We have been interviewing expert event professionals in our industry, and sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. With a dynamic and diverse professional experience, Samuel J. Smith is now Managing Director at Interactive Meeting Technology, leading a team that's redesigning meetings by transforming attendees into active participants.
Use Data to Drive Your Events:
1) You've worked at big companies like Ford Motor Company and 3M as well as some much smaller startups. How did those experiences prepare you for and inspire you to found Interactive Meeting Technology (IMT) in 2009? And what does a typical day look like for you now?
I am the founder and President/CEO of Interactive Meeting Technology. We are a SaaS provider of audience engagement solutions for trade show booths, sales meetings and customer events.
Using our SocialPoint Audience Engagement Platform (www.socialpoint.io), we can brand, style and configure over 25 different audience engagement games and activities for mobile phones, tablets or big screens—without doing any programming.
Ford Motor Company was a great training ground for me to develop some foundational leadership and management skills. My first five years there I rotated through Purchasing, Supply Chain, International Marketing and Business Reengineering. I still draw on some of the lessons that I learned at Ford even today.
By contrast, my MBA at Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis and my MBA internship at 3M helped crystallize my interest in marketing and entrepreneurship. I had the chance to work with a wide variety of new (and hopeful) business ventures. I really got excited about building something fresh and new.
One of those new ventures was at an event app company called Spotme in the meetings industry. There were only eight of us in those days. The engineering team there was fantastic and had a deep understanding of participatory events and how to get results. It was inspiring to work with such an innovative team and innovative clients early at the start of the social/mobile revolution.
However, it was also clear that as event tech grew there would be opportunities for consultants, educators, and other software tools that would solve different problems. I started IMT to capture some of those opportunities. Our SocialPoint Audience Engagement platform has been a natural evolution of how I see the opportunities changing.
2) What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
It’s easy to get distracted. I am a creative person and enjoy tackling new problems and creating something new. However, we count on profits from our business operations to fuel our growth. Our business needs to stay focused on the bottom line to fuel our success.
3) What types of event-related technology do you use or interact with?
We sell interactive trade show games, audience response apps and social media walls—among other things. So we are constantly working with clients to help them integrate digital solutions that engage attendees into the social points in their events.
We have developed a lot of knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work with a particular audience type or spaces in their events.
4) What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year, particularly in relation to event technology?
Integration is a big trend. For example, all of our interactive trade show games capture lead data and push that data to a mobile app on your phone. Once there, booth staffers get a broad view of data that includes the lead data, any survey responses, game scores, detailed company profile (from a 3rd party service), LinkedIn profile and a social media photo. For the booth staffer this data paints a more complete picture of the contact than just getting their name and email address…plus it’s all real-time.
5) If you could give event planners / marketers one piece of advice, what would that be?
When it comes to technology, the people (speakers, booth staff and emcees), process, and technology all need to work together to create an awesome audience engagement experience.
Our customers will tell you that our customer success team is our secret weapon. We don’t just help our clients with the software—we help them sort through the people, process, and technology part of the experience.
If I could give a second piece of advice….I recommend that they take a hard look at the event design canvas and it’s methodologies. The Event Canvas book and methodology does a good job of helping meeting professionals operationalize this process.