Dahlia El Gazzar is the founder of The Meeting Pool, a combination interactive directory and consulting firm that helps people implement new technologies in their work and lives. I had the pleasure of interviewing Dahlia during this year’s techsytalk LIVE, and one of the first things she did was ask me if I was using Evernote to record my interviews. What? She then proceeded to blow my mind by showing me how I could use the built in microphone to capture my audio, save it as a wav file, share it and any associated images along with text annotation via a chat backed up by email notifications. And why am I not doing this all the time??
As Dahlia explains it, the Meeting Pool is a place for conversations. It was created, “… to help event professionals with new ideas as well as new technologies that they can implement and embrace, not only on the event level but also for productivity and for sanity, and to help them with efficiencies and just being ahead of the curve.”
“The other side of it is there's these amazing technology companies, especially in the startup world, who need guidance and consulting on how to reach the right people at the right time with the right message, and so we help them with that as well.”
So what we’ve got here is an agency of tech geeks who are poised to help end users be more tech forward thinking and productive, and help tech companies reach the right people with their product. They’re also currently upgrading their tech decision engine, which contains info on over 1000 companies, to facilitate due diligence research on new technologies and solutions currently being offered in the marketplace.
Here’s more from our conversation:
Deborah - How does your work relate specifically to the event industry?
Dahlia - Anybody that wants to integrate practical technology or even just technology solutions and making people feel comfortable with their mobile devices, that's when they bring us in to be an onsite team. If they embrace more event technology on the entire event level, it will be easier for adoption if the attendees are comfortable with their mobile devices. A lot of times you get handed an iPad and you ask your 7-year old son or daughter how to fix it or how to do it, so you can't ask them to embrace new technology at a show or at an event if they are not comfortable with the basics.
Deborah - So your goal seems to be similar to Jim Spellos's company. How would you differentiate your company from his?
Dahlia - So Jim and Liz and Corbin Ball and myself, and there's a lot of other educators out there – I think our collective mission is to make people exploit or embrace smart apps and technologies and understand them enough to put them to good. And also to cut through the shiny objects, or the 400 or 700 apps that people sometimes say that you need. Jim and I, we're very like-minded in the sense of educating people and not overwhelming them. We take it a step further where we're doing it for not only the events world, we're also doing it for the mainstream world. There's a generation gap in the way of utilizing mobile devices and apps and business solutions. That's what we are now catering to as well.
Deborah - So you find yourself catering to those businesses who might be sitting with a 1990's style website that they still need to pay their developer for every time they need to change something?
Dahlia - Exactly, or if it's someone who doesn't have the time to look at their workflows and the processes that they have in place, where they're married to the status quo. Usually this is where we go in and we look at the underlying platforms they have in place or do not have in place, and then make sure that all the team members are onboard with it.
Deborah - What are you most passionate about in your work?
Dahlia - My passion is to enable people to use their mobile devices and smart technology to be as efficient as they can be. And I know it's a huge mission. I usually start all my sessions by saying, “I want you to be untethered from your office and your desktop and to do exactly what you need to be doing, on a beach in Mexico, and I can get you there.” Or, if I'm at a show, like we went to National Auctioneers Annual, so you have 3000 very fast speaking people, and a guy comes and he has a flip phone, and he's like, “I never knew how to use it, I only have one number on it,” and so how do I get him to be comfortable with that? And efficient. Actually, it was awesome. He was doing voice to text messages, he was taking pictures and emailing them to his designer to put up on the website, and he still texts me pictures of flowers because of my name... So what drives me is that on one side, but it's also on the technology side where I see all these wonderful solutions, like the holographic entrance [installation by Luminescence production services framing the techsytalk LIVE entrance]… So it's looking at that tech or those apps and saying, this is the kind of experience you can shape with it. And it is all about experiences, our whole life is about experiences...
Deborah – Is there some other part of your life outside the industry that inspires you or feeds into the work, or another direction that you want to take the work in that you're not doing right now?
Dahlia - What inspires me is my children, and I'll tell you why. Because they are already living in a world that is so connected, that if we are the ones creating experiences for them, and we want them to go to the face to face and all of that, we need to create better experiences than they do on Playstation, to get them more engaged. On the flip side, we can’t forget to teach them how to be on that social level, not engrossed too much in a Twitter or a Snapchat that they can't have a face to face conversation with Deborah when they meet you.
My kids actually worked a couple of tech bars with me, and it's interesting because older people tend to go to them, like can you take this ding off the notification. It's an interesting dynamic. I like to see things from their perspective. I love to see how technology's changing how education is being delivered in schools and then - they run circles around me when it comes to stuff like that.
Deborah – Are there any particular mistakes you've made in your work that you feel have taught you some significant lessons that you'd want to share?
Dahlia - So, a couple of things. Taking on too much, and also not running with your gut feeling on products or ideas fast enough.
Deborah – Explain.
Dahlia - Taking on too much in the sense of making sure you're not in overdrive all the time, but on the other side is when you have amazing ideas that your gut says, you just need to try it. So it's getting that lizard brain to be quiet, as Seth Godin sometimes says, and to run with it and to find like-minded people who will support you or say, just let's try it. It doesn't have to be perfect, let's just throw it out there and see what happens.
The world of technology is interesting and scary at the same time. I know a lot of people say that, but it's the honest truth. It’s an interesting time, especially in the events world, because there are so many awesome technologies that can be utilized to change and create awesome experiences. People do need to take the time to understand how it works overall, for that seamless wow factor or seamless experience.
Deborah - Do you find that people get overwhelmed a lot when they're faced with new technologies and they just don't know which way to go?
Dahlia - For sure, they get overwhelmed to a point that they paralyze themselves and therefore do not try things.
Deborah - So do you find that you're a helpful catalyst in that regard?
Dahlia - We are, because we bring it down to basics and laymen's terms. Also we talk through it with them and they use us as soundboards. For example, [we explore] what it would mean for their constituents, for different event participants and if it needs to be phased in [over a couple of years], instead of someone from the C-suite saying, no we need to do the whole entire thing, and they have no idea what they're talking about.
Deborah - So it's an integrated approach.
Dahlia - It has to be. It certainly has to be.
Deborah - So Meeting Pool is really for the meetings and events industry.
Dahlia - It started with the events industry, and it's morphing, because a lot of the attendees that we touch at different conferences, they see the benefit of taking a look at their own personal and professional set-up and skillset. We end up talking to a show organizer about the tech education or tech bytes that we're bringing to the show floor, and you know I just had a call right now and she's like, “Well wait a minute, can I get a one-on-one? Because I don't know if my devices can sync up, and I want to know about those top ten productivity tools,” or “I want to know if I'm using LinkedIn the way I should,” and so it's a domino effect. It's meant to be, to a point where we say, bring us to your board or your C-suite and let us have them be comfortable with tech or mobile devices and know what Twitter is and so forth, even if they do not need to live on it, so they can understand what your decisions are all about.
Deborah - And then you can do a sweep of all their needs and their tools that they're currently using...
Dahlia - Right, so it's not a flyby... See the pool has always been a spot in the hotel where you have interesting conversations that go off on tangents. Whether at the bar, or in the pool, that’s where you meet interesting people and you're like, “OMG, that clicks.” Then you go off, and you're like, “Well, I can use that for business, but wait a minute, I can use that at home,” or “I've had this awesome idea for a book. I don't know how easy it is to do it, tell me a platform that I can use...”
For instance, I was looking at what you're taking notes on, and I'm thinking why aren't you using Evernote? Because Evernote has a built in microphone for you in the notes…
And that’s how it all begins…
Hot off the presses update: Tech evangelist Dahlia El Gazzar is now empowering people with smart technology to lead productive business and personal lives via her new company, DAHLIA+. Through workshops, tech bars and one-of-a-kind consulting, she has what it takes to help you get to and stay in a winning position in our rapidly changing tech environment. Reach out to her at Dahlia@dahliaplus.com if you have a question or need a sounding board - she’ll be happy to speak with you. Tell her Deborah sent you and receive a special surprise! (Don't tell anyone, but the surprise is a free resume and Linkedin profile review... ssshhhhh....)