Out of Office: Why It’s Important to Make Time for Professional Development

“Fresh & Profesh” is one of those lesser known mantras, but one you can hear often in the halls of MAG. We do experiential marketing, which means we are challenged to consistently be creative…or “fresh,” if you will. We have to be on the cutting edge, leveraging the newest emerging technologies, and consistently conjuring up that which you haven’t yet seen. Doing so is of course a ton of fun (I dare you to look at the crazy things we Google search), but it also requires consistent work to make sure we are always familiar with what is out there, what other brands are doing, and what the trades and blogs are talking about.

With all of that said, one of my personal favorite ways of remaining competitive is secret option D – Conferences and Events – all things “Professional Development.” Don’t roll your eyes just yet; I swear they can be valuable…and fun!

This past fall I had the pleasure of attending two conferences in one week. So since I’ve done the leg work for you, here’s a bit of a crash course on what I learned (hint: a lot of it doesn’t even have to do with the specific conference description!).

Learning is cool.

Unless you take continuing education classes (which I do and I recommend by the way), sitting in a room with the intention of just learning is not something grownups get to do very often. It’s a total shame, because learning about things that are interesting is really fun. I went to min’s Social Media Bootcamp at the Yale Club and heard experts from brands like Refinery29, Conde Nast Traveler, and Cosmopolitan and Seventeen Magazine speak about how the have grown their brands’ social media followings. I walked away with a serious tool kit of tips that I have already implemented since attending.

Interesting people attend conferences.

Events and conferences are a really great way to mix and mingle with like-minded and unlike-minded folks, both categories of which offer a lot of value. You’ll have a chance to talk to people who work in similar industries, as well as a whole host of others who don’t. This harkens back to the “fresh” I mentioned earlier. It can be extremely valuable to learn what others across a wide variety of businesses and industries are up to, as more often than not, you will find parallels to what you are doing as well. And of course, you just might meet some new biz contacts as well!

Fast Company's Innovation Festival

Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. Image courtesy of Fast Company.


Talk to strangers.

Sitting at a 60’’ round with 11 people you don’t know is hard enough. Add to that a self-conducted round table discussion and you’ve got yourself a sitch. This is exactly the circumstances in which I found myself at one of the conferences I attended; due to a shortage of moderators, table 26 was a sovereign entity amidst a sea of governed bodies. While at first I was a bit annoyed (really, I have to be at the awkward table with the painfully long pauses?!), it turned out to be a really fun exercise. All 12 of us stepped up to the plate (okay, maybe 10 out of 12), and the resulting dialogue was engaging and worthwhile and took many fascinating turns as we navigated a variety of industry topics. Not to mention it allowed us to employ those rusty social skills that don’t arise too frequently in adult life – the same ones necessary when selecting a lunch table in the cafeteria in middle school for the first time. In the end, I was pretty proud of myself and the whole of table 26 for putting ourselves out there.

Get out of your comfort zone.

This is sort of a summation of the above points, but an important one nonetheless. I remember when I bought the tickets to the conferences, I was super jazzed. But then a funny thing happened as the dates approached…my enthusiasm turned to dread as I pictured a day away from my computer, my Outlook, my Guy and Gallard salad at 1pm, and most importantly, a day of productivity. We all know the feeling – the one that says, “but a day outside of the office means I will fall behind!” Nah – it will springboard you forward – so go for it!

The michael alan group is a full-service experiential marketing agency & event production company. Check out our work and our team, and drop us a line to chat about the experiential opportunities for professional development.

Tech It Out: Our Experience at EventTech ’15

When people think of event design, technology is not typically one of the first words that come to mind. Rather, the focus is placed on the physical design of the space (my personal favorite part of the process!), ensuring the event runs smoothly and creating a positive attendee experience. While these aspects are critical considerations, I can also tell you that in our rapidly evolving industry, the integration of technology is just as crucial. I had the privilege to attend Event Marketer’s EventTech Live in Las Vegas this November and was amazed at the event technologies that are new to the scene and existing platforms that keep continuing to grow.

Not only did I leave Las Vegas with a few unused $5 gambling chips from the Bellagio, but with an arsenal of event technologies to bring back to the MAG Team. With that, here are my favorite top 5 technologies I learned about and experienced at the event:

1. Virtual Reality

It’s here to stay and keeps getting better & better. Globacore is a leading company that has been at the forefront of Virtual Reality over the years.  They combine physical and digital elements to make users feel completely immersed in an activation or game… whether it be creating a digital environment like they did in Paperdude which brought the classic arcade game Paperboy to life with a real spin bike or by setting up their own camera rigs to create a reality experience from the ground up. It goes to show you that when it comes to incorporating Virtual Reality into a consumer experience, the sky can quite literally be the limit.

Oculus Rift + Kinect + KickR = Our Homage to Paperboy: PaperDude VR from Globacore on Vimeo.

2. Mobile Charging Stations

They might be a tried & true technology, but nonetheless one that continues to increase engagement at an activation and serves as a great value-add. You might have thought you’ve seen them all but Brightbox is leading the “charge” with their secure charging stations whereby a kiosk (freestanding, tabletop or wall mounted) featuring locked slots, branded elements and if desired, digital ads and survey integrations. Guests receive a card that they first swipe into the machine, open a slot, plug their phone in, lock it up and walk away leaving their phone to charge securely. Pretty much a no-brainer.


Image courtesy of brightboxcharge.com.

3. Social, Social, Social

It’s almost 2016, you can’t have a campaign without it. Not only do you need social, but you want to also measure it. Postano not only aggregates and measures social media data using user-generated content featuring hashtags and a brand’s own social accounts, but also turns that data into a visual display that can be featured at your event. With Postano, you get a front-and-back-end system and a variety of “add-ons” like an app you can use to moderate your display feed on-the-go, a function that can respond to your guests content asking for permission to repost their Instagram or Twitter post, and even integrate feeds on your existing company’s website.

4. Polling

What’s an event without information? Polling an audience is a tale as old as time and has been done in countless ways, but meetoo has upped the ante by creating an interactive polling and real-time messaging platform that can be incorporated directly into your meeting. Attendees have the option to download the meetoo app to participate or simply use the web app via URL link to get involved. Not only can polling be accomplished with endless setting options, but there is also a plug-in to incorporate live polling into PowerPoint directly making the process even more seamless. Gathering information just got even easier.


Image courtesy of meetoo.io.

5. Networking

When it comes down to it, the reason we put on events is to elicit some level of networking, reaction and interaction.  We are always looking for ways to not only have the brand engage with the audience but to have the audience interact with each other. Enter Proxfinity, a platform that works to increase networking at events using back-end data gathered by attendees during registration or onsite. Proxfinity provides attendees with a physical device that attaches to your badge, uses algorithms to visually connect two nearby attendees (either by a common colored light that appears or displaying each other’s initials on the badge). The amount of uses are endless – use it to identify leads at events, training purposes, or to purely get your audience connected together.

There you have it..technology is everywhere and with good reason. When it comes to planning your event, you must really consider your client’s goals for the campaign to not only produce an aesthetically beautiful event but also to narrow down on which technologies would best elevate and maximize your event’s impact.  And with the help of innovative, progressive and ever-evolving partners like the ones above, I know the events we put on have a chance to reach that status and that works for me.


Author Allie Lewbel onsite at EventTech ’15. Header image courtesy of eventmarketer.com