Corporate Event Expert Profile: Nicholas Cottone, Senior Event Marketing Manager, Oracle
The Corporate Event News Event Expert Profile series features interviews with some of the many talented corporate event professionals who make this industry thrive.
Nick Cottone has been involved with events and event marketing for 17 years and is based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (although he will soon be moving to Austin, Texas). His LinkedIn profile describes him as a “conference producer/project manager by day and wedding/special event planner by night,” which immediately piqued my interest.
Danalynne W. Menegus: How did you get into the events industry?
Nick Cottone: When I graduated from college, I had an inkling that I'd like to get into meeting planning, and got the opportunity to go work for an association management company. I started out as a membership services coordinator and they let me assist on one of their smaller conferences (around 400 attendees). I didn’t get a lot of training, but wound up doing most of the work.
DWM: What led you to make the transition into corporate event planning?
NC: I held a few different jobs in the industry. In early 2011 I joined Scriptlogic, which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Quest Software, doing trade show coordination. When Dell acquired Quest (in 2012), I saw the opportunity to get involved with more event planning. I wound up managing the SonicWall (a security brand that was at that time owned by Dell) Peak Performance partner conferences in North America and EMEA.
DWM: How did you end up in your current position at Oracle?
NC: When Dell was looking to buy EMC there was a bit of uncertainty, so I decided to look elsewhere and came across this role at Oracle. I thought it was a local position based on the advertisements but it turned out to be remote, so I work remotely.
Initially I was a senior event manager within a product team focused on one specific product, which is a very different place for an events person to be. Within a year, this organization started merging all of their customer experience cloud products into one large organization. Now I oversee events for three of those product lines and project manage our role within Oracle’s bigger events.
My primary focus is on the customer experience product line messaging and content that plugs into our Modern Customer Experience conference, which was held in April, and Oracle OpenWorld in the fall.
DWM: Managing corporate events is incredibly time-consuming – but you also moonlight as a special event and wedding planner?
NC: It goes along with being a planner: even if you're not hired to do the event, you know you're always seeing things that need to be fixed and just doing it. I do manage events on the side, although I don’t have time to do much of it (but if you need a special event planned anywhere – call me!). I just planned my friend Jayson’s wedding in Phoenix. A lot of what I’m hired for is for friends.
DWM: What do you do to relax – if you have any time to relax?
NC: I live in Florida, about five miles from the beach. I love to get on my bike and head out to the beach and hang out there with friends. I am also at the gym constantly. I'm a Yogi. I love going to yoga classes a couple times a week. I moved here from Chicago, so I really appreciate the warm weather! I’m about to move to Austin and can’t wait for all the outdoor activities there.
DWM: Would you consider yourself an event planner, an event marketer or something else?
NC: At my core, I'm an event planner. I love the area of Oracle that I'm working in because we're focused on the customer experience. In every job I’ve had, I've always focused on providing the best experience for the attendee. I always have the mindset of that person coming up an escalator looking for registration. What questions will they have? What will that experience be like? I guess I could call myself an “experience creator”.
DWM: Is there any specific part of your job that you particularly love?
NC: I love being able to contribute to creating the best event experiences, and making sure they are seamless from the customer’s perspective. Within any company, there are usually various internal groups that participate in any large event. But the customer just sees you as one big organization, and it creates confusion if different groups are having different activities for different customers within the same space.
One thing I miss is overseeing every piece of the entire conference. I love being the executive producer, which comes from working with Dell and SonicWall managing their conference and all the vendors, an agency, and the entire budget that goes into it. Managing the entire event from beginning to end and seeing it come to life is just incredible.
DWM: What have you learned along the way that's made your job easier?
NC: Over-communication makes the job easier. As you know, we're constantly herding cats - people who don't fully comprehend how an event works and every detail that goes into it. They aren’t focused on it all the time, it’s not their job. Understand that people are busy and are focused on getting their own jobs done as a first priority.
Developing relationships with administrative assistants is also helpful – they do so much work, and are typically underappreciated by most people. They deserve some recognition.
DWM: Is there any particular app, program or technology that has been helpful for you?
NC: Microsoft Excel and Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is a huge life saver. I have it on my tablet while I’m onsite, which means I don’t have to carry a notebook. It's amazing. And I love learning more and more about Excel. I know there are a lot of programs out there for events but I feel like the basics are the best.
DWM: What are the biggest challenges you see corporate event professionals facing today?
NC: I think that some of the biggest challenges are around dealing with the shorter and shorter attention spans of attendees. People read less, so show them a video promoting the conference instead of a wordy email. Presentations need to be shorter, too. People walk in and out of breakout sessions constantly just because either they heard what they wanted or they didn't hear what they wanted, so they’re going somewhere else.
I'm also really pushing for the customer experience conference that I work on to move to a different format. The traditional sending people into separate breakout session rooms for a set amount of time and then bringing them back together again, having a separate exhibit hall to visit and then sending them back into rooms again has gotten tired. I’d like to see us creating a huge “experience” space where everything is happening at the same time; there are breakouts, exhibits, sponsors, and meals all in one large room with constant energy.
DWM: Is there any place in the industry that you see disruption happening or an area that you think needs disruption?
NC: Oracle is focused on being as green as possible, and they do a really good job at it. Meetings create so much waste: you always over-order food, we all get these name badges that end up in the garbage….how do we as an industry figure out a way to reuse some of these things? In certain cities you can't even donate the leftover food to the homeless. It’s really sad that we, especially in the United States, waste so much food.
DWM: If you had to pick one - books or movies?
Movies. I’m totally visual. I’ve been pushing for us to get more people/customers onsite on camera saying why they love the conference. People don't want to hear from executives or read my marketing email about how great our conference is. Customers on camera saying why they love it is absolutely the way to go. When I see a long email come through from somebody who's really wordy, I put it aside to read later because it’s going to take me some time. Send it over and three bullet points and let's move on. Right?
[Editor’s Note: I am among the dying breed who prefer the written word – and reading it – above all other forms of communication.]
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