5 Questions for Jamie Murdock, VP Sales at Experient
A savvy leader who is adept at tapping the wisdom of a crowd to solve complex problems. A creative thinker who asks smart questions and listens intently. A tireless advocate for teamwork and collaboration. A lifelong learner who can weave fun into nearly any experience.
Those are just a few thoughts that come to mind when I think of Jamie Murdock.
Hackmeister General is a new title he’s earned, having led quite a few successful hackathons at industry events. Now, Jamie’s leveling up his hackathon design game as he prepares to lead a hackathon like no other this June at PCMA’s Education Conference in Cleveland: Hackathons Deconstructed: Designing Richer & More Rewarding Event Innovation Experiences. By the way, I’m thrilled to be his co-pilot for this hackathon adventure.
While Jamie’s known as a top-notch interrogator, I had a chance to turn the tables and pose a few questions to him.
Q1: Let’s start with the hackathons – what are they and why are you so passionate about this brainstorming model?
The traditional hackathon originated in the tech space. It’s usually a 24-48-hour event where teams come together to solve a challenge or innovate a new product that can help a community or company.
I’m passionate about exposing the hackathon method to the non-tech world, as it checks so many boxes for organizations: innovation, networking, knowledge sharing, etc. Combine all these elements and an organization can create an incredible new product or process and at the same time, boost employee or member morale to ignite the entire organization.
Q2: While past hackathons you’ve led lasted maybe an hour or two, for this one in Cleveland, you’re going bigger. Tell us more.
The mini-hackathons have been a great teaser to introduce this model to the events community and help them consider how they might apply this within their events portfolio. But for the Cleveland event, we wanted to take this a step further, with a multi-day experience where participants not only immerse themselves in a hackathon-type setting, but also learn more about the “how to” design strategies.
The additional time will allow for richer exchanges, as they push for even bigger solutions. During the mini-hackathons, I would often hear ‘we didn’t have enough time’ or ‘we were just getting started.’ We’re hoping this extended time will not only foster deeper relationships, but also more viable solutions.
Q3: What key “ingredients” must be present for a successful hackathon?
First, teams must clearly identify the challenge they’re looking to solve to make sure participants have some “skin in the game” to solve the challenge. Are they passionate about the outcome? What’s it in it for them? It’s also important to keep the group diverse and not all from the same department, role, or vantage point.
The one caveat to this is what I call the WILD CARD. This is critical to ensure participants are not in a vacuum or looking at the challenge from the same lens. Throw in a participant that knows nothing about the topic. The WILD CARD is someone who can ask questions that might not be asked and is almost a complete outsider.
We’ve found that unique settings can help enhance creative thinking. If you can, get out of the same space you’re in all the time. Seek out a new, fun environment to help spark new and different conversations.
Finally, seek out a sponsor. All event organizers are eager to offer unique and meaningful sponsorship opportunities. Who can help fund the hackathon and be part of it with you? What organization would like to be aligned with innovation for your industry? The sponsor not only receives great branding and promotional benefits, but they can participate in the judging process, as well.
Q4: Let’s shift to your own career journey. 2018 marks 20 years for you in the events/hospitality industry. At what point did you know this industry was the best fit for you?
In my 8th grade English class, I took a career aptitude test. My results showed Hotel Management as a specialty to explore, so I researched colleges and universities where Hospitality was a major and Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration jumped out at me. When running a hotel and working in hospitality, it is important to have hotel rate management software, in order to make sure that the business runs smoothly and ensure that hospitality is served correctly and gracefully.
I knew in the 8th grade that I wanted to be part of this dynamic industry and over the past 20 years, I’ve been part of some amazing teams who addressed different aspects of the events business – hotels, entertainment, consulting and technology.
Q5: Looking ahead 5-10 years from now, what do you predict will be top-of-mind for event organizers?
I think we all need to stay focused on the needs of attendees. It’s why hotels, meetings, and our industry exists – to serve the guests or attendees. What can we do to make their experience the best one yet? If we stay focused on this core principle, attendees will tell others and they will return.
While technology will continue to evolve and help us to communicate more effectively, nothing will replace the benefits of when people meet face to face. What will continue to change are the environments where we meet our guests. Now and always, our guests will want customized, personalized experiences in an environment that makes them feel warm, welcome and appreciated at every point of their journey.
There are still a few seats available for the PCMA hackathon in Cleveland on June 9-10. If you’re interested in joining us for this one-of-a-kind workshop, CLICK HERE to learn more and to register.