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Two Minutes with Mike Foust

PRA’s new director of digital production shares his thoughts on the biggest mistake planners make with virtual events.

After six months of contract work with PRA as a technical/digital producer, Mike Foust has joined the company full time. He now serves as the director of digital production at One Smooth Stone, PRA’s event and communication agency, bringing with him a career’s worth of experience in event production. He’s worked at Jack Morton Worldwide, The Chicago Theater, and most recently August Jackson, where he was vice president, executive producer.

As the lead production resource for PRA digital services, Foust will focus on processes, best practices, and training for virtual and large-scale hybrid events, as well as serving as executive producer for digital and in-person events.

MeetingsNet: What is the biggest mistake you see meetings professionals making as they execute their digital events?
Foust: The biggest mistake I see event professionals making is to focus on the event technology platform before identifying their strategic objectives and overall goals for the event. An event platform is a tactic that should support the overall event strategy. It’s our job as an agency to guide clients through this process and identify the right practices, tools, technologies, and resources to bring their strategy to life. You wouldn’t design a stage or plan a menu without first establishing some strategic foundation to work from. The event platform shouldn’t be any different, especially with so many to choose from.

MeetingsNet: What’s the most memorable virtual event you’ve attended from the perspective of event design, and what made it stand out?
Foust: The most memorable virtual event I’ve attended was definitely PRA’s 2021 annual company meeting. It was an important opportunity to showcase our digital chops to the entire PRA system, so we really swung for the fences. We used a broadcast studio as well as remote presenters. We did live and simu-live [recorded presentation with live Q&A] sessions. We had interactive breakout sessions and epic keynotes. We dined together (but first we all cooked together!). We got attendees involved via engagement tools and got them on screen via user-generated content, and everyone received a custom Experience Box filled with tools and goodies to help make the most of our time together. There was a thoughtful agenda, killer content, and we hit all the senses…it doesn’t get much better than that.  This was also my first PRA event as an attendee, which added another exciting layer to the equation.

MeetingsNet: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Foust: People are usually surprised to learn I play hockey, and even more so when they find out games are on weeknights and usually don’t start until after 10 p.m. I have two kids under the age of 3, so I don’t get out much. Hockey is great because I can check several boxes with a single activity—exercise, stress relief, social time with buddies, sports and competition, networking, etc. And it all happens while the kids are asleep, which is a big win at home.

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