Event Tech

NWES Tech Bar: Q & A with Tara Thomas

Northwest Event Show Team Member- Victoria Blasich

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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!

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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.

Education Announcement

Written by NWES Team Member: Victoria Blasich

The Northwest Event Show has been the largest tradeshow in Seattle for local event & business professionals to network, discover new vendors for their projects and explore what the event industry has to offer. The event world is ever changing, and we understand that professionals are constantly learning. We are excited to announce that not only will the Northwest Event Show be two full days this year, but also new to the experience in this, our 25th year, is higher level education seminars.

As an attendee last year, you may have seen a few small rooms on the show floor with speakers presenting on various topics throughout the day. This year, we are doing even more and offering education tracks for the topics event and business professionals are interested in. These higher-level education sessions will be off the show floor in dedicated rooms where you can truly focus and learn from our incredible speakers.

So, what exactly will you have the chance to learn about? We focused in on five key topics for this year’s education tracks. Meeting Design, Event Technology, Personal Development & Leadership, Business Development, and Event Trends. Here is just a brief look into what you can expect from each of our key topics, and stay tuned for more sessions to be announced soon!

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Meeting Design

Follow sessions within this track to learn how to hone your skills at keeping interest and engagement high while also ensuring that you take care of all your attendees basic needs.

How can you structure your event to delight your attendees and clients?  Expectations are changing, people want and need more out of events. Meeting design is more than just the shaping of the layout and content of an event. Learn how to design an event or corporate meeting that attracts attendees and create amazing experiences through in person and digital activations, relevant speakers and more. Learn new tricks and best practices for your next meeting, whether it be big or small!  

In fact, we have an amazing panel lined up to discuss why event and meeting design isn’t just themes and trends! Learn from our panel of top creative experts about how to design a great experience for your event. Hosted by Allison Lazar from RockLove with Emily Anderson from Lola Creative and Michael McCord from Exhibits NW, the Event Design panel is a can’t miss.

Event Technology

Sessions in this track will focus on new innovations in the tech world that will help make your life while planning and executing an event easier. With sessions on best practices with popular technical staples to demonstrations of new apps, software and digital services that will bring your event into the modern era.

No matter if you are a seasoned professional or a newbie in the event and corporate meeting world, we all use technology to plan meetings and events, communicate with our team and clients daily, promote events and more. Events are run on manpower and technology. Stop by our Tech Bar to get hands-on training on all the latest tech and gear. No matter your level of tech experience, you’ll learn how to use these technical tools to your advantage to delight your clients. With sessions lasting only 15-20, you’ll have the answers you need to start utilizing tech in your business or next event.  

Personal Development & Leadership

This track will guide you through personal development and discovery. With spotlights on team development, motivation and personal growth.  

While your business may be focused on your client’s needs and wants, don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself first and foremost. In this track, you will learn how to stay mindful during stressful times, how to cultivate your leadership ability and how to build a team that is outstanding.

Melissa Majors will be running a workshop focused on leadership strategies for women’s success. With her unique approach of ‘servant leadership’, Melissa will dive into tactics and best practices for how you can better serve your team, and yourself.

Business Development

More than networking, the Business Development track will give you face-to-face time with experts on incorporating sales and operations planning, contracts, security, marketing and risk management. This may not be the fun and exciting side of events and buisness professional’s lives, but it’s all essential. Whether you are well established, or new to the industry, you’ll learn plenty on how to keep your buisness going strong.

Nikki Raush, your very own Sales Maven, will be hosting a workshop dedicated to helping you understand how to turn your casual conversations into sales. Worried about being too pushy or how to have meaningful conversations with a stranger? Nikki will talk you through likeability and social cues and have you ready to close your next deal.

Event Trends

Attend sessions in the Event Trends education track to learn what is the hottest new thing that will have clients and attendees talking about your event. Stay ahead of the curve with insight on what attendees will love and how to implement those trends in your next project.

Remember the last time a meeting or event surprised you with something you’ve never seen before? When something in the content lineup was exactly what you were looking for, or how they managed the registration or ticket process was completely effortless? How did they use social media to accomplish that? Learn more about the power of social media with our Social Media Trends panel, hosted by Janet Granger from Two Beagles and with Michael Seifert from Q13 Fox, Josh Dirks from Project Bionic, Zachary Rozga from The Consumer Engagement Company, and Makenzie Davies from davies + dixon. You’ll love what you walk away with.

With your Advanced EDU Pass, the Northwest Event Show is not just two days of swag gathering and networking. You’ll walk away with hours of actionable teachings you can apply in your daily life, both personal and professional. The most successful buisness professionals are constantly learning, both from their peers and from professionals they admire. Take your business to the next level by actively seeking out new information, acquiring new techniques and honing your skills this year at Northwest Event Show.

What will you learn at the Northwest Event Show this year? What will you discover as your inspiration in the Pacific Northwest?

Register now for an Advanced EDU or VIP All Access pass and get access to all the higher-level education sessions and the chance to learn from the industries top minds and local superstars.

A Look at Authentically Incorporating Virtual Reality at Events

Written by NWES Guest Blogger: Olivia Sundstrom of National Event Pros

Why Virtual Reality

The question of whether or not to incorporate virtual reality into an event is a question that also asks a lot about the event itself. What is the purpose behind the event in question? Is it an event aimed at bringing people together? Is it a marketing or brand activation? Is this event a chance or an opportunity to make a first impression like a conference or expo appearance? Virtual reality has quickly become not just a new phenomenon in the entertainment sphere, but a medium with limitless applications.

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Virtual Reality has the ability when used strategically, to be a highly engaging medium for storytelling, marketing, entertainment, and more.

Assessing the rise of virtual reality technology across various industries throughout time, and within the last year alone, it is clear that big brands and industry leaders are quickly adopting virtual reality as a highly versatile tool to draw engagement within an organization, within a consumer base, or even with a potential consumer base.

Knowing that virtual reality can be an incredibly efficient tool, this article will break down the many ways one can utilize virtual reality at their next event in a way that is engaging, impactful, and authentic.

Know the Audience 

With any endeavor, it is always crucial to understand the audience. A successful event is one that is tailored to its audience authentically and is centered around building organic connections. Whether it be a launch where the audience is made up of potential investors and consumers, a company event, a school fundraiser, or a networking event, there is always an opportunity to create organic connections between the attendees and the event host.

There are many routes one can take with events. When using an event as a means to make a first impression, draw in an audience for a particular product, or to engage with a brand like a trade show or exposition appearance, the strategy behind the event should focus elements like storytelling.

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Many brands across all industries have used virtual reality in this way, and for some of the biggest examples of this check out our break down of 18 Inspiring Uses of Virtual Reality Marketing as well as our bread down on How to Improve Trade Show Engagement with VR for an in-depth look on how virtual reality can be used at marketing centered events.

If the event is aimed at sparking engagement internally at an organization such as a corporate holiday party, team outing, networking event, or fundraiser, then the focus will be on building immersive experiences that all attendees can relate to and engage with, adding storytelling elements is also a powerful addition in these cases as well but the primary focus is on creating an environment that welcomes connections between attendees.

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Building the Event 

There are unlimited routes to take when building an event with virtual reality elements. If the event has a particular theme in mind find virtual reality elements that compliment the theme or take the theme to a new engaging and immersive level for attendees.

If the event theme is one that resonates with the attendees because of its relevancy or proximity such as a winter-themed event for a winter sporting event, then the ability to include guests through virtual reality entertainment like hosting a VR station where guests can enter immersive skiing or snowboarding simulation is one solution.

Finding VR games to match themes like outer space, a murder mystery dinner party, or even zombie apocalypse-themed, are all great and specific ways to use VR games to play on the theme of any particular event.

When it comes to hosting events that are not pertaining to one specific theme, utilize VR experiences that are just as versatile as they are engaging.

The Google Tilt Brush is one of the only pieces of virtual reality entertainment that can be used in such a diverse range of ways from allowing guests to create room scale drawings and animations to using the Tilt Brush to play traditional and familiar party games such as Pictionary, by using the device in scenarios where a traditional pen and paper would be used.

Taking virtual reality and applying it to enhance familiar party games, or using a VR version of a traditional party game or board game, is an easy way to give attendees or team members a more approachable introduction to virtual reality as well as a more universal experience compared to a specific gaming experience.

Create the Environment

When creating the environment at an event with virtual reality there is a multitude of ways to do so. It can be done by creating a dedicated gaming section or gaming lounge at an event where guests can explore and enjoy the juxtaposition of classic arcade games and new virtual reality experiences. Or by creating various stations throughout the event where a different element of virtual reality is used.

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One of the best ways of utilizing virtual reality gaming at an event is the use of multiplayer gaming experiences. For a look at a diverse range of multiplayer VR experiences for group outings, team building activities, and events check out a break down of the Top 19 Virtual Reality Games for Events.

Have one section of the event dedicated to showcasing a storytelling element through virtual reality. Let this be a way for members of an organization to interact with a story or timeline by showcasing the history of the organization, a recap, a timeline, or engage with a new campaign through virtual reality.

Have various sections of the event dedicated to being inclusive of family-friendly and younger attendees, as well as allowing a beer garden, gaming lounge, or sports bar experience with VR games meant for adults.

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National Event Pros is a full-service event planning, production, and rental company headquartered in Seattle with accomplished partners worldwide.

For over 30 years, our network of event professionals and extensive equipment inventory have provided our clients with services for more than 50,000 private parties, public gatherings, school picnics, and corporate special events.