Michael Mota of VirtualCons: “Try to do as much pre-recorded as you can”

Try to do as much pre-recorded as you can. It doesn’t have to look pre-recorded but do a very professional job. People will like that better than going live and having signal problems. As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had […]

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Try to do as much pre-recorded as you can. It doesn’t have to look pre-recorded but do a very professional job. People will like that better than going live and having signal problems.


As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Mota.

Michael Mota, founder and CEO of Atom Media is building his agency on a foundation of diverse training, skills, and experience. Michael is an educator, videographer, entrepreneur, published author, and sales executive. He earned a B.A. in Education from Rhode Island College and an M.A. in Administration from Providence College.

Michael served as the Vice President of Sales at Mediapeel, a mid-sized advertising agency, from 2010 through 2011. During that period, he was instrumental in securing Alex and Ani as a cornerstone client, and as he quickly anticipated its swift and unprecedented growth, he saw great potential in an acquisition that would make Mediapeel a wholly owned division of its former client.

He proved to be a key player in growing Seven Swords Media, which he helped lead onto Inc. magazine’s “5000 Fastest Growing Companies” (# 386) and “Fastest Growing Companies in Rhode Island” lists. At the same time, he led the campaigns that landed The Smithsonian Institution, Benjamin Moore Paints, and other prestigious accounts. Over the two years of his Seven Swords tenure, Michael was chiefly responsible for increasing annual sales from $500 thousand to over $22 million.

After an internal restructuring led to the dissolution of Seven Swords Media in 2014, Michael founded Atom Media. That company’s first major client, BENRUS, LLC, was created by Giovanni Feroce, the Rhode Island-born, internationally renowned entrepreneur and CEO who in four short years grew Alex and Ani from a small, regional company with $2 million in sales into a global lifestyle brand with annual revenues in excess of $250 million. When it was time for Mr. Feroce to reimagine the venerable BENRUS brand into a lifestyle brand with global reach, one of the first calls he made was to Michael.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in a small town called North Providence. My parents immigrated to America from Portugal. They came here as teenagers with little education but knew America would offer them a better life. Their perseverance is where I get my work ethic. My first real job was at Jiffy Lube where I became the youngest General Manager in the company. I then pursued a higher education to become an elementary education teacher. Soon after that, I went for my master’s degree and decided to become an administrator. During that time, I started working for a company doing wedding videography. After a few years, I opened my own company and did that for 11 years. I was asked to run a marketing company called Mediapeel. After 3 months, I was able to secure a client called Alex and Ani. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to be a part of this new jewelry company. After just 8 months, I set up an acquisition for Alex and Ani to purchase Mediapeel and I became the Vice President of Marketing. I brought the company to Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Companies and was one of the top 20 executives to help grow the company from $1 million in sales to a billion-dollar company. I left Alex and Ani and opened up a marketing agency called Atom Media Group. That is MOTA (my last name backwards). I would always say, “Everything starts from a single ATOM.” I was fortunate to work with brands like The Smithsonian Institution, Benjamin Moore Paints, and BENRUS — to name a few. During that time, I branded and purchased Skyline at Waterplace, an upscale wedding and events venue in Providence, RI. I also purchased a restaurant called Lola’s Lounge and Cantina in Smithfield, RI. After years of creating events, I teamed up with two other fans of The Sopranos and SopranosCon was born. It was an event that made garnered worldwide attention. More than 15,000 people from all over the world attended the convention at the Meadowlands in NJ. We knew were on to something — it made complete sense to have like-minded people attend an event that they loved. Then COVID hit and the world shut down. After realizing our industry was the hardest hit, I needed to come up with something else different. VirtualCons was born. The 365 day a year, 7 day a week, 24 hour a day app that allows people from all over the world to come together. I am now the CEO of VirtualCons, and we are about to take over the industry.

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path with organizing VirtualCon and the other great events that you’ve done in the past?

Life has a funny way of throwing you lemons. When It does, you make lemonade. After the pandemic closed everything down, we shifted our business into a virtual application. I know that LIVE conventions will come back one day BUT not anytime soon. I also realize that the world is a very big place. It made sense to have an application that allows for people to attend an event virtually as well as in person. Now we have both.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I believed having people working all over the world was going to be easy during a pandemic. I was wrong. One of the hardest challenges is not having everyone in the same office. I find myself spending a lot of time on the computer using Zoom and we have lost that in person feel. I miss that and I was naïve to think it was going to be easy. Of course, it has its benefits but mostly we have had to learn a new way of doing things.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Yes. I watched the Netflix documentary on FYRE Festival. WOW. What an AMAZING idea to use influencers to sell a festival. WOW. What a tragic way for it to end. I realized that just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great success. It takes a well thought out plan and execution for it to be a winner. Clearly, I learned that you have to be realistic with expectations and you need the right team.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “

Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.” Forrest Gump. I thought I had life all planned out. Teacher. Principal. Superintendent. Retirement. As you can see, many doors opened, and my personality always drove me to want more. Now I am on my quest to have a billion-dollar company in 3 years. I am not stopping until that happens.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?

Events are tough. VERY TOUGH. It is not for everyone. You must be ready to work hard, long hours and realize that there is always something that is going to go wrong. You must always be prepared for ANYTHING. You need to be organized and you must have the right team. Without it — you will have a disaster.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?

Virtual events are great BUT things can always go wrong. Internet and internet speeds are always a factor. It’s important to make sure that users are always in a place to get the best internet connection possible. There is nothing worse than a bad connection when you’re doing something virtual. The trick is when you have celebs or talent that are overseas, and they don’t know much about technology. The tip is to always make sure that you contact them ahead of time and make sure they are equipped with have the tools for success.

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Not planning ahead of time. If you FAIL TO PLAN … YOU PLAN TO FAIL. PLAN PLAN PLAN. You must rehearse ahead of time before a live audience.

Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?

Our own. There is nothing like your own platform. Leaving anything to someone else is a bad move. You can only have control over what you have built.

Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?

Great internet connection. A platform that is strong and tested. And the right team to plan accordingly.

An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.).

Agreed. The idea is not to have either or — it’s to have both. Of course, with the pandemic it is hard to go LIVE in — person BUT it will come back. You have to do 5 things to create a great event.

The right Platform. Without it — people will get aggravated because it doesn’t work correctly.

Proper internet. You need it. Make sure you rehearse ahead of time and give tips for people to have great experience.

Try to do as much pre-recorded as you can. It doesn’t have to look pre-recorded but do a very professional job. People will like that better than going live and having signal problems.

Have the best talent and subject matter. Please will be happy to join virtually if it’s the right content and done correctly.

Pick the right time. Pick a time that people can attend — don’t schedule it during a time people will find it tough to be available.

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Is this something people want to see from home? Can you make it feel like an in-person event? Will you be able to create a high-level production and not just a Zoom recorded in a basement?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would inspire people to get connected. We live in a very big world. Stop thinking small. Think about what you are doing and think about how you can reach a global audience. You will be much more successful … change someone’s life. I want to be a billion-dollar company in 3 years, but most importantly I want to be the biggest employer in the world. The more people I canhelp — the better the world will be.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

If I had a chance to meet someone it would be Michael Jordan. I think he is a true icon. Nobody has done it better in the game of basketball and the game of life. If I got to meet him, I would make sure he joined the VirtualCons app.

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