One-On-One With ITA Group’s Event Technologist Katie Young

By: ITA Group
katie young, event technologist
Event tech is evolving faster than ever, and it can be hard to stay on top of what might be important for your event and your attendees. Event Technologist Katie Young can help with that. Her passion for solving a client's problems through technology and working with a team of experts helps create impactful events that exceed expectations.
“I get really pumped about figuring things out and seeing them all come to fruition in a bomb event, in all their forms!” Katie said.
Get to know Katie a little more and read her responses to event technology questions in the interview below.

What advice would you give to event professionals who want to trial new technologies?

Katie Young: For me, technology is a means to drive the objectives and resonate with the audience. That means I’m not always the “get hyped about what’s next and flashy in technology” person; rather, the “let’s get down to basics and bring it to life in meaningful ways through technology.”

That doesn’t mean I’m saying don’t try new tech. You absolutely should. But do the research and find a partner that will be beside you and help you achieve your objectives. Technology is not a one-person show. It collaborates with all aspects of the event and should be working in tandem to best achieve those goals. That’s logistics, communication, engagement, learning resources, attendee interactions, content provider, branding hub—you name it!

Technology is your connection to your attendees; you want the relationship between you and your technology partners to be built on a solid foundation.

And remember to always tie the technology solutions back to your attendee journey—does it make sense on how to get from A to B? Are you clearly communicating how to be successful so your solutions are fully engaging to your audience?

How do you help clients consider trying event technology that is new or unfamiliar?

KY: There are lots of buzz words circling these days, but they shouldn’t scare us away from talking about how they can improve our events. Words like “virtual,” “hybrid,” “livestreaming” and “artificial intelligence” give pause to many event organizers about what that actually means for their event. It also brings up the worry of budgetary constraints.

Don’t let the unfamiliar stop you. Instead, work to understand what a digital component can bring to the table—not only for the attendees but what you gain from their data capture and ultimately ROI.

Start with technology that your attendees know, then add to it in meaningful ways. For example, if you’re planning to use a mobile app for your event, launch it a month prior and tease content, behind-the-scenes photos and anything else relevant to your attendees to start engaging with them using push notifications, newsfeed posts, articles, sponsor love, etc.
Another idea is to not let your event website just fade into the background post event. Make it an on-demand resource for the content your attendees may have missed or should revisit to help them with get answers on going. And … BOOM! You’ve got a (super simplified, sure, but no less) hybrid event! You’ve now added meaningful digital options to your event to extend your reach pre- and post-event bringing it to your attendees where they are—not just at the convention center.

What is the one thing everyone should know about event technology?

KY: Technology shouldn’t prevent us from being human first. We want our humanity to drive how we are engaging and interacting with our audience. Respecting the new work from home experience some of our clients are now permanently in and the bigger overlap between home vs work life for most working adults. Bring those amazing things into the digital and attendee experience, have it be part of the thought process for how we solve for the event’s objectives. I love technology, but I am human first and that drives the solutions I create for each of our clients.
For example, I always encourage meaningful breaks or a “pick your own adventure” method, which allows people to choose what event experience makes sense for them, without losing out on any of the messaging. But don’t forget to clearly communicate the thoughtfulness behind your agenda choices, remind them that you care about work/life balance.

How would you describe the current state of event tech in comparison to the time that you started your career at ITA Group?

KY: I started from the registration and participant management side and I always felt that technology could be doing more for us. After reaching out to our event technology team, I found out there was a spot in the pre-sale space needed to be filled and joined their team. The pre-sale space (prior to 2020) was pretty cut and dry: collect information (registration website), engage during the event (mobile app) and track EVERYTHING (onsite scanning, badging tech, etc.).
After COVID-19 hit things ramped up even more and it just became all-hands-on-deck. We saw around 100 demos of event platforms and solutions. Then we remembered that we know how to engage our attendees, let’s focus on that and let the technology bring it to life in the least confusing and boring way.
In true ITA Group fashion, we rallied our team members and didn’t take “can’t be done” for an answer. We maintained the idea of let’s make this into something our clients can get excited about, have budget justification for, and more than anything, keep our attendees informed and connected when we can’t be networking at the convention center.
That’s not saying we did flawlessly with every event, but I would say our team has A LOT to be proud of, what we created and ultimately now have a solution that can be applied to events moving forward. Digital is here to stay, and I feel confident we can design meaningful digital solutions, which sets us up for success as the world and event landscape keeps evolving.

How have you grown since starting your career?

KY: Coming into the technology space, I would say I had more passion for it than pure expertise. My team took a risk with me. They trusted I would stop at nothing to figure out everything from our current solutions to helping create new ones to drive us forward. And they have been there to help anyway they can. It’s not a one-person show, and the “climb to the top” should not be a selfish one. I am better when I’m collaborating and learning from the amazing team and clients I have the privilege to work with. They teach me so I can be better moving forward for other clients.
I think it’s also important to give credit to those that help you do your job—again going back to being human first. My collective knowledge is a sponge of all the amazing people, platforms and resources I have tapped into. So when I come into a client solution meeting, I am a collection of all the amazing people that have answered my questions, dug in deeper with me when I want to understand more and in general support me to make good decisions.
I believe that is what keeps me going on days when the world is uncertain and needs a full rework of what we have known about events and engaging attendees for decades.

What advice do you wish you received earlier on in your career?

KY: Take time to disconnect. I am very passionate about my work, but I am better at my work when I have taken the time to check in with myself and recharge with the passions I have outside of work (like being outdoors, going on adventures, or just a great cup of coffee and book). I am taking more time to do those things, that way when I am tuned into work, I am my best self for my team. The guilt is always there when I take time off, but I know my team respects my time (sometimes more than I do), and I’ll come back refreshed and ready to get the work done right alongside of them.
So I’ll tell anyone who will listen: Take the walk outside between meetings, take the vacation with a Friday afternoon off, or call that team member you haven’t seen in a while and just talk about life. It’s done me a lot of good.

What is your favorite kind of project to work on?

KY: Any project where all ITA Group solutions teams get to work together. When we’re brainstorming, you can feel the excitement as we generate ideas; one person might spark a whole new path based on another person’s anecdote and what’s created is even better than anticipated. That’s the beauty of the team, we are all creating in and outside our roles because we have a connection to what we are solving for. Then seeing the event brought to life, how it evolves and how the attendees feel connected to their organization—and we got to be a part of that engagement. HUGE WIN!
Check out the other conversations with our event experts, including one in which our Event Solutions Director discusses overcoming the fear of change.
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