Futurist Mindset: How Events and Exhibitors Must Re-Imagine the Attendee Experience

Futurist Mindset: How Events and Exhibitors Must Re-Imagine the Attendee Experience

Early this month I was honored to be the keynote speaker as well as moderate and industry leader panel at the Center for Exhibition Industry Research yearly event CEIR Predict. As with most events this year, it was a hybrid experience with in-person attendees and speakers live at MGM Inner Harbour and online attendees watching the live stream.

Below is a write-up from the panel that I moderated which included Joey Graziano, SVP at National Basketball Association, Melissa Ashely Advisor at AirFair and Leana Salamah, Vice President, Marketing | International Housewares Association.

Joey Graziano participated via Zoom and was able to interact with myself the moderator in a true hybrid experience!

Panelists from the 2021 #CEIRPredict provide key findings on how marketing and digital transformation will impact the future of B2B exhibitions.

“We are not going back to the way we ran events before the Pandemic. It is essential to rethink/reimagine what the future is going to look like.”

Brian Fanzo, Futurist (Tweet This)

When speaking with panelists from the recent CEIR Predict session on marketing and digital transformation, a clearer picture of our industry’s future came into focus. 

In this forward-glance, we measure our Total Available Market as the world, and we’re are no longer limited by physical boundaries because we’ve mastered personalization-and-customization-at-scale. 

Sounds nice. 

Joey Graziano, SVP Business Development & Global Events, National Basketball Association, also believes this profit/experience utopia need not be just a dream. It comes down to leadership, clarity of intent, and monetizing live, viral moments. The key to Graziano is,

We need our engagement and monetization strategies to stop being mutually exclusive. The best strategy reimagines the experience for our audience AND drives the P&L.” 

Joey Graziano, NBA

Melissa Ashley, Advisor, Airfair, put it this way, “Everybody shifted to using technology to navigate the marketplace. The customer has the choice of when, where, and how.”  

This dynamic will not be shifting back. When given multiple choices of how you want to consume your content, why would you ever wish to have your preferences withdrawn? You wouldn’t – and our audiences won’t either. 

So what now? How should our organizational leaders prepare and empower their teams for a digital future? How can they leverage an economy of creators and serve audiences who have extensive choices of where they receive their content?

The key to unlocking the value of the medium may live within the very nature of Communities.  

Brian Fanzo believes that a key to unlocking value could live with relatability, “If influencer marketing is the business of trust or an extension of trust, the Creator economy monetizes and builds community across platforms.” He goes further, 

“This is the most connected generation ever. It isn’t that the younger generation has no attention span; they just have no tolerance for irrelevant content.”

Futurist Keynote Speaker Brian Fanzo Hosting Panel on Digital Transformation within events and exhibitions industry

The opportunity is there.

Graziano believes firmly in the responsibility of leadership in plotting this future, “As leaders, it is our job to take a problem, develop simple success metrics, push them forward, and enable people to decide the ‘how.’” Empowerment drives ownership. This shift in mindset could be the difference between holding onto traditional ideas and becoming poised to capitalize real-time on moments of live engagement. 

He gave a few examples:

  • Think about a soap opera, right? The writers know what’s going to happen next. In many events, you know the viral moments because you scripted them with your speakers and entertainment. How can you monetize that? 
  • You have an online event with 50,000 people, and they’re all paying $99. Perhaps 20,000 of those same attendees would pay $250 for a personalized experience. How do you find that out and offer that experience?

He added an important distinction. I call it out as a distinction because there is something our industry has been hesitant to mutter. Graziano’s perspective is, “We need to shift our mindset from ‘nothing is as good as live’ to ‘live is one valuable entry point’ and use our content to reach hundreds of thousands of people globally.”

Throughout the Pandemic, we’ve all spoken the phrase, ‘Nothing will replace the power of face to face.’ We believe it, and we’re not wrong, but it could be that we’re unintentionally limiting our sphere of influence – and at the same time, eroding our teams’ confidence in other mediums.  

Specific to COVID-19 and our response to it, Graziano sees it as, of course, a tragedy but also an opportunity. “COVID-19 destroyed our sense of connection. It gave us new fears and futures. And yet, it created an opportunity for us to innovate, define new audiences, remove bureaucracy and emerge stronger.” 

This perspective became even more powerful when we learned that Graziano’s father is a retired NYC firefighter and 9/11 survivor. He taught Joey and his siblings that it is the sum of our responses that define us. He would ask, “If your neighbor’s house was on fire, would you run into it?”

The sum of our responses. 

If anyone reading this hasn’t yet leveraged the Pandemic to innovate with your teams and prepare for our collective future, now is the time. 

For an industry that has always been about its people, we can make that happen. We can look after one another’s houses – even when they aren’t on fire.

To help your teams, we’ve summarized all the findings from the Thought Leaders – Focus on Focus on Marketing & Digital Transformation for you.

Key Findings:

Best Practices:

  • The future of marketing is relatability – people want to connect and understand what is important to them. Your brands can be relatable through authenticity. 
  • The future of business is Community. You can build Community with customers, staff, clients, etc. 
  • Individual creators create their own communities. The creator economy monetizes and builds Community across platforms. (Platforms changed the word “attendees” to communities)
  • Digital enables us to do more in-person. How one uses tech will ultimately enhance the in-person experience. Repackage content and release it over time. 

Creating Value: 

  • Most obstacles are imaginary and are really opportunities.
  • Organizers need to create exclusivity, scarcity, personalization and customization. 
  • Research indicates trade shows are coming back, but you can supplement them with other content year-round.
  • You can do nearly anything digitally. Organizers must drive additional value and raise the bar.

Tapping into emotions:

  • Organizers must address the emotional reasons people go to trade shows. Foster creativity; do not control it. 
  • Prioritize engagement and Community – look at where you are not positioned and look to outsource to organizations that do this well.
  • Empower creators and embrace that they think differently.
  • Want people to feel ‘these are my people, people I can trust.’
  • Empower loyalty!
  • Brands aren’t great. The people behind the brand make it great.

Join us again next week as we continue our conversations with CEIR Predict panelists. Next Up: Focus on Industry Disruptors. 

Ps. If you’re thinking, ‘Wait, wasn’t this week’s content about disruptors?’  You’re not wrong. Everything covered above is about digital and marketing disruption specifically, but as we know, disruption isn’t limited to those topics. Next week we’ll explore ways you can support your teams as they build a culture of inclusivity, navigate the future of work, and protect their employees, attendees, and customers from physical and cyber security threats. 

Originally posted at: https://ceirblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/17/ceir-predict-post-event-focus-on-digital-transformation-session/

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Being A Professional Keynote Speaker

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Being A Professional Keynote Speaker

Are you afraid of public speaking? I believe you know you aren’t alone as it’s widely known to be one of the biggest fears people have…

Do you want to be a full-time professional speaker traveling the world delivering your message?? You aren’t alone either, as the lure of the lifestyle and impact that is possible as a professional speaker is without a doubt a dream career for many.

I took my first stage in 2005 working for the Department of Defense and spoke in front of a government audience on the future of cyber security and our need to recruit and train millennial military members to educate and implement this technology.

Between 2005 and 2013, I spoke on 50+ stages, both in that role for the DoD and as a Technology Evangelist, which included keynoting at VMworld, SXSW, and Gartner. But it wasn’t until 2013 that I realized that the job of a “professional speaker” was something people did as a full-time career.

Over the next five years, I would learn the hard way how little I knew about being a professional speaker. It also was evident that the gap between the person afraid of public speaking and those who want to be a full-time speaker seemed large. Still, in reality, it came down to two things—a mindset shift and inside knowledge of the speaking, event planner, and conference industry.

This might come as a shock, but I believe it’s easier to help someone over their fear of public speaking embracing a mindset shift than it is to figure out the nuances and highly protected process to not only becoming a professional speaker but achieving long-term success as a speaker.

In the early days of my speaking career, I began to understand just how lucrative being a speaker can be and how unique each person’s path to becoming a full-time public speaker was. Public speakers take on a skill that no other industry requires, even more so now when we are constantly connected.

The beauty of being a proffesional speaker is that there is no one way to make a living as a speaker. The hard part about breaking through and finding success as a speaker is the fact there are so many paths to this career!

The public speaking industry (as an economic driver) is hard to measure with a lot of fuzzy numbers. Still, the event planning and conference industry certainly are easier to quantify. Event planners bring in anywhere from $15,000- to $50,000+ per event depending on its size and how much back-end work the event planner contracts out. And speaking at these events is a huge revenue source for public speakers.

Since man first stood before a group to spread their word and ideas, the public speaking industry has been around. But the speaker sure has changed over time…

The public speaking industry is a weird bird when you look at the revenue they can generate for clients not to mention this new world of virtual events and being able to speak from anywhere. Corporate conference professionals, event planners, and public speakers are all in the same industry. Still, they have their own little world inside the industry with its own set of rules and cultural norms. Many of the most successful public speakers started speaking to promote their books, agencies, or as the second career. At the same time, there have also been many successful speakers who’ve built great businesses in just public speaking in recent years. 

For those seeking out becoming a public speaker as a full-time profession as I’ve done, here are five things I wish I knew as I started my journey and aspects of my speaker business that I’m still focusing on improving today. 

  1. Being great on stage isn’t enough: The idea of being the greatest presenter or performer on stage isn’t enough to sustain in this business as the business of speaking requires so many other aspects including your ability to sell yourself, ability to understand your audience and even position your program that others believe its worth paying you to speak.
  2. There are multiple ways of making money as a speaker:  Knowing what you’re best at and focusing on the method that’s best for you must be the priority. You can’t get distracted by your peers building their speaking business a different way. 
  3. You can’t do it all on your own: For many, this means working with a speaker bureau or signing with a speaker agent. It’s also essential to surround yourself with people who know the other aspects of this business that you don’t like travel, planning, video editing or online marketing. See post on best speaker websites.
  4. Speakers get Speakers Gigs:  As much focus that’s put on creating a sizzle reel, building a website or designing the perfect keynote program. All of those things combined will get you less gigs than the relationships you build with fellow speakers that are asked on a weekly basis to recommend speakers for gigs they’ve done in the past. 
  5. Adapting, Re-Invent, Pivoting is Part of the Speaker Life: The ability to roll with the punches isn’t a skill set that emerged thanks to covid forcing things to virtual. It’s actually within every aspect of the speaker life from travel issues to technical problems on stage to the audience to being able to continue your talk during the lunch session as the audience is eating and making noise. 

If you want to hear more examples and details and how I coach other speakers to leverage some of these things I’ve learned check out SPEAKER MISFIT MAFIA BOOTCAMP which is a 10 week Bootcamp that I run only once a year.

How To Create A Successful Virtual Event in 2020! (Video)

How To Create A Successful Virtual Event in 2020! (Video)

Thanks to the coronavirus causing cancelations of offline conferences and events, companies are trying to establish a new normal while embracing digital experiences and creating virtual events.

Digital Futurist, Keynote Speaker and Virtual Event Producer Brian Fanzo shares his tips for not only creating a successful virtual event but the mindset shift required to build out goals, measure and track success. He also touches on selecting the right platform and using a combination of video collaboration tools and live streaming tools to engage today’s digitally disconnected audience.

The process in a nutshell

Brian has perfected the process needed to create a successful online event after producing over 3,000 live streams, speaking in 76 countries and helping Fortune 100 brands deploy their virtual events. He’s pretty much broken down to this:

1. Define Success and Set Measurable

Success looks different for everyone involved in an offline conference – sponsors are looking for potential clients, the hosts may be looking to increase loyalty and the attendees might be looking for people to add to their network.

An online conference has the same dynamic, but often people don’t take that into consideration when they are planning. So, the first thing needs to be first when planning a virtual event – define what success looks like for everyone involved.

Where most people go wrong is defining success without setting goals. If success looks like creating brand loyalty and an engaged audience, your goals should be return customers, social media mentions and numbers of messages in the live chat. The number of attendees doesn’t matter, nor does the amount of money made.

Just remember, these should all be things that can be tracked and measured.

2. Determine the Content and Experience

Once you have your goals laid out, it’s time to determine what kind of content can get you to your goal and create the experience you want to. In this step, you’ve got to think about what is going to get the point across, live video? Produced video? Ask me anything style?

How are you going to create your experience? Themed chat rooms? A choose your own adventure style event? What about podcasts for those not interested in the live video? There are so many ways we can facilitate a similar experience online to offline, but they require planning (something most forget with online events).

3. Choose Your Platforms and Speakers

Now that you know what kind of content and experience you want to create, you can start to determine the best platforms for hosting and interacting. Here is the thing though, just like everything else, the best results come from collaboration.

There is no such thing as a “do it all” platform.” They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. It’s about finding the platforms that can work together to create the perfect experience.

After you have the who, what, when, where and why of your event set you can focus on hiring the best speakers. You want to make sure that the speakers are ready to make a great virtual event and that they understand that it’s not the same as a 30 – 90 minute keynote. You also want to make sure that they are able to create the type of content you are hoping to have.

4. Create a Digital-First Mindset

Creating the best virtual event experience requires a digital-first mindset. Again, what goes on offline can’t just be replicated online, it’s a much different venue, so you have to retrain everyone on what it means to create an engaging event.

If you’re looking for more resources and insights on virtual events, interactive webinars or moving your offline conference to online visit his new page “Re-inventing Virtual Event Resources.”

Virtual Events: We Have to Create Digital First Experiences

Virtual Events: We Have to Create Digital First Experiences

Why haven’t virtual events or online conferences replaced offline conferences? Because they can’t! 

But… If we redesign the experience from a digital-first mindset, it’s possible to provide a complimentary digital experience that bridges offline conference experiences 365 days a year and can supplement the value we aren’t able to deliver during times like now with the Coronavirus. 

‪What won’t work and hasn’t worked:‬

‪❌ Back to back webinars called digital events‬

These are impersonal and often time unengaging. 

‪❌ Live video platform streaming offline keynotes‬

While these may be more personal, they’re still not super engaging if the speakers don’t engage with the audience comments like they would if it were any other live stream. The problem with that, is that this makes it less “conference like,” how do we find the happy medium?

‪❌ Speakers using the same slides, story, and presentation structure for digital talks‬

Virtual events are far more accessible for most, so how will we ensure that our audiences aren’t seeing the same thing over and over again? How can we create a unique experience without feeling the mood of the room?

‪❌ Events built with tech-first their your mindset still have to focus on format and audience experience

We can create all of the tech-first events we want, but the tech itself won’t be enough to create a great customer experience.

Hard truths:‬

‪✅ Great creators such as YouTube stars don’t make great speakers. ‬

Being able to speak at a live event and creating well-produced, audience-specific content require very different skillsets. Virtual summits, specifically ones that happen live, will require keynote level speakers.

‪✅ Just as many speakers won’t make great digital keynote speakers‬

Just like YouTubers don’t always make great in-person speakers, we can’t expect that many “traditional” keynote speakers will be great in a digital format.

‪? Sadly, just like offline, the host/emcee of digital events are key, yet seldom valued or included in strategy!‬

Cutting corners is not acceptable. Not even in the digital space. The host/emcee of your event is the only constant in the attendees’ experience and you’d be surprised how important that constant is. So don’t leave them out!

? Virtual Reality isn’t the answer either

However, understanding VR content, storytelling with creating 360 degrees of access, and how those interactions work is a mindset digital events must factor in.

Digital Events are a completely different ballgame – how are we going to adapt? I challenge you to consider 3 things:? How are you going to adapt your stories?? How will you adapt your tone/language?? How can we collaborate with others?

Posted by Brian Fanzo on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The questions we must be asking for digital events are: 

‪1. What experience and interaction will maintain attention with an audience that is easily distracted and has unlimited other options for content?‬

‪2. How do we connect the theme and hypothesis of the event throughout every aspect of the digital event without it being obvious?‬

‪3. What does success look like for our digital event and how does that differ from our traditional events? How do we manage those expectations for audience, sponsors and executives?‬

‪4. What is the emotional link to the content we want to create.. FOMO no recordings or JOMO exclusive access?‬

‪5. What are the measurable touchpoints that we can track for success & driveability to adapt and pivot?‬

‪6. With no venue but no doors to keep the audience in, how do we use that money from butts in seats to butts not clicking off?‬

We Must ReInvent

When designing a virtual event we must go beyond the platforms and even beyond the conference experience to build a truly digital-first experience! I’m working with multiple companies and associations on doing just that with what I’m calling a “Choose your own digital event experience” framework. Stay tuned for more insights and information on how we are doing this and if you want to learn more or believe your software platform would be a great fit send me an email at Brian@isocialfanz.com.

What does Reinventing “The Venue Of The Future” As Coronavirus Decimates Conferences look like? Listen to FOMOFanz podcast episode 124 to find out more!

Why Events Should Have Panels and How to Make Them Not Boring

Why Events Should Have Panels and How to Make Them Not Boring

We’ve all been to events where the panels were crazy BORING, and each answer was scripted and robotic!

Many events that I attend as a keynote speaker are fixing the “boring panel” problem by removing panels altogether.

As a full-time keynote speaker, you’d think this would be good for my business, but let’s remember many of those panelists are executive leaders from big brands with popular logos that drive ticket sales for the event. Also, I feel there’s so much to value in learning from the practitioners and leaders. Still, sadly most aren’t trained or excellent at delivering that value in a keynote solo presentation form.

Interestingly enough, as much as I love being on stage, giving one of my keynote programs, I equally love moderating a panel or hosting a fireside chat. The reason, I find great joy and satisfaction in helping others tell their stories and facilitating dynamic conversations around trends and relevant topics. Beyond moderating panels, I’ve also spent many years developing my skills for interviewing guests in person and via video while also launching over 3k live video interacting with comments in what I call live participatory content.

Moderating, Hosting & Emceeing is a SKILL that Takes Practice

Moderating requires practice and a specific skill set, and just because someone is a great speaker or great panelist or the headline sponsor of the event does not mean they’ll be a great moderator. The need for dynamic offline events will only be increasing as we become more connected and technology-dependent. Event ticket sales are often driven by the celebrity speaker and famous logos on panels. But creating an event community where the audience wants to come back year over year requires an investment in dynamic keynote speakers, passionate moderators, and event hosts that can connect the inspiration with the education and provide motivation for all who attend.  

This past week I hosted and emceed The Social Shake-Up conference in Atlanta. As I was coming off stage, the AV director approached me and asked if I trained hosts or executives on how to moderate panels and conduct interviews. He stated that he felt my style was one of the most unique and dynamic he had seen in his 20+ years running AV for events.  

This feedback was very humbling and inspired me to share my strategy and approach for each event that hires me as host & emcee or event ambassador.

Below, I breakdown my pre-event strategy, on-stage focus, and overall vision of success when moderating panels. I also wrote a post titled “What All Great Hosts and Moderators have” that goes into more detail on the importance of building 3-way trust!

I go in-depth on each of these in the podcast episode that you can listen to at the bottom of this blog post.


  • Panel topic, type of panelists, and length of the panel should be a collaboration between the event organizer and panel moderator.
  • Why the outreach and first interaction with the panelists must have a focused message.
  • Why I don’t ask for questions or provide questions to panelists
  • How asking for 2 and only 2 “audience takeaways” shifts the dynamic of the panel 
  • How I deal with panelists that REQUIRE a list of questions
  • Where does the trust triangle start as a moderator?
  • How to crowdsource audience questions and event theme?
  • Why I take notes about a panelist’s most recent tweet, hobby, or current passion.


  • Combine panelist 2 takeaways with crowdsourced questions to formulate discussion flow!
  • Why panelist MUST have handheld microphones
  • Why the order and what’s on the screen matters during the panel
  • How to ask the same question twice without anyone noticing it
  • The art of reframing an answer to translate it for the audience 
  • How to include your insights and data without injecting yourself too much as the moderator
  • How to handle BORING answers 
  • How to create debate/dialogue between panelists
  • What a moderator must be aware of while listening to a panelists answer
  • What I envision as a success while on stage for me as the moderator, and it has nothing to do with the audience.

Moderator success:

  • Why “if you don’t know the moderator is there” is the most significant line of crap and a great moderator is heard, but the panelists takeaways are what’s remembered. 
  • Importance of including the event theme, trends and goal of event manager
  • How a lousy panelist won’t ruin a panel that doesn’t cover pre-determined questions
  • The art of cutting someone off or limiting their answer without being rude or playing Oscars music.
  • Why moderator should be compensated and great panelists sell event tickets, but a great moderated panel sells next years tickets and turns attendees into superfans.

How To Make Panels and Interviews Not Suck!

If you want more insights and examples, listen to this episode of the FOMO Fanz podcast below or in any podcasting app.