Manolita Moore, the fifth #Germinder20 #PowerofPink Honoree, and the first non-veterinarian, is a rock star as the Vice President of Exhibit Sales & Operations for NAVC. Prior to joining NAVC, she spent nearly seventeen years at Western Veterinary Conference (WVC), helping transform the association into one of the world’s largest and highly sought-after continuing education providers in the world. A mother of two children with a tireless work ethic, she and editor Lea-Ann Germinder share the experience of working in organized veterinary medicine for many years – without being a veterinarian. They met during Germinder + Associates’ handling of the WVC account and the launch of Goodnewsforpets.com. Now here is just a portion of Manolita’s story.
Can you tell us first what got you started on your career in managing veterinary conferences?
Thank you very much Lea-Ann for this award. I am very honored and humbled to be one of the honorees of the Germinder Power of Pink, 20th year celebration.
Like many convention and tradeshow professionals I know, I didn’t study or plan to be in this field. I joined Western Veterinary Conference (WVC), from the University of California-Davis (California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory-San Bernardino Branch), where I had been working for several years.
I started in an administrative position while I was going to college. Over the years, I was promoted several times and became the branch laboratory administrator and held that position until my departure in 1998. It was at UC Davis, where I was first introduced to veterinary medicine and the main reason why I got the job at WVC.
Dr. Arthur Bickford, a UC Davis Branch Laboratory Director who also happened to be the interim Executive Director and Past President of WVC at the time, asked me if I would be interested in working for WVC in Las Vegas. Dr. Bickford was familiar with my work at UC Davis and he knew I had some family in Las Vegas.
I didn’t know anything about WVC and because the Internet was not readily available then, I really had no idea what I was getting into. However, I was intrigued so I interviewed and met with him in Las Vegas. The job was offered, I accepted, and the rest is history.
What drew you to the opportunity at Western Veterinary Conference?
While I did not plan to be in the convention and tradeshow industry, my UC Davis experience definitely gave me the edge and opened the door for me at WVC. At that time, I had no clue how to run or manage a conference, let alone manage the size and scale of the WVC.
My background in veterinary medicine helped a great deal and my business experience was a bonus. It seemed like a perfect opportunity at that time and I am glad I did. I would not have been here today if I didn’t take that risk. I did not, however, expect in a million years to love and stay in the industry this long.
When we met in 2000, WVC was also a client of Germinder + Associates. We were handling the public relations for WVC and we were also getting ready to launch Goodnewsforpets.com. You were running a separate hall of .coms that was really cutting edge. What’s been the key to introducing all of this technology successfully?
I have always been a proponent of using technology to enhance efficiency. While at UC Davis I was fortunate to have worked closely with our IT team and that was where I first learned how to use a computer and even learned how to do some very basic programming. I still remember doing our daily backup using several large Bernoulli disks.
One of the many things I did shortly after I arrived at WVC was transition WVC into a more technologically advanced organization. I changed our telephone system, replaced our copy machines, started our website, changed our computer systems and eventually changed our database to help improve our processes.
To increase staff efficiency, we provided our staff with dual screens long before most organizations adapted this practice. These changes sound trivial, but it was these small things that slowly helped changed WVC into a more progressive and transformative conference.
Over the years, my team and I continued to experiment and implement various technologies not only to improve our internal processes, but also to help engage our attendees and improve their conference experience. For example, we experimented and enhanced our audio session collection from basic audio available via cassette tapes to online video streaming.
By the time I left in late 2014, WVC had mastered live streaming capture both from the session rooms and from the exhibit hall floor. We were able to re-broadcast popular sessions later in the day via our WVC-TV channel within a few hours.
The WVC-TV was originally launched in 2005 under Dr. Steve Crane as the WVC Executive Director. WVC-TV used live reporters who were also veterinarians. These veterinarian reporters conducted live interviews from the meeting rooms and from the exhibit floor. They also conducted a live newscast during the conference from a permanent news set; all while the conference was up and running and while technology and bandwidth were not as readily available.
Having veterinarians as reporters added credibility to this program. Over the years, WVC-TV has evolved and was an important platform to communicate our message and engage our attendees.
In 2005, we released our WVC-Conference Call Newspaper. This was a traditional daily newspaper released during the 5-day conference. The information was later available online for everyone to see in case attendees missed it onsite. In 2006-2007, the electronic Board of Directors voting was introduced along with the WVC-Encore, a collection of select presentations all loaded into an iPod. The WVC Autotutorial Library also went digital during this period.
Once again with the Conference App, WVC was an early adaptor of new technology. In collaboration with a company in Canada, we developed our Conference App and customized it to fit our attendees’ needs. We continually added more features over the years, including voting, manuscript, scheduling, videos, CE tracking, etc.
In the exhibit hall, we used tools to help us understand how we were doing with our exhibit hall setup and offerings. For a number of years, we used a platform called ethnometrics to measure our traffic flow, attendee/exhibitor behavior, attendee dwell time, etc. The data obtained from this system was particularly helpful for our exhibitors and sponsors to assist them with their staffing and space location. The information was very helpful for us as we grew our space over the years.
Other technology-related advances that were implemented during my time include: Online Speaker Bio and Presentation Upload, Centralized Presentation Upload, WVC-Notes (digital only), Free Attendee Internet, Digital Signage, and Live Streaming.
I believe the key to successfully introduce new technology is to do your research. It is very important that you compare platforms, identify the benefits and potential pitfalls, and review all your requirements. Equally important is to make sure you have the right partners/vendors to help with the implementation, vendors who can sustain future improvements and maintenance. Finally, it is critical that you have the buy-in from your team and that you have the right team to execute the implementation.
You have digital in your DNA! What’s been your biggest achievement to date with all of this digital technology and what do you think has been the biggest challenge?
I believe my biggest achievement to date, in introducing technology in a conference setting, has been when my team and I brought our own Wi-Fi and offered it to our attendees for free before other conferences of the same size were able to do so. What made it notable was that it was during the time when free Internet was not yet readily available.
We accomplished it by bringing in our own network because our venue at the time was not ready and did not have the infrastructure to fully support our needs. It was challenging and very risky, but we did it successfully and paid for all the equipment purchased after just one year. We used and managed our own Internet for three years until the venue finally upgraded their system. I believe this also prompted the venue to upgrade their other properties and made the Internet service cheaper and readily available to other conference groups.
The biggest challenge is not finding the right technology, but finding the right vendor/partner who consistently provides good customer service and continually innovates. Some vendors cannot keep up with the industry trends and do not consistently innovate. Then, you have no choice but cancel them and find an alternative resource.
When you do run a conference, you have different audiences, you have the attendees, you have the sponsors, and you have the speakers. I’m curious to know, how did each audience accept this technology and see how it would benefit them?
Understanding your audience and listening to their needs is definitely an important strategy. We continually asked and listened to our attendees. We also benchmarked other conferences, not necessarily in the same industry but also other industries.
When we introduced the WVC Conference Apps, also ahead of many conferences, the adaption rate was low but over time we made it so easy to use and made it so useful that our usage rate was consistently high and we were also able to secure a healthy sponsorship year after year.
Working with our speakers was sometimes a challenge when introducing new technology for them. When we introduced the online speaker bio and presentation upload, many resisted at first, but eventually everyone loved the process. When we introduced and required the WVC Conference Notes in digital format only, it was very controversial and several of the speakers did not comply. However, through persistence and by continually improving the system, many found it very useful and eventually saw the benefits if they participated.
In my experience, sponsors have been the first to try and are willing to experience new technology especially when it encourages attendee engagement and helps improve brand awareness.
Now that you’re at the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC), where do you see digital technology going?
I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of NAVC. Everybody at NAVC, and especially Tom Bohn, our CEO, are wonderful. Tom is one of the smartest, kindest and most forward thinking leaders you will ever meet. Technology as a whole will continue to be a major part of our industry and NAVC is committed to being at the forefront of our market in that regard.
Innovation in general is on top of the NAVC’s agenda. NAVC started the Veterinary Innovation Council (VIC) and has made tremendous progress so far. VIC is a collaborative, industry-wide initiative focused on leading innovation in animal health on a global scale. If your readers are not familiar with this initiative, they can visit https://navc.com/advocacy/veterinary-innovation-council/ for more information.
At this year’s VMX, we introduced the first ever Startup Circle where select startup companies were invited to exhibit and showcase their products and services. The company must be less than three years in the business and their product(s) must serve the veterinary community. This is another way NAVC brings innovation into our events and into the veterinary community. The program was well received and we plan to bring this program again at VMX 2019. Space is still available. If any of your readers are interested in participating, they can visit https://navc.com/vmx/exhibitors/
I believe digital technology will continue to be a part of our everyday lives both personally and professionally. The use of artificial intelligence and robotic technologies at conferences will not only become a part of our regular interactions, but will likely become the norm. As a continuing education provider and in order to stay global and competitive, it would be very important for us to understand these technologies, embrace them, invest in them, and integrate them into our educational programs sooner rather than later.
Are there any specific plans you’d like to share with us?
I am currently enjoying my time at NAVC. In just a short time, I have been able to bring innovation and creativity inside our massive Expo Hall. Working with our talented staff, I look forward to collaborating and finding those unique and cutting-edge technologies to improve our attendee and exhibitor experience.
I do not know what the future holds, but one thing I am certain is that I love the animal health industry and I plan to stay in this industry for the foreseeable future.
You have always been receptive to media requests. How have you felt that openness to allow the media to come into the organization and work with the media has benefited you and your organizations?
Being friendly and courteous to everybody (even to our competitors and media) has been my strategy. I believe that being friends with the media will likely benefit you and your organization tenfold. Media can be very beneficial in disseminating your message to your audience faster and wider than your internal staff can typically do, especially if you do not have the in-house staff to support such an undertaking.
We’ve both been at this a long time. You’re an accomplished woman business leader and you’re a mother of two sons. You graduated with honors and also received your MBA. How do you achieve balance in your life? What kind of tips can you give for success to these up and coming female leaders who also want that balance in the veterinary profession?
I am definitely not perfect and it has not been easy. I’ve learned my lessons over the years and I’m now really trying to practice a balanced life. It’s a struggle every day, right? My biggest piece of advice, however, is to take care of yourself first. It might sound selfish, but it is very true and important. If you don’t have yourself together, your family, loved ones, even your career may suffer. Having a healthy diet with regular exercise is definitely a must. I didn’t know it then when I was younger, but I definitely know it now. I have been practicing Bikram (hot yoga) for nearly five years now and I think it’s what saved me and kept me grounded.
Is there anything else that you would like to add that we have not covered here?
Thank you for this interview and for the recognition. This award means a lot to me. The last few years have been very difficult and receiving this award makes me appreciate the veterinary industry even more. I look forward to the future. My parents and my family would be very proud. I could not have done this without them. To my friends and colleagues, thank you for being there for me and for supporting me over the years.
Lastly, to my new NAVC family, thank you for welcoming me and for giving me the opportunity to be part of your world. I hope my small contributions will make a large impact at the NAVC and in the entire veterinary industry.
A donation to The Pixel Fund will be made in honor of Manolita Moore from the #Germinder20 #PowerofPink Anniversary Fund. The Pixel Fund fosters and rescues pets to safety from high kill shelters and gets them health and ready for adoption.