The Meeting Planners podcast source for what’s new and exciting in meetings and events industry
Mike McAllen interviews international speaker, consultant and writer Corbin Ball.
Visit Corbin Balls great website at www.corbinball.com
Female: You are listening to the Meetings Podcast with Mike McAllen, Jon Trask and Tom Hillmer. The Meeting Planner podcast source for what’s new and exciting in the meetings and events industry. The information and opinions expressed in this podcast are of Mr. McAllen, Mr. Trask and Mr. Hillmer and are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of their past, present or future employers.
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Mike McAllen: Today we have the pleasure of talking with Corbin Ball. Corbin is an international speaker, consultant, writer. He helps his clients worldwide to use technology to save time and improve productivity. He’s got 20 years of experience running the international technology meetings and he’s now an acclaimed speaker with the ability to make complex subjects understandable and fun and have a bunch of awards he’s won that I’m not going to list off to you but he knows his stuff and I hope you enjoy the interview and so let’s get started.
Hi Corbin. Thanks for being on the show.
Corbin Ball: My pleasure, Mike.
Mike McAllen: I wanted to just jump right in and ask you if you could tell a little bit about yourself and how you got started into being a corporate speaker.
Corbin Ball: Well sure. Actually, my past life was as a meeting planner for about 20 years for a high tech association. I was surrounded by technology and using it to improve meetings at that time. We are the early adopters of the web and e-mail and computer technology to do that. In 1997, I saw the writing on the wall with the dot-com explosion to happen and thought that there might be a market for people for me to go out and speak and consult about it and so I left my job of all those years and I went out on my own and I’ve never looked back since. So there has been a demand and I’m having a great time doing it.
Mike McAllen: It seems like it’s getting bigger and bigger to the demand.
Corbin Ball: Absolutely.
Mike McAllen: So it was a great choice?
Corbin Ball: The goal for me was to really see how I can help the industry in some ways. I was a somebody obviously who want to make a living but it was a broader goal to see – a new technology has really kind of changed fundamentally how we are doing business and to help people through that transition is something that I’m still committed to.
Mike McAllen: Yes, part of that which I saw from reading your website which that you do give a lot of information out which I really love and I’m trying to get our podcast to be the same way our podcast pays to you know, share resources and get them out there and love that you include so many links, real links that are really you know, because a lot of businesses still think they have to hide their information, you know, and be the only ones with it but I really love how you just kind of you know, let it out there.
Corbin Ball: Well thanks. My business philosophy has been sort of loosely made around the philosophy that you re-put your soul and my goal from building my website was to, if I build a site that is as helpful as I can possibly make it then things will come back to me. And then so I have hundreds of articles, thousands of links. There are dozens of meeting plan and software tools and Excel spreadsheets and links to other web-based tools there inside. I’ve thrown everything I could think of to make the site the center resource for meetings technology and it is a very large site but I hope it’s one that is helpful for people as well.
Mike McAllen: Yes. Do you have any time for anything else? Keeping up with the site must take a lot of time.
Corbin Ball: Oh, it works out. I’d have – it’s part of my continued interest in technology so it’s not like it’s written work to keep up on it and they help people with that process.
Mike McAllen: Yes. So I know that you are involved in virtual worlds like Second Life or trade show companies like in Expo. Could you talk a little bit about them or your experiences?
Corbin Ball: Sure. My experience in Second Life and going to virtual trades for iExpo and there’s a whole range of them out there, out of curiosity more than anything. I mean, I want to see – I’m always looking for new technologies and trying to figure out what is the impact going to be on the meetings industry and for example, Second Life was one that I was drawn in with the MeCo Mansion. I do have an office in the MeCo Mansion and there’s also the convention center, Virtualis that have been made. If you’d go download the Second Life and create your avatar and search on MeCo or Virtualis, you can get there.
And there’s a whole range of tools to help meeting planners there. It’s a great way to learn those multi-user virtual environmental spaces and my experience is really quite interesting about a year ago, it’s just under a year ago. I gave the first seminar to the meetings industry on Second Life is at the MeCo Mansion and the – I’ve given hundreds of virtual meetings before primarily WebEx type of demos where you pump slides and people log in and you can see a list of people on and there is some interaction in terms of question and answer but it’s pretty much looking at screens of images.
And when I went into Second Life to give this presentation, I [inaudible] in a form of an avatar. I move around, I can make gestures. The avatar looks somewhat like me, I can pump slides onto a screen. I could see people in the audience. It’s audio-enabled so in fact, stereo audio-enabled so if somebody asks a question from the right hand, my right, I can hear it out of my right earphone and so forth. I was able to see the audience moving around. One person got up during the presentation, walked out and walked back in and it was – at the end of the presentation, I hopped off the stage and walked out into the audience and my experience there was – that it was far more like a face to face meeting than any virtual meeting that I had participated in before.
And so, that really gave me food for thought about how you could use it. Is it going to be for everybody? No. It’s just a – I mean, I you’re – but I think the – for certain segment of the audience, people that are have been in the gaming or have been working around video games growing up or they – the generation, the Millennials coming into workspace and others as well that this is an extremely – it’s completely different but it can be a very helpful tool to do that. The virtual trade shows kind of take it to that next link with that is that they’ve really focused on the business exchange of information using similar type of tools to do that and it’s – and so I think that in fact, I think that you’re going to see more of these things happening and a blending of these of virtual trade shows and Second Life trade shows and lively is the Google alternative to that. I mean there a whole range of things out there that I think will continue to see advance.
I also think that the level of where we’re at right now is really a very basic form. The avatars look like cartoons and move in relatively crude manners. This is just a matter of generations of the continuation of Morse law that you – things are doubling in process and speed every 18 to 24 months and a few generation where generations and Morse law, we’re going to see substantially better image quality within.
Mike McAllen: Wow. Yes, I guess you’ve kind of more of a physical presence, don’t you? As even as an attendee there so you can actually get more than a WebEx kind of a thing, I guess I’m assuming.
Corbin Ball: Yes, you’re looking at people, you’re talking with them instead of text in. you can move around and meet with groups of people. It’s a very social environment and it’s one that I think it’s definitely where people, I you haven’t been on Second Life to take a little bit of time on a – you know, when you have a little extra time to do that. Download the software, go ahead and just explore around. It’s kind of fun.
Mike McAllen: And have you gone and seen other people speak there besides that experience?
Corbin Ball: Yes, I have. Yes.
Mike McAllen: Do you spend a lot of time in there or is it …
Corbin Ball: I don’t spend a lot of time there. I go there to see what’s new and so I’m not a gamer, for example. I’m not a one that spends you know, a lot of time. What I’m looking for is technology innovation especially as it applies to the meetings industry. So my interest online is to see what the next new thing is and I think Second Life is – there are people that I know that are on that everyday and they really like it and they get a good social experience with that. I’m not one of those people but I’m certainly interested in what’s happening there that’s why I try to keep my eyes and ears on that type of environment.
Mike McAllen: Right, right. So you’re a real early adopter, I guess, huh.
Corbin Ball: Well I …
Mike McAllen: No offense.
Corbin Ball: Yes. I am interested in technology innovation so that’s what [inaudible] so to speak.
Mike McAllen: So I guess my next question is what do you think is the most – what technology is the most beneficial for like making your meetings green?
Corbin Ball: Oh. Well that’s interesting. I just finished an article that I posted at my website that’s linked on the homepage and the news box written out, 45 ways of using technology to green meetings and there are a couple on the base level. There are a couple ways that you can do that is one is that you can eliminate paper and that is – and there are many, many ways. In fact, many of the suggestions are how you don’t have to use paper in terms of doing things and so you know, you have electronic database of meeting facilities online. You can send request from pole to pole electronically. Book space, meeting space, there’s a whole promotional aspect of meetings and virtual – there’s blog promotion of meetings instead of sending out paper promotions.
The list goes on and on from that then with that, it’s not only do you say paper. When you say paper, you are increasing efficiency as well. So it’s a two-edge sword of that. It’s a …
Mike McAllen: Right.
Corbin Ball: … a piece of paper is a white flag of inefficiencies, I always say and so when you’re doing that, when you eliminate the paper as your way of storing and sharing data and go electronic means. So not only is good for the environment but it’s a much efficient way of doing that. And then the other way is that you reduce travel to different types of events. If for example, you have online site inspection, virtual site inspections and that’s not going to replace everyone but it will – every need to visit a hotel to make sure that you – it’s going to be suitable for you.
But it can help you narrow down those options considerably and so for anything in travel. Then the other areas in terms of doing that is you know, instead that there are virtual conference capabilities, web conferencing, webcasting, and virtual trades such as that we’ve talked about are ways, they’re not going to reduce every meeting. They should and I always say this, there’s no such thing as a virtual beer but what they do is that it eliminate the need for some of the inefficient meetings and make the ones that you do have a more helpful.
And then ads onsite, they’re just – I mean, paper is just used so much for programs and surveys and voting capability and you know, how you do your messaging center and your course notes and you know, all of this stuff can be a year exhibit kits that exhibitors receive it. Oftentimes, there are hundreds of pages of information …
Mike McAllen: Right
Corbin Ball: … with that. And so your digital signage I mean, that’s another area that you know, signage is that they have – the major shows had have thousands of signs up to a thousands of signs which are expensive to update and most of them end up in a dumpster. And so you know, if you’d go to digital means of doing that, there’s you know, there’s just a whole range and everywhere you look around where you see paper and cardboard being used, they are probably much more efficient digital days of doing it. So in that article, I outlined 45 different ways to doing that with links and suggestions of how that [inaudible].
Mike McAllen: Great, great. I will link up to that so I think we can go look at it and I wondered, are you saying that a lot of planners are doing a lot of these things? Is it happening quickly or I mean I know green is the big you know, the big term nowadays but are they getting – have you seen a lot of buying on all this stuff or is it …
Corbin Ball: I think so. I mean, it’s hard people to change and I think you see some green watching out there or things that you call green but are not really green in terms of doing that. But I think that there’s definitely a movement in there. There’s an interest – people are realizing that there’s a lot of – there are issues here that are challenges. We are facing – we’re in the cutback and we’re having some challenges in space and to move back and to do things in a more green manner will be a helpful thing to do. So I think it’s a continual progression with that.
Mike McAllen: What kind of greenwashing have you seen? What’s an example of greenwash and I’m hearing a lot about greenwashing but do have a …
Corbin Ball: Yes. For example, this might be a good idea but it seems to me the question on that is that you say, “Okay, we’re going to eliminate bottled water at meetings.” So I think with eliminating bottled water, I think bottled water is a terrible idea for example. This is not really a technology one but it’s …
Mike McAllen: Right.
Corbin Ball: … and in place, we’re going to give everybody a large plastic you know, water bottle we’ve had. And you know, in those things, with a large plastic water they can be reused. There are a lot of times that they’re not [inaudible].
Mike McAllen: Right. And so you exchange one for another and it’s not really solving the problem. I mean, you have water coolers with you know, paper cups there and that eliminate that whole thing and being you know, a more environmental in a way – a sound way of mentioning it.
Mike McAllen: Right. I guess they see a sponsorship opportunity there with the plastic bottle.
Corbin Ball: Sponsorship opportunity is great, you know and I was at recently at a trade show and they had this big plastic foam mouse pads that said, it’s easy going – it wasn’t even a mouse pad. It could have been adhesive but it’s kind of that material – neoprene type of material and said on it, it’s easy going green. And it’s this promotional thing and they you know, they give it out this piece of plastic junk that you’re just going to throw away saying it’s easy going green. So there, you know, there are a lot of examples.
Mike McAllen: Yes. Well, I kind of – I have another thing that I wanted to talk a little bit about what’s technology based is. I went to an event last week and they were using Twitter on this panel on a Twitter.com. Is that a micro-blog thing.
Corbin Ball: Right.
Mike McAllen: I’m sure I know you know about it. But I found was interesting is the panel was all sitting up there and they had this on the screen instead of like PowerPoints and larger keynote slides. They had a Twitter stream going which a search and they we’re just refreshing it and they had made a search term for the actual sessions. So everybody in the room who – this was a technology meeting, this blog. It was all about blogging.
Corbin Ball: Yes, all right.
Mike McAllen: And they had – they were- everybody in the room was on Twitter, all the attendees were and they were real time commenting on what they were talking about on the panel. So they were actually the audience was moderating the panel session which I found was really interesting. And I wonder [inaudible]. Yes, in fact I’ve used a number of systems like that, not exactly Twitter but I think that social software especially mobile cells or software is not an extremely interesting and powerful thing that’s going to be happening in our industry. Where the whole Web 2.0 phenomena will change the way that meetings are being done and I mean, it’s from how you survey people to get people in advance, determine what they want and ways to collaborate with themes collaborate.
There’s a whole bunch of things but I think one of the – particular interesting ones are things such as the micro-blogs, such as Twitter. The challenge with this is – that’s an example of things being used in a proper manner. A recent event at the Southwest conferences last spring is an example of how it wasn’t done and then – I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, the whole …
Corbin Ball: Yes, I did hear about it. Why don’t you, you know, talk about a little bit.
Mike McAllen: Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year old billionaire, CEO Facebook was being interviewed onstage at the Southwest conference plenary session. Well neither he nor the interviewer were prepared and it quickly became apparent to the audience that they weren’t getting the information they want. They’re meandering and talking about the interviewer’s book and so forth and so now the crowd grew restless and they pulled out their phones and started Twittering about how lame the session was.
And all of these comments were flying back around and it was projected on the screen because people were doing that and someone eventually posted one. “I’ll give someone $10 for the first person that yells out at Zuck, you suck.” And someone in the audience ended up doing that and then the whole thing devolved from there and people just eventually started yelling out questions and really took over that whole interview with that and there are two examples that they had – gave us two good examples. One is that people need to be prepared. Speakers need to be prepared …
Corbin Ball: Yes.
Mike McAllen: … of what they’re going to be talking about but the other one is that you – if the audience, the power shifting from the speaker and to the audience and if they’re not getting what they want, they’re increasingly will demand it using these type of tools. And so one way as the example I described is that okay, let’s bring it under the hood and let everybody do that and then make that – and I think that’s a really a smart way to do it.
Fortunately, there are tools out there that can really help you do that in a more targeted way as well. Polleverywhere.com, zukuweb.com, there’s quickmobile.com, and log-on.nl. I have used, personally used three of those tools and presentations. And what they do, there a couple of different things that they do with that. One is to do have audience polling. So the capability if you – it’s American Idol type of audience poll and sort of so it’s people will – what do you think about this question and you’ll have four different – you type in a short code and then you can type in you know, ABCD or whatever it is. And then instantly, that is – as soon as it’s collected, it goes – it will come up to a website that you have which is integrated with PowerPoint so you just advance a slide, it turns over to this website and the audience response is immediately shown in real time to do it. It takes about 45 seconds to get a full audience response for questions. So it’s not as fast as you know, the audience polling keypads but it doesn’t cost $10 per person as well to do that.
Corbin Ball: Right.
Mike McAllen: So you can do audience polling but also you can use it for a Q&A. So in a similar way to what Twitter you’re getting these comments up, people can text in what are their questions. They can do this anonymously so that they you know, it just arrives up. There are some of the systems that have four-letter word filters built into it just to you know, in case …
Corbin Ball: Right, right.
Mike McAllen: … where you can – if you don’t want to project it up onto a stage, you can project it up to the moderator or over the speaker to see what the questions are and so that the – you can engage the audience and give them a say of what they want rather than it being you know, this – it’s from the bottom up instead of from the top down. And it’s really an interesting change, I think in how meetings will be conducted.
Corbin Ball: Yes. That’s sort of a lazy situation. If they had had you know, if they were able to put the Twitter on the screen, it would have completely alleviated that whole problem probably because they – then the audience would have asked questions as you would have something to go with since you didn’t have any questions for him in that situation. You know, I really …
Mike McAllen: Absolutely. [inaudible]
Corbin Ball: … I’m sorry, go ahead.
Mike McAllen: No, no.
Corbin Ball: Don’t – go ahead.
Mike McAllen: And what she should have done in advance is blog that group in advance. He’ll say, okay what do you want to hear?
Corbin Ball: Exactly, yes.
Mike McAllen: You know, it’s simple – there are simple ways that you can do it as well. So I agree with what you’re saying. If she would have put that up, that would have been – they would have brought him into the fold and give him that their say which they wanted.
Corbin Ball: Yes, it’s interesting how the technology has changed. There’s a streaming media conference going on right now in San Jose near where I am and I was wondering about it because someone had told I didn’t hear bout till this morning and I went on Twitter and I was – you know, I put in, looked, type in the search for it. And then someone was streaming it from their phone and it was quick. Was that the quick you were talking about? Quick.com or quickmobile?
Mike McAllen: It’s quickmobile.com. It’s a Canadian firm. In fact, these are – quickmobile is in Vancouver based in Canada, log-on.nl is Netherland-based. Zuku and polleverywhere are US-based. Go ahead.
Corbin Ball: Well he was using his cell phone and he was …
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Corbin Ball: … actually he’s streaming it from his cell phone. Is that the same one? Or is it different?
Mike McAllen: That’s different.
Corbin Ball: Okay.
Mike McAllen: These are pretty much text message. Those systems that I’ve mentioned are text message-based systems with that and so there are ways and the beauty of text messaging, it’s no every phone and everybody has a capability.
Corbin Ball: Right.
Mike McAllen: That’s of – it’s kind of the law’s common denominator but increasingly, that will be web-based systems and the mobile web-based systems as well.
Corbin Ball: Yes, this was interesting because I was thinking it opens up a can of worms because he had it running and I could hear it clearly the speaker in the room and he’s just holding his cell phone up.
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Corbin Ball: It’s pretty amazing and I don’t know. I mean that’s so …
Mike McAllen: Everything is changing, you know …
Corbin Ball: Yes.
Mike McAllen: … there’s this [inaudible] things, you know.
Corbin Ball: Yes.
Mike McAllen: It’s really going to – it’s a brave new world out there.
Corbin Ball: Yes, it sure is.
Mike McAllen: Well, I really want to thank you for talking – I mean taking the time out to talk to me and I wondered if you could you know, tell the audience you know what’s on the horizon for you and where can someone see you speak and also how can they book you for a speaking engagement.
Corbin Ball: Well …
Mike McAllen: Is that a lot of questions at one time? Sorry.
Corbin Ball: Thank you for asking. Well at my website, I have my meetings calendar and so that’s one of the ways and if you just go in to the presentations on one of the first links up to the top is my calendar and in this next couple of months, I will be going to speaking in Atlanta, Broadmoor, California for – Colorado, I mean for the DMAI conference Expo, Agenda Expo in Los Angeles, Victoria’s in November for the ETHA meeting, the FICP meeting in Cancun and then in Boston for another Agenda Expo and then off to Barcelona. So I’ve got a fairly busy travel schedule. I’d love to see anybody has a chance to see me in those areas. They can link into specific locations on my conference calendar at my website.
Mike McAllen: Great and I’ll put a link on our website and then also of course they can always Google you, Corbin Ball.
Corbin Ball: Yes.
Mike McAllen: And easily find you because you have …
Corbin Ball: Yes.
Mike McAllen: … I’m sure with this website of yours you’re all over the place there if there’s Google.
Corbin Ball: Yes you can search Corbin Ball or Meetings Technology, the number one site around.
Mike McAllen: Fantastic. All right, Corbin thank you so much for your time.
Corbin Ball: My pleasure, Mike.
Mike McAllen: And I hope to talk to you again sometime.
Corbin Ball: I look forward to anytime.
Mike McAllen: Okay. Bye-bye.
Female: We appreciate and thank you for listening to the Meetings Podcast. You can find Mike McAllen at d72.c4e.myftpupload.com, Jon Trask at alliantevents.com and Tom Hillmer at creativegroupinc.com. The Meetings Podcast theme music comes from the Delgado Brothers which can be found at delgadobrothers.com. Special thanks to riptidegraphics.com for the audio editing of this podcast.