J. Damany Daniel is an experienced and award-winning event producer who has planned scores of events for clients across the nation. He’s one of the coordinators of the State of Search Conference this year. We wanted to hear a bit more about his background and his business The Event Nerd.
How has funding the Young and Cultured influenced your career in events? Are there any plans to continue this organization?
YNC was a great way to connect with the arts and music scene in Dallas and really get to know the pulse of the industry, while connecting them with events. To this day, I still book and work with many of the artists I met through the YNC years. It’s also made it imperative that a little bit of culture gets infused into every event I’m a part of producing.
The Event Nerd is known for unique event solutions. What is the motivation behind the combination of event planning and extensive use of technology?
I had a good friend say once that events have fundamentally not changed in…well, forever. The same basic five things are involved- People, Place, Space, Food, and Entertainment. Ultimately we’re just moving around and repainting set pieces for what is basically the same play. Technology introduces a sixth element to the equation- experience, by allowing attendees to more fully connect with the vision of events, and allowing organizers to track and create metrics associated with the success of the actual event. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for events because, for the first time in a long time, you can fully quantify the event, and connect with everyone that’s in the building.
Growing up in Brooklyn, how did you end up in Dallas TX? What events from your childhood drove you to become a speaker?
I went to school in Tulsa and then took a job as director of Marketing for a company in East Texas. After that job ended, I didn’t feel like it was my time to return to Tulsa, so I moved to Dallas, knowing no one. It was the best decision I made. My father was a public speaker and entrepreneur and I always loved the power of the English language. My background was mostly behind the scenes at events, but I’ll never forget when the bug for being on stage bit me. I was producing an event and had to walk out to get the crowd riled up and pass along information to them about what was going on. I had checked mics hundreds of times, but this time was different. I walked out, mic in hand and when I lifted it to my mouth there was an energy, especially as I saw the crowd respond and react. It was just a matter of time at that point.
What strategies do you employ to “incentivize people to share more, or go into more depth about the information you want from them?”
Simple things like social media walls do a lot. Most important is to learn what methods of digital engagement people are most comfortable with and play to those. If they email, do that. If they group chat, use any number of platforms to foster that engagement. Ultimately, it’s about learning who’s in the room so that the experience can be tailored to them, even if that means making adjustments on the fly.
What is the most recent emerging technology you have seen within the past year that is used to help your clients?
That’s a loaded question because I’m always being introduced to useful new tech. My favorite right now is beacons. Some people call them iBeacons, but that’s a misnomer since it’s used on both the android and iOS platforms. I love the way they can connect with attendees, pull relevant data and demographics about them (if they use something like LinkedIn or FB connect), and then serve content to them in real time based on who and where they are. If more events use them, the price will get driven down, and the adoption rate will increase. What’s possible with beacons is pretty staggering, but most important for any tech is to have a strategy for how to use them. Just having cool tech does nothing if there’s no plan for how to actually use it/them effectively.
How do you use technologies to frame events? What is the best example you have of when you have done this?
To start, we work on a plan based on how attendees are likely to engage with an event. We take tech out of the equation and first seek to understand what the normal process would be if no one had anything to do with technology. We want the tech to feel like a welcomed add-on to the experience, not a laborious extra thing that we threw on because it was cool. Once we know the attendee journey and flow, we look at the field of #eventtech and see what it makes sense to integrate into the experience. Honestly, the best example will be SOS- we’ve got some fun stuff we’re integrating, some interactive, some tracking tech, etc. I don’t want to reveal it all, but I’m pretty proud of what my team has come up with for this event.
What does the ultimate creation of experience look like? Do you think these values will change in the upcoming years?
Ultimately it’s when you are able to engage people as much and in as many effective ways as possible and that make sense. People want to feel known, and if tech can do that and do it quickly- all the better.
How has the creation of The Event Nerd helped you step up to the next level in your career?
Well, it’s my retirement plan, so it is the next and last level. 🙂 That being said, it’s fun being a voice in the events industry telling people what is possible and effective for their experiences to be enhanced.
When did the field of event tech really start and how do you anticipate it growing within the next couple of years?
Well, there’s always been some level of “tech” since things like faxes and mics were considered tech. Only in the past 6 or so years, however have event organizers started to pay attention to what cutting edge and engagement based technology can do, and we have nowhere to go but up.
How are you helping to make this year’s State of Search the best one yet?
By juggling chainsaws and herding kittens. 🙂