Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 2014

4 Experts On How Corporate Event Marketing Makes Meetings Better

By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor
for our sales force, for their goals and objectives for the year, that your goals and objectives for the sales events are aligning towards that.

LL: For us at Dell, it's the scale, because I've been on the association side, the government side, and then high-tech, and we just do such a high volume of events, it's being able to manage what our internal teams do versus what agencies need to do. That's probably the biggest difference for me, managing through that, as well as the breadth of stakeholders. There are so many more people that are very type A and very much have an opinion.

And then the speed — there are definitely finite dates, and generally those dates aren't going to move, but the speed at which your core messaging and your execution deadlines can accelerate. We may have an event on the horizon for December, we're all planning for it, but then someone comes up with an idea to throw a new event in August. So while you had that December date, you've now got a new one in there to manage as well. And that kind of stuff didn't happen on the much longer planning timeline that I was used to before.

WB: It's really challenging when you're having multiple things going on at the same time, but it's also exciting. When you have an event you're planning for, this is your plan, everyone's agreed upon the plan, and you're going towards it, you're getting there, you're gaining momentum — and then someone comes in sideways and says, “I need to spend this money. And this is what we need to do.” Or, “We have this great opportunity, this partner really wants to do this now, make it happen.” And all eyes are on you and you have to make it happen and it's a very high-profile event, because you're launching something really big there and nothing can go wrong.

We have so many stakeholders. We know what the right thing to do is, but you have people coming in sideways to you all the time and trying to kind of play their direction. There are all those layers.

Given the huge scope of events you work on, how do you make sure each one is meeting your company's specific goals for it?

SL: It's really sitting down with the client, the executive owner, and talking about what their primary goals of the event are, and making sure that you're tailoring your sales event goals to that. For the sales events, our overarching goal is to motivate, engage, inform, and align the sales team and partners in order to prepare them to drive results in the fiscal year.

WB: You just bring everyone to the table and then you define your event objectives, your goals, what your customer journey wants to be like, and get everyone on board. We call that an experience design workshop, and we do that for every event. We get everybody on the same page, we bring them all in early. What you don't ever want is someone a month later, where you're starting into execution [to] say, “I never had a voice, and we need to do this.”

Once we finish our events, we do the post mortem where we go through all of our results or our metrics. We go year-over-year. We try to do apples-to-apples every year. We also ask all the team members when we're going through all the results what can we improve on and what works, so we take that into consideration for the following year. We do very detailed overviews on the demographics. We look at the audits that the show producers do themselves or if we do our own.

And we connect with our peers, too. Through CEMA, it's been a great place to get information from your peers. As much as I think high-tech is a huge industry, it ends up being really small and you learn from your peers. And it's a great place to share information.

LL: It comes down to the very basics of it. Anyone that's gone through the CMP study course is familiar with it, where it's truly defining objectives. You have to go in and understand, are you there for relationship building and you really don't expect anything else out of it immediately, because it's more of a six-mo nth or one-year sales cycle and you're just taking some guys to play golf to build that? Or is it a demand-generation event, where you expect to come out with leads that are ready to be nurtured or ready to be followed up on that are going to directly drive pipeline and revenue?

Once we know going in that, oh, this is just a brand-awareness event and we're going to collect leads, but we're not expecting huge pipeline out of it — it helps us set the expectations on our executive team when they come back to us post-event and say, “Why didn't you get any leads?” Once you can have that expectation-setting conversation, then it makes it a whole lot easier in the end-of-quarter ops review when people start looking at the list of events and saying, “Wait, those are completely ineffective.” I know, so let's look at why we were there and we can tell you exactly what was effective.

How is technology changing how you approach your job?

LL: Well, clearly, we can do way cooler things for way cheaper now. If I wanted to have a hologram of myself across all four regions, I could. It makes it a lot more fun. And when we get to go see our other friends’ events and get to see what kind of cool things they're implementing, we can take those ideas back, especially from events that are outside of our industry. Getting to experience things that are more on the consumer side or that might not necessarily fit into what we're used to doing at a business-to-business event, and being able to carry that back and through technology being able to share it around the world without having to have people come face-to-face necessarily — that's been a huge step.

PG: Technology has hugely changed events. We constantly have to be aware of what the market expects. Things like, we're a paperless event now. You know, first people were fighting that, now they sort of demand it. We have print stations throughout, so if somebody is not happy with the fact that we're a paperless environment, they have an easy way to print out what they want.

It's a new thing all the time. People at events are pretty demanding. They're hungry for data and information and what I want to see right now. It's interesting, being able to deliver the content after the event. It used to be you'd get something in 30 or 60 days, now they want it in five or 10 minutes. There are lots of different things you try and balance — delivering what people want, but making sure you maintain the value of the content and you just don't dump everything on everybody with no ability to leverage what you've created.

WB: Social media is so huge. It's not going away, it's just continuously evolving. It's still slightly overwhelming because there are so many great tools, but I think we're doing a good job. The opportunities are endless with social media, because you're able to connect so quickly — almost you blink and you miss what was said. That's been really exciting, and that's something that keeps everybody on their toes.

But even just technology in general, there's so much that we do with video now. We've really pushed being green, too, at our events. I try to tell everybody: no paper. You can't have any paper at the event, sorry. Give them a link. Why don't you take their email address down and email them what you need, instead of printing out 50 white papers that are all 20 pages long? And using digital signage instead of having printed things everywhere.

Does social media also present a challenge in terms of giving over some control of the event experience to your attendees?

WB: Yes, it's very challenging. For me personally, the way to start for social media and the way I've been able to be involved is starting personally and then taking it to your professional life. We do have social-media teams that are focused on campaigns or different technologies, and we work very closely with them, but the way I think about it is, do

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