Meet the Experts - The Exhibitor

Meet the Experts – eventTech with Mike Doane

Hello Mike, welcome to The Exhibitor! Tell us a little about you and your professional journey.

A friend of mine worked at CadmiumCD as a programmer. I was working as an Account Manager for a hydraulic supply and fleet washing company at the time. I wanted to change gears and find a job I could be passionate about. My friend mentioned that CadmiumCD’s consumer-facing websites were outdated and they were talking about hiring someone. I knew a little code, but not too much, so I set my mind to learning HTML, CSS, and Javascript, went on the interview and landed the job.
Lucky for me, the co-founders Pete and Michelle Wyatt were impressed by the blog I kept and my ability to learn, so they gave me a chance. I took on a few extra projects (researching & implementing marketing software, creating marketing strategies for product launches, developing content, etc), and now here I am, managing marketing communications for the company.
Since my professional journey began at CadmiumCD, I’ve had articles published in big industry magazines like Convene, I’ve been interviewed by Mike McAllen with the Meetings Podcast, Silvia Pellegrini with Events Uncovered TV, and John Federico with The Event Tech Podcast. I’ve also been awarded PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties, and will be giving a major presentation at IAEE’s Expo! Expo! Annual Conference. I’ve also been on the IAEE Membership Engagement Committee and will by PCMA’s Chesapeake Chapter Director of Membership, serving a two-year term 2017-2018.

What are the major types of event technologies?

Event Tech is a very complicated space.
You have all kinds of events: virtual events, which are basically a series of webinars; conferences, congresses, seminars, etc., which bring together individuals to discuss a focused topic;
trade shows and expos, where individuals come to research new products and make purchasing decisions;
and entertainment events, like beer and wine or music festivals.

This really scratches the service because then you have to consider whether the event is consumer facing, mass market, B2B, educational, etc. It’s an industry that touches every activity and every industry. My expertise is really in educational meetings; for example association annual events, monthly seminars at universities and hospitals, corporate users groups and sales meetings, and medium-to-large trade shows. I am also familiar with technology that covers grant submissions, awards ceremonies, and sponsorship sales activities.
Within these events, the types of users that would interact with products I’m familiar with are meeting planners – of course – but also attendees, speakers, exhibitors, sponsors, and other vendors depending on the activity. I’ve also worked closely with organizations that cover things like registration, speaker ready room software, digital signage, association management software, and more.

Is technology fundamentally changing business events?

I don’t believe technology changes anything.
Planners and attendees identify problems and then the technology solves that problem. In other words, people change technology to deliver the experience they want at events. At business events in particular, technology is making it easier than ever to update attendees with latest content and information instantly, it’s facilitating buyer and seller needs between attendees and exhibitors, it’s creating an environment of continuous education in which attendees can engage with educational content and network with valuable contacts rather than just learn and regurgitate information.
Technology is changing in ways that the business community has wanted to foster innovation, education, and connection at events for years.

Is the trade show industry an early adopter of new techs?

For one, new tech is constantly released at shows like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Solar Power International (SPI).
For another thing, meeting planners are busy people with enormous jobs. They are always looking for solutions to solve their complicated problems and technology is often the answer. There are, of course, events in certain industries that lag behind. Typically events with older demographics (in healthcare for example) are resistant to new technology because they’re worried their attendees may not be able to use it properly.
It’s always exciting when we work with clients like these though because they are always surprised at how much their attendees actually enjoy and benefit from technology once it’s implemented.

What are the major challenges you face when trying to bring technology to this industry?

Organizations with older attendee bases often worry that the technology will be too complicated for their users. There’s also a lot of competition. We’ve been in the industry for over 15 years and we’ve seen hundreds of companies come and go in that timespan. It’s hard sometimes for meeting planners to weed through all the noise.

How is technology helping the various players of a trade show?

Year after year, new tools are developed that help organizers manage all the data, information, and content that they have to wade through in the meeting planning process.
Technology gives exhibitors great visibility and it’s really helping connect them with buyers who are genuinely interested in and qualified to buy their products.
This is also a big benefit for buyers because they don’t have to waste time talking with exhibitors that don’t deliver the types of solutions they actually need.

What’s the next “big” thing in EventTech?

What’s the next big thing?
We hear talk of augmented reality, beacons, and all kinds of next-gen tools like these. I think the biggest thing in event tech though will be a way to integrate the planning experience with onsite activities.
We’ve already come a long way with speaker ready room and digital signage being completely integrated with back-end content management tools, event apps, and conference websites.
But meeting planners still need to carry around that big binder of tear sheets, schedules, contact information, and more. I think that’s going the way of the dinosaur very soon and that this is going to be the type of thing organizers really embrace.

myfairtool is offering a technology specifically for exhibitors to manage their event efficiently and optimize their ROI. Do you recommend it?

We develop products that planners can use to manage exhibitors. We also exhibit at a lot of shows and have a hard time managing our company’s logistics, activities, and ROI.
It’s a very manual process right now, so it sounds like myfairtool is a great way to solve some of the problems we personally face.

The Exhibitor publishes a free novel called “Trade Show Chronicles” that puts you in the shoes of an exhibitor managing his very first trade show booth. Is it close to your own experience?

We’re a little more organized than the character in the book, and we as a team are more collaborative, but yes, there are parts of the story I can relate to.

The Exhibitor’s prime focus is ROI – what do you advise companies to do to insure proper return on investment?

Follow up!
This is one of the biggest reasons a company’s trade show presence will fail. And don’t just follow up once. Send a mass email, have sales people reach out on a one-to-one basis, connect on social media, and go out to lunch. It takes multiple outreaches and a good amount of time before a potential customer will convert to a client, but that time is well worth the investment.

Michael DoaneMichael Doane writes regularly about technology in the meetings industry, plans an annual users group conference for event organizers, and was awarded PCMA's “20 in their Twenties” in 2016. As marketing manager at CadmiumCD, Michael is passionate about implementing technology at conferences to improve continued education activities for attendees.
Meet the Experts – eventTech with Mike Doane
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