Tolga Gonenli is well-known conference organizer, which we’ve met with at the first EuroForensics conference. He, now, organizes EMEA Intelligence, the only Intelligence and Surveillance technologies conference in the region. It is very interesting to learn, what is behind the curtains of conference preparations. Today Tolga shares his experience regarding that.
Tolga Gonenli, graduated University of Massachusets, Amherst, with a degree in Political Science. Following his graduation he went back to his homeland, the Republic of Turkey, where he excelled in running international trade shows for different employers and sectors, finally to become one of the coordinators of CeBIT Eurasia, the largest ICT exhibition in the EMEA region.
His career allowed Tolga to be able to analyse the current ICT sector in the region, which led him to discover the need for specialized conferences in forensic sciences and intelligence technologies.
Tolga is now the managing partner of A.T. Strategies (ATS), a company which represents many international companies in counter terror technologies, lawful interception, and forensics. ATS, together with its partnering company Komtera Technologies, organizes an annual event by the name EMEA Intelligence: International Intelligence and Surveillance Technologies Conference and Exhibition in Turkey.
Yuri: Tolga, please briefly describe your current occupation.
Tolga: I am the managing partner of ATS Consultancy, which organizes the only intelligence & surveillance technologies conference and exhibition, namely ‘EMEA Intelligence’ in the EMEA region as well as represents major international defense, detection, forensics and surveillance equipment and infrastructure companies especially in the Republic of Turkey.
Yuri: What did you major in at university?
Tolga: I majored in Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I did one year exchange at the University of Heidelberg in Germany within the social sciences department; adding the European perspective to my education.
I believe in boutique events with subject matter focus
Yuri: You are successful event organizer. Why did you decide to organize forensics conferences?
Tolga: I used to be one of the coordinators of a major IT gathering in the entire region including Turkey. My personal assessment of the event/exhibition business is that the era of the major events which umbrella over gross number of topics, is coming to an end. I believe boutique events with subject matter focus, housing both a conference and an exhibition under the same roof, enabling the user to interact with the experts speaking at the conference are going to be the future of this business.
The regional market indicated that the EMEA region did not have an international IT security and/or security IT event at the time. We started with a forensics focus, later to evolve, with the feedback coming from both the end-users and the vendors, into an intelligence and surveillance event. I believe our business can easily be categorized under the topic of ‘Homeland Security’.
An organizer has to understand the needs of both end-users and vendors
Yuri: What features do you think you have which help you to be that successful in conference organization?
Tolga: An event organizer has to understand the needs of the end-user as well as the vendor in the region. I seek and receive feedback from both these players in the market and construct the following year’s event accordingly. The major feature of personal success and the success of any conference and/or exhibition is flexibility and market compatibility.
Yuri: I have been attending only two conferences with both computer and medical forensics in one. One of them was EuroForensics. Why did you decide to couple these two branches of forensic science?
Tolga: Bringing digital & medical forensics together under one roof did not prove to be a successful model, and received much criticism. We therefore took a different route and created an only digital content event by the name ‘EMEA Intelligence’.
Yuri: To what extent is it complex to organize a conference of this size? What is the most complex thing to solve?
Tolga: The most complex part of any event is attracting the right portfolio of international visitors.
Turkey is the best location here for information flow
Yuri: Why Turkey? Is it just because you are from there or is there some major idea behind choosing this country?
Tolga: Turkey is indisputably the best location for information flow in the EMEA region. Social and political standing and future vision of Turkey, signals a regional leadership of all information flow, bridging west to the east, south-east, and north-east.
Yuri: What is the most challenging in organizing a conference? What is, vice versa, your reward?
Tolga: Challenge is to attract the right portfolio of international visitors, which also possess the buying and/or decision making power. Reward is the sustainable network created around the event.
Yuri: How do you measure conference success?
Tolga: The answer is three-fold; a successful event is:
- Where the vendor attending the event meets their prospective buyer, and receives information about future projects & tenders.
- Where the vendors find suitable and sustainable partnerships in the region, enabling them to coordinate their sales and services in countries abroad.
- Where the visitors learn about the future vision of the vendors, are able to share their current problems, and find new technologies, which may address their issues.
We try to visit as many conferences as possible
Yuri: Do you visit other conferences of this kind? Do you improve, basing on such experience?
Tolga: We try to visit as many conferences as possible of similar backgrounds to improve our vision leading up to the best possible service for the attending vendors as well as visitors. We also ask our network to give us feedback based on their experience attending other events, and what they believe would increase their value/return by their participation to EMEA Intelligence.
Yuri: What would you recommend to a person, who’d like to organize brand new conference in their country? What are the major fiducial points?
Tolga: One would have to contact all concerned parties within their own country, and gather information as to what their needs are regarding their operational mission & vision. Analysis of this information is fundamental to the success and sustainability of the event, which will unavoidably benefit both the vendor and the visitor attending the event.
Yuri: What forensic resources do you regularly read?
Tolga: I follow forensicmag.com.
Yuri: What do you see as major trends in forensic conferences? More or less interest, more or less visitors/exhibitors of any kind, etc?
Tolga: We believe the major trends are counter-intelligence, lawful interception, image and video analysis, homeland security, and forensic accounting.
Yuri: How old are you?
Yuri: How many kids do you have?
Yuri: How do you spend your free time?
Yuri: How many hours of sleep do you usually have?
Yuri: What is your favorite vacation spot? What is the most unusual place you have ever been to?
Tolga: Maine, USA. Unusual is in the eye of the beholder.
Yuri: Do you do any sports? Which one? What is your preference in watching professional sports?
Tolga: Waterpolo, Martial Arts & Golf
Yuri: When did you have your last vacation? A real vacation, without any Internet and calls from your colleagues or customers?
Tolga: Exactly 12 months ago.
Yuri: Do you have a dream?
Tolga: You will hear about it in 6 months to 1 year time frame.
Yuri: Very intriguing! Thanks, Tolga, for your interview!
‘He, now, organizes EMEA Intelligence,
the only Intelligence and Surveillance technologies conference in the