Streamlining Ops

Episode 37: Automation as a Competitive Advantage Feat. J Ocana

J Ocana, co-founder and COO of Reaction Audio Visual, discusses leveraging automation, competing on value, industry voice, process reevaluation, and sensible pricing in the events industry.

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Key Takeaways:

The Importance of Competing on Value vs. Price

  • Emphasize service and a consultative approach
  • Shift towards consulting and problem solving
  • Use common sense pricing

Automation in the AV Industry

  • Automation can improve processes and efficiency
  • Manual processes need to be reevaluated
  • How to create best practices for your company

Current Challenges in the AV Industry

  • Common use of Excel spreadsheets and manual processes
  • Lack of fully integrated software platforms
  • AI can help automate processes
  • Resource allocation for large events needs optimization

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Read the Transcript 📚

Intro: Welcome to Corralling the Chaos Podcast, where we talk publicly about the things you're worried about privately. My name is Angela Alea, and I'm your host. This is the event industry podcast for companies and crew where we're gonna dive deep into things like, what does our industry need that it just doesn't have?

[00:00:17] What are the things you wanna know, but you're just too afraid to ask? And what are the biggest opportunities ahead for our industry? We're gonna go deep and nothing is off limits.

[00:00:36] Angela Alea: Welcome back to another episode of Corralling the Chaos. Today with me, I have a very special guest, J Ocana. J is the co-founder, president and COO of Reaction Audio Visual in California, which specializes in conferences, conventions, corporate meetings, and eSports. He's been in technology for over 30 years [00:01:00] and in the event industry for nearly 20 years.

[00:01:03] Just gotta say, we typically don't see that a lot where people have a tech background, but love that. He built his company from a simple idea, which was to bring high level production quality with common sense pricing to the events industry. So welcome J. Thanks so much for joining us.

[00:01:20] J Ocana: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:01:21] I appreciate it. Yeah,

[00:01:23] Angela Alea: we're excited about this. I know you and I have had a chance to sit down a few times over the years and I just think you have a really. Fascinating background and I think Reaction AV does some really amazing things and experiences for your customers. So I'm really glad you're here.

[00:01:39] So thanks. Thank you so much. Well, let's jump in. So your early career was not in events. It was in technology, which like I said, is not something we typically see a lot of. A lot of owners and runners and operators of these companies typically come from the event industry and then work their way up and say, Hey, you know what?

[00:01:57] I could probably start my own company and do this. So [00:02:00] I love that your background is actually in technology but you also held positions in sales and marketing roles outside of the industry. So I would love to hear how exactly did you transition and get started into the events industry?

[00:02:13] J Ocana: Well, it's a very complicated long background story.

[00:02:17] I could probably talk about it for about an hour and tell you all the ti tidbits, but I'll just try to keep it brief. So I'm really a technologist at heart and it took me a lot of years to kind of figure that out. I remember being a little kid and, my mom worked as a mainframe. Computer analyst, right back in the day when computers took up entire buildings and the first IBM PC came out and she thought computers were like the future.

[00:02:41] And this is back in the day when people were having computers at home was not a foregone conclusion, right. So she, bought a PC for the family and I was a little kid and I taught myself how to code and taught myself how to use it and how to mess with it and try to tinker with it and all that kind of stuff.

[00:02:56] And just really fell in love with kind of just technology, if you will. [00:03:00] I always joked that I was the first person with an email address, but I had nobody to email, so it really was like kinda boring category of one. But anyway, and I used to set up BBSs, which were early days of the internet kind of concept before the internet.

[00:03:13] And anyway, so I remember graduating high school and they told me, Hey, you're good at math, you're good at computers. Well, why don't you go into engineering? And I went into engineering at SC and about a year and a half in I'm like, this is boring. This is not my thing. I mean, I love the tech part, but I really didn't like the, just sitting in front of a screen and looking at that all day long.

[00:03:33] And so I switched into business and kind of went down that path. And then when I graduated I, ended up getting my MBA and I went. And started working in enterprise software. I was recruited at a show that I was actually speaking at. It was internet world. I don't even know if that's around anymore, but it was the, presentation I was giving was about the intersection of business and technology.

[00:03:54] This is again, really early days. And I was recruited to a software company and long story [00:04:00] short, I did that for a while, dot com explosion, took that company out. I kept going in enterprise software and eventually the company I was working for was part of the whole scandal in the, in early two thousands of cooking the books, WorldCom and Ron, all those.

[00:04:15] And so the company went under and. I decided, you know what? I'm done with venture capital. I'm done with all that stuff. I'm going to entrepreneur route. And I did some computer stuff, some computer hardware distribution and stuff. And I sold out of that company. And when I was in the midst of trying to start another company, I was actually trying to start a software, another software company.

[00:04:34] An old friend of mine, we ran into each other. I. He turned, it turns out he moved into my community and we had been like best friends in like grade school and junior high. And we kinda lost touch and we reconnected. And anyway, he was in this industry and he'd been doing AV for 10 years and he talked to me and said, Hey, I really wanna start this business, but I have no idea how to start a business and I have no idea how to launch this.

[00:04:58] And so I was in between [00:05:00] things. I'm like, Hey, sure, I'll help you. And as, as I started looking at more and more into the industry to create a business plan to really understand what are the, metrics, what are the economics, how do you make money, how do you ascertain clients? All those sorts of things.

[00:05:13] I was like, this is kind of cool. And hey, guess what? It does have tech. Right. Definitely. There is some definitely. Right. And we do even more cool technology these days than we even did back then. But anyway, that was kind of it, and we just, Kind of put our heads together and, got some money together and launched it and it's been like a crazy ride ever since.

[00:05:33] And that was, what, 20 years ago? That was let's see, 2005. So what is that almost? That's 18 years ago. Close. 18, yeah. Early, early 2005. So a little 18 years ago. Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. Anyway, but so like I said it's been great and it's been explosive ride and I didn't even know, I didn't even know about this industry.

[00:05:51] So I gotta be perfectly honest. I literally like, I mean, I know obviously events and I went to events, but I never thought about this as an entire industry or, or. a business [00:06:00] model. And but when we, I started looking at it, I'm like, this is a really neat business model. I like the rental aspect of it.

[00:06:07] Yeah, the company I had sold out of right before was a computer distributor. And so you bought it for X, you sold it for x plus 10% or 15%. And that was the model where in the audio audiovisual industry, you're owning the assets. You're renting out the assets over and over again. I thought that was a really interesting economic model.

[00:06:26] Angela Alea: so funny how you landed in this industry. We talk about that a lot on this show. The number of people, myself included, who kind of land on it accidentally by chance, some relationship, right? Something and then it's man, this is, I. We're, consumer of these events, but we really didn't have any idea until you really kind of joined the industry.

[00:06:45] All the expertise and, talent that goes into producing these things. And, to your point, what a great business model, right? Being able to reinvent Yeah. The same piece of equipment over and over again versus just cost plus selling hardware. So you have a very similar [00:07:00] story but, definitely you

[00:07:01] J Ocana: unique.

[00:07:01] Yeah. And I also enjoy the to me, I guess that sounds bad, but our business is really, Stress driven. And I, know that sounds like a bad thing, but I actually like the fact that everything's gotta be perfect when that stakes are high. Yeah. When that CEO walks on stage at 10:00 AM on Monday.

[00:07:19] Yeah. Everything's gotta work. The presentation's gotta work. The sound says gotta work. Everything's gotta work. Yeah. Or you're dead. Yes. And that's a bad thing, I guess, but I kind of enjoy the fact that everything's gotta be in place and

[00:07:29] Angela Alea: working. Yeah. Everything has a crescendo. Right. And so many industries and companies, it's just kind of Just kind of moving, you're maintaining versus kind of working up to that, crescendo, if you will.

[00:07:40] So you're right. That does, I think that is probably what keeps a lot of people around and to be able to say, wow, yeah, look what we created. Look what we pulled off. Absolutely. Despite all of these obstacles, we literally did it. We, tell our clients,

[00:07:52] J Ocana: we literally tell our clients that, especially people who are.

[00:07:55] More novice expert event planners and marketing people. They know [00:08:00] about the events industry. They know how hard it is to execute. But we tell clients right up front like, Hey, you know what? You're, there's gonna be issues. There's no chance that there's not gonna be an issue.

[00:08:08] It's not a matter of whether there's an issue. It's a matter of are you hiring the right company that knows how manage those issues, where it's, an it's, not gonna affect. The outcome of what you're trying to accomplish.

[00:08:20] Angela Alea: Absolutely. Yeah. That transparency's key. Well, what do you think kind of brings me to my next question.

[00:08:25] Yeah. So what do you think is reaction's? Competitive advantage?

[00:08:30] J Ocana: I. Wow. Okay. Great question. I like that. Well, one of the things, one of the reasons why we started reaction, or the concept was, and this is my, my business partner from being in the industry, but remember I didn't, I wasn't from the industry, right?

[00:08:43] So from him being in the industry and seeing it, You know what, I started doing from a business MBA perspective, analyzing the industry, is what we found, or what I found is a really highly fragmented industry, right? You have the top of the top companies that are hundreds of millions of [00:09:00] dollars that are doing audiovisual, and there are some benefits there that they they.

[00:09:05] Provide a decent product they're professional and whatnot. But you also have a situation where those companies tend to be very pricey. They're also, their customer service is not quite what it is because it's a smaller company cuz they just have a lot of red tape and stuff.

[00:09:21] And then there's these little mom and pop companies, and some of them are DJs on the weekends and sound, AV providers as well when they're not DJing. And you have kind of that, that dichotomy and you have a very fragmented market. And then on top of that, you have people that just specialize in audio or just specialize in lighting or whatever it is.

[00:09:42] And really what the, concept of reaction audiovisual was to have the professionalism of top-notch companies with as, good or better technicians as good or better GE equipment, but with. What we have termed common sense pricing, which is [00:10:00] really not nickel and diming clients and not overcharging for things.

[00:10:04] And when they're in a bad situation, it's not oh really you needed that? Well, that's gonna cost you 10 x. That kind of thing. And, bringing that kind of professionalism to the audio visual industry, that mid-market kind of concept. And so that, that's really what we're about. And the other thing is, From that stems, when you have that kind of mentality and that kind of attitude of servicing your client, customer service truly is the most important thing.

[00:10:28] Yeah, everyone talks about it. Every company and every industry says customer service is the most important thing and that sort of thing. For us, it really, is executing it. However, whatever it takes to make things happen. Is what it is. I remember years ago, I don't go to that many shows anymore because it's a lot of work renting a company.

[00:10:46] But I remember years ago I was at an event and someone had rented some computers from us and they had put 'em up on this. I don't know why they did this, but on these huge like, boxes if you will, [00:11:00] but really high 15 foot boxes. And they had the monitors up connected and they were running presentation and they couldn't get the presentation to work.

[00:11:08] Now a lot of AB companies would be like, Hey you rented the laptop. I'm not responsible for content. Not my problem, right? But it was like 15 minutes before the show went live. They were freaking out. I walked by, I'm like, Hey, what's going on? They're like this, I'm like, okay. I sent someone, go get me a ladder.

[00:11:25] Right? You're not even supposed to do that in this venue. But I said, go get me a ladder. Climb up and I'm good with computers. So I cl got the ladder climbed up there, figured out that their formatting was off, fixed a couple things boom, got it running. All their monitors and stuff went up and their content was up right before show started, and they were so thankful and grateful.

[00:11:43] Well, that's a client that you earn for life because. They realize that you truly are providing a hundred percent customer service, and you mean it, it's not just a tag, a a tag phrase, right? And so I think those are the kind of things that we really [00:12:00] get into our texts and we tell 'em, this is what we gotta get this done.

[00:12:03] Because they have this concept of an event and an execution. And this is what they want to happen. And even if it's out of our jurisdiction, if you will, we gotta jump in and make things happen. And so I think that's really what separates us.

[00:12:19] Angela Alea: You, you said a lot there that I wanna kind of come back and, I can't.

[00:12:25] A lot of good stuff, good nuggets. First I wanna get back to what you said about. I think I read it in your bio too about the approach of com bringing common sense pricing, and you talked about not nickel and diming and, things like that. Do you think that's still an issue in our industry? I mean do you see your competitors not utilizing common sense pricing or have you seen that kind of level out?

[00:12:51] J Ocana: I, think it ebbs and flows, right? I think that Pre Covid when things were getting were pretty hot. I mean, our industry [00:13:00] was really growing in 2019. I feel like I saw a lot of that. I feel like companies were just hey, charge what you can get to make this happen. And I saw a lot of price.

[00:13:12] What do I call it? Appreciation. Especially on in-house organizations and whatnot. So I've saw, I've seen a lot of that. Covid obviously hit, wiped us all out, started back fresh. Now it's not so much right. But the post covid, so let's say 20 21, 20 22, we saw maybe the price is being more competitive, but 2024, I feel like.

[00:13:36] Or 2023 and projecting out 2024, it looks like people are gaining those prices back up. I, yeah. Cause we're using things like inflation and whatnot, and obviously in our. Industry, the costs have skyrocketed, right? Yeah. Labor costs are way more expensive. Logistics shipping is way more expensive.

[00:13:55] So there definitely are costs, but I also think sometimes companies also utilize that as [00:14:00] a, oh, this is a way to charge more. Because Right. Not only do I have more costs, but also, hey, people get that they, everybody knows about inflation. It's all over the news. Yes. Let's charge more. The other thing I'll say with common sense, pricing also means.

[00:14:13] A lot of times organizations, we we've been on, at one point or another, we've been on the other side of needing to have an event, right? So I've had a, an anniversary party for my parents our wedding what many, years ago, whatever that is, whatever those events are, we've been on that other side.

[00:14:31] And so when you put yourself in that person's shoes of what they're trying to accomplish, what's the atmosphere they're trying to create? What's the the feeling they're trying to create and whether it's a, corporate event, a trade show, whatever, someone has a vision of what they're trying to do, right?

[00:14:46] And they also have a budget. Because no matter what or who you are, you have some sort of budget, okay. Of what you're willing to spend and what you want to do, and having a, conversation with your client being like, Hey, you know what? You're willing to spend [00:15:00] X and you want to accomplish this. These are the things we can do and this is how we can make it happen.

[00:15:04] And having that kind of pricing model versus well, we gotta charge for this much for this and this much for an l e wall and this much for a projector. It makes it really tough. To really be consultative selling to your client. Yeah. You become more of a vendor and we try to become more of a consultative partner, not a vendor.

[00:15:25] Angela Alea: Yeah. I wanna talk about that for a minute too, because you're right, it's not just the pricing, it's the approach and obviously again, your background and experience and sales sales and operations. One thing we see a lot of is when it comes to selling is event companies that put. A quote together, not so much a proposal, but they put a quote together that really just kind of lists their gear and, hey, here's how much it is, rather than taking the time to.

[00:15:54] Propose the value that they're going to bring to the table. Right? Like kind of some of the things you talked about, right? [00:16:00] Like putting yourselves, having that empathy of saying, Hey, here's the outcome you're trying to get to. Let's be consultative, let's get creative with different paths to get you that outcome.

[00:16:10] Yeah. But just kind of curious what your take is on that since historically I, think our industry has done far less proposing and far more just kind of quoting oh, making it a commodity. And it's. Such a missed opportunity Yeah. To really position themselves as, a creator of value.

[00:16:29] J Ocana: Yeah, I think that interesting you say that. So coming from the software enterprise, software industry, you really focus on the, everything you focus on is value proposition. Okay? Because when you're going to a company and you're saying, Hey, we're gonna sell you this enterprise resource planning tool, or we're gonna sell you this human resources application for big corporation, whatever it is.

[00:16:52] You really have to come at it from a value proposition, right? Because it's not a, well, this costs, you know this much and this costs this much. It's really a, what's the [00:17:00] value proposition? What's the return on investment? What is what are you gonna gain from making this purchase in this investment?

[00:17:06] And. So that value proposition concept's always kind of been in my head. And also just looking at the industry from the get-go, for you to be able to provide value and be customer service oriented and have that value proposition in our industry, you can't be looking at charging here's how much a projector costs, here's how much a green costs.

[00:17:26] Our, company, we have several salespeople that have been very successful. We have others that have not been successful and are not here anymore. And, The ones that have not been successful could not cross that chasm. They wanted to get in the battles of quoting. And I always told them like, Hey, you cannot get in that battle because number one, we don't make the projector.

[00:17:46] Okay. Christie or or Panasonic, whoever makes the projector. And the, other vendors that we're competing with are providing projectors as well, right? Yeah. So if we're just right, getting in that ni that battle of, oh, well we're gonna charge this much for the projector and it's only a two day or [00:18:00] one day.

[00:18:00] Yeah. It doesn't work. And one of the things that we also talk about is a kind of a sales stack is how do you move up? What I call the sales stack, and this is again, kind of from the software industry, is how do you build that value proposition? And if you're talking about projectors in breakout rooms, you're not there.

[00:18:20] If you go to the next level and you're talking about operators and what kind of tech services you're gonna provide, okay, you're. You're, getting a little bit better, right? Getting closer, closer, adding, getting closer. You're adding more value. And then if you start talking about, well, let me help you with what that room layout should look like.

[00:18:34] And well, you know what? You really don't want to do rear projection here because of this or that kind of thing. Now you're getting more and more into the consultative part. And then, but what I started off with was, Kind of that overall, well, what are they trying to accomplish and what's their budget? And that's what we need to focus on to try to make that happen versus all the little let me quote these line items.

[00:18:55] And there are times with our clients where we just list the line items and we have a [00:19:00] price at the bottom. Yeah, it's, there you go. That's what it's gonna cost to make this happen. And that's just what it is. So I think that at the end of the day, companies that focus in our industry, we are a service.

[00:19:14] That's the product we sell. The product we sell is a service not a product per se. And the more that you focus on service, what can we do? How can we make things better? Let's help you choose a venue before you've even chosen the venue. Now you're really in the beginning, cause now you are a partner, no longer a vendor.

[00:19:34] Yep. And you are a, person that the, last thing I'll add to that is, like I said, I could talk very verbose. I could talk all day long. The other thing I'll add to that is it also creates a concept of in sales called stickiness. Right. Is how easy is it for that client to dump you and move on to somebody else?

[00:19:54] Yeah. If you're just talking about projector pricing and [00:20:00] what the speaker system costs and everything else, it's not that hard. Somebody could just come in and charge less and try to earn that business, whereas, The more you are consulting and providing that value proposition, understanding their needs, executing to those needs, you create natural stickiness.

[00:20:15] It's really hard for that client to leave you, which is a good thing if you're trying you're, right.

[00:20:20] Angela Alea: And I, think it's a shift to learn how to compete on value versus competing on price. And I think some do it very well. And I mean, let's face it, it takes time, right? Yes. To truly consult versus just turning around a quote.

[00:20:36] It, takes intentionality, it takes listening, it takes problem solving. It takes being creative. It takes empathy, as you said. All those things. But I think that's, I. That's where the deals are done, right. When you can figure out how to compete on that value and less on the price. But I love the concept of, common sense pricing, cuz you can have all the value in the world but if you don't have the common sense pricing, [00:21:00] that's a problem too.

[00:21:00] So I love the idea of kind of combining those two. Well, my next question is something that I kind of previously asked you. What was one thing that has, that the industry has always done this way that you think. Maybe should be reevaluated. And you answered that with manual processes around booking sub rentals.

[00:21:22] Labor and trucking. So talk to us more about that and why it's important for our industry to kind of get to that next level. And what does reaction AV do to automate things that should be automated? Cuz not everything should, right? Some things should do it and then some, things shouldn't. But talk to us a little bit about that.

[00:21:41] J Ocana: Well I, think that I, always joke that in, in, this is kind of a known thing, right? Every industry operates on Excel, it seems right? Every, every industry has every industry as, baffling as that is. Yeah. Right. As baffling as that is, people are using spreadsheets and we are certainly fall [00:22:00] into that category.

[00:22:01] But really, if you think about what a spreadsheet is and. It's a great tool, right? But what it really is, a manual tool. It's a manual tool that allows you to make mistakes, right? How many times you add something up and you're like, why isn't this adding up and you have the wrong sum or whatever, right?

[00:22:18] Yeah. Or, it allows you to type in mis misinformation, the wrong information, whatever else. So to me having automated processes as much as possible Is the, a success, critical success factor for any company. And I think our industry we use, we have a CRM system, we have a production slash inventory management system, quoting system.

[00:22:45] We have, of course, lasso, which we love and to book our labor and. And travel and whatnot. And then we have an accounting system. And then on top of that we have other systems as well that are kind of in, in between there, such as Microsoft 365, SharePoint, that kind [00:23:00] of stuff. Sure.

[00:23:00] And. The challenge is, and this is a challenge still for us, we have not solved this problem. The challenge is having all those systems kind of talk to each other and how do they talk to each other and how much information do they share. And that's what creates those manual processes and those breaking points where people are manually creating spreadsheets to take this information and kind of match up with that information and Right, and do those sorts of things.

[00:23:24] And I don't think that's a good thing. I think that's a, thing that causes problems can cause errors and. We experience 'em. Somebody puts in the wrong oh, we have four of those actually we only have three. That kind of thing. Yeah. And I think that the challenge for our industry, so go back to your original kind of question, is, The challenge for our industry is, if you look at other industries, there are fully integrated software platforms that, that, industry utilizes.

[00:23:50] So if you look at, I don't know, car dealership industry, right? There's a car, dealerships. You go to car dealership, buy a car. There's two different products out there that manufacture that [00:24:00] software and the software to buy that car manages their inventory, manages the backend, manages the financing.

[00:24:05] Manage the sales process, everything soup to nuts in that one enterprise. Software application. We really don't have anything like that in our industry that I have found. Maybe someone can contact me and say we have that, but I haven't really found that. And I think that's what causes the biggest grief, is that you don't have that system and so you're constantly, my salespeople hate entering information in their crm.

[00:24:33] And then re-entering it into the quoting production system, right? Yep. Duplicate

[00:24:37] Angela Alea: entry, what is that? And then it gets re-entered again for invoicing and,

[00:24:41] J Ocana: Yes. And we've, created some we've created some integration points, right? But in integration points are it dumps it into a batch and then the picks up the batch, it moves it into the other system.

[00:24:51] That's not true. Automated process. And so, yeah, I think that is the, holy grail for our industry in terms of internal [00:25:00] operations is when we can have kind of a, an enterprise class system that sits above all that. I think that's would be amazing. I mean, it really

[00:25:09] Angela Alea: would. It seems like our industry, and we talk about this obviously a lot we're, in technology obviously, but.

[00:25:15] There are a lot of horizontal solutions trying to solve a problem for a vertical, right. Our vertical. And so there's no vertical SaaS solutions out there for our industry. To your point, like car dealerships have it, restaurants have it construction has it. All these big industries have it.

[00:25:34] And I think our industry, we've talked about this a lot too on the podcast. It has been so underserved in so many ways. I think it's just this, Hidden gem that, and it's a massive industry. Yeah. And I think because it's a complicated industry with very, a lot of nuances that a lot of these just horizontal solutions for any of the, workflows that you just mentioned, it doesn't quite fit.

[00:25:59] [00:26:00] Right. It's trying to fit a a square peg in a round hole. And so then people are like, well, it doesn't quite fix, it doesn't really speak our vernacular. It doesn't really understand the nuances of our workflow or some of the crazy rules we have in our industry. And then they just revert back to Excel.

[00:26:14] Yeah. Yeah. Well, you're right. I do think that's an opportunity, not to

[00:26:17] J Ocana: interrupt you, but I'll make it even more basic than that. Remember, I didn't come from this industry, so I we jumped in and I'm like I'm running an operations trying to figure out how to do all this stuff right. On Excel.

[00:26:28] I'm right, right. And I'm searching for a a accounting system that can do rentals and. It doesn't exist. I mean, it now there's, specific ones, as he said to our industry, right? But, back then, when we first started the company, I was just looking for basic accounting and there was no accounting system that really allowed you no Peachtree QuickBooks NetSuite, any of those ones that you wanna talk about.

[00:26:56] I looked at all of them and not one of them specialized in the [00:27:00] rental market. It was all bio widgets. Sell widget and Yep. It was very frustrating. Yeah. And so that hasn't, it's gotten much better in the almost two decades, but it's still it's still a huge opportunity I think. Yeah,

[00:27:13] Angela Alea: I would agree.

[00:27:14] Well, speaking of automation and all of this talk around ai lately it is, Happening so fast rapid develop, it's like daily versus some of the other technologies that might be versions that are a year or two apart. I feel like the, iterations now are literally days apart, which is fascinating.

[00:27:36] But where do you think AI will play a role in our industry?

[00:27:41] J Ocana: Well, AI is, something that it's, kind of a big. Pr big buzzword, right? Because it incorporates so many different things into this concept, right? And some people think of like Terminator and Skynet and it's gonna take over the world.

[00:27:56] And I don't know, maybe it will, I don't know. But, really what [00:28:00] you, the reason why AI is such a big thing now is truly because of the ability of the supercomputing technology has, accelerated and the level of programming and putting in this code into a computer to teach it human concepts.

[00:28:15] Is amazing. And that part is accelerating really fast. And that's what's pushing it, making it so pervasive in our industry and every industry. I think pr our, for our industry specifically, is going back to the automated processes and talking about how do we do those things. That's where AI can make a huge impact in our industry.

[00:28:35] Yeah. Give you an example. I one of the things that we spend some time with is when we do really large trade shows and, events, and there's a hundred breakout rooms. Okay. And the a hundred breakout rooms are running at all different times in different rooms. And some of them run eight to 10 on Monday, one, that's it.

[00:28:55] One runs two to four on Monday and six to eight on Wednesday. [00:29:00] Right. And you're like, well, we have a a hundred rooms with a hundred projectors and a hundred. Screens and whatever else, it's well no, we really aren't use utilizing a hundred. We might be utilizing

[00:29:10] Angela Alea: Yeah, they're overlapping, but yet they're not.

[00:29:12] J Ocana: And do you know how, long that takes for one person to sit down and Yeah. Kind of map it out with the tracks? Yeah. And okay. And then, oh, this room shuts down and that's gone for the rest of the, show. So now we're gonna move that projector and, screen over here. Imagine ai.

[00:29:28] It's processing that information at exponential speed, light speed. You literally could just plug in the information, upload it, and boom, it's already figured out for it. Yeah. This is how many projectors you need, how many screens you need, and when you need 'em. Yeah. That's the kind of power of, ai.

[00:29:43] It's really, yeah. Computing human thought. At the speed of super computing. That's really what it is. Yeah. And anytime you can look at a problem and have that kind of ability and speed to deal with that issue, that's where AI is gonna make a play. [00:30:00] So I, it's early on, I don't know exactly all the different things that it'll do for our industry.

[00:30:05] That's just an example I can think of.

[00:30:07] Angela Alea: Yeah. Yeah I think that's a great example. My hope is also, So, so many people talk about, oh, well I didn't know till after the fact that this had happened and my margin, I thought it was this, but then it came in and it was really like this. Yeah. And so I think a lot of it could also be just having.

[00:30:25] Access to data in the moment and time in which you need it to make better decisions versus kind of finding out after the fact. So again, that AI kind of building that data I, yeah.

[00:30:34] J Ocana: Job, I mean, job costing is a big one, right? I mean we, have, we spend lots of manpower hours on job costing.

[00:30:41] Yeah. And every time we think we've got it right and this and that it, it, takes some, time to do that. I could see AI solving that issue quite easily. Yeah So Yeah, there's a lot. It'd be

[00:30:53] Angela Alea: fascinating to see.

[00:30:54] J Ocana: Yeah. Yes. Hopefully it doesn't take over the world, but yes, I'll be fascinated.

[00:30:58] Well, I sure he'll not.

[00:30:59] Angela Alea: I sure

[00:30:59] J Ocana: have not. [00:31:00] It's so funny I read these articles everything from the Wall Street Journal to wire to whatever and, some of 'em are so like, oh my gosh, AI is gonna solve the world's problems. And then the next one's AI is gonna destroy us all. And and I, it's probably something in between.

[00:31:14] It's just, it's a new tool. That we need to figure out. The Internet's not good or bad, it's just the internet, social media. That's right. It's not necessarily good or bad, it's just a tool. A tool. That's right. It can be good or bad.

[00:31:25] Angela Alea: So yeah, I think it'll be interesting even 12 months from now to go back and listen to this conversation.

[00:31:31] Yeah. And what do we know about AI 12 months from now? Cause it's just happening so fast. So it'll be interesting to be continued. That's a whole topic for another day, perhaps. Talk to us about, Any frustrations you have with the industry and, what I mean by that is opportunities that you think our industry has that it's not taking.

[00:31:55] So what do you hope for our industry with all that we've learned certainly over the last three [00:32:00] years, but also as you think about your 18 years in the industry. What do you hope for our industry?

[00:32:06] J Ocana: Wow. Okay. That's a big one. Well, first of all, I'm, I hope that there's never another pandemic, lockdown

[00:32:13] Angela Alea: name men.

[00:32:15] I, second, third, and fourth. That, yeah.

[00:32:17] J Ocana: Yeah. Right. So I think that's a, big one. I that was a really tough part of our I mean, obviously everyone's existence that's in this industry, right? And it was a tough road for us, and we survived, but other companies didn't survive.

[00:32:32] And I think that total lockdown was a very, bad thing. But the thing about that is, the one thing it did show me and probably showed other people in the industry is that we don't have that big of a voice. And I, think that. There were certain industries it's so funny cuz that, when all that happened, there were certain industries you just got just hammered, right?

[00:32:56] Airlines hospitality, whatnot. And I [00:33:00] felt like the government and other people and the media and everything would talk about all those companies and those industries. And the government would be like, oh, the airlines need to be bailed out and they need to give them money and da And, over here, this industry is suffering.

[00:33:13] So we've gotta help them out. And I. Never heard about, truly about our industry. Never. And I know there's organizations that popped up that were trying to lobby or garner focus and attention. But the reality was friends, the events

[00:33:31] Angela Alea: coalition. Yeah. They,

[00:33:32] J Ocana: they, yes. Yes. And there were people trying to do stuff.

[00:33:35] And I, and I, think that's amazing that they were, but we were doing it in the rears we were doing it in, in, in the hindsight, right. And I think one of the things for our industry as a whole, Is kind of making ourselves known. I don't know if that makes sense, but just kind of people, aren't aware of our industry.

[00:33:54] They don't, and our industry is huge and I feel like we're like the the [00:34:00] ugly kid or something. Like they, they keep 'em over there cuz they, we don't wanna know about them. And I think that's one of the things that the, Lockdowns showed to me was, here is an industry that went to zero.

[00:34:10] I mean, literally we were. What we I, would joke, right, that we, what we do as a business was made illegal by every government in the world, right? Yep. For all intent. Overnight. Overnight, boom. Like this, flip a switch done, and yet how many times did you turn on the news or look in the media, whatever else, and it talk, they spoke about our industry and what we were going through and, whatnot.

[00:34:35] None. I mean, almost nothing that I could see. And I'm a pretty educated guy. I read a lot of different things and I see a lot of different media and there was nothing. And so I think the opportunity for our industry is regardless of the lockdown ever happening again or anything like that, is just.

[00:34:51] Making our industry known and, to, to the media, to the government, to whatever that is, so that we get some attention [00:35:00] and knowledge of what we do and how hard our people work and what we accomplish. And I think that's, I don't know. I think that's kind of a, I guess that would be a hope that would happen at some point.

[00:35:10] I

[00:35:10] Angela Alea: hope we talk a lot more about that. Like I think our industry's the only one that doesn't have its own s i c code. Yes. Which to me is crazy. Yes. I cannot think of anyone, any other industry that doesn't. Yes. And again, I think a lot of it is people appreciate the events. Right. We consume 'em, we go, we show up.

[00:35:28] It's great. Yeah. But we have no idea because our industry has done such a great job staying behind the scenes behind the curtain. Yeah. Versus to your point, we need to have a bigger voice. We need to brag on ourselves. We need to demand more. Yeah. Because, and I don't mean that in a.

[00:35:43] Aggressive way, but you know, it's time to too our own horn. We, serve a great purpose for our society and it's important. People came out and droves as soon as you could gather. It was very clear. We are made to connect with other people. Absolutely. And part of that is [00:36:00] being in person, being entertained, doing these events, these businesses, their user conferences, their sales kickoffs, all.

[00:36:07] It's the bread and butter, it's how they make their money. And so I think that's a great thing to hope for. Yeah. And I think

[00:36:13] J Ocana: one of the things that I, would read and would drive me crazy because I think God created us to be in fellowship with other, people. And I think when the even with the lockdowns just in general, there's some mental health issues that have arisen from that where people aren't, They lost that connection.

[00:36:32] People got depressed, they had anxiety and whatnot. And it's because humans are really meant to be in fellowship. And I would read articles where they would be like, well, is the live event industry dead? Because we can all just do virtual now in Zoom. And I'm thinking to myself, this person writing this article has no clue what they're talking about because Yep.

[00:36:48] That can be hybrid and whatnot. We're still doing some of that stuff. That can be a complimentary Yeah but, being in person in a live event, With other people Yeah. Around [00:37:00] community, around whatever that topic of discussion is or whatever that, that, that event is, irreplaceable. You can't replace that with Zoom calls.

[00:37:08] I'm sorry. You just can't.

[00:37:10] Angela Alea: So a hundred percent agree and I know our audience. Is all screaming. Amen. Amen. Yes, Because we all feel that, right? Because we all not only paid the price for it Yeah. By being in this industry, but again, just as human beings, we paid the price for it. And absolutely. I think we're all still really hungry for that.

[00:37:27] And so I don't see that going away. Yeah. I think those are great insights and I appreciate you being on the show and kind of sharing your experience. I have a, few takeaways. First is you talked about. Competing on value and selling value and being empathetic and solving problems.

[00:37:48] And it's different than just again, common sense pricing is important, but adding on top of that selling value. So I think that's a great takeaway for our audience. The second one is leveraging automation and knowing [00:38:00] How to leverage it, right? It doesn't mean you over automate it, you over-engineer things, but leverage it where it's appropriate.

[00:38:06] It's a tool to use. And then the third one is what we just touched on. The opportunity for our industry right now is we need a bigger voice. And I hope that for all of us, I hope everyone listening. Does their part to do that. And maybe our industry will look a little different in a few years from now where everyone will know exactly what we do and why it's important.

[00:38:33] J Ocana: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. I had a I had fun and hopefully I didn't talk too much. No,

[00:38:38] Angela Alea: this was great. No, I really appreciate you joining and for those of you that enjoyed it, be sure to subscribe and if you have any questions, comments, or feedback, reach out to us



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