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Geek-a-Palooza, now in its fourth year, is the new kind of business event that combines networking with fun. With a relaxed environment approach, this event is really catching on and continues to grow. Dan Beaulieu talks with Tara Dunn about the upcoming Boston and Minneapolis events… and beyond.
Dan Beaulieu: Tara Dunn is one of the founders and organizers of Geek-A-Palooza. One of the things that everybody always asks is where does the name come from?
Tara Dunn: I just think it embodies fun and getting people together.
Beaulieu: It's definitely fun and gets people together, that's basically what it is. I lived in Milwaukee, so I met a lot of paloozas in Milwaukee. So what is the goal of the organization?
Dunn: We were working to start a networking event that encompassed the entire electronics industry. Inviting everyone and everything from OEMs and then the full supply chain—raw materials, design, assemblies, components, associations and keeping that unique part of the event. Really pulling everybody together because all those different people work together to create any electronic device, but we really didn't have an opportunity to interact with all those people in a face-to-face way.
Beaulieu: How long have you been doing this?
Dunn: This is our fourth year. The first three years we were in Minneapolis, and this year we expanded to Orange County (California) and now to Boston.
Beaulieu: I know you were in Orange County a few months ago. How did that work out for you?
Dunn: It was great. It was the first event there, so it really drew in a different group of people. We had great sponsorship and I think the event was a lot of fun.
Beaulieu: We've seen some of your videos and it looks like people were having fun. It's a good hybrid between social and business, isn't it?
Dunn: Absolutely. There is definitely the social aspect when you're there. We've got food and cocktails and some games and raffle prizes, but there is business going on at that same time. A great example happened at Orange County, where I was overhearing a conversation and it was between a contract manufacturer and a designer, and they pulled in a raw materials supplier who happened to be there. They solved the problem right there.
Beaulieu: That's a great example and I've been focused on a lot of that lately, that we all need to talk to each other. This is why I admire what you guys are doing, because it gives that format. It takes the business suit or mask off and enables people to talk to each other as people. I think that's one of the great features of it. Tell me about how you chose Boston, and how you are choosing your locations overall.
Dunn: Well, with Boston we were looking for an opportunity to do something more RF related, so we're going to be co-locating with EDI CON USA. It's their first U.S. event. It's going to be in Boston on September 21 at the Hynes Convention Center. The Expo goes until 5:00 and then our event will pick up and do the networking and social aspect of that from 5:00−8:00 pm.
Beaulieu: You're like the after party of the event.
Beaulieu: That's pretty cool. Now, are you planning to hook into these events in the future as well or is this a one-time thing?
Dunn: I think that we'll probably do both. This one will be coordinated with EDI CON, but Minneapolis and Orange County were stand-alone.
Beaulieu: Who should go to Geek-a-Palooza in Boston in September? Who would you like to see there?
Dunn: Definitely OEM engineers, but also the whole supply chain. Anybody related to the electronics industry.
Beaulieu: I have not been to one, so you'll have to forgive me. Is it a cocktail party environment or is it a little more formal? Do you have speakers?
Dunn: It is definitely a cocktail party format, so we have hors d'oeuvres that get passed throughout the event and music. We also have games that go on during the event. Some of the sponsors even have games at their own table. There's just a lot of entertainment going on throughout the event. This year in Boston, I think we're going to start out the event with a stand-up comic doing a little spin on the electronics industry.
Beaulieu: That will be a lot of fun. How many people do you expect in Boston? What's your goal there?
Dunn: I think Boston is going to be a full house. The EDI CON event itself is quite large, so there's going to be a lot of people at that event and then we're also drawing in people from outside of that event that are in the industry.
Beaulieu: You mentioned sponsorships. Can you tell me more about how that works?
Dunn: We have three primary levels of sponsorship. Level 1, which is a table at the event, and logo inclusion in all of our event marketing. Then we have Level 2, which includes all of the Level 1 benefits along with inclusion in a feature ad in the I-Connect007 publications, premium marketing and hyper-linking company description out on our website, and featured spotlights on social media. Finally, the Level 3 package is all of that, plus inclusion in post-event coverage including video promotion of your company. We'll have somebody doing individual videos of each Level 3 sponsor and they will also be part of the compilation video as well.
Beaulieu: Have you set the rates for these sponsorships yet?
Dunn: Yes. The Level 1 sponsorship is $500, Level 2 sponsorship is $750, and Level 3 sponsorship is $1,000. For those that are interested in supporting the event, but are not able to attend, we have a $250 sponsorship package which includes a staffed table to distribute your company literature.
Beaulieu: After Boston, where are you going? What's next after that?
Dunn: We will be in Minneapolis on October 13th.
Beaulieu: You guys are staying busy. What's the plan for the future?
Dunn: We really haven't sketched out what 2017 will look like, but I do expect to see it continue to expand.
Beaulieu: I would think so too. Just to put in my two cents, it's going to be a very popular event and I'm already seeing it gain momentum. Congratulations to you guys. You're doing a great job.
Dunn: Thank you. We're having a lot of fun doing it.
Beaulieu: I bet you are. When do you ever find time to sell boards? (Laughs)
Dunn: Exactly. (Laughs)
Beaulieu: Great, thank you for speaking with me today.