The Annual Global IIBN Conference has become, in just 4 years, the premier date in the Irish International Business Networking calendar. Having previously taken place in Dublin and London, 2014 marks the first occasion of it taking place in New York. It is a most fitting setting for the event, in a city with such a strong link with all things Irish. Integral to this process is well known Irish American and event management dynamo Mary Ann Pierce. With roots in Mullagh, Co. Cavan (the same place that has given us actor Brían F. O'Byrne, gifted linguist and writer Charlotte Brooke and Irish poet and academic Agnes O’Farrelly) Pierce has built a pioneering event management company after a successful career in arts and theater production. Get your tickets here.
What kind of changes did the company/product go through in early stages?
MAP Digital has fused the Internet to events for over fifteen years. In the late 90’s we installed Internet circuits at major event venues in New York City for meetings, tradeshows and conferences. We were pioneers in live Webcasting and building presentation networks. Early in 2002, a financial services client requested that we develop software to help them manage their Investment Banking conferences. We told them: “We are not a software company.” They responded: “You are now.” That’s when MetaMeetings, our integrated software platform was born. MetaMeetings is ONE platform that manages events logistics, content management, distribution and optimization, interactivity, and creates customized reports that reveal strategic insights base on live and web attendees’ usage. Really, we co-created MetaMeetings with our clients. For certain global clients, MetaMeetings provides a single portal where their events are built, interactive conference Websites with live Webcasting are hosted, and real-time reports of attendee’s usage are pushed into their sales and marketing databases to identify strategic advantages and sometimes revenue opportunities.
Do you have investors? Are you looking for further investment?
MAP Digital is self-funded. MetaMeetings 2.0, will be released in 2nd Qtr. 2015. It is scalable and will sits within an enterprise. We have attached a number of investors and VCs who are betting, as we are, that there will be an exponential demand for scalable digital platforms managing content, apps, Webcasts, iBeacons, etc. in the event space. In 2012, the direct spend for events in the US was $280B* and 80% of the 1.3M B-to-B events were using some form of web software. We believe that here is a huge, untapped market about to get really digital. (*Commissioned by the Convention Industry Council and Research by PwC)
What kind of growth has your company experienced?
We have grown organically and vertically with our clients. Many times our first job with a new company is a live CEO Webcast to their worldwide network. We have a conversation about content management and optimization, interactivity and reports, and then start producing the digital aspects of their internal and external events.
How many customers do you have now?
We do B-to-B events and have 10 key clients. In 2015 we will be producing the digital aspects for about 200 worldwide events with our MetaMeetings 2.0 software – even producing live Webcasts remotely in Europe and Asia.
What was it like to break into your industry?
I was invited to a party for the first NYC Internet Service Provider in the late 90’s by artist friends who were deeply involved with the Internet. I was producing theater and corporate events at the time. A representative from what is now Verizon asked me “Why would Intel want to install a T1 circuit for only two weeks at Radio City Music Hall, when we sell seven-year contracts.” I responded: “For an event?” I was practicality hired on the spot to figure out how to sell more Internet circuits at event venues and build the onsite networking business. I literally fell down an IT rabbit-hole and was very confused for about six months. Then I demanded that the engineers draw me pictures, instead of spewing technical mumbo jumbo. I soon got it, and began to see how I could distribute content: Speaker Presentations via onsite networks and out on the Internet via Webcasting. I was hooked.
How many employees do you have now?
We have twelve full-time employees: project managers, Ruby on Rails programmers and network engineers, along with twenty, cross-trained part-time employees who produce the onsite digital aspects of our large events.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far? The greatest victory?
My biggest challenge has been building a talented, inter-connected and committed team…and that has been my greatest victory, in addition to global contracts.
What's been the most important lesson?
Be proactive with your clients. Put yourself in their position and imagine what would make them more successful. Think big, but break down the message to address the individual’s needs and understand how they measure success.
What advice do you have for other people/companies starting out in your industry?
Strive to make the digital experience effortless and intuitive. It is a tool for people to use to shape their event experience and to connect. Collect all data. We have been startled by the insights we have discovered by sifting through the data.
Who are your customers?
MAP Digital: MetaMeetings specialized in investment banking conferences, along with marketing and communications, research and advisory, technology and media companies’ events.
Tell us a little about the challenges facing your development in a pretty crowded space. How do you distinguish yourself and consistently win business?
We are not in a crowded space. There are very few integrated event management software platforms that perform at the depths of the MetaMeetings platform. Our challenge is to encourage and convince clients to think strategically about integrating more digital elements into their event marketing strategies. Live=digital. Without digital, they are leaving a lot on the table.