Voice of the industry: Jonathan Toomey, NAB

By in Blog
On July 30, 2020


For many media tech companies, landing a coveted speaking slot at the NAB Show is a major coup. It’s a chance for a company’s speaker to get in front of media tech buyers from more than 160 countries, alongside some of the industry’s most highly regarded pioneers and inspiring visionaries.

But what does it take to be selected as a speaker? And if you’re lucky enough to be chosen, how can you make the most of the opportunity? We asked Jonathan Toomey, vice president of content development at NAB, these very questions – as well as quizzing him on how things have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and what NAB is doing to help improve diversity in the media tech industry.

Read on to learn the secrets to a successful speaking submission. And if you make it to the end, you’ll discover what might just help you sweeten the deal…

Can you tell us a bit about your role at NAB?

“In my role as VP of content development, I’m responsible for the strategic design, development and execution of all of NAB Show’s conference education and digital content for our convention and business development programs. This spans our Vegas and New York offerings, as well as some of our recent efforts such as NAB Show Express.”

What’s the best way for companies to go about securing a coveted speaking slot at NAB?

“There are three main avenues here: you can submit via our general call for speakers, you can work with one of our third-party education partners, or you can submit directly to our education team. That said, we discourage the third option only because it can be hard to keep track of all the emails.”

What kind of proposals get your attention?

“Be different! Be unique! In all frankness, in recent years, we’ve used fewer and fewer ‘call for speakers’ submissions and instead opted to have more direct and curated conversations with the speakers and partners we want to work with. So with that in mind, the sessions that we do select from the general call have to really *pop*. As an example, we expect to get multiple submissions for the 2021 Vegas show on the topic of production in the time of COVID-19 – what’s changed, etc. Obviously a super-hot topic, massively relevant to our industry, and everyone wants to hear about it. But that session is also a dime a dozen right now. We’ll be on the lookout for those presenting this topic with a unique angle, take or perspective.”

Which business or technology trends/topics are you most interested in hearing about?

“As you’d expect, virtual production and post are huge right now. We’re also still paying a lot of attention to broadcast, 5G, esports, live events and streaming.”

Which kinds of speakers are you particularly interested in hearing from?

“We love to hear from new speakers. Injecting new blood and new perspectives is vital. We also want to hear from folks with real-world case studies and success stories. Content that gives an attendee actionable insights that they can take back to their office is important.”

If a speaker manages to land a speaking slot, what can they do to make sure their session is a success? Are there any common pitfalls they should avoid?

“We’re actually in the midst of launching what we’re calling our Speaker Care program, which will be strictly focused on improving the speaker experience from the moment they are selected to the moment they take the stage to present. Newsletters, speaker briefings, trainings, etc. are all on deck to help guarantee that all our speakers are ready when they come to present and they feel confident that they’re putting their best foot forward.”

COVID-19 forced this year’s NAB Show and NAB Show New York to go virtual. How did NAB Show Express go? Can you share any plans for the online version of NAB Show New York yet?

“NAB Show Express exceeded all our expectations. From the moment we cooked up our plans to the launch of the event, it was two months to the day. We’re super proud of how the NAB Show community rallied to help us pull together more than 200+ sessions in such a short period of time and we’re humbled by the global community that joined us online for two days of learning, sharing and networking.

“As for our New York program, it will indeed be a virtual offering and we’re taking everything we learned from Express – what worked, what didn’t, where can we improve – to make sure our customers, partners, attendees, members, exhibitors and sponsors are really WOW’d this Fall.”

Before the pandemic, what were the biggest technology and business trends in the industry? And how has that changed now?

“The trends haven’t changed – what was hot six months ago is still hot (well, maybe not autonomous vehicles since none of us are driving as much!). What’s changed is how the job gets done. The product is the same, but the process has been turned upside down. We’re really excited to see our communities – Hollywood, stations, studios, post houses, etc. – begin to reopen and follow them on their journeys to reinvent how they do business in this new world.”

What can the industry do to improve diversity? Is NAB involved in any initiatives around this?

“NAB Show made a really concerted effort to improve our ethnic and gender diversity metrics for the 2020 show in Las Vegas. Had the actual program happened, we were on pace to smash our 2019 numbers, which was really exciting. Some of it is easy—like setting simple rules that no all-male panels will be allowed—and some of it takes some more digging and exploration like finding new partners and diverse associations to work with. It’s something we’re committed to, though, and that won’t change even as things shift to virtual events for the foreseeable future.”

What’s your favorite film/series/podcast you’ve seen/listened to recently?

“I finished Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill podcast a few weeks ago. Riveting stuff and, obviously, true. The book is next on my list.”

What do you do to relax?

“I run like crazy. Heading out for one after I finish these questions ;-)”

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

“I eat raspberries like it’s my job. Seriously, I’m actually terrified to add up how much I spend on raspberries in a given month!”

So, there you have it. Be sure to follow Jonathan’s advice to give your speaker the best chance of securing a speaking slot at NAB. And if you want to send him a punnet of raspberries, it certainly won’t hurt your chances 😉

If you need help positioning your executives as industry thought leaders, please contact Kim Willsher at (+1) 310 776 3760 or kimw@rlyl.com.

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