test transcript

John: Coming up, learn how a global group of ad agencies uses
Event Tech all year round, how to search for useful data inside your
conference media, and finally, why Event Tech people need to
consistently use both hemispheres of the brain. All this and more,
coming up on this episode of the Event Tech podcast.

viewers and listeners of the audio version of this show. I’m John
Federico, host and executive producer of the Event Tech podcast,
which means that I’m the guy who turns the knobs and posts the shows.
More importantly, I help get the answers that you want to hear about
the current state and future of Event Tech from the industry’s
leading experts and practitioners, more importantly. These are people
doing it every single day.
Speaking of experts, today’s guest has
been at the forefront of integrated digital events planning for over
a decade, having produced events for — gosh, who hasn’t she for?
Looks like J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, Morgan
Stanley, the Wall Street Journal, the Vardes, Starwood Hotels, and
tons of others. She’s a frequent speaker at event industry
conferences and is often quoted in the trade press, and has herself
written for publications like BizBash.

Please join me in
welcoming Mary Ann Pierce, president of MAP Digital, here to the
inaugural episode of the Event Tech podcast.

Mary Ann: Hi, John. Thank you so much for inviting me to the
inaugural podcast. I’m very honored.

John: Thank you. As am I. First of all, welcome, and thank you. I
want to just say thank you for being our first guest.
As a
longtime producer of these types of shows, my last podcast ran for a
little over six years, with an average of about 30,000 listeners per
month. It was fairly popular at its height. I know that producing
these shows is a classic chicken and egg problem, right? Usually to
get a popular show, you need great guests, but to get great guests,
you have to have a popular show. Since this is a new podcast without
an audience yet, I just can’t thank you enough for helping us kick it
off. Thank you.

Mary Ann: Well, terrific. Hopefully you’ll get your equity card
out of it, too. That’s the same actor’s dilemma. You can’t get a role
unless you have an equity card.

John: There you go.

Mary Ann: You’ve just got to get started. That’s all.

John: That’s it. Speaking of getting started, let’s do that
because your time is valuable and we’ve already wasted it with some
technical problems, so I’m sorry about that.

Why don’t we
start with an overview of MAP Digital, what it is that you do for
clients now, and then I’d like to talk a little bit more about how
you and your company both have evolved over the years. You have a
very interesting background and I want our listeners to get to know
you and why you’re sort of uniquely qualified to have built and grown
MAP Digital.

Mary Ann: Well, thank you. I guess it has been a work in progress,
and I think the word "evolved" is an active verb. It’s
constantly occurring at MAP Digital. I think we’re also a company
that does not like to say no to our clients. We like to have very
deep, and we’ve been honored to have long-term and very, very
significant, relationships with key clients.

We started out,
I guess, back in the mid ’90s. Really, what happened was, I went to a
party. I have an arts and a PS1 and theater background, and many of
my friends are artists. I’m a producer. I still dabble in that.

The artists were the first real adopters of the internet. It was a
party for the first ISP launch in New York. There were these guys in
suits standing around saying, "Oh, we don’t know what to do with
this internet!" My artist friend, who I think produced one of
Madonna’s first cuts, when she lived in the Lower East Side, said,
"Talk to her. She does these corporate events." I had
worked at Jack Morton. "She wears a suit sometimes, too."
They came up to me, and they said, "Why would Intel want to have
a T1 for one week when we sell seven-year contracts?" They were
resellers of Ninex. I basically said, "I’ll figure it out. I do
stuff in ballrooms."

That’s how we started doing
bandwidth and network services, and then got into webcasting. As you
saw with all the financial clients being in New York City, and in
2000, the SEC mandated any publicly-traded company has to webcast
live. Well, it’s kind of not written. It’s very vague, so everyone
overextends themselves to be compliant.

John: Sure.

Mary Ann: Then webcasting became ubiquitous. Then sitting with our
clients, one client in particular, year after year, 10 times a year,
four or five days at a time, she said, "You will create a
registration badging program for me." And I told her, "I’m
not a software company." She goes, "Well, you are now."

That’s how we got started. I did kind of say no, but she didn’t
take it. We’ve evolved. We’re very interested in the cloud, the
internet, and networking, and pushing, and pulling, and having people
collaborative. It’s a constantly evolving, let’s say, challenge for
us that really is quite exciting.

John: If I were at a cocktail party and I said, "Mary Ann,
what is MAP Digital?" what’s the elevator pitch then? How would
you describe the company?

Mary Ann: Well, some people think we’re a digital cartography
company. I just basically say we’re a digital events agency. It’s
almost like, "What?" I just basically say, "We make
events more engaging and collaborative." That’s when they say,
"Would you do iPad apps?" Everyone knows how to say "iPad
app," but I don’t think many people know what it means. It’s
just kind of sexy to say.

Most people, if it’s not
traditional fields, or if it requires too much brain, they don’t
plumb too deeply. The word "agency" usually gets some like,
"What do you mean, digital events agency?" That’s usually
where the discourse gets deeper.

John: Sure. I guess you’ve piqued their curiosity and then you’ll
get into the nitty-gritty.

Mary Ann: Correct.

John: Interesting. As an agency, then, what kinds of things do you
do for your clients? When I think of agency, I think of companies
like Jack Morton, where you used to work, right? I think of ad
agencies and other types of agencies. Now you tack on the qualifier
"digital," and then you tack on another qualifier or
descriptor, which is "events," and now suddenly I’m like,
"Whoa." What are the kinds of services that a company like
yours provides, then?

Mary Ann: Yeah. Well, it’s two-fold. What we do is we basically
look at events and, as I like to say, the cloud, or the internet, has
changed everything. All of our ways of thinking, even our DNA, just
in our behavior. Humans are very adaptable to good, new tools.

Events have been really a little slow sometimes, as far as some
other industries, picking up the power of using digital and internet
and smart devices, phones and things. We take a really holistic view
of the event. More importantly, we like to call it an "information
exchange," whether it’s live in a ballroom or there are remote
attendees. I really don’t like the word "hybrid." That’s
like a place word waiting for another word to come along.
We call
them "smart events," like smartphones, because you’re being
really smart. You’re using live and all those great tools, and you
also bring in the power of the cloud for collaboration, for posting
data, for people to get things done, to find what they want, and to
continue the conversation before, during, and after a conference.

We look at events not just as, "Oh, we just build software.
We have a registration program, and that’s all we do." In fact,
we look at events as a triangle of experience, how we look at our
services, whether it’s our Cisco-certified network engineers who
built those local area networks in a hotel or venue, or I have to get
more bandwidth, we provision more bandwidth, because our events tend
to be bandwidth-intensive.

For the software, we look at it,
really, as a triangle, a measurement. How can it logically help our
clients and ourselves, and even other vendors who we’re working with?
There you get registration and content management portal, you get
everything digitized, everything within a portal. Don’t email me.
Excel spreadsheets, please, no. Let’s get away from the dependency on

Then once you have everything humming and everyone
working on the same binder on the web, then it’s time to start
engaging. We publish everything, the schedule, and the write-ups, and
for some of our financial clients, it’s live Bloomberg reports on the
company that’s presenting.

The attendees have a place where
they can ask questions, make comments. Some of our clients also want
them to have conversations with each other, one-on-ones. We bought
software. We didn’t develop it. We saw software that had been
developed for South by Southwest in Oracle OpenWorld, and it was so
good, we just bought the intellectual property.

Have them
engage. Have them click on the slides, go to the on- demand webcast,
maybe go to a webcast that has the contents been optimized, meaning
you can search it for keywords, so it really unlocks the power of
content. Of course, we’re measuring and we’re recording every click,
so that engagement’s happening. Then with all that clicking around,
you get pretty in-depth reports. You’re really mapping, in real time,
an attendee’s behavior. They’re voting with their keystroke, or with
the click of the mouse.

John: Pun intended? MAP-ing? I couldn’t resist.

Mary Ann: Yeah, MAP. Well, MAP Digital came because I had partners
at one time. It’s like getting a divorce times two. I had 15 minutes
to have a new name. One of my staff members says, "Oh, just call
it MAP Digital. That’s what we call you. We call you MAP." I go,
"You do?" That’s how it happened. It was so creative.

John: That’s great. That’s very funny. As an agency, not every
client wants the same thing.

Mary Ann: Correct.

John: I would imagine this software that you bought, you customize
it for the needs of each client.

Mary Ann: Absolutely. It’s not one-size-fits-all. It’s about
solving the problem, creating the experience, and differentiating
that meeting, for various reasons. It’s about, also, emphasizing
their brand, being seamless, being intuitive. Software should not be,
"Oh, I forgot to click here," punitive. There’s an art to
it. In fact, our webmaster has a Master’s of Fine Arts from the
School of Visual Arts and is a master programmer, so he rocks both of

John: Love that.

Mary Ann: Yeah. He has an MFA from SVA. It makes such a
difference. That’s where the agency comes in. I’ll get back to the
software. We solve problems, marketing, communications problems. Our
palette is digital. That’s how we’re different from an advertising or
from a Jack Morton. We look at how can we take what we know and our
expertise in creating a robust internet environment and make that
another playing field, engagement field, for conferences and events.
That’s the agency experience.

You’re right, to go back to the
software that we bought. It’s really a social media software. We
don’t use that term because business, especially banking, get very
upset with the word "social." We call it "community."
People can create their own profiles, has a very robust scheduler in
it, they can search for attendees by numbers of criteria, or any
criteria. We just program it in. Really useful for user groups, where
the brand, the software, the device, let’s say, like Oracle wants
developers to have a community around them, be very sticky, and they
should all know each other, and ping each other, and make meetings
with each other, and the software handles that.

You wouldn’t
know the software now, for what we’ve done with it. Also, it was the
first software that we bought that was built in Ruby on Rails, and
that’s very exciting.

John: That’s right. We talked about that when we had first met.

Mary Ann: Yeah.

John: Yes. It’s always nice to use a sexy new programming language
because you’ll find all the developers that want to try and build new
things. It’s attractive for them. It’s always a helpful thing.

Mary Ann: It’s helpful. It’s very practical, too. We’re talking
about the customization, and we’re like almost concierge. We really
listen and we build. Also, as a business, I have to learn to be
practical on scaling it, scaling to build faster, more modular,
better framed out, and then for duplication. I just can’t be creating
everything from scratch. When we were in PHP, while it’s a great
program, we’re making a business decision there. It will benefit our
clients currently, and it’ll benefit us, allowing us to get more

John: Sure. Speed and the ability to adapt are critical.

Mary Ann: Yes.

John: I have a friend who produces a podcast, and he has what he
calls "jargon jail." I guess for a lot of the people
listening here, they may not know what PHP or Ruby is, but those are
programming languages. You’re out of jargon jail, so we can move

I want to go back to that. I am curious. I do want to
get more into the specifics of the software and how it works because
I’m a geek like that, but also the advantages that some of your
clients have seen. Before we do that, I want to go back a little bit.
Using your own words from our pre-interview, you said you had
somewhat of an eclectic career. It’s all been additive to your
success. I just love some of this, so I’m going to put it out there.
You graduated from Temple University, and then you learned how to tie
the perfect bow. Tell the listeners about that, other than the fact
that it’s cute and funny, but why you think it was significant.

Mary Ann: I went to Temple. I was a film major. I’m a Philly girl.
I’m also a hybrid. Some of my life I lived in New York, and now I’m
back in New York City, but I’m a real Pennsylvania girl. I took film
classes and I worked my way through high school and college, and I
was a Stauffer Girl. Now, no one knows what a Stauffer Girl is. It’s
like spinach souffle to them.

Stouffer’s was a really
traditional, very staunch, well- respected brand. I remember the
training was two weeks. They taught you how to put a coffee cup down,
and that handle better be at four o’clock, and also you had to tie a
Stauffer bow for your apron, and also for around your neck. I can
still do it in my sleep. Even when I put an apron on, I’m
compulsively tying a Stouffer bow.

It’s best practices, what
they teach you. That’s where I get that seamlessness. Software should
not be in the upper left for the action item, it should be in the
upper right, because that’s ergonomic. That’s pleasing. That’s part
of the process, too. We’re human beings. That’s what Steve Jobs was
so great about, creating products that people intuitively knew how to
use. There was a lot of thought that went into that and a lot of

That’s where we got, if you’re going to do it, do it
right. Then I went on to the big, I had worked at the Walnut Street
Theater and ran the video department there, when video was huge

John: Yeah.

Mary Ann: The old days. All very exciting, working with new
technology. That’s another part of me. I always have to be working
around the new. I’m fascinated on how we communicate. I’m a real
disciple of Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan, and really just
want to, through communications, how can we make our world better and
a better experience for all? I’m always somehow tracking the new.

I’m glad the internet came around because all the various
experiences I’ve had in my past, it’s a perfect playing field for it.
When I used to work for a direct marketing agency, Wunderman, it was
fascinating. I got into the creative department, but I had come from
the media. I was so naïve. I thought media was commercials. I got
the job and then I crunched numbers. There’s a part of the artist
person, who I never thought I’d have to crunch numbers, but I had to.
I kind of liked it and I really liked data. Maybe I hit my head, but
I think there’s alchemy in numbers and data.

That’s what we
try to do with all this data we’re getting from our event marketing
or from our events that we do for the clients. I’m looking for clues.
That’s exciting, too.

John: Well, let me touch on that, actually, because I have here on
my notes from our earlier conversation something that… Well, I’ll
even take it a step back a bit. You’ve mentioned something, that
people in the events industry in general need to have a new set of
skills. You can tell us, of course, what those skills are, but more
importantly, you used the phrase, "Both hemispheres firing at
the same time," or in series, or what have you. However you
phrased it. Tell us about that. I have to say, right up front, I
agree, but I think people need to hear this.

Mary Ann: I think, in our world, what’s been happening, and this
is from my point of view, I think about my life pre-internet and my
life in the internet, and how it has changed. It’s really smashed
boundaries, and smashed silos, and smashed disciplines. Who would
really have thought that advertising agencies are not all about
intrusive marketing anymore? They’re trying to get part of the
conversation with their designated or demographic audience. They’re
trying to say, "Oh, can I join your conversation, please?"
This is like the "Mad Men," to, "Ooh, can I play with
you also?"

That requires different thinking. That’s a
radical cultural change on how you sell product. I think that what I
see in the people we work with, our staff, are people who have both
left and right hemisphere working. They really care about the
experience, they care about the communications, they care about how
it looks, and they also want to program the best or design the best
network possible. It’s all about making it integrated.

think that one thing I’ve just went through, we just hired a number
of programmers and engineers, and I just saw tons of resumes. If
anyone had a music background, danced in the school play, had any
sort of an arts background in any way, shape or form, loved to speak
a language, loved to cook, or if they had a restaurant job, because
restaurants and live events and theater are all kind of the same

John: Sure. Yeah.

Mary Ann: It kind of is. Sling the hash, and curtain is either
8:00 p.m. or 8:00 a.m. and no excuses. I found that I was kind of
perverse in filtering people out, saying, "I got to see a little
bit of the other hemisphere, here." Most of our people have
that. They work well with each other that way, and a lot of our
clients are that way, too. I guess that’s how we kind of found each
other and stuck with each other.

John: When you say that you look for those things on the resume,
just out of curiosity, was it just hobbies, interests, or were you
looking for someone who sort of took a small part of their
professional career to focus a little on the other side of the brain?
What was your thought process there in looking at those people?

Mary Ann: Somebody who basically could walk and chew gum. I think
a lot of times, people are geared to be like, "You got to go
into this career and make this happen." People who, basically,
well, I like to say "Renaissance people," people who are
like a Thomas Jefferson. You can be an architect and play the violin.
Who really are using the brain capacity.

There’s also another
quality. You have to have heart. When you’re working with people, and
you’re working with software and networks, it’s all very abstract.
You can look at the code, but code is very intuitive, too, based on
the person who’s coding. You have to have a sense that you really
care about what you’re doing, because people do interact with it.

A friend of mine is an angry cook. No one likes to eat her food
and people can almost sense it. I go, "How could you sense it?"
Then I had some of her meals, and I go, "I’ll cook the next

That’s who we find, people who have heart. In
events, no one can ever say, "That’s not my job," or, "I
told you so." It’s just, "Let’s fix the problem."

John: I couldn’t agree more, especially as a person running a
startup. Let me tell you. How do you hire for that? How do you
discover that during the interview process? At this point, you’ve
been doing this kind of work for quite some time. I would imagine you
got a bit of a process to put people through the wringer and
understand what they’re about?

Mary Ann: To me, the most important thing, and the hardest thing I
do is the recruiting and the hiring process. It’s the most critical
decision that I make, and it’s also the most humbling. I just go by
my gut feelings and heart. I try to be as open. We’re a woman- owned
company, and we kind of evolved in this way where we are because
we’ve been helpful, and we’re excited about doing things that we
quite don’t understand, and we get really jazzed by that. If people
are responding, "Oh, that’s cool, I’d like to do that, too…"

We were interviewing years ago for our senior network engineer.
Critical job. Sometimes engineers, they don’t have another
hemisphere. They have, like, a pod of over here. They’re like, "This
does not compute." He was a Captain in the Army, just returned
from Afghanistan, where he set up the networks. He went in before the
soldiers went in and set up the communications. I go, "Perfect.
Ballrooms, hotels will be a snap."

As we’re describing
the job to him, with my executive producer, and here’s this army guy
like, "I’m tracking you. Just the facts, lady." All of the
sudden, his eyes, we realized he had blue eyes. His face lightened
up. He goes, "This is a really creative job!" I go, "Yeah,
even though it’s a network job." He goes, "I have four
offers. I’m taking this job." Then the rest was… It’s all
about the chemistry, too. Your staff, or the people that you journey
with, it’s your greatest asset, and it has to be managed.

John: Finding the right people is tremendously important. I don’t
know. Some people never learn that and then some people maybe just
learn it a little too late. Yeah, you have to have that chemistry and
the right team. No question. Just think, there’s no gunfire where he
works now, so that’s even better.

Mary Ann: A lot less stressful, up in the hotel. He goes, "Ma’am,
they’re not shooting you, are they?" We talk in military terms.
We talk in theater terms, because most of us have a theater, I also
have a theater background, and my project managers, almost all of
them are or have been equity stage managers because they’re the most
brilliant people in the world. We’re a little bit like military, a
little bit like backstage. It’s fun.

John: Yeah, that always makes perfect sense to me. It’s all
mission critical to some degree. Some people would say, "Well,
is theater mission critical?" Well, sure it is. Without the
timing, the whole thing is off, the whole thing is for naught. The
same thing goes for military, and technology and events, and all
those things, as we well know, right?
As I mentioned, for those of
you who couldn’t hear us earlier, Mary Ann and I went back and forth.
My technology was tested. I tested it all day with friends, and as
soon as I get connected to Mary Ann, it didn’t work. That’s just the
way it goes. All that stuff is mission critical and you have to be
prepared for it.

Mary Ann: You have to roll with it. We didn’t get upset, we just
went through our basic, "Let me reboot my computer," "Let’s
do our diagnostic," calm down. The show went on.

John: Yeah. Exactly. The last thing you do in those situations is
lose your cool. Yeah.
I want to talk a little bit more about some
of the work that you do for clients. By the way, just so everyone
knows, as well as yourself, and you haven’t been salesy at all, this
is not designed to be a commercial for you. I found, in our first
meeting, the things that you do for clients to be fascinating and I
thought your background was great, so I want to dig a little deeper,
if that’s okay. Can we pick a client, anonymously, of course, and
talk about something that you’re proud of, in terms of the holistic
delivery? The technology, and the user experience, and the community,
and all that. Does anything come to mind?

Mary Ann: Well, actually, one does, but the one that I’m going to
speak about is a major marketing communications company. It’s, in
fact, the holding company of multiple agencies worldwide. We’ve been
working with them for five years, and started out just by doing the
year-end webcast of the chairman saying, "These are our 10 best

John: That’s a public conversation webcast, or a private one,
internally, over the network?

Mary Ann: All internal. What we do for them is their internal
communications, which is really the only client we have that we do so
much internal. We took the same thinking and the same experience from
our banking client, who we’ve been working with for 15 years. We work
for one of the largest investment banking companies. We do their
investment bank. We also do other sides for them. Under my agreement,
I’m not allowed to name them. I wish I could, but I can’t.

Everything that we did for the bank, when the agency came around,
said, "From our experience, here’s this." We basically did
their global leadership meeting with their CEOs worldwide, and we
took some of those best practices. In fact, also the community
software, so that the CEOs create their own profile, they could
select one-on-one meetings with each other. They could discuss, and
not just in Twitter. They could go long conversations, back and
forth. That knowledge is incredible. What people can type with their
thumbs is pretty good, actually.

John: This was the physical meeting, this is an in-person meeting
that happened, I guess, at one time throughout the year.

Mary Ann: It’s always the mystery where it’s going to be. They
were threatening Shanghai for this year, and I was really not so
excited about that. It turns out to be Paris, so I’m very happy.

John: Oh, very nice. In planning for that meeting, then, you
created an instance of your software, and you customized it for them,

Mary Ann: We basically said, "Wouldn’t it be great that we
start…" One of the things with the conversation that we had
with the agency… They’re very, very well-known, have a strong
digital side, and actually have been very successful in the
marketplace, even beating out solely digital agencies. When you have
a network of people in 72 countries and over 10,000 staff, how do you
use the tools that you’re asking your clients to use, in social
media, and collaborate, and all the other things? Also what we
learned on-site with engagement, information exchange, and
collaboration. How do you utilize them to make your employees more
effective, to have the training and the learning have more efficacy,
more retention, and also start creating communities within your

This is a training program that we devised. We first
introduced that community at the CEO level. Quite frankly, CEOs are
not so much into social media because they’d rather walk over and
say, "Hey, how are you?" They’re much more about bullet
points. They’re not just come over and sit down. It was interesting
to see for them to start working with it in sharing of information.

Also at that meeting, we were on-site. We were webcasting live
with synchronized site for on-demand publishing. All that great
intelligence they use throughout the year, and the slides, and all
that assets, we have it all digital. Of course we know where everyone
goes and what webcast or what presentation tracked.

John: When you say "on-demand," you’re saying the
materials that came out of that meeting, whether they be slides, or
audio, or video, or white papers, or what have you, that was then
made available throughout the rest of the year?

Mary Ann: It’s on that conference website and it stays up. All of
the commercials and the spots that they were talking about.
Literally, the CEO has sort of like the textbook up on the web, so
when they’re pitching other businesses, "There it is," or,
"This is what so-and-so said about this. I’m going to use that
in my pitch," or, "I’m going to bring them, or have my
account executive bring them."

It’s a way of archiving
their great, top-level thinking. That has been very, very useful. We
have been asked to get those on- demands up even faster. We’re also
experimenting with, I mentioned this before, it’s called content
optimization. It’s really speech-to-text. Let’s say we get probably
like 50 hours of content. We’re working on a program, and there are
other providers out there that we’re working with also, and we’re
hybridizing our attempts.
There’s a transcript that is published,
with the time code, and that someone will sync. Say, "I’m
looking for automobile," or, "I’m looking for beverage
campaigns." If it’s mentioned anywhere in those videos, the
program just calls up every time that phrase is mentioned and word is
mentioned. The word is highlighted in the transcript, and it goes
directly to that place in the video. What that is, is a real
liberalization of content. It’s able to be really searched and used.
Otherwise it’d just be this block of titles.

John: Right. It’s not just a plain old transcript. It’s a
transcript that links to the media that it may have been derived
from. I know a couple of companies, actually. There’s a great company
called Voice Base that I interviewed at Blog World last year. Great
product. I hope they find a revenue model because it’s a wonderful
tool and I just don’t think they know what to do with it. Yeah, there
are lots of things on the market like that.

Mary Ann: Altis is another one who we like very well. They’re on
the West Coast. They do a lot of the user groups, the Oracle and
VMWare and Cisco type stuff. That’s all really valuable because that
information, people go back and they use it. Also, Ramp, out of
Boston, is really good, too. We’re all working together. The content
is an incredible asset. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. You have to
just open it up so it can be searched. It’s the Google-ization of
meetings, which is really important.

I’m digressing a little
bit, but I just love content optimization. It makes so much sense.
Plus, then I also know where each attendee searched, so that also
deepens my profile on them.

John: Right. Because this isn’t public data, right? This is all
private, within the network. Everyone has a log-on. You know who in
the organization searched for what and whether or not they actually
achieved their goal, etc. Right?

Mary Ann: Yes. Basically, if I was to say, "Oh, I noticed
that you’re going back and you keep playing this. Can we help you?
Can we make an introduction for you? Can we help you land that
account?" or whatever the objective is. It could be for
pharmaceutical, somebody has a doctor they keep going back to and
saying… They optimized the content. Maybe what they do, and they
can do this, is take that two minutes and create a little module for
the doctor and say, "Here’s our industry expert on this problem
you’re having with the phase shift." Repurpose it. It’s almost
like you’re sampling. We’re back in the hood and we’re riffling off
of other ideas. It’s repurposing.

I asked the gentleman who
runs Oracle OpenWorld, Paul Salinger, a terrific, very
forward-looking person. Try to get him on your show. He’s brilliant
and a good speaker from Texas. I asked him, "Who is the largest
user of this optimization?" He goes, "Our developers, yes,
the clients, yes, but our sales force. They go back and listen. Chief
of this company, let’s say, Chief of SAP, speaks there, they’re
selling at a lower level. Well, here’s what your chairman said about
our product." To get information. Then they can take the slides
and under the slides is the text of what was spoken about. You really
get to the point where you’re unlocking the treasure that content

John: I can see a lot of smart salespeople using that. That
actually makes a lot of sense.

Mary Ann: We want to do it obviously for the agency and then
they’re a very good client, because they’re so forward-thinking. They
understand we’re not just trying to sell them software. We’re selling
them solutions. They understand that the bank or other clients who
we’re selling to are maybe not in the marketing department, and are
more in a logistics, maybe reporting to the CFO. That hemisphere, or
that side of the brain, they don’t have the ability to say yes yet. I
just keep knocking at the door.

What we did for the training
is for the internal market. What is an event? Is an event for people
sitting around in a rented ballroom or is an event also a training
module that can be asynchronous? I think an event can be on the
internet, asynchronous, as long as you have some sort of community
aspect to it. There has to be people.

I’m just going to fly in that right now. I’m not quite sure I’m
convinced, but let’s investigate a little bit. It was a module, a
four-part training session, how to spot trends, by probably the top
trend spotter worldwide. Basically, just an on-demand webcast plays
as soon as you open it, and on the side is really, I would say, a
moderated chat. Basically, "Welcome to this," by the
leaders, by the author herself, and the leaders. The people who are
taking the class, they’re making comments, like, "Wow, this is
so cool!" or, "I really have this problem here." Also,
they have to post homework. It’s pretty neat.

John: Wow.

Mary Ann: The other great part is that they encourage everyone to
look at everyone’s homework. There’s no right answer. It’s all about

John: Collaboration and critical thinking, right? How do you look
at this? How do you perceive this challenge or this issue versus my
own perspective?

Mary Ann: Right. That’s almost like in a class. "Mary Ann
just made this point, and I’d like to hitchhike on that, or further
go with that." That’s information exchange on a digital and a
critical level. That, basically, happens. There are multiple things
going on, even though it’s asynchronous. A woman in Beijing is
befriending another woman in Sao Paolo and saying, "We have a
similar issue in all of this." They would not have even known of
each other if not for this. They’re going to create lifelong
friendships or business friendships.

Why couldn’t there be an
event to follow up to reward everyone who took it and give them even
a greater challenge? Now they’re really ready to meet with each
other, because they’ve gone through a very similar path, and they’ve
investigated and engaged with each other digitally. Face-to-face will
be incredibly powerful.
That’s been extremely well-received
because we haven’t had the drop-out. You have to complete your
homework or you’re out. Like I said, it’s pretty intensive.

John: Out? What does out mean? You’re out of the program?

Mary Ann: You don’t get fired, but they won’t let you come back.
Show your commitment or go home. It’s worked really, really well, and
everyone’s very excited. When you’ve done it, you get a badge on the
internal network they have. "If you need some advice about
spotting trends, call me. I’ve been certified."

John: Oh, that’s interesting. It’s a mild sort of gamification,
status opportunity. I’m "certified" in trend spotting, as
our organization perceives it.

Mary Ann: Exactly. It’s such a dynamic module that they’re also
thinking, perhaps, of making it client-facing. Don’t have them do as
arduous of homework, but have the clients, face it for them, saying,
"Here are some ways we teach our people how to be trend
spotters, and this will help you with your work, and also work more
harmoniously or more efficiently with us." It keeps going.

Also, every attendee, or every employee has to do a profile, but
they are asked to do a profile and fill in four critical demographic
information: what year they joined the agency, what discipline
they’re in, like they’re in digital, they’re in general, they’re in
direct marketing, when were they born, what generation are they, and
their sex. All that great homework is not only just to get them
thinking and collaborating and sharing information and maybe
elevating the discourse, it’s also going to be mined for white paper,
for focus paper. It’s been extremely efficient, and it has lots of
movable parts. It’s very smart.

John: It’s interesting because something like that would be a
great research tool because it’s cross agency, right? Meaning it’s at
the holding company level, so it’s cross agency, it’s around the
world, so now it’s not just about what these people learn and what
they contribute to this collaborative opportunity, but all those
people represent data points in and of themselves.

Mary Ann: Millennials tend to answer this question like this.
Women responded this way. Who knows what they’re going to find? It
was nice that we predisposed to have that factored in, so it would
open up the back end to be able, the reporting, to have another use.
They’re very excited about that. Lots of work.

Another thing,
lots of work on the client’s side. One thing about digital, it
doesn’t mean it lessens your work, and sometimes it makes more work.
That, I think, is many times the inherent resistance of a lot of
clients. You get data, or if you ask someone their opinion, you have
to respond. If you don’t respond, it’s disingenuous. It’s really
All this data, all the sharing, creates incredible new
opportunities, we were talking about this a little bit earlier, for
new types of jobs, new types of thinking, people who have, as we say,
both hemispheres flying. People who have a liberal arts background,
who understand some demographics. Maybe they take some statistics
courses, please, for the love of data. It’s like, how do you keep the
conversation going? How do you mine it for strategic intelligence and
value? That’s a real return on investment. Not if they walk into the
room. What did they do?

John: What did they do? Let’s talk about that, actually. We talked
a bit yesterday about your thoughts on, and you mentioned it a bit
before, in terms of a question, like, "What is an event?"
Is it going to continue to be all about the simplistic KPIs, sorry,
jargon jail, key performance indicators? Is it going to be quality of
the sessions, and number of exhibitors, and how many people walk the
floor, and how many tweets were sent? There’s a new KPI for you,
right? How many tweets came out of the event? What should they be
looking at?

Also, as a follow-up question to that, too,
because I meant to ask you before. You throw around this word
"engagement." Now, I say throw around, I don’t mean that in
a pejorative way. Many people do. What I found is that "engagement"
can mean so many things to so many different people, depending on the
business they’re in. I come from a digital media background, and when
you talk about "engagement," there’s a whole different set
of metrics that goes along with that versus, let’s say, events or
even in this internal training program.

First question, what
are those KPIs going to be? Second of all, how are you defining
"engagement" in the way you use it?

Mary Ann: I’ll go with "engagement" first. Engagement,
for us, or for me, is really sort of like breaking down the fourth
wall of meetings and making them less didactic. Speaker, people in a
darkened classroom, ballroom, listening. Passive. Engagement is
where, and I take it from an attendee point of view, I can shape my
experience. I can collaborate. I can teach. I can listen. I can talk
peer-to-peer. I can also get industry experts. It’s really, once
again, as I mentioned before, smashing down boundaries through the
digital process, that I can go and do many more things. Maybe it’s
more collaborative, is a word that I probably should be using.

We tried to ask our clients to put yourself in your attendee’s
point of view. What would bring value to them that will differentiate
your meeting from your other competitors? Basically, what kind of
experience do you think that they really want? Think of it that way,
not what you’re going to give them, because you don’t want to spend a
lot of money or you don’t have enough staff. Let’s start talking
about how you’re shaping your message and how you are shaping this
forum that you’re asking, many times, your buyers to come to. How can
you make it the best it can be so that you achieve your strategic

I know I packed a lot in there, but I think the
thinking has to change, too. It’s not just about food and beverage,
and the air conditioning, how cold it is in the room, and you have
Colin Powell speaking. It’s about the experience. I want to know
who’s going to an event before I go. I will give permission, various
levels of permission, but I want to see, are there some people there
I should meet? I want the ability to make meetings with them. I want
to have an area that I can have a meeting with them. That’s another
thing. Sometimes there’s no place to even have a conversation. It’s
not all about sessions, the Bob Foreheads, and the PowerPoint. We
hide behind that. It’s about changing. . .

John: Well, it’s a couple of things, too. You mentioned, first of
all, about space to meet. There’s always space to meet because you
can rent a suite, right? Which is, of course, what the facilities
people want you to do, and so on. There’s the whole moneymaking
aspect. We know this. It’s a business.

In terms of connecting
ahead of time, and those sorts of things, are you starting to see
more of that? I’m starting to see very little of it, where my
attendees are my attendees. If you want to know who’s coming, show
up. Come to my event. Show me the traffic, is basically what I get
out of it. Do you see that shifting? If you do, how quickly are we
going to get there?

Mary Ann: I do see it changing, and changing in sectors. There are
certain sectors that are early adapters, and then there are other
sectors who, until it becomes critical mass, they won’t even move
their own needle. If it means that creating an engaging environment
is going to help the brand make more money, yeah, I’m seeing it.

John: How do you prove that to them?

Mary Ann: Well, you show the traffic. We see the back end. A few
people are searching for other people, and they say, "Oh, I want
to make a meeting," we can track it at the back end because we
have the software. We control it.

John: That’s in a situation where you’re already contracted with a
client and you can give them data. Let me use something from part of
my world, right? You want to test new messaging on the web. You want
to test a new ad campaign. You want to test messaging. I can spend
$100 on Google AdWords, throw up some keywords, some ads, and I can
see what people respond to, and say, "See, I was right. Look at
the number of people who are responding to this information. Look how
many people converted into a lead," or whatever it might be.
That’s quick, cheap, and easy, right?

When you have an event,
it’s not. It’s anything but quick, cheap, and easy, right? I guess
you are lucky enough to have past experience where you can kind of
walk in and say, "Look, I can’t tell you who this client was,
but I can tell you these are the results they’ve seen." That’s
great for you. What about everyone else that’s trying to get some of
these people to kind of move, get them off the line and try something

Mary Ann: Well, there has to be a compelling business reason for
it. Otherwise it’s not going to happen. Once again, it depends on the
sector. You see a lot of this in the technology sectors because,
first of all, they’re not afraid of technology. They’re in the zone.
They’re in with the cloud. That’s how they roll.

Also, we’re
seeing it depending on the demographics on the age. People who are
investment bankers, it also depends on their sector. If they’re in
the technology sector, they’re walking around with four devices. I’ve
counted them. I’m providing the bandwidth. I know how many IPs are
going out there. It’s incredible. The health care investment bankers
are really kind of like more into one-on-one. Maybe they’ll check a
digital conference book here and there. I don’t think they would go
for that kind of social meetings, because they’re much more
traditional. It’s all about that.
Don’t do it because you feel we
have to do it, and we have to be new, and we have to be au courant.
It’s better to do things in stages. A couple of clients, full blown
experiences, and they basically never used an email campaign with
their attendees. All of a sudden, there’s a culture shock there. Do
something that’s really going to impact your business. That’s it. We
did a simple thing.

For my purposes, if I’m being selfish, I’m not going to go to
certain meetings and trade shows unless I know who’s there because I
can’t leave the office for four days to kind of figure it out when I
get on site. I want to do my schedule before. I would like to ask a
question of a speaker beforehand. I kind of want my questions
answered. I’m paying a lot of money. I’m being very individualistic
here, a little selfish. Well, it’s not selfish. I’m being
self-serving. Also, hey, there might be some former colleagues that
are coming. Obviously, clients will probably be going, "Oh my
God, everyone’s going to be making meetings with me." Well, you
can just not give permission to be seen.
Before I get on that
plane, I want to have a lot of pre-production done, a lot of my
experience lined up for me, instead of getting the syllabus in my
hotel room and figuring it out. I don’t have time for that anymore. I
just don’t.

John: Yeah. Typically for me, conferences tend to be more about
relationship-building than the content, though I go for the content,
of course, as well. This sounds very elitist. I don’t mean it to. I
guess if you’ve been in business for a while, you know people, right?
When a conference comes up, you can jump on LinkedIn, reach out to
them, and say, "Hey, Mary Ann, are you going to be at
such-and-such?" "Yes, I am." "Oh, do you want to
have drinks? We can catch up." That’s one way to do it. What
you’re describing is a bit more formal. It’s a bit more process-
oriented, versus just the ad hoc stuff that we do now.

Mary Ann: We’re encouraging people to connect. Also, the software
we have, it’s nothing rocket science. You can create groups. Let’s
say I’m going to American Marketing Association. I can say, "I’m
really interested in event marketing and I’m creating, on-site. I’d
like to find other people who are interested. If you want to join my
group, and then meet me in the suite that I rented, and the speaker
of that one session, I’ve invited back to do a one- on-one with us."
The software can help you do that. All of a sudden, I’m shaping my
experience at the meeting.

Now, that’s radical, and meeting planners are going to be like,
"Oh my gosh, we’ve lost control of your meeting!" No, you
really haven’t. You’ve made it much more powerful for me, and I’m
going to be much more loyal, and I’m going to have a differentiated
experience, and I think you will start reaping benefits that are
astounding. Everyone would want to go to a meeting. Not everyone, but
many people would. People can say, "I came home with vast
information, and new conference, and new connections that are
strategically valuable to my company or to my work."
Yeah, I
think it’s how you’re thinking what the attendee wants when they go
to a meeting. They do all these surveys and stuff like that, but no
one ever asks really hard questions like that.
Also, as you skew
younger, I don’t think your Gen Xers are going to put up with, and I
don’t think they like going to these large trade shows that have
100,000 people. It’s just kind of not their style.

John: Yeah. Well, I can say from experience. CES, or CTIA, forget
it. I just avoid it like the plague. The last time I was at CES, at
the company I worked for, we were lucky enough that the company had
become a name in the industry. Literally, we just booked a suite at
the Mirage and they came to us.

Mary Ann: You outboarded. Love it.

John: Exactly.

Mary Ann: Why not?

John: Exactly. I just can’t. It’s absolute insanity. I’m not sure
how business gets done in that environment.

Mary Ann: It doesn’t. Everything gets lost. If you could take our
product for conferences, basically, that we developed for the bank,
but it has great applications for trade shows and associations.
Basically, I could track you come in, I can track everywhere you go.
I can track what session you went to, what page on the digital
conference book you went to, any webcasts or white papers you
downloaded, questions you answered. You’ve created a profile. You can
use your picture. If you don’t, you can make it very public or just
keep it private to yourself. It has your schedule and all that good
stuff. Or you can have it open to everyone, and you could be almost
having your own trade show, your group. You’re outboarding, in a way.
You can even propose a session. That’s something they did at some of
the user group technology. User groups are a very powerful tool.

Then all that data, and whatever brand it happens to be around,
maybe you’re really into Sony’s 3D. A couple years ago, I went to
NAB, and it was the 3D television. By giving you all this information
and access, you’re also giving me permission to circulate your data
to sponsors. That’s the caveat. Who’s going to pay for it? You give
permission. It’s like you want to watch television and not pay for
it, you’ve got to watch commercials. It’s kind of a someone has to
pay for it. Technology’s not free. You might not be able to touch it,
but it’s not free.

Wouldn’t it be great if you walked into
the Sony booth and a salesperson came up to you and, whether it was
RFID, or they scanned you, or there’s your common delineated code
number is on your badge, I type in the four digits, and your profile
comes up. "John, you really are very interested. How can we help
you? Let me take you into this private suite." All of a sudden
you’re not a cold lead. Your behavior has dictated.

that’s where there’s more real estate in the cloud. That’s where
these large trade shows can also provide much more value for the
exhibitors. It’s strategic real time behavior mapping. Just the fact
that somebody walks around, "What did you do when you went
there?" Anyway, my profile’s up on your iPad. I’m seeing it. I’m
changing the picture because I don’t like it. I’m also pulling up a
couple of things of what I’m looking for. That salesperson has
something like, "Wow, you’re really looking to use it in an
educational purpose. Interesting. Well, let me give you to our VAR
who does education outreach." Value Added Reseller, right?

Then I go, "Okay, well, let’s making a meeting." Click.
It’s right done on that software. "Oh, and here are the white
papers," and basically, it’s in your folder, or I’m emailing it
to you. All that transaction happened in real time.

John: That scenario is sort of what a lot of people look at as,
well, some of us, the holy grail of conferences. It’s great, it’s
automated. People have the information they need, they’re meeting the
people they need to meet, they’re able to engage. The good and the
bad, I think, is that… For instance, no one sells that sort of
thing off the shelf. Obviously, every event is different, right?
There really is no common thing. Unless you start looking at things
like registration because people have to pay. Fine, that’s a
standardized thing, but everything else is custom.

In order
to achieve any real scale and be able to offer that, I think it’s a
difficult thing. Look, I would love to see MAP Digital be the largest
company of its kind in the world, but even still it’s hard to scale
that, right?

Mary Ann: It is hard to scale. It’s hard to sell it, first of all,
because who makes that decision? There are so many people you need to
get it to. A CEO could make that decision. The higher up you sell it,
the better. We did some consulting with some of the large trade
shows. I walked away from the business, frankly, because it would be
a bloodbath. Meaning, I saw that there was all these silos of
providers. You said registration, lead retrieval, I’m doing the
webcast No one’s sharing data. No one is like to like.

need a digital events architect that breaks down the silos. "You
do registration, but I need an X amount of this to track this."
You need a maestro, an architect. That’s what we were proposing to
do. The fact that you’re not using my registration program, I’m going
to cry bitter tears. No, I’m not! Our job in MAP Digital is to
provide solutions. You’re going to pay me for the consultation. I’m
going to develop some software. I’m going to program some bridges to
Babylon. It’s going to be beautiful. You’ve got to make the leap.

We had another major trade show in our industry. Off-topic
conversation basically said, "We need you," because we
follow the complete digital arc of an attendee. I said, "Well,
you’ve got to pay for it." She goes, "Well, we’re really
cheap." I said, "Well, let’s end this conversation right

I know. I was at another conference. We were in
Montreal. It was very pleasant. She basically said, "We have a
registration program." We told them, "We won’t pay you what
you want, because you’re going to pick up other clients so it’s a
marketing device." This one, "You nickeled and dimed all
your vendors, you stifled them from being creative, and now you’re
left with piles and piles of data that does nothing for you, and
experiences that does nothing for you, and doesn’t emphasize your
brand, doesn’t play it forward for you."

You really need
to think a little differently. You need to say, "All right, the
digital aspects of the meeting are as important as the physical
aspects." That’s where your room to grow is. Let’s say maybe
100,000 people went to that conference. Let’s take a big one like NAB
or CES. There could be another 200,000 people who want to attend, and
they could be a remote attendee, and have a very interesting shaped
experience. They could be an influencer who just didn’t happen to go
to the trade floor.

John: Even if it’s, to your point, asynchronous. There’s no reason
that couldn’t or shouldn’t be used.

Mary Ann: Live doesn’t have to happen. If you’re not there, live
is only for the market and the Academy Awards, or if it’s mission
critical to move product. Asynchronous is fine. People will create
the time. If they couldn’t attend, they obviously are doing something
else usually.

John: Right. Well, Mary Ann, I think I’m going to leave it there,
because you’ve been very generous with your time, and we’re about to
kick off the Labor Day weekend.

Mary Ann: My nephews are arriving as we speak.

John: What’s that?

Mary Ann: Did you see me wave? My nephews has just arrived from

John: Great. In which case, I’ll definitely wrap this up. Mary Ann
Pierce, president of MAP Digital, thank you so much for taking the
time. I really appreciate it. I enjoyed our conversation. I enjoy
your perspective more than anything else. As a matter of fact, when
you have more time, we should continue this conversation. Just
between you and I, and not the millions of people that will watch
this later.

Mary Ann: I prefer over a beverage, but not on a hot September

John: There we go.

Mary Ann: It was a pleasure. Thank you very much.

John: Thank you. Bye.

Mary Ann: Bye.