Corbin Ball is a speaker, consultant, and writer focusing on events and exhibitions technology. He has been named five times, by Successful Meetings magazine, as one of the 25 most influential people in the meetings industry. And he was recently inducted into the Event Industry Council's Hall of Leaders, the premiere recognition program and the Meetings Convention Exhibition hospitality and travel industry.
NOTE: Complete transcript available at the bottom of the page.
Screw The Commute Podcast Show Notes Episode 098
Internet Marketing Training Center – https://imtcva.org/
Higher Education Webinar – https://screwthecommute.com/webinars[02:24] Tom's introduction to Corbin Ball [05:08] Had only two other jobs [06:10] Making the transition to entrepreneurship [09:35] Getting screwed over in a very networked industry [11:21] Nothing crazy except people dying at events [13:28] The best and worst parts of working for yourself [16:06] Sponsor message [17:16] A typical day for Corbin and how he stays motivated [21:53] Parting thoughts for us Screwballs
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Episode 098 – Corbin Ball
[00:00:09] Welcome to Screw the Commute. The entrepreneurial podcast dedicated to getting you out of the car and into the money, with your host, lifelong entrepreneur and multimillionaire, Tom Antion.
[00:00:24] Hey everybody it's Tom here with episode 98 of screw the commute podcast we got an old friend of mine on here known his guy for a long time and let me tell you he's a big deal in the meetings industry what till you hear about him in a minute. All right. Last episode was 97 multiple streams of income and that episode I outlined a bunch of different revenue streams you could have as a kind of insurance policy for your business plus great revenue streams. Now our podcast app is in the iTunes store you can check out that at screwthecommute.com/app. It'll do all kinds of cool stuff. You can be on a listening to a podcast in your car. Take a phone call it'll automatically pause the podcast and pick it right up as soon as you hang up. So it'll do all kinds of cool stuff when we have instructions on how to use it. And you can get it over at screwthecommute.com/app. Now our youth program is in full swing. That means once a month we highlight an entrepreneurial youth and youth means up to early 20s. So if they're older than that that would qualify for maybe our regular podcast but we really want to highlight young people nowadays so that's our youth program. And if you know any people that might qualify have them email me at email@example.com and we'll tell them how they can apply to be featured. All right. Today's sponsor is the distance learning school the internet marketing training center of Virginia. Don't even think about retraining yourself or sending your kids to college until you check out our webinar on higher education. And be prepared to be mad when you see the kinds of things colleges and universities are doing to inflate grade point averages and the out-of-control tuitions and all that stuff. So check that out at screwthecommute.com and you can just click on webinars.
[00:02:25] All right let's get to the main event. Corbin Ball is a speaker, consultant, and writer focusing on events and exhibitions technology. He has been named five times by Successful Meetings magazine as one of the 25 most influential people in the meetings industry. Wow. And he was recently inducted into the Event Industry Council's Hall of Leaders the premiere recognition program and the meetings Convention Exhibition hospitality and travel industry. Corbin are you ready to screw. The commute. Oh man it's been two three hundred years since we crossed paths you know did we meet because of the meetings industry I think so.
[00:03:12] I think we did I think it was through early involvement with MPI that we've met. And and then we were also together in Bangkok.
[00:03:23] Now MPI for those we don't know used to be when Corbin and I met meeting planners International and now it's meeting professionals International. And Corbin is really really ingrained in that industry. So tell everybody about what you do and then we'll back it up to see how you started your entrepreneurial journey because this is the people on here all about starting your own business or improving their business.
[00:03:49] Well Tom you said it well I've seen you on the speaker consultant and writer I focus on events and trade show technology I was the first person in the advanced industry to do so nearly 22 years ago.
[00:04:00] I tell you. Yeah. And all the things you can do now at meetings are just just crazy. You probably tell us about some today but back then there wasn't a whole lot going on. But now there's all kind of crazy stuff going on.
[00:04:14] It's been a wild ride. During my time at being self-employed in the last twenty two years for certain.
[00:04:20] So. So you actually help go into meetings and help with the technology or just teach about it or what.
[00:04:27] Well I speak about and write about new technology trends. My major focus is technology innovation how you use different types of technology to improve the business process of events or to improve the experience for it. At the consulting I consult with the meeting planners I also consult with technology providers that are trying to understand the meetings industry. So it goes both ways I help planners figure out what the best technologies would be and I help technology companies and other suppliers to figure out how would be the best way to market to a specific niche within the events industry.
[00:05:08] Got it. So to take us back to. Did you ever have a job.
[00:05:12] Actually I had only two other jobs in my life.
[00:05:16] I worked for eight years as director of educational media for Western Washington University managing audio visual graphics and educational television. And then I worked for 15 years for an engineering association SPIE the International Society for optical engineering and the society was a small society when it moved to Bellingham and they hired me away. Became head of conference operations. They're only 10 staff When I first started with them. They grew to about a staff of one hundred and fifty going from running one small meeting a year to running the largest meetings in the world and they still do they still continue to grow after I left.
[00:06:00] Amazing. So it's only two jobs but that's what twenty three years of work.
[00:06:06] That's right. So then in the last twenty two years as well so I've been doing this for a while.
[00:06:11] So how did you make the transition though from being a worker for these companies or organizations to starting your own business.
[00:06:20] Well I saw an opportunity I working for SPIE surrounded me with technology I worked with Nobel Prize winners I saw also optics was at the core of a lot of innovation and an engineering association you were among the first to use the internet I had an email address in 1988 and I helped develop one of the first association websites ever at the end of 1993 to put that into perspective at the start of 1993 there are only one hundred and thirty Web sites total. So the rise early in the action gave it then in nineteen ninety seven before the dot com explosion happened. I could see the technology is going to change all industries and I felt that there would be a market for someone to do that to help people in the events industry grapple with the sweeping changes I saw were coming due to the Web and other technologies. And I was right and it has been a wild and fun ride since then.
[00:07:17] And so you're talking about more than just during an event. Technology right because I mean you have the association might have one or two big events a year but the rest of the time they go contact members and do all kinds of other stuff. So you handle both events and their regular daily operations with members.
[00:07:39] Sure I track I track about a hundred and fifteen hundred different technology products and a subset of about 30 of them are association management products and so that covers a whole range of things. But every aspect of the event and exhibition process is now has some type of technology to do that in fact I have 60 different categories of technologies of how events are improved using technology.
[00:08:06] I think you'll be busy for a long time to come because a busy meeting planner can barely keep track of their own email let alone other things.
[00:08:15] Fortunately technology is making that easier.
[00:08:17] Yeah keeps it keeps you busy. But thinking a little deeper did you plan your exit did you have money in the bank or do you just one day say I'm tired of this. How did you make the transition.
[00:08:31] I was getting I'd been doing it for over 15 years. We ran meetings. You know. I'd been there done that and my. Actually my daughter moved away to go to college around that time in 1997. So there was a window of opportunity for me to do a career change and. I had a little savings in the bank. Fortunately as it takes a while to prime the pump and I think it's going to set up the marketing and you know that took about 18 months before I could really start seeing some income. Coming back in. But at that. But it worked out well.
[00:09:06] So what percentage of business is speaking as opposed to consulting.
[00:09:12] I'd say it's a 50 40 10 speaking consulting and writing.
[00:09:18] So the writing you do is paid or it's used to promote yourself.
[00:09:22] It's paid I'm writing for four different publications and then I have my own newsletter that goes out to about eleven thousand people. And that I get payments through sponsorship advertising.
[00:09:34] Oh it's great great great great. So have you ever gotten screwed over in business.
[00:09:40] Well you know this industry is one that I've been really very fortunate then fortunate to work in the events industry. It is a really well connected industry with multiple related associations publications and yes even events. And it if you know if you're not completely scrupulous in this industry and you're with your business dealings the word will get out you will not thrive. That's my experience here is that I it's very I've had very few in fact I've had over a thousand clients in the past twenty two years and I've never had a significant problem. Not even one. So many of the people in the industry who are my best friends and it's a I think it's because we're really well networked and you know you. The word gets out if you are not. Scrupulous in how you handle things.
[00:10:37] Yeah that's that's really good for for most of that industry but part of it that I've experienced the just public speaking seminar industry that's not really backed by a big association or organization. There's a lot of a lot of bad stuff goes on there in fact I wrote an article. I think it's been seen several hundred thousand times. It's called the top 20 seminar scams. How do you get robbed at a seminar. So you're lucky I don't think you're in that part of the industry.
[00:11:07] Yeah. The events industry is one that's just so visible then you know people if you or if you don't deal properly in your business and word gets out. So that's been nice.
[00:11:22] So anything crazy bizarre happen at any of these events.
[00:11:27] Well let's see. I mean I mean I've had people die and at events in it whereas right now I've had people one person get drowned and I see you know that's swimming and you know so there's been really nothing. Those are really tragic. But in terms of in the scheme of things say it's been a pretty smooth ride. It was working for the association that you know as a out of my own. I think one of the best things about the job and it's been ever or something is unusual is that I have a significant travel bug in my job. Help me feed it. I write spoken to two groups in 34 countries and five continents my travels taking me to ninety seven countries total. So that's a. Something a little unusual it's just I've really had a chance to see the world doing what I've been doing.
[00:12:28] Yeah. That's really great. The only pet peeve I have about that that part of the industry is it's not really technology related it's just the thinking related like for instance they'll come in and you know I've done a lot of entertaining speaking. And then right before me they'll have like the section on what members died that year and then come on Tom now get them all laughing and that kind of thing.
[00:12:55] If memoriam sessions should not go before that.
[00:12:58] You're right. I actually have that in my agreement that I must know what's happened before after so I could at least try to talk to before hand.
[00:13:08] That's a good thing to do. I'd recommend I do that as well.
[00:13:10] Yeah yeah. Because I mean they just get all wrapped up in the whole thing and. I mean I've had I'm trying to collect money for emaciated dogs you know all these like Sarah McLachlan singing in the background. Come on Tom. Get em laughing. So what do you like best about working for yourself and what's the worst part.
[00:13:32] Well I love the one minute commute by the coffee maker. I live in Pacific Northwest and we've had a rare winter storm the grounds couple with several inches of snow and that almost never happens here. And so you're just thinking this morning how glad I am not to have to dig out the driveway and go out to a commute someplace.
[00:13:56] And probably people are crazy drivers if they've never seen snow much.
[00:14:01] That's absolutely right. I grew up in central Washington where you used the snow near it. You get a significant snow every four years and its place freezes to a halt. It's nuts. You know I just love the freedom of the job I can work in the morning my jammies. I want as I mentioned the travel opportunities there are great. I see the world get treated well as the speaker and I get a chance to help people. So it's and it's also provided a good opportunity make a good living as well. So that's in those. There are many many things I love about working for myself and those are some of them.
[00:14:38] What's the worst part.
[00:14:40] Well there's not much I don't like medical insurance for the self-employed can be expensive. But aside from that you know I don't have much to complain about life is good. I mean I just feel very fortunate. I have a job that I love.
[00:14:54] I'm totally into it man for sure. So what kind of things do you have available for the listeners like your newsletter and your products and other than the services and the consulting.
[00:15:06] Well it's really my consulting services are the products that I sell. And then my newsletter is so it would encourage people listeners if they're if you're interested in technology to stop on my Web site and sign up for my newsletter.
[00:15:22] They just need to be interested in technologies not whether they want to or not. It's this you just don't have a choice now.
[00:15:29] It does have a focus its focus on events and trade shows but there's there's some general stuff as well. My web is corbinball.com where you can sign up for the newsletter and find out all the details there. The other things I sell are really not products except you know except for my specific range of consulting services.
[00:15:51] Yes. So we have a lot of speakers and people who follow me that throw meetings and they attend meetings and they they're consulting with big companies that do meetings so I really want them to get to know you because the stuff you have is just tremendous. So we're gonna take a quick message from our sponsor when we come back. We want to ask Corbin What's a typical day look like for him and how he stays motivated.
[00:16:18] So folks do you know what colleges and universities are doing. Well according the GradeInflation.com there they're raising grade point averages artificially to make it look like they're doing a better job of teaching when there's a mountain of evidence that they aren't. So I really want you to watch that eye opening higher education webinar at screwthecommute.com/webinars because you could potentially save yourself and possibly your loved ones friends and neighbors hundreds of thousands of dollars of crushing debt when they go for higher education. Plus you can check out at IMTCVA.org and learn how you can have a lifestyle business in as little as six months. That's the school. It took me three years to get the license and it teaches Internet marketing techniques which is a highly in demand skill either to open your own business improve your own business or to work for someone else or all of the above.
[00:17:18] All right. Let's get back to Corbin ball. He's one of the top people in the entire world in the meetings industry. And so glad to be able to to talk to him again today. What's a typical day look like for you. Let's let's make it two different days. Like if you're on the road traveling to speak or consult and if you're home.
[00:17:39] I travel about a quarter of the time on speaking and consulting engagements and that typically about eight to 12 countries each year that I go to. A lot of international travel a lot of time spent on planes. I find I can be very productive I write in a lot of my articles on planes and I guess I travel so much that I get treated well by the airlines. And so I've got that figured out about how to get through with it without with the least amount of inconvenience. And So when I'm home I have a fairly regular routine Monday through Friday. Typically I'm at my desk Monday through Friday from starting at about 530 in the morning early riser. I see my fiance. She's a registered nurse and she leaves the house at five thirty and so I get up and see her on the three days a week that she does have it so but you know I find for me as I live in the West Coast this is helpful for me making contact on the East Coast in Europe I'm there and it's available they need to contact me. But generally when I start I start my day by answering e-mails and doing online research and it usually takes in two or three hours each. Each morning that's a research is a really important part of my life to keep up on what's happiness in the technology area. I'll take a break for breakfast and I'm back in my day.
[00:19:10] And that's all before breakfast.
[00:19:12] I get so involved. You know I just by the time I look up it's it's 9 30. I thought Yes you did take a shower. Take a break for breakfast and I'm back at my desk I very I use my outlook to do list very extensively with that that really guides what I want to do for the day and I'm tracking with that but I'm working on consulting jobs writing articles and managing my newsletter and updating my Web site and going travel arrangements and doing more research during those days at the desk at the I start kicking it back by about three thirty in the afternoon. Unless there are major deadlines I have calls to Asia Australian clients on the weekends I you know I monitor my e-mail but I generally spend time off and enjoy life with friends and family and my fiance.
[00:20:14] That's a great lifestyle business that's for sure because you feed your travel bug and I'm happy to sit at home. I've never done as much travel as you ever but I did a lot and I'm happy to sit at home now especially since they came out and said they're going to reduce the size of the bathroom so they can fit a few more seats in a plane that I can't fit in it as it is now that I've put porta potties that the first class. So what. How do you stay motivated to do all that sounds like you've psyched about just what you do in life. But you know it's when you're by yourself you've got to. Everything's on your shoulders.
[00:20:56] It is you know that's that that's a plus. And on the benefit and the minuses of speaking is that you need to be self-motivated. You need to you know keep going What. I don't have a problem staying motivated. I do. I love what you do what I do. And we are living in amazing times and following these incredible advances in technology. And I also find the speaking profession very gratifying when I see the light bulbs turn on in the audience and speaking it's really nice to be able to help people.
[00:21:29] Yes it's the same with me I don't have any trouble with motivation because I'm just always scratching crawling forward and help more people remotely now than then on stage but still you know you get those letters and you get those e-mails that say hey you know you changed my life is like wow you know I was just sitting here watching the tennis channel. So what What kind of parting thoughts would you have for We call them our screwballs that listen to this thing. On either starting or improving what are some of the most important business aspects of running your business.
[00:22:07] There are a few of them that I am you know I think that I have some technology suggestions and basic marketing suggestions that that's kind of the number one I'd say is you know find a marketable niche niche that works well that you know well and that is marketable and that for me was the best in exhibition technology right there. You know there are thousands of technology speakers out there but there are only a few dozen that are in the events space. That narrows down your niche more focus. For me at these basic tech as I've gone paperless there's very little paper in my office digitized nearly all my business processes which is increases the efficiency I can take my office easily on the road. When you do that though when you rely on this really important backup your data.
[00:22:56] Boy it sure is. I'll tell you why that's the last thing people think about. And then and then I get these calls. They're like their screw ups my emergency you know.
[00:23:05] It's you know I have a backup daily to a cloud drive to my local hard drive regularly to Dropbox. And also from my desktop to my travel laptop this is the that's the important thing.
[00:23:18] Well I told you before we started this. Hey hold on. I got three recorders. Then the minute we get done I'm going to take the SD card and upload it to the cloud. Oh boy you got it. That's great advice there from the technology guy for sure.
[00:23:37] Another basic one but if you're an information worker if you're working in front of a computer it's an absolute must in my mind to have dual monitors.
[00:23:46] At least I got four.
[00:23:48] At least mine are two 24 inch. I mean it's you know it's this is so much more efficient. From the basic marketing standpoint I just find that social channels are really important Twitter link and Facebook for me. But if your demographics younger it might be Snapchat and Instagram but you know just the street knows that being active in those channels writing a book makes you are articles as well. Make you sort of a de facto expert in your area. And so if you're paid to write which I am. Be sure to retain copyright so you can use then publish articles on your Web site. So my publishers are companies are paying me to add onto my websites. Finally be really responsive to press inquiries. They're often on the deadline and you know it's you getting ink is a good thing in most industries. And if you're getting quoted that keep your name out. So I tend to be if a press person calls I will make every effort to get them back in a timely manner. So those are some of the tips I have. It's. So that's it.
[00:25:01] Tremendous tips and I before the Internet was the commercial Internet was really taking place around 94 when I had my first web site I probably was in the thousand I guess. Yeah. Ninety four. Before that it was all what you just said. Media Marketing. I would just do everything to get a radio TV and print. And that's how I started my speaking career. So. And that's still valid today. There's just more outlets to be to be found. Talking about technology what we're concentrating on right now besides podcasting which I pooh poohed for a long time because nobody was making any money on it. But there's way more opportunity in podcasting now because the cars are coming out where you can just talk to your dashboard say Hey play screw the commute and it'll start playing out of your dashboard of your car and the Amazon Alexa and all those things but what we're concentrating right now is on the on demand TV so we can make TV channels on Amazon Fire and Roku TV is the two we're concentrating on right now. And I mean and compared to YouTube I mean in the first seven days I had a thousand people with no promotion whatsoever install my public speaking channel on their TV. You because they feature you if you know the new channels are featured and then you can go and see oh here's the new channel on if they like it and public speaking everybody hates that. So these other channels we have in mind. I got a brutal self-defense channel or protection dog channel internet marketing channel all of these. So we're really looking forward to that.
[00:26:40] Tom I defer to you in that area. You are truly a marketing genius. You've really done a wonderful job and been an inspiration to me.
[00:26:50] Well thank you. But basically it's all you tech guys figure all this stuff out and and I swoop in and use the technology because I don't really know the technology that much. I just know where to click to make money. That's what I concentrate on. Well good. It's so good to catch up with you man. I really appreciate the things you're doing like that I've known you for it must be 20 plus years or more right. And we're even quite a bit more than that. When when was Thailand when were we in Thailand.
[00:27:20] It was. I think that it was about 2004. My guess right around there. No it couldn't it's about 2000.
[00:27:36] Couldn't have been 2004. But you know the main thing I remember about that whole thing I mean besides the craziness of Bangkok and all that and talk about technology. So some lady that I don't know nobody seemed to like her. She was a little bit snippy.
[00:27:52] She was crazy she never saw a meeting planner that needed a meeting planner more.
[00:27:59] Well yeah. But I'm talking about this one another lady who came down from the hotel she had burnt half her hair off because she plugged her her curling iron into two hundred and forty volts Yeah the air was smoking. Everybody's like oh Did she deserve that.
[00:28:23] On the plus side of that event And you know there's a lot of the lady that putting together was crazy but she did a good job of putting together some strong speakers.
[00:28:43] That's for sure. Yeah. Those guys still I think go back there regularly but. But anyway great catching up with you man. We really appreciate talking to you and we'll get over to Corbinball.com folks and they'll be in our show notes so they can easily just click over get on his newsletter and suck in everything he says about technology because it is right and it is cutting edge. So thanks so much man for coming on and folks that download the app make sure you check out that higher education webinar so you can get a really great education in six months to a year that's actually in demand. You won't be competing for jobs at Starbucks. So Check that out and we'll catch you all on the next episode.
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