Meeting technology company Aventri, Norwalk, Conn., had brought in a new CEO, Jim Sharpe, the former general manager and managing director at Gerson Lehrman Group, a platform for connecting professionals. Sharpe will take the reins from Oni Chukwu, who will now serve the company as executive chairman. We asked Sharpe about the experience and ideas he brings to the table.
MeetingsNet: How has your work leading the “knowledge marketplace” at Gerson Lehrman Group helped prepare for the competitive meeting technology market?
Jim Sharpe: The vast majority of my career has been about connecting people—bringing stakeholders together to share perspectives and solve big problems. Joining Aventri is another step in that journey, and I’m excited on a few fronts. To start, at GLG I worked hand-in-hand with our technologists to build and leverage technology that improved not only our workflows, but those of our clients. Event technology is currently undergoing an overhaul in the way events professionals do their important jobs, and I’m excited to lead that product and technology journey here.
One big change is the role of data and artificial intelligence to create a more customized and meaningful experience. At GLG, we were able to leverage AI and our vast data layer to know more about our stakeholders and make better connections for them. Similarly, Aventri is extremely well positioned to leverage client and attendee data to enhance the quality, value, and even efficiency of events.
Another key area is service. My industry research makes it clear that Aventri is outstanding in service throughout the client lifecycle, but most importantly, on Game Day. That said, in my career I’m very proud of the investments I’ve made toward building best-in-class service. I’m excited to build on what we have here and ensure that customers continue to feel a differentiated level of service.
MeetingsNet: Five years from now, what won’t we be doing in event technology that we’re doing today?
Sharpe: We’re all aware of many of the largest trends in the space—full-suite adoption, leveraging data, AI to empower the experience, and facial recognition. The next frontier is in leveraging all of those things toward more meaningful connections. I believe the value of an event is the three, five, or ten key discussions you have that change your game—help you sell more, help you learn something, etc. In five years, you’ll walk into an event, and the technology will partner with you in fully engaging with what is most meaningful for you—which sessions to attend, which ad hoc meetings to arrange, where to follow up, and more.
MeetingsNet: What’s the most memorable conference you’ve ever attended, and what made it stand out?
Sharpe: I’ve had the luxury of attending several large conferences, but also dozens of smaller format events. In each case, I saw power in the ability to convene the right group of people around a topic to share, learn, or even conduct business together. At the 2015 Consumer Electronics show, I remember being excited by the drones flying about and wearable technologies starting to make their mark. Obviously, this was a flawlessly executed event, but what I remember most vividly was a dinner conversation curated by my former company featuring roughly a dozen technologists, thought leaders, and tech investment professionals dissecting the trends demonstrated at the show and providing their thoughts on key takeaways. The ability to experience the larger format content combined with a more curated look behind the scenes made the event that much more impactful.
MeetingsNet: What might someone be surprised to learn about you?
Sharpe: People are surprised to learn I’m an avid fisherman. These days, I’m fishing more in the ocean, but I grew up near a lake, where I spent every hour of each summer day fishing and exploring. Lately I’ve been trying to learn fly fishing. Fishing is extremely relaxing, and it gives you a great opportunity to think. What many people don’t realize is that in fishing, you need to 100 percent focus in order to constantly adjust your approach and try new tactics—much like you must do to achieve success in events and in business in general.