The Events Expert Interview Series #8: Michael Shapiro

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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 Michael Shapiro, senior editor at Meetings & Conventions, with a focus on technology and the travel and meetings industry. 

1) As a senior editor at Meetings & Conventions you must get a LOT of email. Could you tell us a little bit about what led you to this role, how you choose what to write about, and what a typical day looks like for you?

It’s true, I get an enormous amount of email. The number of unread messages in my inbox is currently smaller than a 6-digit number, but it’s getting dangerously close. While it would be impossible to carefully read and respond to everything, it’s still probably the best way for me to get information — we often use info that isn’t pressing news some months later, as part of larger stories that we think would be of value to planners. 

Each of the senior editors at M&C covers a number of beats, and technology is among mine. I edited and wrote for a number of tech publications before joining M&C more than a decade ago, so that’s how I fell into event tech. As you know, meetings and event tech covers a huge range of applications, so this is a big part of my job — just trying to keep up to date with what’s out there, what’s next, and what planners most need to do be successful at their jobs.

To the extent that any editor or meeting planner has a “typical” day, that hints at a rough outline: Research via email, reading both news and industry resources, handling calls and tech demos, and making the time to write a mix of news stories and more in-depth feature coverage. But to be honest, I don’t think I have typical days anymore. And I haven’t even touched on social media, webcasts or multimedia production.

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

A shortage of time combined with the need to switch back and forth between extreme multitasking and the focus required to go deeper on some subjects. (That isn’t just me, right?) 

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

It’s a mix — I’m not a planner, so I’m not regularly using meetings-management platforms. But I do a lot of demos, and try my best to understand not only the point of whatever I’m looking at but also the user experience. I’ve recommended tech to my colleagues before just based on the slick interface and functionality, even if I’m not the one using it. And I love to hear feedback from planners about how well each piece fits into their workflow. Of course I get to use a lot from the attendee perspective, which is a great way to “close the loop” after writing about the innovative aspects for planners — thinks like second-screen technology, chatbots, the countless features that are found in event mobile apps.

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

Data collection continues to be huge, and I think we’re still just scratching the surface in determining the best way to integrate it from various sources and make it useful. And I’m really fascinated in seeing how the international discussion of data privacy and protection will factor into the next-gen uses of data, the vast amount of info that’s collected for location-tracking and matchmaking and networking purposes. It can all be tremendously valuable and lead to great meeting experiences — but will all of that data collection and the subsequent use of it be properly disclosed to attendees? And will attendees continue to be cool with it now that data-privacy discussions have become more prominent? I think they will if suppliers and planners can deliver meaningful, memorable experiences in return.

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

Ha, I look to event planners and marketers as the real experts in everything I write about — they are the ones who truly understand the challenges of their specific job.  That said, one theme that keeps coming up? Planners have so much on their plates already that they have a tendency think that things like crisis preparedness and data protection are responsibilities being handled by someone else. Planners need to be a part of that discussion, and to be part of a collaborative approach to safety and security — whether we’re talking about physical safety or personal data.

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