The Events Expert Interview Series #21: Julius Solaris

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If you've been following along, you know we've been interviewing expert event professionals, and sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. Julius Solaris is the editor of EventMB, the number one online platform worldwide for event professionals. Julius is also the founder of the Event Innovation Lab, an immersive training program for Fortune 500 companies and high performance event teams. He has also been named one of the 25 most influential individuals in the Meeting Industry by Successful Meetings Magazine.

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1) You've created and built some amazing resources for the events industry. Help us connect the dots, if you would—how did you transition from marketing manager and event coordinator stints to founding EventMB and growing it into the top website for event professionals...

11 years ago, blogs were all the hype. I was deeply committed to start one and make it become my business. They say you can start a blog on something when you can write at least 50 articles on a topic. My topic was events. As you mention, I did have experience as marketing manager for a pharma conference and that was it. I was especially interested in the intersection between social media and events, as well as the use of tech in events. The rest is history.

...as well as the Event Planning & Event Management LinkedIn group, which now has more than 377,000 members? 

A year into the blog, I jumped on the opportunity to have a group on LinkedIn. The group has recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary. There is a lot of uncertainty in terms of what LinkedIn wants to do with the groups platform. One thing for sure, the community we built has been at the center of some of the most revolutionary research ever done in the industry. Our latest research involved over 2,400 respondents.

2) And what does a typical day look like for you now?

I now look after a team of eight. I focus mostly on our reports and direction of the business. That means I fix problems and I create new ones ;-) 

3) What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?

There is a lot of awful content out there on event planning. With content marketing being one of the strongest drivers for companies, everybody is doing some level of content creation and promotion. How do you differentiate unbiased, independent content from brand content? This is very unclear in the eyes of readers.

Our commitment to high quality, research-driven content has been the only reason why we've been able to constantly grow, surpass competitors, and shine in a sea of poor content. Yet the level of noise is detrimental, confusing and ill-advised in good part. My challenge? I want to fix that. 

4) What types of event-related technology do you use or interact with?

As a speaker, I love all tools that make sessions more engaging. I love interaction tools, throwable mics, live polls, and q&a. As a planner, I lean toward all-in-one software solutions or very integrated tools. There is no time for siloed tech. My motto to eventtech providers is to evolve or die. As event professionals, we cannot dedicate time to your technology if it creates more problems rather than solving existing ones.

5) What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year, particularly in relation to event technology?

There is a big trend in terms of consolidation. More acquisitions, more IPOs, more mergers. That is great news for event tech providers as more capital is pouring in. 

At the same time, it could mean higher barriers to entry, particularly for registration and event apps. If you are a startup today planning to do ticketing or apps, you will struggle. I am excited about those startups that want to disrupt and fix big problems with events. Facial recognition is one, especially for addressing long lines and faster check in.

Planners on their end need to step up their event technology education. There is no excuse to dodge the tech bullet. You cannot scale your event or event business without tech. Not-going-to-happen! Attendees expect tech at events; it's part of the experience mix, as we like to call it. 

6) If you could give event planners / marketers one piece of advice, what would that be?

There is a lot of focus in our industry on stunts and capturing attention, whether through entertainment or motivational keynotes. While this could be fun, ask yourself, will my attendees change as a result of this? Will they learn something? Will they remember the event because of my choices?

The problem with attention-grabbers and stunts is that they don't last, and require you to plan from scratch each year. Create sustainable change by planning events with a purpose and a clear objective. Be clever, unique, and creative, but deliver on the objective. You are not the director of a circus, you are an event professional.