Brandt is a technical producer and consultant based in Minneapolis, MN, and is the highly acclaimed instructor for the Event Leadership Institute’s Virtual Event and Meeting Management certificate course. He has over 20 years experience in the industry, has spoken at events and conferences all over the world, been published in numerous magazines and websites, and is ranked among the most influential people in the events industry.
What experience can you draw upon to successfully judge the ETAs?
I’ve been playing around with how technology can benefit our events for my entire career, from the first 5-disc CD changers playing “dinner jazz” all night long, to the some of the first hybrid conferences and events, to my roles as Technical Producer and consultant for the industry as it was forced to go online.
How long have you worked in the events industry and what keeps you interested in it?
As my full-time gig, it’ll be 25 years in May. I remember thinking, “OK, I’ll give this events thing a try for a few years.” I think what’s kept me around is that it’s constantly evolving, changing, and is literally something different every day.
Best (and worst?) moments working in the events industry?
I always felt the best moments were when the planner got brought up on stage and recognized for their hard work. It usually means you’re a shoe-in for next year’s event! Mostly, it’s the people, though. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard as I have with some of the folks I’ve worked with. One of the most stressful moments of my career was relatively recently, when our online platform’s internal video links were just… dead. We couldn’t go live, couldn’t playback, couldn’t do anything with thousands of people in the chat waiting to start. It was like being locked out of your event. We got it up and running only about 15 minutes late, but it was hours of stress leading up to it trying to fix it. Also: being screamed at by the coked-up executives of a
pyramid scheme “multi-level marketing” company because their mics weren’t working properly.
Favourite piece of tech for work and personal life?
There’s no one thing, but I’m a huge fan of my phone and iPad. My 14 year-old nerd self would have been blown away.
What’s your go-to piece of tech when working on an event and why?
Probably my iPad. It does 90% of what I need a computer for, including converting hand-written notes to text, taking photos, doing calculations, reading, watching movies back in the room…
What was the last event on which you worked?
The last in-person work I did was helping broadcast an online event from a company headquarters in November ’20. We had a full crew, all masked and socially distanced. The last online work I did was consulting for a large software company on their annual user conference.
From your experience, what’s the best way to utilise tech at an event?
I think the best tech is the tech that fades away into the background, letting attendees be into the experience, and forgetting how it’s being done. It’s OK to have an intitial, “Wow, that’s cool”, but you want them to just get into it as quickly as possible. Never start with the tech and then design the event- figure out what you want to do first, and then back your way into the technology.
We all learn from our mistakes! What was the biggest lesson you learned from a mistake since being in the industry?
Never approach coked-up executives from the side? Mostly I find myself re-learning lessons. It’s easy to get complacent sometimes and forget to have backup plans for backup plans for backup plans. When things go well for too long, you get over-confident in your own abilities (and that of the tech), and just assume it’s all going to be fine. And then it isn’t.
What are you most looking forward to at the ETAs?
One of the things I love about judging awards shows is that it gets me out of my bubble and exposed to new things, new events, new ways of thinking from around the world. It’s hard sometimes though, having to give grades to wildly different products, services, or events!
What do events, such as the ETAs, mean to you?
We need to celebrate our accomplishments, and reward creativity, tenacity, and success. Nominees can compete with each other and still learn from each other. Seeing what it takes to win the respect of an industry can inspire you to do better yourself, as can winning and wanting to do it again!
If you could only use one piece of tech when working on an event, what would that be?
Much as I love my iPad, it’d probably be my Surface Pro tablet. It does almost all the same things as my iPad, including photos and handwriting recognition, but runs full-blown Windows so it’ll still work just fine with PowerPoint, Word, Excel, etc. Plus it runs “real” Chrome or Chromium Edge, so all the web-based apps work properly.
The Event Technology Awards celebrate excellence in event technology. Entries are open now, find out more info here