Julius solaris is a household name in the events industry: founder and editor of Event Manager Blog, international speaker, self confessed events geek and coffee lover, social media guru and an endless source of textbook examples of how you should use every past, present and future professional tool, from blogging to LinkedIn. In this interview we discussed new technologies, the professional perks of the Italian character, sustainability, diversity and what the events industry is still getting wrong.
You are known, of course, for your achievements in the events industry, but you also claim to make the best espresso in South West London. In what way, if at all, has being Italian influenced your approach to this ever-changing worldwide business?
I do although after moving to east London I will have to get a new bio :-). Of course being Italian is added value if you can make the most of our strengths. Being extremely picky and always striving for quality and excellence go a long way. I’ve met some of the most incredible Italians around the world and they are usually at the top of their game. There is something about our culture that makes us refuse mediocrity and look for what is good or beautiful. No other culture shares that. I am proud of being Italian and yes I can make a hell of an espresso.
You can be considered a tech evangelist and have always stood out in the industry for you ability to keep ahead of new technologies as they developed and to spot the potential of new tools before anyone else. What do you think is the next big thing in event technology and why?
The next big thing revolves around engagement and how we stimulate interaction at events. Attendees and audiences are bored to witness the same dynamics all over again. They want to be involved, they want to feel part of the experience. Those technology facilitating the connection between the performer and the attendee and among the attendees are the ones destined to succeed. The tools stimulating engagement range from networking among attendees to polling and q&a tools to throwable mics and live displays. The future is using tech to surround attendees with the experience
Speaking of new trends: in recent years most business fields have been concerned not only with trying out new technologies, but with embracing new and healthier attitudes, such as diversity and environmental awareness. How well do you think the events industry is doing in that respect?
Very poor. There was a time before 2008 when the biggest trend was sustainability. Then the global crisis came and we all forgot about it. How poorly event professionals are engaged with the topic is evident. I see it whenever we publish some piece about sustainability, the response is always weaker. That doesn’t stop us from doing our bit. The amount of waste events create is a major problem. There are better ways to run events that do not damage the environment. We should embrace them as they also usually mean saving money.
Same goes with diversity. White men line ups are the norm. I’ve written about the topic but the response is always bland. There is no attention to details when we don’t care about diversity. And our job is about attention to details. When selecting speakers for a conference, you should ask yourself: Am I doing my job right?
Attendees engagement has become paramount, bringing about new and exciting event formats such as Barcamps and Ignite Talks. How does this new and interactive approach impact the more traditional aspects of event planning, such as the choice of the appropriate venue?
I wouldn’t say these are new formats. Reality is that these formats have been heavily experimented with in 2009 and the results have not been up to standards. Attendees don’t want a radical overhaul of the way we do events, they want an improvement of what we currently have.
I am very bored of seeing conferences being done as it is 1955 but at the same time I need some form of structure to learn. The question is not how can we create a revolution but rather how can we improve learning? Is a frontal lesson the best way to stimulate learning? Probably not, but there are good things in it and we should preserve them.
Throwing balls at each other (something I’ve seen done in some conferences) is surely fun but does it help delivering on the session objectives? Of course not. So let’s drop all this neurolinguistic programming crap and focus on sound delivery.
If you should pick your favourite Italian venue to host an event, what would it be?
Very good question. I haven’t planned many events in Italy but if I had to pick a city, it would be Milan.
The sharing of free industry reports and other useful resources is a popular feature of Event Manager Blog’s. You actually offer to both the public and other events professionals a quantity of well crafted and extremely informative material that it must have cost you time and resources to put together, whereas others in your position may decide to sell the same material or simply hold on to it and use it to gain an advantage on their competitors. Why do you choose to make it freely available? Is this an instance of the ever-popular sharing economy seeping into the events industry?
We feel that the burden of knowledge should not be on the user. We fund our reports with advertising and we move the costs to sponsors. This is a perfect win-win situation where the end user can access quality content for free.
It also gives access to these resources to those who have been traditionally left out from universities or associations, students, entrepreneurs, young independent professionals.