What Viewers Can Expect from this Year’s Virtual Georgia Technology Summit – Larry Williams, TAG

The Georgia Technology Summit is right around the corner. This annual forum, hosted by the Technology Association of Georgia, will be virtual this year and streams this April 28-29. Here to discuss the event agenda and what attendees can expect from the Summit, is the President and CEO of the Technology Association of Georgia, Larry Williams.

Register for the Georgia Technology Summit here!

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thank you so much, Larry, for taking the time out of your schedule to join us on the show.

Larry Williams:
Jim, great to be back here with you. It’s always a pleasure for us to be with you and ASBN.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great, great. Let’s start at the beginning. Can you give us kind of a once-over or a little bit of the state of the technology and how it’s going here in Georgia?

Larry Williams:
Well Jim, overall it’s going incredibly well. Our overall employment within the tech sector continues to grow and we look forward to updating everyone on that at the Georgia Technology Summit. Companies continue to move here. And a lot of that is driven by the talent that we have, both through our great four-year institutions and the graduations that are coming out of great institutions like Georgia Tech, but also the skills that we have beyond just the four years. Some of the apprenticeships and other ways that we’ve developed the workforce is highly attractive to companies.

Larry Williams:
There’s really two main components to it. We’ve heard a lot about the news of Airbnb and Microsoft and Apple coming here, but there are a lot of growth companies that are really popping up here and leading the way. They’re just so many great stories of people that are creating that next generation of ingenuity. They’re doing it here and they’re inventing it here, their developing the business here, and they’re hiring the people here, which is fascinating. There’s something that we’ve known for a long time that continues to be a great asset for us, and that is the great diversity that this community represents. And it’s not just the diversity itself; it’s the inclusion in the process that continues to happen that makes us such an attractive place and something for us to be proud about and continue to improve on.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. I think we’re all impressed here in Georgia with how things were still growing, even through the pandemic of 2020. Obviously now it looks like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel with vaccine vaccinations and such, but through 2020 we still saw some really big deals happening in the tech sector here in Georgia. Talk to me about that. Isn’t that fascinating? Here’s the world shutting down and yet Atlanta and Georgia just keep rolling along with these great entrepreneurs that are finding money.

Larry Williams:
Well I think back in March and April last year, we all pumped our brakes a little bit, and that was mainly just to get our footing and see what was going on, but that didn’t really detract us at all. Any time in the world technology took center stage. So we had to figure out how to run our businesses, how to connect with our friends, how to get basic services, health care, how are we going to educate ourselves and our kids, all that happened. The platforms that actually we’ve been building over decades really took center stage because that infrastructure allowed us to not only continue to run our businesses, but think about new applications for technology and new ways of doing business, and that was where we shine.

Larry Williams:
Jim, you’ve heard me say before that I’ve always described Georgia as where technology meets the real world. It’s not always about the shiniest gadgets, but we have the real infrastructure that can really help propel businesses. That’s why great sectors like FinTech, transaction processing, cybersecurity, and the real work that goes behind it, the data science and analytics, the big data as we call it, that’s where we’re strong and that’s where we took center stage, and that’s what’s going to continue to propel us in the future.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And then I’m sure there’s those companies where they did extremely well through the pandemic because of the technology that they’ve created. There seems to be that in every sector that’s done very well because of the pandemic hitting, right?

Larry Williams:
Well, you hate to think of a silver lining, but they’re certainly were some. It did a couple of things. Just a little over a year ago, we kept talking about digital transformation and really we changed that term to digital acceleration. A lot of these things was technology, but in a lot of cases, the technology was there, and in some cases the business model was there, but it was policies that were getting in the way.

Larry Williams:
An example of that in a place where Georgia really shines is in tele-health. If we think about digital health, now all of a sudden we needed to be able to connect in platforms like the one you and I have right now, and for people receive health care. It’s not just an urban, rural. Certainly the rural communities need these things, but in urban areas where people are home bound, I don’t know anybody who wanted to go to a hospital in the last year for any reason. So being able to connect with that.

Larry Williams:
And then that accelerated the policy shifts to be able to allow this and say, “Yeah, this is a good thing.” It happened in digital government. It happened in education as we saw. Jim, I just don’t see us going back. These things work. They’re effective. There are ways to keep it secure, there’s ways to guarantee our privacy; two of the biggest concerns about that. We can do that. We can enable that. It’s just going to help us be able to use technology to really to touch the lives of all of the residents throughout Georgia.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hey, talk to me about the engagement with your members and the community now versus a year ago, because that had to be tough on TAG, right?

Larry Williams:
Yeah. That’s a tough time to be in a networking and events business, but we pivoted fast. We really did. As we saw this back in March, I didn’t know how long it was going to last. None of us did, but we went virtual very, very quickly. Us, like many people, we had built a platform that was able to sustain a virtual model. We immediately started thinking about what can we do, what membership value can we continue to add as we were going to a virtual platform?

Larry Williams:
Part of it was content, good education, what are the trends, the things that we’re known for in all of the areas, making sure that people could get connected to our societies and make sure that all of the virtual and digital was there, but also what is the business? What do people need to know? What are they thinking about? How do I work from home? How do I effectively manage teams from afar? What is the content that people needed to know, and again, that value that we added? And then we pivoted very quickly.

Larry Williams:
FinTech South was one of our largest big events. You’ve been out there; Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Dramatic, right?

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Larry Williams:
That venue is absolutely beautiful, no question about it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And the buzz and the vibe of the whole event is just so positive and inspirational for everybody, and it has a huge impact in all of the companies that are there and everybody that visits it.

Larry Williams:
Exactly. So how do you take that and make it virtual?

Larry Williams:
I was so proud of our team. When we stepped back and looked at it … We could have adopted a position of let’s just get through this year, but we didn’t. We looked at it and said, “What opportunities lie here?” And one of the biggest thing was we don’t have borders.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, it’s true. Good point.

Larry Williams:
During FinTech South last year, we went global. On the Tuesday of that week, we had world day, world stage. We started in Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Great content, live streamed a lot of it. Then we went to the Americas, to the Western hemisphere, and then we went up to about 11:30 that evening looking at the markets in Asia, led by Singapore, Hong Kong.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
My Got. That’s incredible.

Larry Williams:
Absolutely phenomenal … we were to expand our borders and then bring a lot of that content in the world right here to the epicenter of FinTech of Atlanta, Georgia. So absolutely fascinating what we’re able to do. A lot of this, as we move back, is going to be in a hybrid world. Now, the Georgia Technology Summit, we had done that live and we’re doing that virtual this year, and I know we’re going to talk about that, but what we’re doing this year is absolutely phenomenal.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Perfect segue. Let’s jump in. What are you doing this year?

Larry Williams:
Well, that’s great. Well, we are doing it virtual, but this is absolutely phenomenal. I think you’ll appreciate this. The production value that we’re bringing to the Georgia Technology Summit is the production value that you have in your studio. This is something that we have searched. We’ve learned every platform that there is out there to do virtual events and we’ve picked the absolute best in the world. That’s what we’ll be developing all of our content on. It is April 28th and 29th. There’s just so much going on.

Larry Williams:
Listen, there’s three main themes that we’re really going to focus on. We’re going to talk about innovate, impact and inspire. And there’s so many reasons. We’ve already talked about some of the innovation that’s been happening and a lot of the impact, but the inspiration that’s coming out of this in a timely way is also absolutely phenomenal. That’s our overall themes.

Larry Williams:
I think you’ll see all of our speakers as well as our breakout sessions and content will also be there. We’ll be doing a lot live from the studio. We’ve got two phenomenal keynote speakers. We’ve got Robin Benincasa, who is the Founder and CEO of world-class teams. She broke into adventure type sports a long time ago, a woman leading the way, breaking into a sport that was traditionally for men, but has not only succeeded and excelled at it, but really came back with a lot of lessons about what it means to be a part of a team, to lead teams. She’s got some great messages there, so you’re going to want to tune to that.

Larry Williams:
The other person is Craig Neeb. He’s the Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer for NASCAR. So you think about NASCAR … drive fast, turn left. This is the guy that’s really thinking about what is the safety? How do we keep these drivers safe? How do we keep the crews safe? How do we keep our spectators and our fans and everyone else safe through all of this? And how do we continue to innovate all of the technology that goes into this great sport? We’re very, very excited about him.

Larry Williams:
Listen, as always, we’ll be talking about our impact award winners. We have our top 40 innovators that have been out there and we’ll be narrowing it down to the top 10. We have a new feature. We get to announce our new Tag Technology Awards, featuring some of the great leaders in technology throughout our community. So extremely, extremely excited about this. Again, all of this event is highlighting the leaders and innovations driving George’s community and all of the technology that’s happening.

Larry Williams:
That’s a little piece. That the taste. Let me know if you have any questions.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I love it. I think what’s great about these new virtual events that are happening, these new conferences and such is that it’s also somewhat on demand as well. Now you’re not limited. Obviously if we go in person, you’re kind of limited. Am I going to go to that breakout session or that breakout session? Now you can go to all of them. Now they’re all available to you, plus they’re available to the whole team, plus I could be at my home in Florida. I don’t need to be here because of COVID. It showed us we can be anywhere in the world, like you just mentioned no borders, and still attend this and get a lot out of it, right?

Larry Williams:
You’re exactly right. There’ll be live streaming and ways to interact as well. We’ve got a great platform. We also have a great platform where you can do networking. You can set up your profile. You can think about who you want to connect with. One of the most effective platforms there is in the world. We’re excited about that. To do that we need you to be a little thoughtful on the front-end, thinking about, obviously you can’t bump into people at the water cooler, so we need you to think about your profile and how you reach out to folks as well. But the platform is there, the tools are there; we just need people to engage.

Larry Williams:
We’re expecting over 1200 people to be there this year on that platform. We’ve gotten great response throughout. People are excited about it. One of the most engaged committees developing this. Either go to the website, Georgia Technology Summit, or just go to tagonlin.org. It is a phenomenal, phenomenal experience that we’re going to have coming up April 28th and 29th.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So do yourself a favor, do your company a favor and attend this and get as many people that you know to attend it. It’s fellowship right now. Right now is when we need an event like this, because these are the unique times that we need all of the input we can get from every different viewpoint out there. Certainly from all of the movers and shakers that are in the technology sector in Georgia, they’re going to be at this. So don’t miss it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Larry, I want to thank you so much for joining us once again on our show. We very much appreciate it. Our viewers and subscribers get so much out of your visits here, and they get so much out of your organization because they tell us. So thanks so much.

Larry Williams:
Jim, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great. We’ll show all the information here for those of you that want to attend the Georgia Technology Summit. It’s all on the screen right in front of you. So as I said, there’s no excuses. You’re a click away from getting a tremendous amount of knowledge and being in the know as to what’s happening here in the technology sector in Georgia, and the Southeast I might add. So thanks again. I appreciate it, Larry.

Larry Williams:
Thanks Jim. We’ll see you there.


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