After energizing Big Omaha, Neves will work double duty in Des Moines
After emceeing at Big Omaha in May, Antonio Neves will pull double duty as emcee and speaker at Thinc Iowa.
One aspect of a Silicon Prairie News-run conference that may go overlooked but it is an essential ingredient to the overall recipe is the emcee. The emcee is responsible not only for introducing each speaker to the stage but also for the getting the audience energy up and keeping it up.
At Thinc Iowa, those responsibilities are in the capable hands of Big Omaha 2012 emcee Antonio Neves, an award-winning business journalist and self-described coach, professional question-asker and opportunity-identifier. Neves is pulling double duty at Thinc Iowa, serving as emcee and delivering a talk.
Big Omaha 2012 attendees know that Neves often stole the show with his "BIG O-MA-HA!" shoulder shakes and flashy wardrobe. But his experience in the spotlight predates Big Omaha 2012. Neves began his career co-hosting Nickelodeon’s “U-Pick Live,” and has also worked with various networks including E!, PBS and BET Networks. Neves says his mother would tell you he's been a host his whole life.
Today, Neves is the founder of THINQACTION and spends his days working with young professionals to produce exceptional results in their careers. We recently conducted a phone interview with Neves to ask about Thinc Iowa, being an emcee and pro tips for asking questions at a conference.
Silicon Prairie News: What made you say yes to Jeff Slobotski and Thinc Iowa?
Antonio Neves: Who wouldn't say yes to spending a few days in Des Moines, Iowa in October? Thinc Iowa was attractive to me solely because of the amazing experience at Big Omaha. But most importantly because of Silicon Prairie News and that team. They could ask me to mow their lawn and I would say yes. I believe in them so much.
When it comes to entrepreneurship and the startup community, we're falsely led to believe great things are only happening in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. That's just not true, and Big Omaha and Thinc Iowa prove this.
SPN: How was Big Omaha different than any other conference you've been to?
AN: Big Omaha felt like home to me. Other conferences I go to it's all about what you do, what's your name. what's your title and what are you working on? Big Omaha was one of the rare conferences where I got to know people and who they are. I'm from small-town Michigan, so being in Big Omaha felt like home. For me it was exciting because there was no special treatment for speakers. We were all one, no green room. Attendees and speakers are a community together, with no division between us.
(Left: Neves inspired a meme at Big Omaha with his eagerness to ask questions of the speakers.)
SPN: How do you keep up the energy after nights of partying, eating, sitting, and still get the crowd going?
AN: One of the ways I maintain energy is through conscious breathing and through meditation. I'm not a caffeine guy; I focus a lot on my breath. If I'm clear about my goals, I can keep my energy up all day. Typically, I have trouble coming down at the end of the day because I have so much energy from the audience. The list of speakers is so dynamic this audience will be hanging on every word.
SPN: What do you feel like your role is as emcee for a tech conference?
AN: In many ways I'm the director of the experience. I look at my job to manage the experience from beginning to the end. It's like you're coming to my house. I want to make sure you have a great experience from beginning to end and that you want to come back.
SPN: What are your thoughts on the Thinc Iowa speaker lineup?
AN: When I saw the Thinc Iowa lineup, I got so excited. There is not one person on the list that I'm NOT looking forward to hearing from. I can't say that about other conferences. Usually there is one time where I'm thinking, "That's when I'll take a nap." There isn't anyone like that on this lineup.
SPN: Any tips for a first-timer at Thinc Iowa or any of the SPN conferences?
AN: Come open, curious and ready to learn. Try to find ways to create meaning and add value for the others that you meet. Instead of telling everyone what you do, come to give and come to support. Also, think long-term about relationship-building. Be willing to have a great time and be fully present.
SPN: Who plans your wardrobe?
AN: Let's just say, I have two custom-made jackets never before seen that will be gracing the stage at Thinc Iowa. And one of the jackets may be in the color of eggplant. That's all I'm going to say.
Finally, Neves and I discussed the dos and don'ts of asking questions at a conference. He presented me with his Five Tips to Asking a Question at Thinc Iowa:
- Don't ask a speaker a question that can be answered with a quick Google search.
- Don't be afraid to ask a question. Get a little uncomfortable, go up to the microphone and be willing to learn something new.
- Ask one question — no two-parters. That's just selfish, like that little kid who wouldn't share his toys.
- Don't ask questions that take forever to ask. You should be able to finish asking your question by the time you run out of breath.
- Make your question about the presenter, not about you. Don't spend five minutes introducing yourself and what your company does.