Speak the Future: Interview with Joan Raspo, Creative Executive

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Conferize’s “Speak the Future” series features speakers who are currently changing the conference world. For more info check out our “Speak the Future” Manifesto.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I live in New York City. For the past 15 years, I’ve been a commercial director, a creative director, and an executive at a network— and then BOOM. I woke up. I needed to learn some new tricks. The media industry is in radical technical disruption, and I knew that if I didn’t change with it, I’d die a slow career death. With a bit of effort, I decided to change my course. I was accepted into a unique Graduate Program at UC Santa Cruz in Digital Art and New Media.

I’m going back to graduate school to examine the world through the lens of new technologies and how they apply to both business and art. I wanted the space to think long and hard about our rapidly changing society. We’re at the crossroads of art, science and technology. It’s the right turn I needed to take in order to get my passion on—again.

What is your favorite area of expertise to present?

Definitely the disruption in the world of content distribution (otherwise known as TV). How will this business survive? The nimble and smart are waking up to the dramatic change in viewing habits. Certain networks or say—Netflix—are making the best shows I’ve watched in years. But it’s expensive to make excellent content. That’s what I discuss.

How did you find public speaking?

I was asked by a professor at Parsons to discuss my work in the late 90’s. At first, I was terrified. After enough speaking experiences, I found the performance part invigorating. Speaking is only worthwhile if I’m having fun on stage.

What have been key conferences you’ve attended or participated in?

Last year, I spoke at SCAD to a crowd of students about the history of TV and the disruptive technologies that are revolutionizing the business. Media companies need to embrace it. Find a new way to make their business profitable. This truth will weed out the few that choose to stay complacent. It was fun, spontaneous and interactive.

I find Promax/BDA a great conference. I always walk away with new ideas.

Why do you think conferences are important today?

I think conferences have always been important. I’ve never attended one where I wasn’t surprised or learned something completely new. The interaction with colleagues is an awesome forum to meet new people and make important connections. The problem is: most conferences are very expensive—if you’re paying on your own dime.

Have you noticed any significant trends in the meetings industry in the wake of digital/mobile developments?

Last year, most media conferences focused on digital or “social media” in some way shape or form. It seemed confused and laced with a lot of mumbo jumbo.

Over the past year, I see a multitude of media conferences offering sessions that concentrate on concrete analysis, rather than mere speculation. It’s an exciting time. I’m seeing informed speakers who have experience and know how to use analytics to make creative decisions. Fascinating.

How would you like to see conferences change in the future?

I’d love to see conferences follow the style of MOOC’s. Fall in and be ambitious. Contribute in real-time hangouts, or just watch and learn. TED’s been doing this for years.

As a speaker, what do you feel you need right now to strengthen your profile in the conference world? Tools, technology, network, etc.?

I need to do what I’m doing. Return to academia and learn from esteemed professors and the excitement of young students.

Any conference nightmares?

Yep. I was supposed to speak at the Kennedy School in Portland last year. I was all puffed up on my talk. Had it planned to the “T”. Then, Sandy hit and I was stuck in New York with a bunch of oranges, and cue cards. Mad as a hornet with no heat, electricity or water. That was a bummer.

Advice to aspiring speakers?

Over plan. Make a killer keynote presentation. Practice, practice, practice. Then wing it on stage.

Anything you’d like to add?

Corny as it sounds: follow your dream. If you hate what you’re doing change it immediately. Life is too short to waste—slugging it out in a job or industry you don’t respect or enjoy.