Event Technology Awards 2020 Meet the Judges: Scott Cullather

The judging panel for the awards is a stellar line-up of experts and we’d like to introduce them to you in our Meet the Judges series, this week we present Scott Cullather, Co-Founder and CEO, INVNT

What experience can you draw upon to successfully judge the ETAs?

Over the years I’ve led and produced hundreds of live events of varying shapes and sizes, in countries across the globe, for countless world-leading brands. While no two events are ever the same, one of the common threads that ultimately defines their success is how effectively they leverage technology. When the right combination of tech is woven throughout an experience strategically – and not just for the sake of it – it can help to shape the overall attendee experience, making it incredibly powerful.

How long have you worked in the events industry and what keeps you interested in it?

More than 30 years… Live is in my blood! I grew up in the event industry – my dad was one of the first employees at Jack Morton, and later went on to co-found his own agency, Williams/Gerard Productions. I joined that business soon after graduation and stayed there for 18 years before launching INVNT with our COO (and my wife), Kristina McCoobery in 2008.

The main thing that keeps me interested in our industry, is that we all crave experiences. It’s innate to the human condition to do so, and our industry will continue to evolve as the wants and needs of consumers do. It’s constantly changing. And that’s fun.

Now we’re pivoting amid COVID-19 and we’re still busy because, to put it simply, there is nothing more potent than a live experience – even if it’s a virtual or phygital one. Challenges like this, while trying, keep me interested. Success has never come from comfort zones, after all.

The other thing that maintains my interest is this ongoing opportuntiy to grow INVNT – both geographically and from a service offering perspective. It’s incredibly rewarding and fun, and I count my blessings every day. 

Best (and worst?) moments working in the events industry?

The best is launching INVNT at a time when some might say the odds were against us – at the height of a global recession (to those of you considering going out on your own now, don’t give up on your dream) – and growing it into the agency that it is today. We now operate across eight offices in five countries, and we’ve expanded our offering beyond live events to included branded content and brand strategy.

In our industry, we work long hours, often away from home, so you end up making life long friendships with colleagues, employees, clients and vendors. Fred DeLuca, the founder of Subway was one of these people. It was a tragic loss when Fred, a client, friend and mentor for over 20 years, sadly passed passed away from Leukemia.

While not the worst, March of this year, when COVID-19 became a reality, was definitely a difficult time for our agency and the industry at large. But we pivoted quick, and we’re thankful for that. As an industry too, we’re resilient and I am confident we’ll all get through this.

Favourite piece of tech for work and personal life?

Blinkist is awesome. It’s a reading app that packages up key takeaways from non-fiction books so they take approx. 15-minutes to read. I use it to stay on top of the latest management practices and industry trends, and use it in my downtime too.

What’s your go-to piece of tech when working on an event and why?

With events now virtual – or at least phygital – for the time being it’s hard to whittle this down to just one. Virtual event platforms, for example, are proving essential for hosting events, especially those with interactive elements (vital for maximising attendee engagement), then there’s the amplification tech like live streaming equipment and social media that ensure a brand’s messages reach its key audiences, and then some.

What was the last event on which you worked?

I’ve taken a step back from the delivery side of events in recent years to focus ‘on the business.’ This strategy of looking out, not down ensures we’re constantly planning ahead and therefore growing and evolving as the world around us does, while others are dedicated to working ‘in the business.’ They are focused on the essential day-to-day operations.

That being said, amid this pandemic I’ve been working closely with our teams and a number of clients on some exciting virtual pivots. Watch this space!

From your experience, what’s the best way to utilise tech at an event?

The ‘tech for tech’s sake’ approach I mention above is an important one. Don’t just use the latest hologram technology because it looks cool. It needs to tie in with the story you’re trying to tell your audience. This is especially applicable in our current climate. Make sure your virtual experiences have a clear story, and then select the tech that will best complement that.

We all learn from our mistakes! What was the biggest lesson you learned from a mistake since being in the industry?

The importance of preparation. In our industry, we must not only have a plan B, but a plan C, D and E too. You need to be flexbile, adaptable and responsive. From unpredictable weather conditions to a poor WiFi singal or a keynote speaker falling ill at the last minute, there are so many moving parts at play – many which, unfortunately, are often out of our control.

In the virtual world, this translates as troubleshoot, troubleshoot, troubleshoot! Tech tends to be temperamental so please, test your camera, your mic, your headphones, that your software is compatible with all speaker laptops… You get the idea!

What are you most looking forward to at the ETAs?

Hopefully, the opportunity to celebrate creative and effective uses of tech within our industry in person.

What do events, such as the ETAs, mean to you? / Why is it important to recognise the achievements of tech companies?

The awards are particularly special this year. Technology has always played an important role in the attendee experience and overall success of our events, and this is especially the case amid COVID-19. Thanks to technology advancements and the products tech companies have developed for our industry, we’ve been able to adapt quickly and creatively to provide our clients – and their audiences – with engaging live experiences, delivered virtually.

If you could only use one piece of tech when working on an event, what would that be?

The tech that really excites me right now is predictive analytics. Our branded content studio, HEVĒ uses these algorithmic formulas – which leverage over 220 million minutes of video that has been tagged with a variety of relevant meta data points – to create highly personalized and targeted campaigns for audiences across platforms like TV, digital and social.

They can essentially understand how a campaign will perform before it even runs, ensuring maximum success. It’s something we’re working on incorporating into live events. Once that happens? It will be a must-have for our industry.

For more information or to enter your #eventtech visit the website www.eventtechnologyawards.co.uk or email hello@eventtechnologyawards.co.uk

Event Technology Awards 2020 Meet the Judges: Scott Cullather
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