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What do you see to be the biggest business advantage to doing or attending events these days?
Well, ‘innovative’ is a relative thing, because our natural inclination would be to point to technology, but the most innovative things tend to be how I see events further connect to people. For example… this was an event I attended, because I was speaking at the same time they were holding this… Jason Gaynor who owns Mastermind Talks, one of the things he did (and I think he stole this from Zappos) is that they asked every attendee, “So, what is kind of specialty snack that as a child you had growing up that was a little special treat you got?”
People were saying it was Little Debbies or this or Tasty Cake and so on. So, they asked this in advance when people registered for the event, and then here’s what they did: at the break when there was a snack, each person got delivered something that had [that special treat] in it. There were 100 people, and there were 100 different things delivered. So now, every attendee is like, “Wow, this is all about me!” [The event hosts] didn’t just go to the property and say, “OK, I want 1500 cookies.” They said, “This person likes this. This person likes that.” They made it a special thing, so everyone had stuff, and my understanding is they had a dry-ice container because some people had frozen stuff, and it’s like, “Here’re the frozen treats.” They just hit it across the board.
He’s also done stuff in his event where they’ve said, “What sort of thing have you not done that you wish you could do?” A bunch of people said, “I’d love to go on a hot air balloon one day.” So, they did this event and all of a sudden, they had eight hot air balloons, and they said, “OK, these are the people who have said they wanted to do that. For the next hour, you’re going to take a hot air balloon ride.”
But, once again, what it comes down to is they ask people, and then they delivered on it. Usually we just make the mistake of not asking. It takes effort, but guess what—you think those people aren’t going to sign up to come back next year?
What’s the best use of technology that you’ve utilized at an event or seen used at another event?
It’s building those communities. When you attend an event, you can connect with other likeminded people who are, in essence, looking for the same thing that you are. When you’re the person organizing the event, you’re the one bringing all those like-minded people together.
Now, if you don’t tap into that, then you’ve wasted the opportunity. If you basically see everyone is here and they coexist, but they’re not interacting, then you don’t build any stickiness. If you get them to engage with each other and then with you, if you get them to share stories with each other and then with you, then it creates an experience they want to come back for. If they just kind of were in the audience and saw it from afar, they’re probably less inclined to come back, but when they’re connected to other people, that’s when it creates that peer pressure that says, “You’re going to be there next year, right?” and everyone has to come back together.
What’s the most innovative thing you’ve seen done either at your event or an event you’ve attended?
This is kind of the speaker perspective, so I apologize in advance. The best is when I see people that have these fully integrated displays. I did a keynote for a large healthcare company. The screen behind the stage was, I don’t know, probably 100 feet by 20 feet, or something like that, and the entire display was all just one display, it’s all picture-in-picture type of stuff. They could have a display that was dynamic and moving, and then they had image magnification on me with the camera, and then they had my slides, where on certain slides they could make it so that slide was the entire screen, and other times where it just took up a portion, and it’s just the way they executed it was really flawless.
Often times when we see technology like that, it ends up being good in concept, but it doesn’t get executed well. These guys were amazing, and in fact, the funny thing for me was that I’m one of these guys who says, “No, no, I’ll use my remote,” and my remote has this button that I’ve never pressed before, but when you press it, it makes it so that instead of the forward and back being controlled as forward and back, it actually is rigging some timer on the device, which I didn’t realize. I go to click. It doesn’t go. I go to click. It doesn’t go. I go to click. It advances. I’m like, “OK, it must have just been me,” and for the next four slides, I’m just clicking and it’s advancing, and their engineer saw that it wasn’t working and literally just with another camera zoomed in on my hand, and when I hit, they were advancing the slide until I figured out that it wasn’t right.
So it has nothing to do with the audience interaction, but it’s the only time I’ve ever totally screwed up with the technology myself, and had to be bailed me out. I sent a nice gift to the engineer, and was like, “Wow, you guys rock, because you saved this!” But that kind of technology I think is great.
In terms of the audience interaction side, it’s the audience response systems where you can gauge real audience feedback, especially for a larger audience. If you can say, “So, how many of you react this way?” and you’ve got an instant response that you can graph on the screen, that’s cool, because now the people are part of the presentation. That’s stuff that I love also.
GUEST: Ian Altman
Ian Altman is a multi-bestselling author, strategic advisor, and internationally sought speaker on integrity-based sales and business development. A successful services and technology CEO for two decades (value beyond $1B), Ian draws on years of success and research on how customers make decisions. You can find Ian’s weekly articles on Inc.com and Forbes.com. He is the host of the weekly podcast Grow My Revenue Business Cast. Discover more at IanAltman.com.