Interview with Marco Montemagno
1. One way you describe yourself is that of ‘Tech Alchemist’. What exactly do you mean by this and how do you think you have benefited businesses over the years by sharing your knowledge?
The Digital world changes so fast and it’s too complicated even for tech people who live in it 24/7! Can you imagine how difficult it is for a company that is not in the tech sector to understand all the trends, decipher and decide what to do? It’s like learning a new language: it can take 10 years or 1 month it depends on the system that you decide to use. What you often need is a sort of “translator”, a human bridge that helps you to connect what you already know with what you need to know – someone who can help you get that secret sauce used by the best digital people and businesses.
Without geek speak and in an actionable way. That’s what I do.
2. Do you feel that working with and interviewing so many top technical gurus and founders over the years has given you more of an insight into global technical trends and has this knowledge shaped any of your own business decisions?
Absolutely. I’ve been lucky to meet, interview or share the stage with so many amazing people – from Jeff Bezos to Al Gore, Steve Ballmer, Nicholas Negroponte and hundreds of digital entrepreneurs. It’s a unique opportunity to have direct access to original, pure talent!
Most of all after a while you can clearly understand the habits of the most successful ones and you start instinctively to recognize patterns that really work and that you can adopt in your business.
3. What is Europe’s role in 21st Century geopolitics, and which changes can or should be applied?
It’s fundamental; let me give you an example. I’m often asked to talk about how to expand your online presence, how to reach millions of users. On one side it’s good to provide best guidelines learned by consistently studying and meeting top notch people. On the other side it would be very difficult to convince an audience if I haven’t done it myself. In this case having built an editorial network with more than 3 millions unique monthly visitors helps to really know first hand what it means (and how difficult it is!).
4. There are many people who are technical gurus and there are many people who can bring topics to life, but not many can combine the two successfully. What qualities do you have that enable you to bring ‘technical speak’ to life and to engage audiences?
My journey… I have spent the last 15 years of my life “divulging” the opportunities offered by the Internet and technology by doing presentations.
For every type of audience. On every medium.
In-almost-any situation. However, I had the misfortune (later revealed as good fortune) of having to speak about a topic like the Web and technology, where the audience (in a non-technological country like mine, Italy) is not interested in the subject, does not want to listen to you and has no intention of changing their beliefs/habits (can you imagine anything worse than a complete stranger sent to talk to you about technology?).
I went through every type of medium (TV, Radio, Web, Newspapers) doing presentations in the most desperate conditions, from town squares to castles (to an audience seated at dining tables, starving before dinner), from mega conventions of 5,000 people to hotel rooms with 2 people, from meetings at nursing homes with eighty-year-olds to face-to-face meetings with sixteen-year-olds behind school desks.
I had to do theatrical monologues of 90 minutes and 10 minutes pitches on trains for the entire 3-and-a-half hour journey (rotating between 11 wagons, talking to 6 people at a time), as well as summarizing my messages in 12 second clips for radio interviews, right through to 21 minute live television transmissions on my own program (with guests like Jeff Bezos).
Lastly, I had the chance to interview thousands of guests, ranging from one-to-one interviews with well-known figures such as Steve Ballmer in front of 1,500 people, to live interviews with Al Gore on TV including accepting live questions from the audience (while defending myself in the meantime from physical attack by a fanatic…).
Above all, out of sheer necessity, I had to invent different and unconventional methods of presenting, in order to be able to survive in situations that you cannot overcome just by showing some simple slides. I brought ping-pong tables on the stage to explain and play at the same time, I gave out rings to marry the Internet, I used sensors to transform the audience into a single joystick, I folded T-shirts in 5 seconds, I gave out sheets of paper to make portraits and I brought tennis balls to throw on the stage.
5. What do you think are the hot technical topics and trends for business today and what do you feel is or are most important and urgent for any company to address?
The internet is not virtual anymore and the whole internet of things/makers movement is going to be big. How do you run your business in a 100% connected world? How do you stay visible and relevant when trillions of objects and people produce content every second?
How do you adapt your business in a mobile first environment?
There are huge opportunities coming out of the digital layer that will be ubiquitous if you just get the right approach and knowledge.