The Events Expert Interview Series #6: Dave Lutz

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Over the course of the next several months, we'll be interviewing some of the smartest, most interesting event professionals around--sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. This week we sat down with Dave Lutz,  founder of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, a leader who knows how to take focus and ambition to the next level. 

1) You've got quite an extensive background in event technology and strategy leadership roles, along with speaking and writing. Could tell us a bit about what led you to found Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, what's behind that very interesting company name, and what a typical day looks like for you now? 

I was fortunate to get bitten by the meeting and conference bug early in my career. I started working at hotels at 16. At age 20, I was a banquet manager with Marriott and was recruited by a small meeting planning company named Conferon. We were pioneers in the profession. During the 22 years I was with Conferon (now Experient), the company grew from 10 to over 700 employees. I was very blessed to help innovate and grow a truly great company and alongside some of the most incredible leaders in the conference industry!  

I left Experient in 2006 and started Velvet Chainsaw. In the early years, we provided consulting services to event technology and service providers. For eight years, I was on the Board of Directors for Passkey. In 2010, Velvet Chainsaw made a significant pivot and began focusing on Annual Conference and education improvement. That improved focus led to high growth and the specialization that we enjoy today. We’re a small but mighty team who consult, speak/facilitate and write. Each of our team members bring a unique specialty to our client projects.   

"Velvet Chainsaw" is an old nickname one of my clients gave me early in my career. I negotiated a huge liability away. They developed the term Velvet Chainsaw because they thought I was an effective negotiator and everyone left happy. The URL cost $25 and it was easy to design a logo for.

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

 Helping our clients sell the need for change in complex governance structures.

 3) What event technology delivers the greatest value to major conferences?

The technologies we’re most bullish on are the ones that are ingrained into conference organizer’s daily processes. I like to refer to these as “catcher mitt” solutions. These are the enterprise-level applications that collect data and process payments for registration, exhibitors/sponsors and speakers/sessions. Work flows and integration usually make these solutions sticky with the end user customers.

 Helpful tools are developed from these solutions that empower and provide utility to the meeting and event stakeholders. There are so many shiny object solutions that come and go, but the good catcher mitt solutions are very difficult to disrupt.

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

Evolution of content capture and amplification. Live-streaming and scheduled replays are continuing to evolve. Organizers are realizing it’s less about trying to monetize and more about growing one’s brand and value to the profession.

Secondarily, we’ll learn that event tech suppliers who’s primary product is a mobile app will be disrupted by the catcher mitt companies who deliver value throughout a major conference’s life cycle.

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

Be obsessed with defining and segmenting your target audience. Participants are attracted to high relevance. You can’t deliver relevance without target audience obsession and an intimate knowledge of what keeps them up at night.

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