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Event leadership | 24 April 2019

Event Heroes: What We Learn From Teaching Children

Brandon Rafalson

In this Event Heroes Spotlight, we speak to Amy Herman—Sr. Program Manager at ServiceTitan—about structuring effective customer training programs, leveraging event data for content programs, and what event marketers can learn from teaching children.

For the last two years, ServiceTitan has managed a multi-pronged event strategy that places customer education front-and-center. At these events customers learn about the company’s all-in-one home service software through hands-on exercises and dialogues that focus on the bigger picture.

This creative approach can be chalked up to Amy Herman.

Amy has an extensive background in education and training—from teaching children aerodynamics with frisbees to helping business leaders understand the value of all-in-one home service software.

She’s passionate about educational philosophy and is on a constant quest for new resources that help her grow in her expertise. Over the past nearly five years, Amy has honed customer training at ServiceTitan to an art. As you’ll soon discover, Amy’s unique approach to content programming is just as valuable in events as it is in everyday life.

Topic discussed in this Event Heroes interview include:

  • Engaging customers with different types of events
  • Creating event content based on event data
  • Getting attendees excited for training content
  • Evaluating the success of customer events
  • Integrating event software with other platforms
  • The different styles of learning
  • Cross-team alignment
  • Resources for trainers and event marketers

Note: This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity. The views expressed in this blog are Amy’s personal views and do not necessarily represent the view or opinions of ServiceTitan

BRANDON: First off, tell us a little more about your role at ServiceTitan?

AMY: My role has evolved a little bit. I started on the customer success team. Once we got a training team, I joined that team. Now, I am the Sr. Program Manager. That essentially means it’s my job to figure out how our customers learn about our software, and to create events that help them to do that in a variety of ways.

BRANDON: I understand that even before ServiceTitan, way back when, you started off studying education at university. How did your journey from your studies to where you are now?

AMY: Even before I got to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which is where I went for undergrad, I had already been teaching for a while. When I was eleven, actually, I started volunteering at a science camp. Ever since I was little, I knew that there was some type of educational curiosity.

Cal Poly is all about learning by doing. That’s actually their motto. So from my very first quarter, I got a lot of hands-on projects working in a bilingual school teaching kindergartners in Spanish, which was a really creative way to solidify my educational foundation. A lot of things that I refer to today in a lot of my major initiatives actually stem from my time as an elementary school educator.

It’s up to us as educators to help people put context with the information they get.

At ServiceTitan we have classes, we have support articles, we have ways to get information. But where I really come in, where the events that I’m in charge of really come in, is to provide the context around all of that content.

 ServiceTitan’s user conference: Pantheon.

BRANDON: Where does your passion for education have its roots?

AMY: That’s a better question for my mom. I’ll have to ask her. I’ll report back.

BRANDON: I understand that there are three unique event series that you helm from an educational content perspective. Could you tell us a little bit about each of these series and how they differ in their goals?

AMY: At ServiceTitan, we have lots of different events, but the three main educational events that I’m in charge of are two recurring events and one one-time event.

The one-time event is our annual user conference that’s going into its third year. Pantheon is where our customers from all over North America get to come together for a day of ServiceTitan product and best practice training, and then a day of industry insights.

Amy greeting customers at Pantheon - Event Heroes

Amy greeting customers at Pantheon.

For Pantheon, I’m really working on day one in this case, which is all of our educational training sessions, and we have about 45 unique sessions this year. Attendees can choose from a variety of tracks by role, by level, and some are even user-wide, which is something that we’re doing for the first time.

I had a customer last year, his name is Eric, and he showed up very last-minute at the event.

I said: “I have two questions. Did you learn something and did you make a friend?”

If he was able to answer both, I knew we were in good shape.

Along with those goals of learning something new and making a new friend is Power User Workshop. Power User Workshop is for our customers who have been fully using ServiceTitan for at least six months.

We bring together a small group of people—we really strive for 10-12 people in a class—from all different companies, sizes, industries, geographical regions. They come together for three full days with a ServiceTitan trainer and there’s a lot of discussion. It’s really context-heavy. We’re not so much saying, “Hey, did you know that there is this button?” We expect that people know where most of the buttons are, but that doesn’t mean that they’re able to answer all of their questions.

Then we have Implementation Bootcamp, which is the newest of our three events and is for people in the implementation phase. Every single person who leaves Implementation Bootcamp can work a job as if they were a technician on our app.

BRANDON: How would you describe your approach to planning these different events?

AMY: For Implementation Bootcamp, the biggest thing is looking at the system holistically, because if you come to Pantheon, for example, and you’re an accountant, you could go to five accounting related sessions, and leave having learned a bunch of stuff, met a bunch of people, which are the two things that are important to me. But you might not have any context into what a technician’s doing, or what a business owner’s doing, or what your call center is doing.

So Implementation Bootcamp really gives the full perspective, and I get super excited about my educational philosophers, and Benjamin Bloom is one of them. One of the things that Bloom is known for is having this hierarchical order of thinking.

For example, identifying three things that ServiceTitan can do takes a lot less thought than comparing and contrasting the best ways that you can set up alerts in your ServiceTitan account. But if you have to compare and contrast, you have to have use decision-making. Your brain is working. You can feel it. That’s what we’re striving for in Power User Workshop. In Implementation Bootcamp, we start to get to this point.

Amy Herman leading an exercise at a Power User Workshop

Amy is a big proponent of hands-on educational practices. Here she leads an exercise at a Power User Workshop.

I spend a lot of time protecting the events. People are like, well, can we just put everything that we did in Power User in Pantheon? I have to say, “No, no. We wrote this for you to talk to your neighbor and you can’t do that when you have 80 neighbors.” From a content development perspective, they’re totally different events, and it’s my job to make sure that someone can find value in all three; just at different stages in their customer journey.

BRANDON: I love the emphasis on “Did you learn something and did you make a friend?” I have to ask: Are those official questions on the post-event survey?

AMY: Oh my gosh, they should be. If those were the only questions I asked, everyone would be very happy with me, because my list is currently 25 questions long.

BRANDON: Could you tell us a little bit more about the way you’re evaluating the success of your educational events?

AMY: Really, what I want to know is who is coming to our sessions, and that who is very broad, demographically. I want to know how big their company is, how long they’ve been on ServiceTitan, and what trades they offer—an HVAC business operates very differently than a plumbing business or an electrical business or a carpet cleaning business.

What I haven’t been able to test yet in my time at ServiceTitan that I really want to is: Are we giving the right content to the right people? It’s a very simple question, but a very tricky one to answer because the data can be really overwhelming.

I want people to make their choices ahead of time and be super excited about what they’re going to attend.

For us to continue to scale this event, we have to make it personal for them.

We’re going through a lot to get to the point where our data will be organized in that way, in pulling reports from Bizzabo and configuring our Salesforce accordingly so we can report on that.

BRANDON: I understand you also do some looking at the customer health in the product as well, and pull that data into how you structure the sessions.

AMY: We’ve developed TitanScore, which is how we can see what percentage, essentially, of our product that our customers are using. If I see that someone has a really low TitanScore, but they’ve been using ServiceTitan for five years, I’m going to approach that very differently than if someone has a TitanScore of 95, which is high, and they went live yesterday.

Those are two very different types of learners, potentially. Maybe one is okay with going into the knowledge base and just reading articles. Maybe someone else needs to talk it through or they need to do it sitting next to someone.

There’s a book that I read a couple of years ago called Let Them Choose, and it is essentially the argument that not everybody learns the same way, just like if you go to a cafeteria and there’s only one thing on the menu, some people would be stoked, and some people would say, “I don’t like that.” Or, “Why did you put sauce on that pasta? I wanted it with olive oil and butter.”

As educators, we have a responsibility to provide different styles of learning.

BRANDON: How are you working with other people on your team and on other teams, in order to produce these successful training events?

AMY: It takes a village. Our training team is roughly 20 people. We’ve also enlisted our customer success organization. All of the customer success managers are co-presenting with the trainers.

We’ve also brought in the product team, actually, for some of the more complicated modules that are newer.

Of course, there’s also the whole events team. I don’t officially sit on the events team. Our Director of Events, Lindsey Keefner, is the one that’s making sure that the venue is right, and the food, and the other logistics like the check-in line. Basically everything that is essential for the event to run.

BRANDON: I’m told that you have a lot of books on your desk. Which books have been the most formative to you—both personally and professionally?

AMY: Yeah. Let Them Choose is one that’s been getting passed around our office recently. There’s also Kagan Cooperative Learning. And it’s just a whole book of activities that people can do in groups.

There’s also some change management books from Prosci. They’re a great resource for actual data and research and studies in change management.

BRANDON: Fantastic. How else do you stay inspired to keep your creative instincts fresh?

AMY: I’m obsessed with LinkedIn. I think with any social media it’s really easy to stay, or easier I guess I should say, to stay on the pulse of the questions that people are asking, and the resources that they’re looking for—and the cool work that they’re doing.

There are also some learning and development groups. For example, ATD, the Association for Talent Development. I’m actually part of their young professionals group, and there’s roughly 15 of us. We have a monthly Zoom call. There are people from Lego, Tableau, and Ford Motors.

I’m still on Teacher Created Resources mailing lists like Teachers Pay Teachers, which is where teachers put their own educational materials up for sale, and you can buy worksheets and other materials. Most of them are not relevant, but just getting ideas for things like graphic organizers is really helpful.

BRANDONWhat’s one piece of wisdom that event marketers and content programmers can learn from teaching elementary education?

AMY: I went to an event last fall, and there was nothing hands-on. It was a software training event, or so I thought. But it didn’t have any hands-on training. There was no assessment at all of whether or not I took anything from that session. What I thought was missing was the connection to what’s being talked about.

Conversation between attendees at a Power User Workshop

A conversation between attendees at a Power User Workshop.

It’s really easy for me to watch a cooking show and say: “I could totally do that.” You just take the little bowls. You put them all together. You put it under the counter. Then, magically it’s pretty. But whenever I try to do that at home, it never comes out well.

I think that assumption; that everybody’s a master chef and can walk through once and then go and execute, is a really big mistake that I’ve seen at a lot of events.

When I taught science, we did that with toys. I could hold up a Frisbee and say, “Who knows how this works? You guys want to make one, do you guys want to find out?”

But when it comes to work and software and things that are allegedly less exciting than throwing a frisbee, it’s up to us to figure out: How can we immediately connect this to our learners? What problem are they facing?

And you see that a lot in sales. How do you connect to your buyer? How do you make them realize their problem and that they really need your solution? All of that is something that we can apply too, and it’s something that teachers do apply.

A good teacher will make sure that their students want to learn what the teacher is talking about.

That’s all for this Event Heroes spotlight, but you may be interested in checking out these other Event Heroes:

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