James Morgan, PhD
Senior Lecturer University of Westminster
Founder Event Tech Lab
For creating a virtual community to nurture the communication and marketing efforts of tech startups in the events industry
I started Event Tech Lab in January 2014 to bring people with bright ideas from the tech sector together with the events industry. It’s not a moneymaker. Sometimes we make a little; last year we lost money. For me, it is more about the excitement of being in the forefront of the technology revolution in our industry. We mentor tech startups and teach them how to communicate with meeting planners about applications for their product. Many of them don’t even know the difference between a conference and an exhibition. Now we have 36 partners and have become a funnel for startups to be visible in the events industry. Every three months we have an event for new pitches, and at the last event, 300 people watched the livestream. Our most successful startup so far is Glisser, an audience engagement product that allows the audience to view the presenter’s slides on their smart phones or iPads and ask questions through the app during the presentation. Glisser is now funded by Microsoft.
Event Tech Lab is a labor of love for me. I did it out of curiosity and interest, but it also complements my teaching at the University of Westminster in London and helps me stay up to date.
There are so many things coming up! We are a whole community of startups and advisors, from Bulgaria to Bratislava and the Balkans. For example, a Houston startup I have been helping has facial recognition software. Imagine using that for event registration and tracking! Think about how important that could be for security reasons.
I’m also talking to four or five London venues about having an event tech menu. Vendors have a supplier list for caterers and AV vendors, why not one for audience engagement businesses? We need to educate venues to offer ways to enhance the meeting with gamification or polling apps and interactive presentation products.
Role Models and Mentoring
As well as advising startups, I see many former students who have graduated and are working in the industry, and I’m always available for informal advice. Joe Goldblatt of Queen Margaret University, the founder of the International Special Events Society, has always been an inspiration to me because he is such an expert on the business. Another of my professors, Peter Newman of the University of Westminster, taught me how to analyze and problem-solve and that’s important in the events industry. His specialty is urban planning, the subject of my PhD, and he taught me how to think outside the box.
You can use a garbage bag to create a fashionable outfit—advice given to me years ago by an art teacher in college in South Africa when I was organizing a catwalk show for a fundraiser. We gave five garbage bags and some glue to young people studying fashion design and they created amazing outfits out of something totally utilitarian. The experience stuck with me.
Advice for Meeting Pros
Look at the tech sector to see what it is doing—for example hackathons, crowdsourcing, and unconferences.
Got a Spare Hour?
Do you know what a flâneur is? It is a French term for someone who saunters around observing society, taking in the atmosphere, and thinking reflectively. I like to walk around the city. I find it quite inspirational to have uninterrupted time for creative thought.
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