Take a Mental Health Day. Or Three.

Photo by bigapple/iStock / Getty Images

We're deep in the throes of programming Techonomy '18, the flagship conference for Techonomy Media. It will be 3 days of intense discussions about the impact of technology on business and society and given the current state of things, some of the conversations are taking a dystopian turn. But that keeps it interesting, right?

Techonomy founder and host David Kirkpatrick  has been writing about some of the things you can expect while you're there and the variety of voices you will hear. I'm excited that Manoush will be joining the program to talk about her revolutionary journalism experiment (if you haven't started listening to her new podcast ZigZag, you should probably go ahead and catch up now). We've also got Marissa Mayer joining us - can't wait to hear what she's working on these days; and, Tim Berners-Lee, who will shed some light on what the internet has become. There will be a live debate, hosted by the Intelligence Squared folks (and the topic they're developing is super provocative) and a live musical performance by a special guest (we're debating internally - so many bands!). 

And, it will be at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, CA. Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the country (see photo!). So, yea -- you should probably find a way to join the program. Your brain and your body will thank you for it. (and if you want to learn more about how to participate, email me)




Techonomy New York

This week, the Techonomy team hits New York in what promises to be a provocative, informative, action-packed conference. Former WPP CEO Martin Sorrell will open and iconic NY chef Eric Ripert will close day one, May 8; and celebrated environmentalist Jeffrey Sachs gets things going on day two, May 9 - which wraps up with discussions about AI, robots, blockchain, and inevitably, Facebook (co-founder Chris Hughes is our final speaker). 

If you're interested in attending, head over to our events page

Photo by brazzo/iStock / Getty Images

The Future lives at Moogfest

The future of music festivals and tech conferences is embodied in Moogfest. It's taken awhile for people to catch up, but each year the festival goes on, another round of people head to Durham to celebrate their interest in music along with a fascination - and concern - about our collective future. It's a wonderfully diverse, edgy, and true to it's mission, future forward experience. 

"At Moogfest, the technology, in turn, pointed toward ideas about what happens at the human-machine interface: scientific, spiritual, pleasurable, dystopian. It celebrated not only the gizmos that humans invent to play music, but also the ways that music plays the brain." - NY Times

Rethinking the Meeting and Event Experience

Typical conference ballroom set up. Not a place where you'd want to spend an hour, let alone a day. The upside is the table, where you can lay your head when you want to take a nap.

The meeting and events industry has long relied on the same formula - travel to a beachside destination, host the event in a luxury hotel, meet in a ballroom. Spend the budget on hotel-provided F&B, Powerpoint presentations on the biggest screen possible, and deliver entertainment in the form of an overpaid 90's band while executives enjoy "afterglow" at the bar.

The world has changed, people. Forecasts for 2017 predict that the meetings and events industry will remain somewhat stagnant, as budgets tighten, companies spend less on travel, and uncertainty in the world requires more vigilance.

It's challenging to reimagine a meeting or a conference. My team is often hired to do exactly that - create something extraordinary, "unlike anything we've done before", only to bump up against resistance when we finally get down to business. But, a new reality is here and organizations - whether a Fortune 500 company, an industry association, or a media company with an annual conference - must evolve. 

We can agree that Millennials are influencing much of the shift in programming, and we know that people want experiences not things. However, it's the smart use of technology that can truly transform the experience in a way that's never been done before.

I only know a handful of people who are actually using technology to change the way an event can be experienced, beyond a mobile app or registration check-in via tablet. See Charles Adler's comment about a recent talk he gave in South Korea after a 24-hr flight - he asks why he couldn't have participated remotely via AR, as a hologram on stage, saving himself the fatigue and the conference producer the expense. It's a good question. Production companies like Freeman XP are starting to build these things into their portfolio of services. Conference and meeting planners need to do the same. Why not offer a VR experience for employee training rather than a lengthy breakout session; or a conference as a paid live stream with global reach, rather than as a live event exclusive only to those who can afford to travel to the conference location? Utilizing technology to bring people and information together in an efficient, modern way clears the agenda for more in-person interaction and activities. It also opens up an opportunity to address another challenge - personalization. Find a way to customize the experience, you deliver more value.

And, I hear you - you could argue that giving a presentation remotely or live streaming an event is antithetical to the in-person experience. However, it just requires thinking differently about how those experiences are designed. Isn't that the fun part anyway?

Every day, we use technology to do the most mundane tasks, to improve our lives, to save time - order groceries, take college courses, purchase printer ink and have it delivered on the same day, even meditate. Your audience is already there. Now is the time to take them on an entirely new journey.

Two weeks later: Moogfest

Gary Numan at the Carolina Theater

Gary Numan at the Carolina Theater

It's been two weeks since Moogfest, the music festival and futurist technology conference I worked on. It was a massive undertaking - 30+ venues, 333 artists/presenters, 40,000 attendees, 5.6M livestream viewers, 7M+ social media impressions, 1.2B media impressions. And, a program that went live in Durham, North Carolina (a great host city), despite the challenges of the HB2 law.

Moogfest will be back in Durham May 18-21, 2017 and if you're wondering if you should attend or sponsor or participate in some way, let's talk. Read more here:

The Atlantic: Moogfest 2016: A Futurism Weighted With History and Trepidation

New York Times: At Moogfest, a Demonstration of What Human and Machine Can Accomplish

Pitchfork: Moogfest, The Ultimate Music For Nerds