Chris Tillman, Program Manager – Event Technology for Google based in San Francisco, is responsible for the integration of technology into Google’s global events. Tillman is also the keynote speaker at 2016’s ‘The Event Show Seminar Program brought to you by Eventbrite’, here he chats to B&T about technology and the event space.
What’s your understanding of the event space/market in Australia? How does it compare to the US and the rest of the world?
To be perfectly honest, I’m a newcomer to the Australian market. I’ve learned a few things here and there in the last several months, but I’m excited to dive in at The Event Show and really get a deeper understanding.
How do Google’s global offices align in their event planning when they have to cater for such different marketers?
Every country and every city is a unique market. For the most part, regional and local teams drive the events in their respective locations. The Event Technology team is currently focused primarily on the United States, though there has been a recent uptick in international consultations.
At Google, do you have a recipe for success for internal events? Are there must haves for every event, no matter what the content?
Every event has its own singular vision and set of challenges, and internal events are no different. You have to consider the audience profile and the goals of the event and build the right infrastructure around it. That said, Googlers are obviously pretty tech-heavy when it comes to their day-to-day operations and delivering solid connectivity options at off-campus venues is generally pretty important.
How much does your budget affect the effectiveness of an event?
Your venue and your location pretty much define what is or isn’t possible, and your budget defines to what degree you will be able realise that potential. A smaller budget usually comes with a trade-off in performance or reliability, while a healthy budget can buy significant peace of mind regarding event infrastructure.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a first time speaker at an event?
I know it sounds cliche, but my one piece of advice is to get up there and own it. Trust in your experience that got you to that stage and be the best version of yourself for the audience.
What can delegates of The Event Show expect from your keynote speech?
My goal is to cover some universal strategies and concepts that event professionals of all types can use to bring their event visions to life with technology. Delegates should expect a focus on enabling connectivity and communication, as well as practical examples of how Google has used these strategies in the past.
Across internal and external events- what are the essentials for event producers that span across both?
Producers need to make sure they know their audience- each event is going to have a different delegate profile with different needs and different expectations.
What’s the biggest meltdown you’ve had at your own event?
If it can go wrong, I’ve probably had it happen. The most recent example that comes to mind is an internal sales conference we supported in Dublin in 2015. The first day of the event went well at an arena venue, but when the second day kicked off at a conference center, the delegate WiFi network completely collapsed as everyone arrived onsite.
We hired an agency to handle the show-critical stage and production networks, but relied on the venue’s in-house system for delegates. The failure wasn’t a mortal wound for the event, but when you have 5,000 Googlers (many attending from other countries), a sudden lack of connectivity meant a major hit to their ability to work and stay productive.
What’s the key to engaging an event audience?
From the marketing side compelling content is obviously critical to engagement- but you have to meet the audience where they are. If it’s a technical audience, you want speakers who can bring at least a matching level of expertise. On the flip-side, if you have an audience full of marketers, or salespeople, presenters need to speak their language and bring the content to them in a relatable way.
From my perspective on technical side, there are some really exciting things happening around audience participation. There’s a platform called ‘FXP Touch’ from brand experience agency FreemanXP that enables a whole new level of interaction between speaker and audience.
What has been the best event you have put on and why?
I’d have to go with Google I/O 2016. Previous iterations of the event had been hosted at Moscone Center in San Francisco for the last decade, but for 2016 it was moved to Shoreline Amphitheater, a large concert venue adjacent to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, CA.
It was a complete departure from the years before, and required us to design, plan, and build every bit of infrastructure from the ground up to deliver on the vision of ‘tech conference meets music festival’. While there was no shortage of challenges in planning and execution, we were able to deliver enterprise grade connectivity and networking for this massive endeavor.
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