Reading time ( words)
If you haven’t been to Geek-A-Palooza yet, you may just get a chance, because the social networking event could be coming to your city in the near future. I met with founder Tara Dunn following the most recent Boston event, to learn more about Geek-A-Palooza and why the laid back atmosphere is beneficial for both the sponsors and the attendees.
Barry Matties: Let's just start with some context about what Geek-A-Palooza is.
Tara Dunn: Geek-A-Palooza is a social networking event for the electronics industry, with the intention of pulling together all aspects of the industry into one location. So everybody can talk, get to know each other, and interact face to face instead of behind our computers, as we normally do.
Matties: How long have you been doing this?
Dunn: This will be our fourth year.
Matties: And this was the first year you've been in multiple cities—you've always been up in Minneapolis. I was just at your Boston event. How did it go from your perspective?
Dunn: We were co-located with EDI CON in Boston, and I thought it went really well. For our first event there we had about 150 attendees, and I think that's great. Everybody had a good time and it was a good complement to the end of a trade show—to come together and have a little bit of entertainment and some socialization.
Matties: Aside from the socializing, it's also a business event. People want to come to conduct business. We know that networking and socializing is part of that, but what are the exhibitors and sponsors talking about?
Dunn: What the sponsors like is that in a very short period of time they have the ability to talk to many different customers or potential customers in a relaxed environment. Instead of going out and making 10 customer calls, you're actually talking to those same ten people within an hour, but you're also doing it in a more personalized way. Instead of being in a conference room you're at a social event, or a party if you will.
Matties: One thing I noticed about the event is that it is three hours long. Do your sponsors think that's long enough? The reason I ask that is, if I'm at a social, relaxed event and I'm trying to talk to ten people in three hours, that’s compressing a lot into a short span. You're drinking, you're a little more relaxed, and playing some of the games. Are you looking at maybe extending the hours in the future?
Dunn: Yes, we continue to keep trying to experiment with that and improve on the event. We have done it for three hours and we have done it for four hours.
Matties: I thought perhaps the sponsors would maybe want more time, because you're right, once the room got busy and the games were being played, there was a lot to see because you had something like 20 tabletop sponsors, which is fantastic. In terms of repeat sponsors, you've had sponsors from the first event still sponsoring?
Dunn: We have several, yes, and some of those that started with us on day one expanded with us. We went out to California earlier this year and to Boston, and they're still with us.
Matties: Well that's the testament of quality of what's going on at the event. What's nice is that it's not your typical event—it's something that feels different and it’s positioned differently. What are the expectations of the visitors?
Dunn: As an attendee, a lot of the feedback that we've gotten is similar to what I've just described with the sponsors, but from the other side. They can see several of their suppliers in one location, instead of having to set up different meetings with everybody. They get to meet new people as well and see what's new in the market and what some of those sponsors have for new technology or new programs that they might not have heard about yet.
Matties: I know in talking to some of the sponsors in Boston that they were quite happy. Sales were made. Connections were made. From your point of view, what's the greatest challenge of putting on an event like this?
Dunn: The greatest challenge is spreading the word out to potential attendees. There are just so many people to reach in the electronics industry; how do you get that information in front of them?
Matties: When people first hear about Geek-A-Palooza, why do they show up the first time?
Dunn: When people see the name, Geek-A-Palooza, it stops them. You're scrolling through an e-mail and you see an e-mail blast that's inviting you to Geek-A-Palooza. You say, “What is that?” Then when you open it up, we really try to convey the message of having fun while you're doing business.
Matties: On the fun side, I know you have several activities, games and such. You also have a bar for the pub crawl. What else?
Dunn: We always have cocktails available. We have food and higher-end hors d’oeurves that we pass around. Then we play games, and we have experimented with a lot of different games. The most popular game is the ring toss, and I'm sure it will continue to be. We have done trivia, and we have had a very competitive basketball game where players shoot at the hoop on a timer. Anything that seems to have a little element of competition to it but is not too complicated seems to be fun.
Matties: When and where is the next event?
Dunn: Our next event is back in Minneapolis on Thursday, October 13. It’s a standalone event and it begins at 4:00 pm. It will be our last event of 2016. In the coming weeks we’ll be finalizing the scheduling for next year’s events.
Matties: How do you choose the event locations?
Dunn: Some of it is interest from the event area, suggested by people who want to champion the event and help us bring it to their city. We also just look at growing areas for the electronics industry.
Matties: Well, it looks like a successful event. I think once someone experiences it and they understand it, it's really a lot fun. I enjoyed it. Boston was my second one I’ve attended. I went to the Irvine event last spring, which was your first one in California.
Dunn: It was, and it was our first event outside Minneapolis.
Matties: Thank you so much, Tara, and we're looking forward to seeing you at the next event.