Event Technology

NWES Tech Bar: Q & A with Tara Thomas

Northwest Event Show Team Member- Victoria Blasich

butler_nwes_20181016-248.jpg

The NWES is shaking things up this year. Not only is the show two full days, but there will be even more chances for education and networking-that you won’t want to miss out on! Event tech is a huge focus for modern day event planners, with new programs and products designed to make your life easier and grow your business being premiered every day. The NWES is here to help you sort through all the options in tech with Tara Thomas, the host of this year’s NWES TECH Bar!

But before you can get on site and get your hands on all the tech and products Tara and her team will have with them at NWES, we wanted to get to know Tara and her tech journey first…

Northwest Event Show (NWES): How did you find yourself in the tech area of the event world? What attracted you to this?

Tara Thomas (T.T.): I’ve lived and worked in Silicon Valley for well over 20 years, working with tech companies of all sizes.  After leading a large marketing team at an automotive tech company in Seattle where we spent millions on a number of corporate events, I began to look for tech that would help us register participants and run the events more efficiently.  After leaving that company I went to work for Certain, an EMS company and thus began my deep foray into event tech.

NWES: How important is tech in the event world?

T.T. : Events, in many cases, mean business.  Technology has revolutionized so many components of networking, marketing and promoting via apps, devices, social media and enterprise software.  Events are no different; tech innovation will continue to push the envelope of the impact and effectiveness of face to face.

NWES: What is the most amazing thing you’ve seen technology achieve at an event?

T.T.: Connecting – by far.  When apps for pre-scheduled meetings, on-the-fly networking, and even activity feeds and gamification are leveraged at events, we are able to connect with more people on trends, topics and like-mindedness.  Even the shy and introverted can get the most out of an event by using tech to connect with people they should be meeting.  It really can revolutionize an event for those of us who are not gregarious types or organic networkers but want to make events meaningful to our lives and business.

NWES: What is your favorite part of an event with technology?

T.T.: I love seeing a startup competition, pavilion, or new tech event and meeting the passionate people who build it – no matter the industry.  Innovation is almost always exciting, from healthcare, to food science, to big construction equipment!

NWES: How has tech changed the event world? Or even the business of events?

T.T.: Tech has improved travel, registration, planning and many other processes around events, and I mentioned before, greatly improved connecting and networking.  In the end though, it’s still about face to face.

NWES: What do you see as the biggest opportunities in the event world in regards to tech?

T.T.: Right now – replacing Excel!  Event professionals are far too dependent on it.  There are literally hundreds – even thousands – of tools that would work better for their processes.

NWES: OH! That hits close to home, we do love our Excel! We will be coming to talk to you more about that this year at the Tech Bar…but until then, how do you see technology helping business achieve their specific goals?

T.T.: Technology and business are not truly separate.  Some of our biggest business brands have been tech companies for decades now.  It makes sense that we would use tech to evolve everything from supply chain to customer service.  There is literally a tech tool for every area of business, and a litany of companies who can help tie solutions together.

NWES: When looking at the options businesses have for tech, from the office to the event floor, what do you recommend teams focus on?

T.T.: I’m a believer at looking at your processes and workflow.  There are so many new ways to create an ecosystem of tech tools that significantly improve organization, communication, collaboration, data management, BI and more.  Building an event tech enterprise and a MarTech stack can be transformative in terms of impact, for even a very small business or event.

NWES: What is the one question that every business should ask themselves before investing in tech?

T.T.: “What do we expect the results to be.”  You can’t succeed with the right implementation and significant adoption unless you’ve outlined your success factors.

NWES: Each business’s tech needs can vary greatly- but what are the must haves no matter what the industry?

T.T.: CRM is a must-have for every business of any size.  If you can’t track your customers’ journey, you can’t be very effective.

NWES: I’m sure you’ve noticed some resistance to tech adoption over the years. What is your response when someone says “I’m not good with tech” or “I’m too old to use social media”?

T.T.: First I tell them age is no excuse – I’m 53 and running TECHbars.  One of the things I’ve learned from doing so many professional events is how many people have committed to being lifelong learners.  Doctors, nurses, scientists, educators, technologists, attorneys and even finance and business people keep coming to events – even into their 80s – because they want to keep exercising that most-important muscle – the brain.  It’s inspiring.  In terms of social media, I tell people to give themselves a break.  It’s fine to be a “lurker” and never post or comment.  Worry about your real-world relationships!

NWES: How do you suggest introducing new tech to a team of tech holdouts?

T.T.: Technology is useless unless we get a benefit from it.  Drive home the benefits and stay results focused.  Get them excited about what they could do, see or be, and you have an invested user.

NWES: Just a few more questions, that are not quite tech focused but still quite essential…What is your favorite Social Media platform? Personally, and for Businesses?

T.T.: Personally, Instagram all the way.  For business, like most people, LinkedIn.

NWES: How do you keep up with the changing world of tech and events?

T.T.: Research and reading almost every day – a labor of love really!

very old computer

NWES: What is something that you never get asked, but would love to answer?

T.T.: What my first computer was – a Commodore 64 with a cassette tape backup and 13-inch black and white TV as a monitor.  I taught myself to code in Basic like lots of ‘70s kids.

NWES: If you weren’t working with tech and events, what would your dream job be?

T.T.: A writer for TV shows in the Arrowverse.

NWES: Good answer! Let us know if that happens, because we have some storyline suggestions… Thank you so much for your time! We can’t wait to get our hands on some of the products you’ll have with you at the TECHBar this year at NWES! Any final tips for tech lovers out there?

T.T.: Don’t forget to learn to connect IRL!

You heard it from Tara! No matter how you feel about tech, or how you use it in your daily life, don’t forget to learn and connect IN REAL LIFE this year at the Northwest Event Show.

We could have talked to Tara forever about her tech experience and insights, but we’ll just have to wait until November and the two full days at NWES! All ticket levels have access to the show floor and the NWES Tech Bar.

If you haven’t registered yet, click here to get your ticket!

Victoria Blasich- Event Marketing Manager at Freemind Seattle. A boutique marketing agency focused on creating distinctive marketing campaigns and impactful event strategy to help you connect with your customers in cool and unusual ways.