In this past year, the events industry has been through quite a shakeup. New trends emerged: we embraced hybrid events, put safety first, and saw an incredible surge in event app platforms. But today, Event Brew hosts, Will Curran and Nick Borelli, bring our attention to a very particular phenomenon: a certain brain drain in the events industry. Young professionals as well as seasoned event profs are migrating towards technology companies!

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What skills are they bringing with them? Was the shift going to happen anyways? Is it really a brain drain or is it a step towards a more collaborative approach within the events industry? Tune in and find out what our lovely hosts have to say!

Two Types Of Event Tech Companies

“I’ve always seen a divide between the technology companies,” says Nick. “Some were made up of purely technology people. And then every once in a while, I would see an event technology company that was started by someone from the events industry and they always seem different. Shoflo is an example of that.”

“It’s certainly happened before where the technology company was founded by someone from the event space. But moreover, I’ve seen a lot of veteran people in the events industry in tech companies. The idea is that the technology companies realized they need to scale very quickly over the next couple of years, because it’s a very competitive space and they don’t have time to find their audience or build those bridges. So they’re buying the bridges, so to speak, and they’re making it part of their company.”

The benefits are two-fold. “Not only do veterans intuitively understand the audience, but they come with the connections built in,” says Nick. “They have the ability to create inroads within groups and associations and other strategic partnerships. They’re very easy to make. You can just call them. That’s the kind of people we are as event profs. Every event is collaboration. So we all have networks that are stronger.”

The Brain Drain In Events Might Be A Logical Move

Will understands both sides of the coin. “Event technology companies have been historically struggling with the idea of thinking too much like a technology company. The number one complaint I’ve heard is that they don’t think like event companies and event people. In terms of designing their platforms and support, for example.”

“Another thing I hear is that people think that only the events industry can understand events, too. I’m more of a fan of disruption and thinking, unlike most others. But this industry just seems like it’s full of people who only know the events industry. This idea of people moving from the ‘events industry’ over to the event technology side feels like a logical move that’s going to ultimately happen a lot. Right?”

Nick agrees. “At first, it will require people who are native speakers in both languages: the language of events and the language of technology. Moving forward, I’m hoping that both languages borrow from each other and that they have a similar root language. Because they didn’t have a root language before that.”

Event Planners & Tech Companies: Balancing Risk & Innovation

Nick continues with the language analogy and points out one of the biggest language barriers between event planners on one side and event tech companies on the other. “Event planners want things to happen on time. Whereas technology, actually in some instances they can have a product that works, but they don’t even shoot for that. They say: ‘We can fix it the next time around, we’re just in beta or, and down the product roadmap, we’ll have that’. But event planners say: ‘No, it has to be all done!’.”

Event planners are risk-averse, but tech companies are excited about innovation. “When it comes to software or anything new, they think like this: ‘Unless it’s been battle-tested for 10 years and tried out in situations that are much harder than mine, I don’t believe in it within a faith to be able to give you the money’,” says Nick. “But in technology, there’s nothing like that! If it was that new, it would be not used. But if it was too old, it wouldn’t be useful anymore.”

brain drain in events

Brain Drain Or Moving Within The Events Industry?

Next up, Will asks: “Do you think that people moving from traditional events into event technology companies is a form of brain drain or do you feel like it’s still within the industry?”

“I think it’s still within the same industry,” says Nick. “Something needs to be said about potentially some organizations losing out on face-to-face planners who were real stars. The veterans and people who really knew the ins and outs of what to expect. And that type of experience will have a negative effect potentially on them, mentoring people within the events industry in order to give them more skills.”

Ultimately, both segments will benefit from this brain drain within the industry. “Event tech side absolutely needs insights from people that have been in in-person events more, and that will help out everyone more.”

What Event Profs Can Bring To Tech Companies

Nick shares his story to back up his claim. “I don’t come from strictly technology side. I come from a live events background. It’s my goal working for on EXFO as a virtual events platform to do everything it can do in order to make both virtual events and in-person events as good as they can be now. Would that vision be the same if I came exclusively from technology? Probably not. Maybe I would come off and say that I don’t care about in-person events. But I believe that if we can position our offering so it becomes complimentary.”

Unlike many tech profs, people from traditional events know how to design events with empathy. In this inner-industry brain drain, they’re bringing it into the tech sphere. “One of the first things that I did in our company when I came over was creating the buyer personas. I spent the majority of my time really to crack and explain the emotional pains of everyone,” says Nick.

Nick thinks that event planners deserve more credit. “They know more stuff than tech people do. Tech people know a lot about one thing, but planners know everything from fire safety, food, behavioral science, and chairs. But they’re not given the same kind of gravitas in their intelligence sometimes as technology people, because they know ones, zeros, and UXs.”

brain drain in events

Brain Drain In Events: In Pursuit Of New Challenges

“Good for all the people making the move, because event technology is huge right now,” says Will. “First, they’re getting tons of business. Tons of revenue is coming in, therefore growing teams and growing reputations. Secondly, they’re getting tons of funding too. A meeting planner making $70,000 a year can go to event technology company and make twice as much.”

“It’s a huge advantage for people to be able to make that decision, to go into something new that’s a growth area for the industry. I bet you there are many people who made this switch because they wanted to keep growing. Not because they were furloughed,” explains Will.

“Most companies that are firmly in the live event space this year will still be re-growing next year. There will be a lot of innovation. Smaller teams are going to have the ability to pivot faster, but many organizations are going to be following a five-year plan to get back to where they were in 2019. And for some people that’s a high pressure place to be,” adds Nick.

In Conclusion: Event Profs, Know Your Worth!

Before they wrap the episode up, Nick gives event profs a motivational speech. “If anyone’s been thinking about coming over to technology, you probably have a lot more to give than you think. In technology, you have an ability to progress your career quickly and move up within the ranks of an organization. After all, you have more skills than you think you do. You have a network and you absolutely know how to talk to people. If you don’t have a sales role, you probably could impact sales. If you don’t have a marketing role, you probably still could be someone who’s valuable within the marketing conversations. You have a lot to give, even from a visionary standpoint.”

And finally, rather than thinking of moving to tech as a brain drain in events, you should conceptualize it as one community. “The more that we can consider how we all benefit each other, the better. The less that we can see event tech as separate from the events, the more will the future of the events look like we’ve always been dreaming to have. There’s going to be less confusion, too.”

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