CompTIA’s Senior VP of Events on Planning Tech-Centric Conferences

CompTIA’s Senior VP of Events on Planning Tech-Centric Conferences

By Leigh Harper, September 14, 2016

Kelly Ricker comptia meetign plannerKelly Ricker produces events with three tenets in mind: education, networking and an experience attendees won’t get elsewhere. As senior vice president of events and education for CompTIA, a nonprofit technology trade association, she’s responsible for producing a hefty number of events online and in person that differ in format but all center on educating members on the business of technology. In addition to annual member meetings, certification training sessions and countless webinars, Ricker facilitates gatherings such as CompTIA DC Fly-Ins and annual industry conference ChannelCon.

For the fly-ins, members meet in Washington, D.C., to learn about legislation and policy issues, equipping them to meet with their state senators and representatives for advocacy. ChannelCon is what you’d think of as a traditional industry conference with sessions, panels and a bustling exhibit hall… yet it’s anything but typical. Chicago-based Ricker shares her approach to the tech-heavy event, which took place in August in Hollywood, Florida, plus lessons she’s learned in her 22-year career.

Did you incorporate any new technology into ChannelCon this year?

Last year we had about 1,200 people who attended face to face and another 2,000 who participated online. We introduced it as a hybrid event through Mediasite in 2014, which tripled attendance. We haven’t done a completely virtual event yet, but we liked the idea of doing [ChannelCon] as a hybrid to catch the people who aren’t able to attend in person. [Participating online] gives them education, but also gives them a sense of what they are missing. It’s bought us an entirely new attendee segment.

Of course we have our app, and we’ve also moved to self-registration kiosks. We also have scanners for attendee tracking, and we use apps for audience response. For example, we did a session and had companies pitch the audience. People in the room could actively listen and cast votes appropriately to what they were hearing.

Have you encountered any challenges with the hybrid event?

A challenge with online participants is making sure every moment is well-produced—transitions and all. We are all spoiled with television and expect constant entertainment. We now have a moderator for our online participants, plus advertising and entertainment between sessions.

How has your app evolved?

The app originated from our exhibitors needing to meet and set appointments with attendees. Our privacy policy is strict—we don’t distribute our attendees’ contact information—so we needed a platform where everyone could choose to provide profile data and communicate. Our motivation was driven by this matchmaking component. We wanted to put ownership on attendees to meet one another instead of us. It has personalized scheduling, virtual booths and chat opportunities.

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