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Profile: Amelia Kallman and The Big Reveal

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How did you get started in the AV industry?
I don’t come from a technical background. I grew up as a child actress in Fairfax, Virginia right outside Washington D.C., operated an illegal speakeasy in New York City, and then opened and owned the first burlesque and cabaret nightclub in China. Then I got thrown out of China and came to the UK because my husband is British. It took me two years to get a visa to work in this country, and during that time I wrote my first book, Diary of a Shanghai Showgirl, which went on to win several international awards and may one day be made into a TV series.

But when I got my visa, I needed a job – any job. A friend of mine had a booth at an innovation conference, and at the time I’m not sure I even knew what ‘innovation’ meant, but I convinced him to let me help host his booth, and I figured I could network and meet people, and maybe someone would offer me a job.

There was a booth a couple over from ours that had all this really cool technology – touchscreen tables, a virtual book, some early augmented reality. I’d never seen anything like it. I started to go over and ask lots of questions, and then I started bringing my people over and explaining to them what had been explained to me, and finally someone asked, “Do you work for us?” To which I replied, “No, but I should!”

A week later I began as a marketing assistant at a creative technology agency. There I worked my way up to become its global head of innovation, curating and managing innovation labs in London and Dubai, and consulting on labs for companies, such as Accenture, PWC, EY, and KPMG. This was when I recognised I have a real curiosity, interest, and enthusiasm for cutting-edge technology. It was 2013, the year Google Glass first came out and the Oculus Rift got Kickstarted, and IBM Watson was just starting to make headlines. No one was an expert on these emerging technologies yet, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Because I don’t come from a technical background, I discovered I have a talent for making the complex accessible to people, explaining the tech in a way anyone can understand. I really believe technology is for the people, it’s here to enhance our lives, not to intimidate us.

The more I spoke about things like XR, AI, and big data, the more I realised the skills from my previous career performing onstage could serve me well in this industry too. I’d been to so many conferences where speakers were either boring and technical, or their keynotes were really just sales pitches. Personally, I never felt comfortable purely marketing these technologies as if they’re the answer to everyone’s problems, where everyone needs to buy-in now before it’s too late.

While new technologies offer new opportunities, equally, they also present new risks, and no one was talking about this side of things. To me, this was not only a red flag, but also an indication of a huge gap in the market, one that is necessary and valuable to fill, and one that I was well positioned to address.

So in 2017 I went freelance and became a full time futurist. As a futurist, it’s my job to know about the latest new and coming technologies and their potential impact on the future of business and our lives. I’ve become known for not just speaking about the opportunities, but also the risks, and because I work for myself and am not selling these technologies, I can be completely honest and transparent with my assessments, which sets me apart from other speakers, researchers, and consultants.

Over the past five years I have spoken at 100+ conferences in 25+ cities around the world. I’ve curated pop-up demo labs, worked with insurance and tech companies to produce industry-leading reports, consulted for sectors including automotive, retail, investments, FMCG, and even the government. My articles have appeared in WIRED, IBC 365, Forbes, and the Huffington Post. I’m approaching the 50th edition of my innovation newsletter and YouTube series, The Big

Reveal, a free monthly service I offer where I share my Top 10 latest cool things I’ve run across in my research that I think everyone should know about. I also host the podcast, XR Star, for AV Nation TV and Spotify, and have recently launched a new YouTube series called Blockchain in the Metaverse. I’m a judge for the AV Awards, and was recently named one of the Top 25 Women in the Metaverse.

Profile: Amelia Kallman and The Big Reveal

What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love that I’m constantly learning. New technologies are always developing, it’s a challenge to stay up to date, and I like that. It keeps me on my toes. What’s true today might not be true tomorrow. This is when knowing the history, context, and trends of specific innovations becomes invaluable to helping people visualise their impact on the future of our lives.

One thing about my job that has become really important to me these last few years is around technology responsibility. I try to use my platform to raise awareness about the part we all play in deciding the future – from where we click and put our attention, to the social media we use and the companies we support.

Everything we do on the internet today is training AI, which some futurists speculate will exceed human intelligence by the end of this decade. This means we all have a real responsibility to make sure we are teaching AI the best of humanity, not the worst.

Mentoring is one of the most satisfying parts of my job. When I started in this industry there wasn’t much diversity. There weren’t many people like me represented. Visibility is so important. I’ve had several young women say to me that they’ve decided to go into tech because they saw me do it. To me, that’s success. Today I really try to champion women, minorities, and creatives of all ages. Industries across the board have a lot to gain from diversity and inclusion, and again, we have a responsibility to make it so.

Did the pandemic change things for you?
In the first two months of 2020 I was looking at having my best year yet. I did seven keynotes in five countries in six weeks – I was on fire! And then overnight everything changed. A lot of clients were really good about moving online. One of my first lockdown gigs was hosting a leadership conference for Unilever and we really had to invent how to teambuild and reach peak engagement remotely.

But then there was so much put on hold because we were all waiting to see what happened, if we could go back to in-person events. While it was obviously a really difficult time for everyone, for me, it was also an opportunity to slow down and assess. This is when I recognised that I really wanted to do more in education around tech ethics and responsibility.

I used my down time to write a novel based in the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. I was the last woman to live in its penthouse before it closed in 2007. It has only just reopened fifteen years later. Now I’m writing another book, a collection of interconnected biographies that reclaims forgotten female history. While I love my work as a futurist, I’ll always be an artist at heart, and working for myself allows me to balance both sides of my life (and brain).

Profile: Amelia Kallman and The Big Reveal

What are you working on now?
Well, I’m happy to report in-person gigs have picked up again! I just got back from hosting the Smart Workplace Summit at ISE 2022, and speaking on ‘New Tech, Trends, and Tips’ at the conference’s Infuencer’s Lounge, which I got to host.

Previous to ISE, I reported live from Paris Blockchain Week and Paris NFT Day in partnership with Together Labs, a metaverse company that was recently named one of TIME magazine’s Top 100 Influential Companies. I am only just coming to grips with understanding the potential opportunities for utility NFTs and DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations). We have barely scratched the surface of what they will become, I believe. Currently, I’m helping to organise the launch of a really unique DAO and community NFT drop (watch this space). Often I get asked to help source contacts and technology around certain topics, and just helped curate a ‘House of Tomorrow’ for a two-week event, and I’m now preparing for an Immersive Bootcamp at BOM September 19th – 23rd.

Excited to be speaking in Ibiza in June on Real Estate and the Metaverse, as well as several keynotes at private events in London focused around Web 3.0. Now the world has opened back up, I am trying to be more conscious about not spreading myself too thinly, and only working with people I like. Life’s too short!

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