#HeresWhy Q&A: Jay Tokosch
In our next installment of our #HeresWhy industry Q&A sessions, we interviewed Jay Tokosch, CEO of Core-apps. Jay shared how exhibitors are using more technology at events and how the industry has embraced it over the past few years.
Tell me about your experience and background.
I sort of fell into the industry seven years ago in 2009 when we started Core-apps. At the time we were the first native mobile app into the meeting space and events industry and we didn’t really know a whole lot about the events industry. I had worked in the past for NEC and was their floor manager for their booths at the trade shows that we had done. I had been at events as an exhibitor before and I attended different educational conferences, so I knew it from both the attendee and exhibitor sides, which enables me to grasp what was going on with an event from an educational event to a trade show. We started into the industry in 2009 and we learned in a hurry and laugh saying we were trying to drink from the firehouse, learning everything that we possibly could about events and how they were put on and what they were all about, who did what, multiple departments, sponsorships and all these different things. I fell in love with the industry. I feel so lucky to be a part of the industry and I started to look around and say, “well who actually knows about this industry.” There are all these people that are a part of it, and when you talk to others you find out that they actually fell into the industry as well, it wasn’t a career path for many people in this industry, which amazes me because it is such a great career and the industry itself drives commerce in so many ways that people outside of the industry have no idea. I’m an entrepreneur and this is my sixth company. Generally, I like to get things started, get them going and then sell them off in three to five years and move on to the next project and we are seven years into this and I enjoy it so much that I don’t’ even have that in mind at this point. There are so many things that we still want to continue to do moving forward and that we foresee an opportunity into this industry.
Do you see anything that is missing right now, or can you think of any areas of improvement?
I feel like the industry in itself is really starting to embrace technology as an enhancement to what is already being done, where I felt like in 2009 it was more of a hindrance and it caused a lot of disruption. Now, I feel like everyone is embracing it and is looking forward to what the next big technological advancements will be. I like that and I think people are starting to want what is new, and it wasn’t like that in 2009. It’s hard for me to say, because I feel like everything is such a natural progression that the industry itself is changing in ways and always trying to look for ways to enhance what they do, it’s buzzwords of the times. Engagement is a buzzword, it used to be gamification. There will be something next year that will take over, but everyone strives to achieve and put on the best event that they can and really have people get something out of it whether it’s an expo or whether it’s education.
How do you measure your trade show success?
By the usage of our technology. What I mean by that is that what we have seen is more and more people embracing the technology, understanding that it can really enhance what you are doing whether that’s the user, the organizer or the exhibitor. All of those stakeholders have started to embrace technology and so we measure it based on usage because I always say “if a hundred thousand people download your app, but don’t use it, it wasn’t very successful.” So for us, we look at a measurement of usage to be successful. We know that today when we see that usage, that it tells us people are engaging and are getting something out of it, so there is a return on event rather than return on investment because that is hard to say with a user community. We like to see that return on event because now we know people are engaging and clearly there are transactions going on amongst the stakeholders and that translates into return on events.
Do you have anything that is new or up and coming?
We always have new things that we are working on and some things are NDA- because we want to be first to market with them, but I will say we just made an announcement with our AstraZeneca conference notes acquisition and the conference notes education platform is one that will get rolled out at the beginning of the new year and the amount of interest we have gotten from the press release announcement on that particular product has been tremendous. It is a second screen sharing technology and we really see it as being something that not only enhances the events with complex content like medical shows, higher education or life science, but we are getting calls from our clients and perspective clients that are in the construction, entertainment and food industries- all of these others that have an educational portion to their event, or even if their event is focused on education that want to use our product and see it as a great benefit to the education sessions.
Do you participate in any of the educational sessions? Do you find them helpful?
We always encourage all of our staff to attend the event industry chapter meetings, I try to bring a big continent out to Expo Expo and PCMA and we attend the education sessions there as much as we can because there is always something new to learn. I participate as a speaker in many cases for a lot of those different associations when I can jump in, I like to do that. The technology type sessions and sponsorship selling sessions always intrigue me because I feel like there is so much opportunity there that gets passed over by many of the events that have the opportunity. There are people out there that want to sponsor, but just don’t know how to get in touch or what to do. There has to be ways to reach out to those people. Our company is very involved and I make it known to our client base that we try to be involved in the events industry and we try to participate in any ways, it is encouraged here.
Are you involved in any type of charity projects or ways that trade shows give back to communities? Have you been in involved in any of those things recently?
What we try to do is a bunch of different things. One of the things we do from our side is we work with the UNLB, Kendall College and other universities around that have curriculums for the industry and we provide our software to them at no charge so that they can use it for their class projects because this is something that they are going to be using later on. We go in from time to time and guest speak and talk about the industry and the vendor side of the industry. Many know about the organizer side or meeting side, but not the vendor side. When different chapters like PCMA come to us about participating in different charity events or things to promote the industry, we always participate. IMEX has a little program that we participated in for the last two or three years. One year they had us stand up there with all of the college professors that brought students to IMEX and we addressed to them all of the ways that we could help them and work with their college. Later on, they divided the students into groups and they came by our booth and they spent ten or fifteen minutes with us as we explained what we do and how we function within the industry and how we look at the market. One of our top sales reps was a UNLB student who went there and participated in a bunch of activates and came to us after graduation. She comes to IMEX every year and talks about her transition to the working world. We tend to forget what it’s like for college students who are trying to go to classes and achieve and are not so sure what direction they want to go in. A lot of them go into a curriculum and it ends up not being what they were expecting. We get to come in and offer an alternative. When we address a group, I’m going to hit home with ten percent of them who thinks they want to move into our industry. I always get emails from students I met at IMEX who have graduated and I have brought many onboard.
What is your favorite thing about the industry?
My favorite thing about the industry is that everyone feels as this is a family type of industry. It’s one where networking is so important and it’s really all about getting to know more and more people and as you get to know those people you get to learn more and more to help you in your career. In this industry today we have many competitors and many partners. This is the only industry I have ever been a part of where our competitors are also our partners. We get to work with people who we compete against and in other cases we are partners with and we need to make a solution work for the customer at the end of the day. Most of them are really good about joining hands together with you even though the next event you might compete against each other. That to me is something I’ve never seen before and is one of my favorite things about this industry. When we see each other, it’s okay to have dinner or drinks with that person. We all know about each other and see each other at these networking events and we all have a good respect for one another. That to me is a dynamic that I have never seen before.