Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 2013

SunTrust Connects Attendees With Core Values

By Donna Sanford, founder and former publisher of EXPO magazine

SunTrust Banks needed a way to connect people who would be attending its annual employee-recognition event.

Banks exist, according to Alexandra Wagner, CMM, director of purpose integration and former director of event marketing for SunTrust Banks, “to build and grow businesses and communities.” So it only made sense that the Atlanta-based bank wanted to focus on building its own community when planning its 2012 employee-recognition event. Many of the people being recognized didn't know each other — or the senior executives who would be attending. But Wagner didn't want them to wait until they got on site to get to know each other.

So she and her team decided to employ Pathable's community-engagement platform before the event and its “device-agnostic app” for participants to use once they were there.

Before launching the community, SunTrust's team — led by Amy Harris, CMP, SMMP, vice president of strategic meetings management — pre-loaded executive profiles into the platform. Rather than staid biographies and headshots, they posted personal information and fun facts. This would be the first time many attendees would be meeting the execs in person, so that initial encounter was designed to be comfortable.

Executives were strategically assigned one of eight words related to SunTrust's core values. Groups within the community were then created around those words, with the senior execs participating in conversations about how their word plays out in their business. “We wanted to connect the interests of our honorees to the values of our company in a way that sparked engaging conversations,” Wagner said. “Our goal was to create a forum that would allow the teammates and executives to have real-time conversations.”

Honorees were incentivized to download the app before the event. “We announced that we were going to be picking the ‘most engaged’ attendees in the first 48 hours to earn prizes,” Wagner said. “That's how we got them started. We told them to keep checking back to win more prizes, and to get unique tips and insights every day.” Once participants uploaded their profile, they were entered in a drawing; if they answered a questionnaire, they qualified for another prize. “The prizes add a fun element, but they also drive the behavior you want,” Wagner said. Within 48 hours, about 30 percent of attendees had downloaded the app.

On site, senior executives were given a pin with their word on it. Attendees were encouraged to collect all eight pins — but the only way to get a pin was to find and have a conversation with a senior executive who represented that word. Because of the pre-event engagement, starting a conversation was easy. “Attendees and execs both told me they had amazing conversations,” Wagner said. Harris added: “One executive said that they had many meaningful conversations with teammates that they would have never had without this unique opportunity for engagement.”

For the production team, the mobile app served as a feedback tool. “Never in 20 years of event planning have I had the feeling of being able to so quickly maneuver to what was needed,” Wagner said. “Being able to course-correct in real time was amazing.”

The app had an 88-percent adoption rate and nearly 4,500 visits (approx. 10 per person), each lasting an average of 11.5 minutes. 
SunTrust's upper management was so pleased with the results of Pathable's community-engagement tool that they are continuing to use it for all employee-recognition event participants year round. 

“The benefit of an event community and app for the attendee is definitely the engagement,” said SunTrust's Alexandra Wagner. “They can get so much more out of the meeting. The benefit to the meeting planner is getting that live feedback. And the benefit to the meeting owner is that the community can be used to disseminate key messaging that they are trying to drive.”

Working Smarter is sponsored by PSAV Presentation Service.

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