You May Not Know It, But You Are a Tech Company!

November 11, 2021

Brian Scott

Brian Scott, president and founder of ClearTone Consulting, provides executive technology consulting services based on 35 years of technology expertise and 20 years of CIO/CISO experience within the exhibitions and events industry. Brian provides expert technology consultation in the areas of technology strategy, software development, systems integration, data warehousing and analytics, cyber security, data center operations, cloud computing, and end user support. He works with his customers to overcome technology challenges, leverage tech to drive growth and revenue, secure valuable digital assets, and execute projects to meet the organizational objectives.

What exactly defines a “technology company?” Wikipedia says it’s an electronics-based business related to internet-related services, software, yadda yadda. There’s no doubt that Apple, Samsung, Dell and Amazon are tech companies. But let’s consider Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which are all classified in that category. They are categorized as such, given that their services are delivered online or through mobile and their revenue is generated by selling data or access to information. Makes sense. On the other hand, these companies offer the ability for people to connect, communicate and in many cases, conduct business.

Doesn’t that start to sound a little familiar to you? When last I checked, exhibitions and conferences were in the business of enabling connections between individuals and companies, delivering information (often in the digital realm), supporting communication (often in the digital realm) and offering access to information. I’ve heard many event organizers say that all they really are is a “brand and a database.” Well, that sounds mighty similar!

I suspect most event organizers and certainly most associations would not classify themselves as a tech company. I’m sure all of us were comfortable with that classification years ago, but from my perspective, the game has changed. Let’s take a quick peek at what services and experiences are being offered to association members and how they’re being delivered today.  

How about education? With the help of a global pandemic, the delivery of continuing education has largely moved to online. This migration was in full swing pre-pandemic, but COVID forced the complete transition virtually overnight. I know, I know. Many associations rely heavily upon meeting revenues as a significant portion of their topline. And the biggest earner is the large, annual face-to-face meeting.  

Okay. But how are people registering? Digitally. How are people planning their trip and visit?  Digitally. How are people booking their appointments during the meeting? Digitally. How are people exchanging contact information on the show floor? Digitally. How are attendees discovering new networking contacts they should meet? Digitally. How are session attendees providing feedback on the speaker or obtaining their CEU credit? Digitally. How are event organizers tracking onsite behavior? Digitally. How are attendees consuming their drinks in the hotel bar? Okay, that one remains physical, thank goodness.

The fact is, whether you’ve realized it or not, the value, as well as the engagement experience provided by today’s associations, is largely digitally delivered. This is not going to diminish and, in fact, will continue to accelerate in a more digital and technology-centric direction. The successful event organizations of the future are those that realize their livelihoods rely upon great technology, deployed and integrated well, generating actionable data and enabling superior experiences. That future relies upon smart data capturing, effective data mining and agile utilization of insights to drive business value for all participants. In this way, event organizations and associations are, in fact, technology companies. They deliver value and services digitally.

Let’s do a thought experiment for a moment. Let’s assume you’re a successful entrepreneur with a well-connected investment network. You’ve also decided your next venture must be in the wonderful world of events. You’re confident that your killer event idea could easily grow to tens of thousands of attendees, and you’ve got a pickup truck full of investors writing checks and expressing expectations of significant returns. It’s all riding on your shoulders to build an organization that will generate growth like the iPhone (I can dream, right?). 

What kind of people are you going to seek? What kind of skills should they have? How do you define thought leadership in this area? Is it resources with little to no experience mining data? Is it resources that have only used a single system for the last 15 years and have little interest in learning a bunch of new ones? Is it a technologist with no experience in pulling disparate data sources together into a single and consumable view? Is it resources that print out their emails for archiving (true story behind that one)?

It’s doubtful that would lead to success. You’re looking for top-notch, data-centric, tech-enabled, digital-minded, out-of-the-box thinkers that are driven to create incredible experiences by leveraging the best technologies. They don’t wait for you to tell them what to do. They bring you ideas born out of data analysis and tech product investigation that give birth to entirely new and exciting ways to engage attendees and support the primary objectives of the event. They vet potential vendors with deep, penetrating questions regarding the quality and availability of data, security and privacy, and reliability and scalability.  

How is it that all your staff know how to speak to all these things? It’s because they work for a tech company. They work for the events company of the future. They’re talking in real-time over Slack. They’re in numerous Discord servers. They have friends all over the world. They can do every single thing they need to do for their personal life over their phone. They have their favorite Reddit groups. They always Facetime. The quality of Wi-Fi is more important to them than the quality of the restroom. Their lives, not just their hobbies, are likely to involve gaming in some way. And most importantly, they’re looking to make a difference by working for a forward-thinking organization that has a vision of the future that makes them want to put in those extra hours.

Now, with that in mind, how does your organization compare? Would you build your organization to look exactly like the one you have? Will this meet your investors’ expectations? Something interesting to ponder. Don’t think about it too long, because like I said in the beginning, whether you know it or not, you work for a tech company. Time to treat it like one.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.