The Business of Meetings – Episode 119: Innovation, Events, and Leadership with Gary Shapiro
Today we have the pleasure of speaking with an amazing leader and a legend in our industry, Gary Shapiro! Gary is President and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association- the association that owns the famous Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. He is a New York Times bestselling author and was recently awarded a Legend of Honor.
Gary is full of drive and passion! In this episode, he talks about his experiences and shares his fascinating views on the meetings and events industry.
We hope you enjoy listening to today’s inspiring conversation with Gary Shapiro!
Gary Shapiro is an acclaimed author, lobbyist, president, and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, which represents over 1,500 consumer technology companies and owns and produces the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) ® — The Global Stage for Innovation.
A Georgetown Law graduate, Shapiro began his career as an associate at the Squire Sanders law firm. After an extended tenure in law, he began working on Capitol Hill as an assistant to a prominent member of the U.S. Congress. Later in his life, Gary would use this combined law and legal experience to be named one of The Hill’s top lobbyists numerous times throughout his career (2015-2021). As his experience in law and politics progressed, he became more aligned with the world of technology, which eventually brought him into the fold of the Consumer Technology Association in 1982.
Taking the role of President and CEO, Shapiro evolved the idea of the workplace over his 40-year-long tenure leading the organization. Directing a staff of 150 employees alongside thousands of industry volunteers, he built a forward-thinking and successful business focused on the further development and integration of technology in all industries of the world. Under his leadership, CTA has won numerous awards for its healthy workplace, family-friendly employment practices, and environmentally friendly exhibition practices. In 2019, CTA earned its sixth consecutive selection as a Washington Post Top Workplace.
Shapiro is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include “Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the New World of Innovation” (HarperCollins, 2019), “Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World’s Most Successful Businesses” (HarperCollins, 2013), and “The Comeback: How Innovation will Restore the American Dream” (Beaufort, 2011). Through these books, numerous television appearances, and as a columnist whose more than 1,200 opinion pieces have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, Shapiro has helped direct policymakers and business leaders on the importance of innovation and technology in the U.S. economy.
Shapiro consistently stays active in policy, thought leadership, government, and community development alongside his position at CTA. He currently sits on the Northern Virginia Technology Council, CEO Update Roundtable, Council of Manufacturing Associations Board, and more. A subject of regular praise, Shapiro was once called a “mastermind” for his initiative in helping to create the Industry Cooperative for Ozone Layer Protection. His mind for an evolving workplace and consumers while staying environmentally conscious has paved a roadmap for bipartisan law and policymakers to follow in making a more innovative world.
Gary Shapiro is happily married and lives in Michigan.
Gary enrolled at Georgetown Law School as the youngest student. He started school with no money and immediately landed a job at Capitol Hill. In his second year, Gary started working for a law firm. He spent his third year working there almost full-time. He loved what the law firm was doing because they focused on the future. He became a summer associate and then an associate.
While still a student, Gary worked for a client at the law firm, which he loved and saw as the future of technology. The client was essentially the Consumer Technology Association and the CES. Gary fell in love with what an event could be after experiencing the excitement and action on the floor!
Gary feels that events are good for competition because competitors get brought together in one room. The best things tend to happen when you see what your competition is doing and how you need to improve, and that produces innovation for society.
A battle for the future of technology and innovation
Gary found himself in the middle of a case about the legality of video cassette recorders. He debated the issue and formed an association of video retailers. They eventually went to the Supreme Court, and Gary testified many times. It was a huge battle, and Gary even debated live on the Today Show! They eventually proved that technology and innovation are vital for the future and for improving lives.
Gary’s motivating mission
Innovation is vital for our destiny as human beings and the future of our nation. So we need to guard and protect it. That has been Gary’s motivating mission for over thirty years.
A diverse nation
The United States is an inventive nation partly because it is diverse and partly because it attracts some of the best and brightest immigrants from around the world.
The secret sauce
The best and brightest immigrants want to live in the U.S. and create a better life for themselves and their families. That is our secret sauce and strength!
One of the reasons we are suffering as a country right now is because we have lost our zest for immigration. So we are no longer welcoming immigrants who want to work hard and fill jobs.
Costs are increasing so much that it will soon be a real challenge to have meetings.
The pandemic has caused most thinking individuals to do some self-examination and consider what is truly important to them. Many CEOs have concluded that face-to-face meetings are important. CFOs, on the other hand, are more excited about people working at home.
A different era
Meetings and events are about relationships, transformation, change, and innovation. We are now in a new and different era where people skills are vital.
Why have events?
Events are all about business. They bring serendipity and discovery. They also help people find out what they do not know. From a business perspective, we need events to learn new things and build relationships.
Some skills were not valued much in the past but are valued now. (Like cross-cultural understanding and being able to think outside of your vertical sphere.) Skills like knowing how to deal with people, motivate people, set goals, and get results are vital. Valuable business skills include teaching teamwork skills, cross-culture skills, empathy, understanding, and motivation.
In business today, purpose needs to be put above profit, and adopting a human approach is vital.
Currently, CEOs face many new challenges. New questions keep coming up, like whether people have to go to the office every day, whether people can live any work from anywhere in the world, and how to maintain a culture and relationships.
Employees need to be taken care of, and they are all motivated by different things, like the purpose of the business, money, title, or recognition. CEOs need to understand that and have empathy.
Virtual meetings and the metaverse
Everyone should think that the metaverse is the coolest thing, yet no one seems to be able to understand it or define it, and no one can see it, conceptualize it, or even say what it is. It is also hard to put on digital events, and most people do not prefer to attend them. However, the metaverse promises more interactivity and a more immersive experience, and virtual events tend to cost less and be more profitable.
Succeeding in the world of discovery and innovation
In the world of discovery and innovation today, you cannot stay only in your vertical sphere if you’d like to do well. You have to cross-license, partner, go outside of your vertical industry, and do many different things to succeed.
At some events, ecosystems combine with other ecosystems in new ways, creating better services and benefits for people.
Virtual events versus the real world
Gary feels that having a five-sense experience allows people to form relationships. It also allows for serendipity and discovery. That is also possible at virtual events, but it will take longer and be less effective and efficient. Even though virtual events may save travel costs and work during a pandemic, Gary would still choose to be in the real world.
Security is an issue, and it’s a big deal when your identity gets taken! Impersonation fraud has affected Gary as an event producer when people have used his company’s logo to try to sell things, including exhibit space. He does whatever he can to shut those people down. He hopes the Trade Commissioner will sharpen its tools to help.
Even though we may not feel it, we are currently living through a revolution in the use of technology. Throughout history, every new technology has been a tool that could benefit humans or harm them. If people don’t like how technology gets used, they want to make it illegal. However, in time, that technology might help us solve big problems.
Gary Shapiro is on the foundation board for Focus Ultrasound. It uses sound waves to quickly and easily treat various conditions, including tumors and tremors. It has been FDA approved for treating many different issues.
Using science in better ways
Many people are dying unnecessarily. On one side, we have wars where people go against one another intentionally. On the other side, we have the opportunity to use science in better ways to improve our lives. It is inspiring to know that we now have the technology to produce clean water out of the air and use solar energy.
The government should set guardrails for new technology. However, it should not inhibit innovation. (Part of Gary’s job is to ensure that the government values innovation.)
Solve problems like a Ninja
For Gary, being a Ninja is about doing anything you can to solve a problem. He used the concept of the Ninja with his children. Now, he uses it with his employees to help them get ahead in life by relying on skills and teamwork and finding new ways to solve problems.
Ready for the pandemic
When the pandemic hit, Gary’s organization was ready for it. So they were able to adapt quickly.
Gary insists on his staff taking risks and making mistakes. But they must confess when they make mistakes because people learn from their failures, not their successes.
The Legend of Honor
Gary was awarded the Legend of Honor, by the President of France, in a personal ceremony. He got it for his passion for innovation, improving the world, and his willingness to share his work with France. Gary accepted the award on behalf of the meetings and exhibition industry and all those who put on CES.
Most world-class events take place in Europe, and Europeans support the events. American politicians tend not to support events. Gary feels that every American event organizer should figure out ways to invite politicians, to help them understand and value the various aspects of events.
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