April 26, 2022
Adapting to the New Digital Landscape with Ben Chodor
Episode 184 of The Innovation Engine podcast.
The pandemic forced a lot of innovation on corporations but didn’t give us much time to carefully consider how to best implement those changes. Now that it feels like we can take a step back, what can we do to utilize the recent digital transformations to their fullest potential?
Ben Chodor is the president of Notified and host of the Insights with Ben Chodor podcast. He’s been guiding corporations as they adapt to the rapidly accelerating digital landscape forced onto them by the pandemic. He promotes how organizations can create engaging online experiences as the co-author of “Transitioning to Virtual and Hybrid Events.” And that’s our topic for the day; how companies can make the most of their forced innovations before higher expectations become the norm. Tune in or read the transcript found below the audio player.
- Closing the education gap in order to promote digital acceleration
- How the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation
- Combating content fatigue
- What the metaverse looks like beyond the hype
Listen To The Episode
ABOUT THE INNOVATION ENGINE
Since 2014, 3Pillar has published The Innovation Engine, a podcast that sees a wide range of innovation experts come on to discuss topics that include technology, leadership, and company culture. You can download and subscribe to The Innovation Engine on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, and SoundCloud to listen online, via Android or iOS, or on any device supporting a mobile browser. You can download The Innovation Engine’s dedicated iOS app from the Apple Podcasts App store, and you can subscribe to receive new episodes in your inbox each time one is published.
Jennifer Ives: [0:00:07] Hello and welcome to the Innovation Engine Podcast. Today. I’m joined by friend and colleague, Chris Hansen, 3 Pillar’s Senior Vice President of Communications, Media and Technology Portfolio. And today we’re excited to welcome Ben Chodor, President of Notified.
[0:00:21] In addition to leading Notified, he also offers up his lessons learned as the host of the Insights with Ben Chodor Podcast. Ben has been guiding corporations through the pandemic and promoting engaging online experiences as co-author of Transitioning to Virtual and Hybrid Events. So, let’s get started.
[0:00:41] So Ben, it’s so wonderful to have you with us today. Listen, let’s just kick it off with the first question. I want to get right into it. With the rapid development of products in the digital world, has there ever been an education gap that you needed to kind of overcome in order to promote idea of digital acceleration?
Ben Chodor: [0:00:59] Yeah, I think every step of my career, there’s always been a technology education gap. And I could go back to when I co-founded and was CEO of Happtique, which was the first digital health app company, right? Basically we worked with healthcare organizations, so doctors who can not only prescribe medicine, but “Hey, if you have high cholesterol or you have diabetes, why wouldn’t I also prescribe you an app?”, but there was this whole technology hurdle because it was brand new in this space.
[0:01:35] So, learning what doctors wanted, what healthcare professionals wanted, what patients and how to combine it, and then also how do you approve, how do you decide if you go to the Apple Store right now, there’s probably 600 glucose monitoring apps, how do you decide which one is approved? Which one is safe? Which one are you going to do? What the American Dental Association did for toothpaste, not saying Colgate’s better it Crest, just saying that they’re both safe for you.
[0:02:08] So, this whole technology education on what is safe and how to use technology was huge for me when I joined or when I started Happtique working in digital health field, right? So, that’s one. And when I took over — when we did the acquisition of NASDAQ from their PRIR and streaming business, while I have a big experience in streaming, I’ve been in digital media my whole career, but the PR industry was kind of new to me. So, how do I get to learn and understand how do you deliver a press release? How do you monitor a press release? What is the power of SEO when you send a press release? Why do organizations…
[0:02:53] So, almost everywhere I’ve gone, it’s always been a learning experience, not only the industry, but even more importantly, how do you see technology differs from business to business, from case study to case study?
Chris Hansen: [0:03:07] Ben, question, digital health, you mentioned PR. I know that there’s some connection to the events industry. All of those particular industries are fairly disruptive and have been disrupted by the pandemic. What have you seen in terms of digital acceleration strategies because of the pandemic from your experience at [indiscernible 0:03:29].
Ben Chodor: [0:03:31] Listen, pre-COVID, we were – at Notified – the world’s largest virtual event and enterprise streaming company, like bar none, you know. 1500 employees, 17 countries. You know, we do a hundred thousand broadcasts a year. You know, 27 million people attend our programs. But we finally … during COVID, you cross the chasm.
[0:03:56] I mean, it isn’t a nice-to-have or maybe I’m going to do a pushed video to the front. There was thousands of CEOs pre-COVID who never wanted to do video. You know, a town hall was an audio call or just physically with people in the room. COVID forced you to be … get comfortable with video. And to me that’s the best part, right? Because listen, not only what I can say in a minute video is like a page and a half-two pages, typewritten. Not only when I do a video, you can see my eyes, and you can see my flexions, and you can see my body language. So, when I want to give you information, that’s positive, you can see my passion. When I want to give you information that might not be so positive, you can tell in my eyes if I’m being sincere. You cross the chasm.
[0:04:43] And the best part for me, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle bottle, right? So, going forward, video is going to be a huge component to every enterprise no matter where you’re located in the world. We all want to get back to physical meetings. So, I’m not saying video is the only thing you’re going to do, you’re not going to get together, but you’re not, not going to use video. I think there’s going to be a trend in IR where every publicly-traded company has to do an earnings audio stream with their earnings release four times a year. My prediction over the next two or three years, they’re going to turn to video. So, when you having a good quarter, I can see the CEO pound his chest. And when it’s not such a good quarter, I could say he has it under control.
[0:05:27]ESG is big. So what’s the best way to communicate with millennial [indiscernible 0:05:32, you’re going to do video, right? And then, if you go to PR or any industry you want, you’re going in and embrace video going forward. And that gets me really excited.
Jennifer Ives: [0:05:48] There’s a quote from your book that we find interesting. And you said people, “Don’t have Zoom fatigue, they have content fatigue.” And so, what does that mean to you and how will understanding this save online meetings?
Ben Chodor: [0:05:59] So, I think it’s pretty simple. Content content, content, content, content, it is the story as old as time, right? You need good content. You don’t make me spend four hours online with 30 boxes of people and someone giving a didactic presentation. I mean, my message to the world, and to executives, and to communication officers, chief marketing officers, time to step up your production game, right? Your content game better get brought to the next level. It’s not just about turning on the camera or turning on the microphone and delivering. It is about creating broadcast quality content. And broadcast poly content doesn’t mean you have to use expensive cameras and expensive microphone. Broadcast quality content is don’t get … you’re not going to get away with boring mundane content going forward. So, step it up.
Chris Hansen: [0:07:00] Ben, it’s something you’ve said a few times now, and I think that that mantra that you’ve had about content has really resonated with me. And I’ve been on enough virtual events, and then also gone back to some physical events where I’ve seen, at least, an attempt to try and do that. I’m just wondering, are there certain digital products you’ve seen that you think can either replicate that sort of human experience or do you just think there’s still a need … digital can’t replace that human interaction?
Ben Chodor: [0:07:33] All right. First, we have to understand it’s two audiences. So, anyone who tries to say that the virtual audience and the physical audience is the same audience is wrong. You know, it’s faces in two places but not faces in two places experiencing the same thing. So, one, you’re never going to have the same engagement that you do at a physical event where, “Hey, Chris, if you and I aren’t liking the session, you, me and Jennifer can go leave a session and go grab a drink and have our own meeting.” I can have a true random encounter. I can see an old friend. And if all the content at the conference is bad, I’m not hopping on a plane and leaving. I’m going to go do something else with you or I’m going to go up into my room and do work.
[0:08:16] The virtual world adds an element of complexity. If you don’t have good content, I am one click away of never coming back. Not leaving a session, never coming back. Plus, a random encounter of you and I doing a video chat with each other is not the same with you and I grabbing a drink together and, you know, shaking hands. And it’s just not the same. It’s great but it’s not the same.
[0:08:38] So, you have to look at them as two different audiences. You’ve got to create your content as if it’s two audiences. And what I mean by that is like, you can’t throw a camera in the back of a ballroom and turn it on and expect the audience at home to have the same experience as the audience there. You’ve got to create content knowing that audience. You’ve got to create engagement knowing that audience.
[0:08:57] And it’s okay if the audience at home has a different experience than the audience there, but don’t shortchange either audience. And so, I’m seeing the trend as going … I love the term hybrid, but what I don’t like about the word term hybrid, people truly think hybrid means same experience virtually as physical. No.
[0:09:18] Again, when I said you got to up your content game, well, guess what? You got it now. Think about when I’m creating a physical event that I’m going to use elements with for a virtual audience, it’s two different programs. Like when you watch the Grammy’s on television, it’s not like physically being there. But if virtually, when I’m attending the Grammy’s, and a lot of people have done this in the past, I can go backstage, virtually. I can see that little mini press conference afterwards. I can get at any angle I want of the show. That is giving me a special experience as the virtual audience. and it’s respecting me as a virtual audience. And if I want to sit back and voyeur, I can voyeur. But allow me to opportunity to engage in my way, but it’s a different engagement.
Jennifer Ives: [0:10:04] Speaking of a different engagement with the introduction of the metaverse right, that came with it an entirely different world of digital media to influence, from a business-to-business perspective, are there products or digital products that you believe will have an advantage in this kind of a virtual market?
Ben Chodor: [0:10:21] Okay. So, I mean, I have lots of opinions on, on metaverse, and we could speak-
Jennifer Ives: [0:10:25] Good. Share [indiscernible 0:10:26].
Ben Chodor: [0:10:27] I could spend a hundred hours talking about metaverse. First of all, so far, everything you see about metaverse is like second life seven years ago. I am not putting … you guys aren’t seeing me but I have a pair of Oculus in my hand, right? And I’m not going to put on an Oculus or Google Cardboard and spend eight hours in a virtual event. And going back to it, I don’t need to put on my Oculus to have a one-on-one animated chat with you, Jennifer. I mean …
[0:10:58] But where it’s really powerful is if a session during your virtual program or even your physical program where, let’s say, it was healthcare and its mode of action, right, and you want to see how a pill is going to go through someone’s body, nothing’s better than the Oculus, right, or a device, or a metaverse. Or if I want to see … if it’s a car show and I want to be able to see the motor, and how it runs, and get inside it, greatest tool in the world but it’s not 24/7 or eight hours. It is for pieces of a program.
[0:11:34] If I want to see how a product works, it’s great. I’m also a huge fan of like augmented reality for elements but not for the whole show. And people think like who … who … and I don’t even know any millennials or Zs who want to put on pair of Oculus all day. So, I think metaverse is just a really good term for us, like how are we going to up the game of the virtual world, and make it more engaging, and give you more tools. I love it for that. I don’t need to watch a general session with a pair of Oculus on, so I can turn around and see some animated or even physical video of, you know, the audience behind me. I think it’s a waste, and it’s an overkill and you’re going to get really bored of it. My opinion.
Chris Hansen: [0:12:18] Sorry, I’m scratching off my request to marketing for Oculus for the next podcast episode.
Ben Chodor: [0:12:24] Oh. But come on, dad would be compelling. I mean, the three of us, you know, we get-
Chris Hansen: [0:12:30] I’ve used my son’s Oculus twice and I’m like, “That … you know what? I’m too old for that.”
Ben Chodor: [0:12:37] Chris, did you get a little dizzy?
Chris Hansen: [0:12:40] Oh, absolutely. It’s totally not for me. I mean, I do absolutely feel my age when I put one of those on.
Ben Chodor: [0:12:49] I’m telling you, Chris, any … if you … the greatest video in the world, it’s not … the greatest TikToks in the world would be someone holding up their iPhone taking video of anyone over 40 playing a fighting game using an Oculus because it’s the most ridiculous looking thing.
Chris Hansen: [0:13:10] It’s sort of like those TikToks where they take a millennial or like a Gen-Z, and they give them a rotary phone. It’s sort of I’m the opposite of that. I’m like, you give me an Oculus and I’m lost. But, yeah, we should do that. We should absolutely do that TikTok.
Ben Chodor: [0:13:24] I’m with you You, me and Jennifer, we’re in.
Jennifer Ives: [0:13:27] Exactly. Well, speaking of technology, we’re heading to our speed round. And Ben, we always like to ask these same questions of each of our guests. So, here we go. It’s the first thing that comes to your mind. What’s your favorite piece of technology?
Ben Chodor: [0:13:41] It was an iPod. Now, it’s the iPhone.
Jennifer Ives: [0:13:43] Oh, what made the change?
Ben Chodor: [0:13:45] Well, because now my iPhone is my iPod, so.
Jennifer Ives: [0:13:47] May I ask, just like, when did it make the change? [crosstalk 0:13:50] the moment.
Ben Chodor: [0:13:53] The moment Spotify came out.
Jennifer Ives: [0:13:56] Okay.
Ben Chodor: [0:13:56] I would say it changed the world because I love music, I exercise a lot and be able to have my songs on my iPod … iPhone. It just changed everything. iPod changed the world for me because I could have 10,000 songs with me wherever I go. And I travel all the time. And when you’re on a plane pre, you know, internet on a plane, it was a lifesaver. You could have a book on tape, you could have any … it just … it changed my life.
Chris Hansen: [0:14:26] I… I … you know what? I always follow trends based upon the New York city subways and what people are using or wearing. And I remember the time where, all of a sudden, you’d see all the white headphones like in the mid-aughts and, you know, that’s the time I should’ve probably put in whatever money I had and saved it.
Ben Chodor: [0:14:45] Oh, my god. Chris, you brought me back ‘cause that’s how I judge. I thought I was the coolest guy ‘cause I had my white on and not a lot of people do. And then, you saw them go from having those over-the-head airpieces to as soon as they had a lot of white ones ‘cause we all moved from our Blackberries, which, at the time, I thought was a greatest device ever to this. And I just … Steve Jobs, thank you. You changed my entire life.
Chris Hansen: [0:15:10] So we’re going from cool tech now to old tech. What was your first interaction with a technology that you remember mid…
Ben Chodor: [0:15:18] It must have been my first Atari.
Chris Hansen: [0:15:22] Yeah.
Ben Chodor: [0:15:23] So, I … originally, I was going to say to you, it was like my first compact computer that was monochrome and you couldn’t do anything in it, but I was thinking about this question and I go, you know what, playing pong with my … me and my older brother don’t really get along really well, but when we got our first Atari, how many hours … pong. You would sit there, greatest thing in the world. Think about it, pong, all you’re doing is moving the cursor up and down. My first time I looked at technology, I go, “The world’s never going back.”
Chris Hansen: [0:15:54] I could not agree with you more. I have a vivid memory of the first time I ever played Pong. I have a vivid memory of buying my first Atari 2600.
Ben Chodor: [0:16:04] Yeah.
Chris Hansen: [0:16:04] I remember the smell of the cartridges. It was … it was a glorious time.
Jennifer Ives: [0:16:10] So, Chris, you may answer the question in a similar way. I’d probably … I agree with you in terms of Pong. That was a … it was a good game. It still is. It holds up.
Chris Hansen: [0:16:19] It has.
Jennifer Ives: [0:16:21] Even with the metaverse I got to tell you, Pong hold up-
Ben Chodor: [0:16:23] Hope that it’s back. People are buying old Ataris.
Jennifer Ives: [0:16:25] Yeah.
Ben Chodor: [0:16:26] It’s sort of like I told you that iPod changed my life, but at the same point, it made me give up my stereo, right? And now, I want to … I want a stereo and I want vinyl again. Not … not giving up my music on online, right, but I have this nostalgia thing that I want some vinyl.
Jennifer Ives: [0:16:46] Yeah, yeah. I have teenagers and they … they … they only buy vinyl. Really. They have their … their … their music on their … on their smart devices. And then, they also … if they’re going to buy anything, they … we’ve got a stereo in the [crosstalk 0:16:58].
Ben Chodor: [0:16:58] On their vinyl, are they doing it through a Sonos where you’re listening or some wireless, you know, speaker but they’re not doing it from like a wired speaker, right?
Jennifer Ives: [0:17:08] They … they had done that. They just moved over to the Sonos speakers. So funny that you mentioned the Sonos speaker. They had done that for a couple of years.
Ben Chodor: [0:17:16] I love that. You have cool kids, man.
Jennifer Ives: [0:17:18] Yeah, I do. I do. So, talking about iPhones, what’s your most used app on your … on your smart device, on your iPhone, other than Slack and-
Ben Chodor: [0:17:27] Yeah. Outside of work stuff?
Jennifer Ives: [0:17:30] Yeah, outside of work.
Chris Hansen: [0:17:30] Spotify.
Jennifer Ives: [0:17:30] Spotify.
Ben Chodor: [0:17:32] It is. I mean, again, you can use any device. I just love Spotify.
Chris Hansen: [0:17:36] I had a feeling that was gonna be your answer just based on the conversation. And I couldn’t … couldn’t agree more. It’s probably the most used app on my phone. What’s funny is having an iPhone for, now, I don’t know a decade plus, I probably have five apps that I use, and probably 200 apps on my phone that I’ve never touched in 10 years. So, I think I have to do that cleanup. There’s … there’s really only a few that are useful that after the podcast-
Ben Chodor: [0:18:02] Chris, I think I’m still paying for apps that are on my iPhone that I don’t use ‘cause my wife, every couple of months goes, “What are all these charges on, you know, an apple on our Amex?” And I … you just scratch your head and go, “I don’t know the last time I used that app.”
Chris Hansen: [0:18:17] I saw that on social media, I don’t know if it’s LinkedIn or Facebook, God forbid, I say TikTok, but it was a … it was somebody saying like the random “I get charged $2.99, $4.99 and $6.99 every single month from Apple, and I have no idea what it’s for,” which … which proves that Apple has gone from being a hardware company and a software company to a subscriptions company.
Ben Chodor: [0:18:37] Absolutely.
Chris Hansen: [0:18:40] So, Ben, in terms of … a lot of great advice here. As I said, you and I have talked before, and I think you’re a chock full of amazing advice just in our conversations. And I wonder, like, what is the one piece of advice that you’ve leveraged at your career that might be helpful for someone else listening to the podcast?
Ben Chodor: [0:18:58] Don’t be a name on a spreadsheet. You know, don’t just … I mean, life is too short just to go through the motions. I mean … so, I … I’m the final interview for everyone in my company, and I don’t know, I did 300 interviews in the last year, and I give people like three pieces of advice.
[0:19:15] One, work really hard. You can’t fake it. The Malcolm Gladwell 10,000-hour rule really works. You need to be lucky also, but it works to really learn your business. But the most important one is if you see something, say something. You have an idea, share the idea. The worst idea … worst thing anyone’s ever going to say is, “Hey, we’re not going to do it for this reason,” but your name now will be off a spreadsheet. Your name will be in my mind in my organization.
[0:19:41] And my advice to my kids because I have a 27-year-old boy and girl twins, my … my advice always to them is like don’t be a name on a spreadsheet, share your ideas, come up with ideas, be bold. And I think that’s like … it’s like wisdom to learn … to live by because at the end of our career, if you sit there and go, “I never did anything. I never challenged myself. I never tried anything. I was just straight and narrow business-wise the whole way,” it’s kind of sad.
Jennifer Ives: [0:20:11] That’s great advice. That’s great advice. Ben, it’s been such an honor, having you, having you share your thoughts with us today. And I’m really enjoying your new book, the Transitioning to Virtual and Hybrid Events: How to Create, Adapt, and Market an Engaging Online Experience. So, kudos to you for taking all of that knowledge, and putting it into a book, and sharing it with the world. Thank you so much. And thank you for joining us on The Innovation Engine today.
Ben Chodor: [0:20:37] Oh, thank you, Jennifer and Chris. I appreciate it. It was fun.
Chris Hansen: [0:20:40] Always good talking to you, Ben. Thanks.
Jennifer Ives: [0:20:45] This has been an episode of The Innovation Engine, a podcast from 3Pillar Global. If you have questions, comments, or guest suggestions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.