Tech Giants: Hubb CEO Allie Magyar on Mastering the Future
Hubb CEO Allie Magyar knows first-hand what it’s like to face gender discrimination and unconscious bias in the technology world. In the early days of the event software company, she remembers being consistently asked to explain how she wouldn’t fail rather than how she would succeed, an over-arching attitude made more apparent by the prevalence of male-led companies able to raise large sums of money while female-led companies struggled to get investors. While she never let the naysayers stop her from turning Hubb into a successful event management platform, she still experiences the challenges of being a female leader in a male-dominated realm from time to time.
TSNN had a chance to hear Magyar’s thoughts about how women can help make the event technology arena a more inclusive one, what she learned from producing the second UNTETHERED conference and how event planners should be thinking about producing face-to-face events again and the important opportunities they present.
The tech world has not historically been a friendly place for women – have you found that in event tech and what has your experience been like overall?
There’s a lot of discrimination and unconscious bias in technology that people aren’t even aware of when they talk to a woman because they’re just not used to women being in a CEO or leadership position. The framing of everything is different, and women face challenges that men do not.
Event technology is interesting because in events, women are much more predominant. Women leadership in event planning is what we’ve seen our entire careers, so it’s what we are used to, and there is less of that unconscious bias. Event tech is a small world, and it sits between those in the tech and events worlds. And while it has been great for me to share that message of bias against women, I still have to deal with it, which is challenging.
Why and how should/can we get more women working in the event tech space, particularly those with event planning experience like yourself?
It’s all about encouraging people to be able to take risks to solve problems. I think every event technology company should have planners as a part of their DNA. Because if they don’t, they’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage. It would help if you had people who can advocate for a product, service, business value and how we’re changing events. You have to understand, intimately, what your customers need, and there’s only so much you can do from asking questions.
Event technology, especially now in the hybrid world, is changing the industry by providing products that other meeting planners can utilize. And as I said before, being a meeting planner offers an excellent foundation for leadership. So let’s encourage those planners to take that leap into event tech so they can shape the future of events.
You hosted your second UNTETHERED conference in February. What were some of the biggest lessons that you and your team took away from the experience?
The importance of community, co-creating and learning from each other. In times of massive change, we need inspiration and support. We also need to encourage each other to take risks and think differently than we have before. Gone are the days of just virtual events as content consumption. We changed the world through events, and we must figure out how to connect people in the right way to make that happen. We should encourage people to take that leap of faith in event technology, especially in the hybrid space, to push the industry’s balance and step out of its comfort zone of strictly in-person event planning.
What changed in the year between the first conference and this year’s (other than having more than six weeks to plan it)?
The most significant difference is that last May, no one had any basis in terms of what they were going to do – it was all brand new. One of my biggest takeaways is how agile and smart event planners are. In less than nine months, we educated ourselves on virtual and hybrid events. Compared to the previous year, 80% of planners have now done virtual events and are already looking ahead to what’s in store for the future. We’ve mastered the next thing before the next thing is even a thing. That’s an excellent testament to our industry’s ability to pivot and change, do it successfully and continue to drive business as a part of events.
Are there plans for a third UNTETHERED? Or would it be “TETHERED,” as in a physical event? Where do you see the series going?
I’m itching to do a hybrid event myself. I’ve done hybrid events in the past, but not how 2021 is thinking of hybrid. The 2021 Untethered Fall event will be hybrid. We’ll share the strategies and ideas we’ve tested and from all of that, develop a playbook on hybrid events in the future.
What are some top ways planners can better produce virtual and hybrid events now that they have more than a year under their belts in this new world?
They should attend every virtual event they possibly can and experience it themselves. Getting hands-on is one of the most important things that we can do as event planners. Look at it from an attendee perspective. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What did you wish they did differently? Then go and push the bounds for your event. Use the new technology and ideas. Ask others about events they’re doing. Get hands-on and move the springs in a no-risk situation so that you can become more intelligent and more informed to make the right decisions in planning events.
What do you see as the future of virtual and hybrid events, and how can planners prepare themselves right now?
The critical factor that will shape events in the future is our understanding of why people attend events and how we can then serve up unique experiences based on that understanding. Whether that experience is a virtual, in-person or hybrid one or a wine-and-dine vs. a seminar, the format we choose will be based on where our audience finds the most value. So I believe that the future will be hybrid and that the in-person experience will be highly curated. We will want to make the best use of our funds, time and venues for our customers, prospects or executives. Our challenge will be to find the intersection points that create the most value.