We've been interviewing expert event professionals in our industry, and sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. We continue our dive into the minds of industry experts with Brandt Krueger, the owner of Event Technology Consulting LLC, an instructor at Event Leadership Institute, and Cohost @ #EventIcons.
In this interview we look at the intersection of planners and the technology that they use. For a thorough expose of this ecosystem, download our free whitepaper:
1) You've got an extensive background in conference direction and event AV technology... what led you to start your own consulting firm in 2014?
It was just one of those crossroads. The production company I'd worked at for 18 years wanted to expand their content creation department, and they wanted me to head it up. Unfortunately, they felt it required my full focus, which in their minds meant giving up my podcasting, education, and speaking, as well as significantly reduced on-site time.
I really enjoyed all of those things and didn't relish the idea of working in a dark edit suite day in and day out, so we agreed to part ways on good terms. I still do production work for them, show calling for their top clients.
2) What types of clients do you typically work with?
My clients fall into two categories: planners and event technology companies. I work with planners producing small-to-medium events, mostly. These are programs that are still growing, and aren't quite ready to hire a production company - they just "need a guy" who can come in, get them two to three AV bids, handle all the tech for them, and be there on site to make sure it all goes off without a hitch.
Many planners are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the technology, or as one of my clients put it, "I didn't get into this business to deal with 'My PowerPoint Doesn't Work'."
I can also help in any part of the process someone needs a hand with, from writing RFPs to finding the right mobile app.
On the technology side, I work with suppliers to the industry in a few ways. First, I help them with their marketing and promotion to planners. I speak geek, and I speak planner, so I can translate between the two and help them cut through their own technobabble. Sometimes these companies are run by incredible engineers and entrepreneurs, but they don't know squat about events. They just need a guide to help them navigate the terrain.
The other thing I do with tech companies is provide white glove, on-site support for their products. Again, because I'm Geek/Planner bilingual, I can be more than just an on-site tech. I can also act as their personal representative or account manager, managing not just the technology, but also the intense level of customer service that high-end customers can demand.
3) And between consulting gigs, speaking, podcasting, and the education you deliver through the Event Leadership Institute — you've got a lot going on; so what does a typical day look like for you now?
When I'm not on-site with a client and "just in the office", I spend a significant portion of my day reading industry articles. Even during my "off hours" I'm constantly listening to podcasts as I'm doing stuff around the house, often as much as 20 hours a week (on 2x speed). So I'm a voracious consumer of content. When I'm not doing that, I'm preparing for clients' upcoming events, getting AV bids, developing presentations for my upcoming speaking gigs, and writing the occasional blog post.
4) What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Time management. Because I do so many different things and travel quite a bit (not to mention family life), it's easy to get distracted or just "off schedule". Sometimes I'm reading industry articles when I really need to be sending invoices or returning a phone call. I read "Getting Things Done" a long time ago, and still use a lot of those techniques. Lately, I've been refocusing on the "Less than 2-minute rule": If you think of something that needs to be done, and it will take less than two minutes, just do it.
5) What types of event-related technology do you use or interact with?
I've worked a fair amount with Audience Response Systems, both the old-school button pads as well as newer app-based systems. Many end-customers like having a tech there to handle last-minute changes or question additions, and of course to make sure it all runs smoothly. At every conference or show I work on, I try to download and evaluate their mobile app.
Then, of course, there's all the AV technology: lights, sound, projection. There's so much fun that can be done with LED color and projection right now, I try to sneak a little in on even my smallest events, wherever I can!
6) What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year, particularly in relation to event technology?
The last couple of years have been "building years" in my opinion, with no major "Holy WOW!" breakthroughs. There's been some cool work being done with VR, but it's still very much out on the fringes.
Even something as interesting as event chatbots feels a little like an iteration on mobile app technology, just instead of looking things up on the app, we're asking a chatbot. I've already heard of some planners considering ditching the mobile app entirely and going "all in" on chatbots, so that's an interesting trend to watch!
I feel like we're on the cusp of a digital display revolution, though. As displays get thinner, bigger, lighter, and more flexible, we're going to see more and more interesting things being done with displays - as everything becomes capable of being "skinned" in display material. I'm seeing glimmers of this in concerts and large productions, but the bulk of it is probably a couple years off yet.
7) If you could give event planners / marketers one piece of advice, what would that be?
Stay curious. If you're not always learning, there's a danger of stagnation. More than that, though, technology and AV can feel like a foreign language sometimes, but even learning just some of the basics can go a long way to making you feel confident and in control.
Rather than just flipping to the back page, crossing your fingers and signing on the dotted line with a silent prayer, with just a little bit of knowledge, planners can enter into educated conversations with their AV and tech vendors, and ultimately make their events even better!