erica Mannherz, founded ClearHart, a full-service innovation agency devoted to bridging the digital and non-digital worlds. They created turnkey wearable tech programs for some of the country’s largest events, including the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, San Francisco’s Outside Lands music festival, and the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. They even developed a nifty app called Killswitch, that allows you to remove all traces of your ex from your Facebook page, “making breakups suck less.” Then Clara gave a presentation at last year’s techsytalk LIVE conference, titled, “Wear” is the Engagement?! Leveraging Social Media, NFC and Wearable Technology at Your Next Event. Little did she know, but sitting in the audience was Brennan McReynolds.
Brennan is the COO of Event Farm, an event marketing platform offering invitation, guest registration and digital activation services. Their extensive client list includes the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Wired, Mashable and Buzzfeed, to name a few. During the time that ClearHart was developing their wearable tech, Event Farm was slowly moving into the experiential space with its own branded digital experiences for corporations and organizations. When he listened to Clara tell about the work that she and Erica were doing, Brennan knew there was a conversation to be had.
I spoke with Brennan and Clara this past week, and they talked me through the story of how they met and what’s been happening since.
Brennan – Here we are in the marketplace talking about heads up engagement, and that life should be more exciting than looking at your phones during an event, and that true data is when we’re interacting and engaging with people. Then here’s this woman who stands up on stage and says the exact same thing, and it was like, Holy sh*t, they exist! There’s somebody else who gets this and can truly articulate it and is passionate about it… So that’s when I tweeted out, nice work, we gotta talk, and Clara quickly responded, and she happened to be sitting behind me, and that was the first nerd out session of what ultimately became the team and the partnership that we have now.
Clara – We were really digging deep into what Brennan was mentioning, that “heads up” movement. With Clearhart, we felt a deep ethos around making sure that human behavior was dictating the technology and not the other way around, and that was kind of guiding the majority of our activations and projects. For instance, we created an app that removed traces of your ex from your Facebook profile… I actually have a 15-year-old sister, and seeing all of her little friends and how they engage with technology… seeing the real human behaviors there, that people want to digitally capture their special experiences, we sort of felt a bit of a calling about how to respond to that natural human behavior in such a way that wasn’t everybody at a concert holding up their phones and experiencing that concert through their phone screens as opposed to in the flesh.
Both ClearHart and Event Farm were gravitating towards the use of NFC, or near field communication technology.
Clara – It’s a chip, similar to RFID. It’s a chip that allows pieces of data or content to pass between two objects. An example of that is Apple Pay, or Google Wallet – an NFC reader that’s in your phone that when you tap it to a device, you’re able to pay… EZ Pass is [an example of] RFID – radio frequency, so it’s long range, but NFC, you have to be near… It’s funny, both Event Farm and Clearhart had the same draw towards NFC vs. RFID. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about RFID and how it’s used in the access control space, at large festivals. We were both independently drawn to NFC because of the active participation that it requires. You know, we’re not passively tracking people like they’re a bunch of cattle, instead we’re creating active touchpoints throughout an event experience that are intuitive to that space, so that attendees can actively be like, yes, I want to learn more information about X, or I want to actively check into Y, as opposed to us sending a push notification… I have yet to meet a single person who has gotten really psyched about a push notification. NFC, near field communication – it’s a chip that allows two devices to talk to each other. When we use it, we’re putting that chip either in a badge or a wrist band. I mean literally we could put it anywhere, in a decoder ring.
These two companies were definitely moving into similar spaces with their respective NFC projects: ClearHart’s Savor Band, which was used to great advantage at the 2014 New York City Wine and Food Festival, and Event Farm’s New Media Party, showcasing their digital gifting wall, as well as the announcement of their new HOVER platform, a fully integrated suite of digital services and apps.
It didn’t take long for these two powerhouses to realize that they should join forces. Clara, Erica, Brennan and Ryan Costello, Event Farm’s CEO began a series of meetings that sounded suspiciously like a romantic courtship. There was even a competing suitor in the form of another company who wanted to acquire ClearHart. But in the end, Clara and Erica decided that Event Farm would be a better home for them. On July 22, Event Farm announced the acquisition of ClearHart with the headline: Experiential Marketing of the Future: Bringing the Internet of Things to Experiences. As part of the deal, both Erica and Clara have been brought on as SVP’s of Business and Product Development to lead their HOVER and other new product development, new business and the direction of the experiential products as they continue to grow.
And it all started at Convene, during techsytalk LIVE. As Brennan says, “You meet your people, right? And that’s why I believe in the power of what Liz has built… If you really get into this space, that’s where you go to see and meet your people.” And as Brennan also correctly points out, there are many people in the industry who could be possible collaborative partners. The key ingredient to the success of such a relationship is a true alignment towards a shared ultimate vision, or some other urgent call to action.
Brennan – It was also validating, because then you realize, maybe we’re crazy, right, now we’re not crazy and alone… We’re not totally in this by ourselves, there’s other people who are equally as into this as we are…
And as I like to say, crazy with company is always better than crazy alone.
You asked, and you will receive!
It’s been a month since techsytalk LIVE 2015 and I’m still so energized by all of the great people I got to connect with. I’m thrilled to say that it truly was a wonderful event; the feedback has been so positive. Equally exciting is the number of requests for my presentation! Rather than sending it out one at a time, I’ve decided to make it available right here for you. These apps will make your life so much easier, and who doesn’t want that?
I’m already looking forward to techsytalk LIVE 2016…
At this year’s techsytalk LIVE, which took place on August 14th, I interviewed a cross section of speakers and exhibitors, to learn more about their involvement in the event industry and new technologies. One of the day’s featured speakers was John Trumble, Managing Director of the Food Network & Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival Presented by Food & Wine (NYCWFF). Together with NYCWFF founder, Lee Schrager, John has created and curated over 120 events for this year’s festival, to take place over four days starting October 15th.
John has been with the festival since early 2013, overseeing all of their marketing, PR, sponsorship and production activity. He came to this position after leading the events marketing department at Gilt City, a digital flash sales site (think online sample sales), spearheaded by fashionistas Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis. In that position, he produced many exclusive, live experiences, including fashion shows, movie nights, pool and cocktail parties, and high end, intimate dinners featuring one of the growing numbers of celebrity chefs he would later come to work with more regularly at NYCWFF. Prior to that, John was a producer for ten years at MTV Networks.
In his current role, John helps to get the chefs onboard, as well as the talent and the right event producers. He also closely watches over ticket sales, as the NYCWFF is a 501-3c non-profit organization. All festival proceeds are donated to their partner organizations, the Food Bank for NYC, and Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.
I asked John what gets him most excited about his work with the Wine and Food Festival…
John – Two things. First, I kind of like the process of process. I’m very much a creative person, especially from my 10 years at MTV networks, but seeing the lifecycle of the festival from start to finish and seeing the things we put in place, and solving problems on the fly, I think makes you a better producer… In events, and live events especially, something’s always going to go wrong, so it’s about solving those problems in a quick, efficient, calm kind of productive manner.
And then of course, I’m a huge foodie. I love to go out to eat. I love to consume any piece of food that I can. I spent a lot of time in the rock and roll world and creative world with MTV Networks and getting into the production world in the culinary space. Chefs are the new rock stars of today. Everybody wants to get close to these guys, everyone wants to partner with them. I can’t tell you how many guys in the VC or banking world are like, I’m jumping ship to go open a restaurant with X chef. There’s a lot of people really loving the space right now.
As John continued to tell me more about how he’s working to expand the festival and diversify its market, it became increasingly clear to me how interrelated his work in the culinary space is to his prior work in the music industry.
John – First and foremost, we’re kind of a mainstay in the culinary space. We’re the biggest wine and food festival in the U.S., and our core ticket buying audience is a big food geek, loves food, goes to nice restaurants, follows chefs… What I want to do is work with Lee to expand the festival a little bit and maybe put a little more of a lifestyle focus or filter on some of these events. You know, we’ve expanded into other events and partnerships like our Jets and Chefs Tailgate Party, which is a big partnership with the Jets. We basically throw a big tailgate party on the roof of Pier 92. That partnership is great because it brings in a whole other set of ticket buyers for us.
People talk about recipes and cooking being generational, I’ll tell you what, the only thing that may be more generational and in the fiber of somebody’s being and family is sports and athletic team allegiance. These guys that are tailgating outside the Giants and Jets stadium are people who have been doing that for years and years and years with their mom and dad, their grandmother and grandfather, where their grandma would make her famous potato salad – those recipes are generational, so it’s a really cool kind of hook.
Music is another one of those things that really brings people together, without sounding too cliched, whether it’s a great moment in your life or a bad moment in your life, or a very stressful moment, there’s always this soundtrack to your life, and I think that food and music kind of very much pair together in those types of things.
Under John’s leadership, the NYCWFF is integrating technology in very interesting ways. At last year’s festival, they partnered with our friends at ClearHart to use the Savor Band. This wearable NFC device gives guests the opportunity to easily swipe recipes and other information into their own personal database, as well as cast votes for different chefs and their food. This type of interactivity also offers great opportunities for the event organizers to measure ROI while tracking attendee behaviors.
Pushing the envelope of industry innovation even further, this year NYCWFF is introducing a brand new event in conjunction with Bloomberg LP, called FOODi: Food, Business and Technology.
John – What we’re doing is bringing together the best thought leaders out there in the culinary and tech investing space and having, much like techsytalk, kind of a power discussion on what’s going on. We have people like Danny Meyer, Martha Stewart, Tyler Florence and Charlie Walk from Republic Records, so we’re really getting together a bunch of power players and thought leaders in their field to really talk about disruption, where you bring in other disciplines and see where they can disrupt your field and bring in new ideas.
We have three panels; one of the panels is a discussion… because the margin in restaurants is so small, the difference between making it and shuttering your doors is like a percentage point. If we can take two Bloomberg analysts who do nothing but look at numbers all day and are paid to make other people make more money, we’re going to pair those people with a restaurant group and see how they can analyze their numbers and add a percentage point to their bottom line. And then we have a FOODi challenge where we’ve done a several month search for submissions, almost like our own version of a Sharktank panel with a culinary filter on it. It’s pretty cool.
And by the way, submissions are still being accepted for the FOODi Challenge until September 14th. If you have a unique business idea related to the hospitality industry, and would like a chance to pitch it to a panel of experts, you can find more information and a submission form here. Note: FOODi is by invite only, unless you submit something and your submission gets picked, and then you will be able to present.
Operating in such a high profile public forum has given John access to many levels of innovation within the event and hospitality industries. He predicts big changes to come, even in the next 3-5 years, as VC investments continue to support industry disruption via the backing of new and exciting ideas. He believes the collision of the food business and technology will lead to improved restaurant reservation apps and other services. Imagine being able to pay in advance, or have your food and drink preferences or dietary restrictions retained by your favorite restaurant, even shared within a group of restaurants. We’re talking the kind of elevated dining experience where you arrive and find your drink waiting for you, just the way you like it, or a bottle of your favorite wine already chilling on the table. Seems like we are preparing for a whole new level of dining experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
Audience engagement and interaction technology has been around for years. As old fashioned ‘clickers’ have evolved into sleek apps, so Event Planners have become more aware of its existence and potential. But how do you ‘sell’ audience participation to company decision makers – to a client, or internally at a corporate – particularly those holding the purse strings?
- Greater engagement and learning
It’s no surprise that London’s hugely popular Science Museum has so many interactive areas where you can touch, press, draw, compete with… even smell the exhibits. Participation aids learning. It works with kids, and it works just as well with adults – from cool creatives at an event designed to drive collaboration, or a remote team of employees being brought together to understand company direction for the next Quarter.
- Better data
Companies recognise the value of spending the money to book a venue, hotel rooms, travel, lavish dinners, all-important coffee… the list goes on. Why? To bring people together – employees, clients, customers – to motivate, teach, sell, or reward. And how do they know if that spend was effective? They look at the data – the level of engagement based upon interactions, how many times the CEO’s presentation was downloaded after the event, positive feedback, etc. All of which can be collected, collated and analysed far more easily through technology.
- More feedback
What’s the response rate to a feedback survey sent round to attendees a few days after the event? If you can get more than 20% without a ‘prize incentive’ or three-line whip I’m impressed. Most of the delegates are already busy with their day jobs, and that event is a distant (and sometimes hazy) memory. Use interactive presentation software to capture feedback live – when the memories are fresh – and ask your audience ‘small and often’ throughout the day, rather than hitting them with an essay to write. Any company that cares about its audience will see the value in this.
- It’s cost effective
Gone are the days when audience response systems or presentation sharing technology required Local Area Networks to be installed, or iPads to be hired in with pre-loaded software. The combination of ever improving Wi-Fi and 4G networks (at the right venues), smartphone proliferation (97% usage in the UK) and technical innovation has meant solutions are available to events big and small at a sensible price. Given the other costs associated with the event – how valuable is greater engagement, better data and more feedback?
- It reflects well on your brand
If you look at the best companies in the world, they have a clear, well understood vision. They really care about listening to their employees and their clients. They’re eager to use technology to improve their business or reduce costs. They want to do things that their competitors aren’t doing (and probably don’t like it if their competitors get the jump on them). You may work for one of these companies, or for one that aspires to be one of them. Hopefully it’s clear how interactive presentation software can tick a number of these boxes at their events.
Michael Piddock is the Founder & CEO of Glisser – an event technology solution that makes presentations interactive.
This feature is on a member of our techsytalk community – Jim Spellos. Industry leader and tech expert. Catch him at techsytalk LIVE 2015 as well in New York City!
Jim Spellos is the founder of Meeting U. Now in its 16th year, its purpose is to help people become more comfortable with technology. How cool is that??? Although Jim proudly claims the title of geek, he’s not your typical IT variety. His primary interest is in helping you understand what’s out there and how you can use it with less fear and more comfort.
You may remember Jim’s presentation at last year’s techsytalk LIVE, called, “The Ultimate Meeting Professional’s Guide to Internet Connectivity.” It was a comprehensive review of everything you need to know to ensure that your event venue has the bandwidth you need to suit your tech needs. In fact, he and fellow industry heavy hitter Corbin Ball have developed a cool app called Techspec, that enables you to walk through a site visit at a prospective venue and assess its internet capabilities. Talk about good to know! He’s even encouraged planners to share their findings with one another on his Facebook page.
This is a perfect example of how Jim sees his role in the world – as someone who welcomes as many people as possible into the tech community. Although he spends more than a third of his time working with people in the hospitality business, his reach extends into the admin, food, funeral and construction industries, to name a few. Traveling throughout the US and Canada, he gives between 100 and 150 presentations, seminars and workshops a year. His primary interest is in teaching end users like you and me to use tech to be better able to provide content, communication and clarity for our customers.
According to Jim, the leading edge topics in the modern world of technology fall under the following categories: mobile, social, augmented and wearable. These are the lynchpins for the conversation that is unfolding all around us. What he’s most interested in, and what he’ll be talking about at this year’s techsytalk LIVE is the augmented, wearable frontier. “We’re past the phone era. To me, your smart phone is essentially going to become your personal server in a few years. You’ll carry it, it’ll be in your pocketbook, it’ll be in your pocket, and you probably won’t take it out very much. You’re going to be interacting with all the other components of technology that you’re wearing and you’re carrying with you.”
Interestingly, when asked about one basic piece of technology that we should all be paying attention to, Jim replied, “Excel.”
My goodness. It’s practically Luddite in comparison with what’s unfolding all around us. But Jim made a couple of great points. First of all, Excel is an essential organizing tool for anyone in the event world (to this day, Jim teaches a half day course for the hospitality industry). But more importantly, many people have not yet mastered technology basics before they begin grappling with more complex tools. It wouldn’t hurt any of us to take a step back and make sure we are building on a solid foundation of knowledge and comfort before we start messing around with more advanced gadgets.
This goes to the heart of Jim’s approach to incorporating technology into our work, and why he loves what he does so much. When addressing any group, he always finds a wide variety of abilities and understanding when it comes to technology. By breaking things down in a way that makes sense for the needs of the users, he’s able to help people connect to these tools and develop more confidence in their use. H finds the many lightbulb moments he witnesses extremely gratifying. It’s why he does what he does.
Jim believes that bringing new technology into any business should be an organic process. “The success of technology is a blend and not a replacement. It’s about how we integrate this into what we already do well, rather than how do we ditch everything we’ve been doing for a hundred years and move onto something which is going to be at best a risk and a gamble and at worst, completely a curse and anathema to the people who are using it.”
For Jim Spellos, the use of technology is never an end unto itself, but rather a way to improve the quality of the work we are doing and take it in new and exciting directions. His goal is to help people always be up on the leading edge of tech, but then decide how and if it’s best to use it. In fact, there’s no tech that he considers too outdated to implement, if it makes sense. For example, even though many people consider this the post-PC era, with the rise of tablets and other mobile devices, using a PC or a Mac may still be the best solution for many tasks. And take QR codes. Some people consider them a waste of time, but some organizations use them perfectly for what they need to do.
In the best spirit of entrepreneurship, Jim is not afraid of risks. In fact, like so many successful risk takers, he encourages people to play around and make mistakes, even to the point of failure. (Perhaps it’s the artist in him… did you know Jim is also in a band??) Not only is failure one of our best tools of learning, but it can also breed great innovation.
Like so many successful event professionals, Jim is constantly looking to push the boundaries of our industry by trying new things. In conjunction with EventMobi, Meeting U. developed a cool mobile app for the organization Rock & Wrap it Up, whose mission is to redirect unused food from events to people in need. Named the Whole Earth Calculator, the app converts the amount of food donated into meals served, carbon emissions and methane saved and landfill averted and then shares it onto Twitter, so the organization can show their sustainability efforts. How awesome is that?
Are you still harboring any techno-phobia? Then you definitely need to catch Jim at this year’s techsytalk LIVE. Learn from the man who says that the shift to wearable technology is going to be “evolutionary, not revolutionary.” Doesn’t that sound safe and easy? And whether you’ve heard of Oculus or not, you’re not going to want to miss the cool virtual reality demo that starts off his presentation. Come on and get inspired!
Guidebook helps live events of all sizes build lowcost and effective mobile apps for their attendees.
July 15, 2015, Palo Alto, CA Guidebook today announced the launch of a new event app building tool, Guidebook Builder, which gives any event the ability to easily create and manage native iOS and Android event apps for their attendees.
In the past two years Guidebook users have launched 25,000 mobile guides designed to transform the attendee experience. From 100person corporate training sessions to conventions with hundreds of thousands of attendees, Guidebook provides event organizers with an effective and lowcost solution to design, build and deploy mobile apps themselves.
“We’re thrilled with how the events industry has embraced Guidebook,” said Jeff Lewis, Founder and CEO. “We’ve found that because our product is so flexible and has a low barrier to entry, its uses have been as varied as our clients.
Event professionals have been in desperate need of a way to have complete control over their mobile apps. Guidebook Builder provides that solution and eliminates any need to deal with the bugs and crashes that come with custom development.”
Guidebook Builder’s draganddrop interface empowers event organizers with no programming experience to easily build and manage mobile event guides while maintaining control of the content before, during and after an event. In just four years the Silicon Valleybased technology company has quietly established a worldclass client base within the events industry, including large events such as New York Comic Con and product launches, sales kickoffs, and other internal and external meetings run by organizations like Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
Guidebook is revolutionizing a mobile app development market largely served by consultancies which offer custom apps for high upfront fees and unpredictable maintenance costs. Guidebook is the only fully functional event app builder to offer a free version of its software. The company has lowered the traditionally high barrier to entry in the event app space by reducing the time it takes to launch a mobile guide to as little as an hour, and by offering a subscription model which eliminates startup fees and allows customers to predict ongoing costs.
Today Guidebook also made its first funding announcement, disclosing it has raised $10 million to date in seed and Series A funding. Londonbased Mosaic Ventures coled the financing with MHS Capital. With the help of their investors, Guidebook plans to continue its rapid growth in Europe. As part of the Series A financing, Toby Coppel, one of Mosaic’s founding partners, has joined Guidebook’s board of directors.
“The Guidebook team has developed a bestinclass platform that offers a solution for any organization in any industry to design and build a native app in an easy and low cost way.” said Coppel.
“With the world of mobile apps changing quickly, multiple platforms to support, and good talent expensive to hire, Guidebook offers a compelling alternative to building an app inhouse or outsourcing custom development. We’re excited to partner with Guidebook. The new platform enables them to expand the range of industries and customers they can serve, and we have no doubt that tens of millions of people will be using apps built by Guidebook in the next few years.”
Guidebook is based in Palo Alto, CA and has been making it easy for people to create mobile guides for their events, organizations and places since 2011. For more information visit www.guidebook.com or contact Jordan McArthur, Content Marketing Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are PUMPED to announce our marquee event tech conference & showcase, techsytalk LIVE, coming back to NYC on Friday, August 14th, 2015. We’ve got some kick ass speakers and exhibitors locked and loaded – the only thing missing is YOU!
If you are an event hustler, this conference is built for you. We’ve cooked up sessions and lined up event tech companies to challenge you, inform you and propel your brand and events community as a whole to the next level of awesome.
Registration opens TODAY and YOU – our community insiders – get first dibs. A limited amount of early bird tickets are available, so don’t blink…CLICK HERE and claim yours now.
This year we’re offering a scholarship grant that will allow qualified attendees to attend GRATIS (that means FREE!). Apply here to see if you qualify.
Countdown begins NOW!
Magic wand is a very simple tool that fits easily in your purse or suitcase. When we are traveling for site inspections, I’m always looking for a place to scan in floor maps and contracts. Rather than rushing to the nearest print center to get an important document to your client, you can just use magic wand to scan the piece of paper and send it to yourself. It’s easy, quick and comes in handy in the most important of situations. You can purchase this for only $59.99.
We’re always looking to save space in our luggage so this app comes in handy for those who are traveling for site inspections or need to measure large or outdoor spaces. Let’s say you need to know the distance between a column in the center of the room and the nearest wall. Just point your phone from one spot to the other, and it will measure it for you. You no longer need to pack your huge tape measure that take up a lot of space in your luggage. Also, for those of you who may be clumsy like me, this is much more reliable than the typical tape measure.
Travel Power Strip
Toss this in your suitcase for those moments when you can only find a single outlet and you need to charge your phone, laptop, tablet and mophie. We’ve all been there and a simple little gadget like this mini power strip will save you in those desperate moments. If you’re down to your last drop of power, having a strip like this is an easy solution. Easy to transport and incredibly helpful, you won’t regret bringing this along!
Launches with 100 leading venues in NYC, LA, Washington and London
zkipster: “New feature marks the death of sticky-note seating charts”
NEW YORK, NY – zkipster, the fastest, most-reliable guest list app in the event industry, today launched its new Seating feature, that allows event planners to access 100 leading venues with calibrated, original floor plans – and then create and share seating charts in a matter of minutes.
To learn more, go to: https://www.zkipster.com/add-ons/zseating
“Our new Seating feature marks the death of sticky-note seating charts – digitizing another key process in the planning and execution of an event,” saidDavid Becker, co-founder of zkipster. “Event planners will now be able to design and collaborate on seating charts in real-time for all sorts of events, from seated events like galas, fundraisers and luncheons to movie premieres and fashion shows.”
The app’s newest feature, a powerful combination of check-in and seating, is just the latest in zkipster’s plan to streamline the event planning process. With Seating, event hosts now have the option to find and access established floor plans, build a floor plan to match their own event, or have zkipster’s team do it for them. zkipster’s multi-device platform allows for collaboration between team members to create and update seating charts in real time, as well as to share seating assignments and make changes right up until the doors open.
zkipster is working to grow a global database starting with leading venues in key cities – including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC and London. This latest feature elevates zkipster from a check-in app to a guest success management platform, combining every aspect of event planning from seating to social media engagement, name badges and guest recognition.
“zkipster’s Seating allows my team to update and share seating charts within a few minutes – helping ensure that our high-profile events run seamlessly even when circumstances on-the-ground change,” said Michael Moore, Vice President and Director of Special Events at Sotheby’s. “This is another tool that will help our guests focus on what’s important: experiencing the world of art.”
ZKIPSTER: NEW SEATING FEATURE
- Create Floor Plans: Hosts can create a floor plan in just a few minutes with our drag and drop tool or let zkipster create a custom floor plan at no additional charge.
- Assign Seats to Guests: Drag and drop guests from the guest list to the seating chart while instantly syncing for seamless collaboration.
- Share Seating Charts: Share or print completed seating allocations with hosts, colleagues and clients. Make last minute changes without worrying about an outdated seating chart.
zkipster is the industry’s fastest, most-reliable guest list app for non-ticketed event check-in at premieres, galas, promotional events and conferences. It’s the first check-in app compatible for iOS, Android, Windows 8 platforms – offering secure real-time guest list management for marketers, public relations and event professionals. Since the company was launched in 2009, more than 4 million guests in 85 countries have checked in with zkipster.