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Episode 85 / January 22, 2024

Building event communities while merging physical and virtual spaces with Arianna Black

Hear Arianna Black from Women in Product highlight the vital role of event communities, the merging of digital and physical spaces, and the transformative power of well-crafted event experiences.

Welcome to the Event Experience podcast by Bizzabo! This episode features Arianna Black, the Director of Events and Digital Experiences for Women in Product. 

Join Black as she delves into her extensive background in event production and explores her current role at Women in Product. She shares her insights on creating engaging virtual and physical event spaces while emphasizing the importance of community-driven events and boosting sponsor ROI. She also explores how virtual events have evolved, highlighting their challenges and opportunities. 

Black’s approach to event planning is strategic and data-driven, aiming to make each event meaningful and impactful for every attendee. The conversation also covers the use of technology in events — including generative AI — and how it can enhance personalization and networking opportunities.

Here’s what you’ll hear about in this conversation:

  • The significance of community-driven events in empowering women in product management roles.
  • Strategies for merging physical and virtual event spaces for enhanced attendee and sponsor experiences.
  • Insights into the evolving nature of events, focusing on engagement, inclusivity, and the importance of personalization.

Mentioned in This Episode


[00:00:09] Rachel Moore: Welcome to Event Experience by Bizzabo, the podcast where we bring the best and brightest Event Experience Leaders together to share stories, tips, and lessons learned from creating some of the world’s biggest events.

I’m Rachel Moore, your podcast host. 

This week, we walk into the world of community — one specific community, in fact — and how events foster growth and connection for its members. The Women in Product community provides a space for women to gain equal access and representation in product management roles, and their events are driven by today’s guest: Director of Events and Digital Experiences, Arianna Black. Join us as she guides us through her world of merging physical and virtual spaces, working with sponsors, and how her efforts at Event Experience keep their community thriving.

[00:01:13] Rachel Moore: Our guest has come up through events production, content marketing, I believe weddings and, and experiential events there. I did see this one, an Asana magician.

[00:01:23] 10 outta 10 points for knowing how to title yourself in all the interesting ways, but the crux of the matter is we’re speaking with yet another very experienced event designer and producer and she’s currently the Director of Events and Digital Experiences for Women in Product.

[00:01:41] Our guest is none other than Arianna Black. Arianna, thank you for joining us here on Event Experience.

[00:01:47] Arianna Black: Thank you for having me. I love talking about events.

[00:01:50] Rachel Moore: I, I love talking to people who love talking about events, and our audience are people who like listening about events and then talking more about it. Let’s get into a few questions that let our audience get to know you a bit better. Can you name an item that you forgot for a work event that caused you some panic?

[00:02:07] Arianna Black: So while I can’t take credit for personally forgetting this item, I can tell you that the single most traumatic work panic was caused by a chef forgetting several coolers full of crab for a crab feed.

[00:02:23] Rachel Moore: Oh no. Oh,

[00:02:24] Arianna Black: Wound up driving around and buying at retail price crab for a crab feed from places like Whole Foods.

[00:02:32] At retail. And eventually the crab in question was found under a table covered by drape.

[00:02:41] We sold crab cakes all season long, but it’s always a reminder for me to not take things at face value. We’re not necessarily out. Double and triple-check.

[00:02:51] Rachel Moore: Mm-Hmm.

[00:02:53] Arianna Black: And that is one of the reasons that I think caterers are forever heroes. Forever heroes and for all the event profs that started out in food. look at how far you’ve come.

[00:03:04] Rachel Moore: That’s right. . Oh, I, I, I’m just panicking. I mean, some people love Whole Foods and whatever, but I did try just doing all of our grocery shopping there once and gave up that ghost within about two weeks. I was like, that’s a lot.

[00:03:16] And also thank you for an original answer. I, I always love it when I get something that’s a little different than, oh, I forgot my phone or, you know, or my, my best pair of event shoes or something like that. What are you listening to, watching or reading these days that you cannot put down, and it doesn’t have to be events related.

[00:03:34] Arianna Black: I’m obsessed with all things Gen AI right now.

[00:03:37] I am someone who works in a very tech adjacent space. I think we all have had to become technologists in the last few years. I’m super interested in what Gen AI will be able to do for the digital event space.

[00:03:50] Rachel Moore: Mm-Hmm.

[00:03:51] Arianna Black: How personalization and recommendation can ultimately make for better event experience. I’m looking forward to the day when I can offer personalized recommendations to attendees so I no longer hear FOMO around having too much good stuff on the agenda. That will be amazing. And I’m also looking forward to better quality networking suggestions for events at scale. Our event brings in two to three thousand attendees. And being able to match in a more nuanced way than I currently can on any platform is really important to me because we know that the product experience varies based on company size, based on team size, size of gathering. So being able to match folks with others that can most help them

[00:04:38] is really interesting to me. I really believe that we don’t do life alone and Women in Product and being so community driven here has really inspired me to build my own community.

[00:04:49] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:04:50] Arianna Black: 

Arianna’s “Own Best Attendee”

[00:04:50] Arianna Black: As a part of my pandemic story, I moved to an island in the middle of the ocean. So being probably the only woman in tech on this entire island has been helpful and that it forces me to be my own best attendee. If I ever wanna meet other women who are doing this thing that we do, I have to say, yes, I accept the invite, I click on the Calendly link. I am forced now to be the person that shows up with the most enthusiasm and makes time for myself. Then I get to analyze my own behavior and figure out how do I help my attendees see the value in this and help them. It’s scary to click on a link and what if I’m shoved up on camera and, and what if I am. What if I am? Like, that will be OK. 

[00:05:31] If I have anything that I can teach that can help other people, like events are so hard.

[00:05:37] You’re dealing with humans. It doesn’t matter if this is a legacy event, it doesn’t matter if this is a legacy sponsor. This might be the first time this contact from this company. They may have totally reoriented and need different things. Your attendees, I mean, people are people.

[00:05:52] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:05:53] Arianna Black: So nobody is showing up in exactly the same way.

[00:05:57] So I think teasing out the through line and that single most important why and building for that and helping people recenter on that and knowing that we don’t have to do it perfectly.

[00:06:08] Rachel Moore: Yeah. Love it. Wow. It is scary and, you know, coming back out of that, and even coming out of the pandemic, that the clicking on links has been a bit scarier than maybe it had, had been in the past or going out.

[00:06:20] And I always call it re-peopling, but, I really love that you share that too. ’cause there it does feel like there’s a risk there, but you know, guiding people, saying, here’s, here’s what I experienced. You can do this too. 

[00:06:29] Is there a particular social post, a piece of media or a hot take about events that you found interesting lately?

[00:06:36] Arianna Black: I gotta say that Julius is always bringing it.

[00:06:40] Appreciate the fearlessness and the willingness to take a stance even though I don’t always agree with them. I appreciate having an opinion.

[00:06:48] And I appreciate that community that’s built around it. I think that there’s some really interesting knowledge sharers out there.

[00:06:55] And while., it’s not one size fits all and it doesn’t always apply. I think there’s always something to be learned. Even sometimes, though, sometimes it’s well that’s interesting, but doesn’t work in my case, it’s still good information.

[00:07:06] I gotta give you, can I give you one more?

[00:07:08] Rachel Moore: Yes, please.

[00:07:09] Arianna Black: Something a little bit more independent, grassroots flavored would be the Better Events Pod, which is run by two independent planners who are really about helping events pros feel less alone in this whole space.

[00:07:20] And it’s a great resource for folks who might not have big budgets, big teams, might be one person shops and they have a ton of really actionable stuff, including like how to prevent scope creep, which know that’s very important.

[00:07:32] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:07:33] Arianna Black: and just really great humans. So shout out Better Events Pod.

[00:07:37] Rachel Moore: Nice. Well, we love great humans who put on great podcasts. I barely skated through your LinkedIn profile as far as your experience. Obviously 10 years. There aren’t enough words. Can you tell us a little bit more about Women in Product and your role there and kind of what, what your day to day is there, what all are you accomplishing there in your role at Women in Product?

[00:07:59] Arianna Black: Women in product is, this is the role that makes the rest of my career make sense.

[00:08:04] Rachel Moore: Hmm.


Building Containers for Community

[00:08:05] Arianna Black: You pick up skills along the way where you’re like, you know what size of linen to cover an eight foot banquet table? And you know how your T-shirt size spread differential varies between Detroit and New York. And sometimes, know that. Attendees need 2.5 appetizers per person if it’s a 45 minute cocktail hour with an open bar. And this is the role that has brought it all together in a way that has transcended logistics ultimately

[00:08:35] to be really driven by our community. I say that my job here is to build containers for the community to do what they do.

[00:08:44] They’ve been doing it before us. They’ll do it after us. And it’s very special to get, to have a set of puzzles that are so different than the things that most event planners deal with.

[00:08:54] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:08:55] Arianna Black: I I don’t ever feel like I’m having sales conversations. Our sponsors ultimately come to us.

[00:09:01] They’re like, we want, we wanna recruit more diverse women for our product departments. And I have women looking for jobs. We started from women having dinner. They all worked together at Facebook. They were all in product and they felt really alone. And product management is, event planners will relate to this, but it’s the wild, wild west still in that product looks different at every company. Who it reports to, what it’s responsible for, what it looks like day to day is so different.

[00:09:29] And we know that in events, my early career in events I started out doing like promo events for a gym back in the day and did some really terrible, like zombie themed disco party, new membership drives and I say that I got married 600 times in a handful of years.

[00:09:45] And did galas, moved into trade shows then kind of moved into the maker to market segment and was part of Maker Faire, which at its peak was a hundred thousand people. And I ran the Maker Shed, which is 14,000 square feet, 360 something SKUs, sponsored stages. We had a sautering, you could learn to sauter in there.

[00:10:09] I had 40 seats in the sautering station, and oh, and I think we also did an author stage and then had three satellite merch stands and had to set the whole thing up in a week.

[00:10:18] So building and then traveling onto the next one and the highs and the lows of Maker Faire. That plus the highs and lows of weddings and the emotions that happened there.

[00:10:28] I’m like, I can handle conferences.

[00:10:30] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:10:31] Arianna Black: Bring it, bring it. Whatever happens now, like likeliness of somebody’s sister having a meltdown and crying on me is very low. So I feel pretty confident that I can get through the day. And I think having done as many different roles in the event industry as I have makes me feel confident that I know how to hire for all of them.

[00:10:49] Rachel Moore: Mm-Hmm.

[00:10:50] Arianna Black: I know what to look for, and I also know to build my zombie team. Honestly, when you’re trying to do events and you don’t even, you don’t even have reliable GPS on your phone. back in the day when I’m driving to a gig with MapQuest printed out instructions, you didn’t have Google to tell you there was a shorter way and you should go this other way and you’re gonna be seven minutes late.

[00:11:11] Rachel Moore: Mm-Hmm. 

[00:11:12] Arianna Black: And I’m driving a catering box truck. I’m driving a 16 foot box truck with broken off side mirrors because one of our chefs took them off in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. It’s my responsibility to get there and make this gathering happen.

[00:11:23] Rachel Moore: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, I love that. First of all, thank you for mentioning things like MapQuest. I I too remember the days when there was no device that you had in your hand and you could plug up on your dashboard or even a screen in your dashboard that’s gonna navigate you, vocally and visually to somewhere. You were just printing out.

[00:11:42] And then we’re gonna talk, you know, phone books and things like that, but you’ve come through all that all those different phases and eras of, of event management and into today, and I know working in Women in Product . That feels like a very noble endeavor and it’s something badly needed right now.

[00:11:57] Has that been pretty rewarding for you?

[00:12:00] Arianna Black: Rewarding doesn’t even start to encapsulate. 

Diverse product managers

[00:12:03] Arianna Black: I remember having to google, like my early trade show days, googling terminology around what, like what is triage and what are these these things, and then knowing that product managers have a community where they can turn to other people and get support around this, and that I get to be a part of elevating a diverse set of stories out of these rooms.

[00:12:22] For me, that’s really special. I didn’t even know what product was when I found Women in Product. I knew that I wanted to serve with and for women and learning now that digital product shapes everything that we experience of the world and that like these tiny computers in our hands shape our experience. If there is not a diverse group of people building product, we are not building a diverse future.

[00:12:47] Rachel Moore: Mm-Hmm. . 

[00:12:48] Arianna Black: And so the importance of being able to do the work that we do, it doesn’t miss me.

[00:12:54] Sometimes it’s challenging to balance self care with this really large mission. but the community has also taught me about that.

[00:13:03] Rachel Moore: Yeah. It goes to show that you’re thinking of the things that other people are thinking of and talking about too, about that is the challenge of community where maybe let the community drive instead of you. You’re really just creating the spaces there and it seems, and so we are, we’re hearing more and more that that’s something attendees want, they’re asking for from the events they attend, those opportunities to gather. What do you see as challenges, as well as successes when you do build those containers and answer those requests for attendees? Like where does it work and where is it like, oh God, we’re still struggling with this a bit.

[00:13:36] Arianna Black: Quoting Priya Parker. But the container is defined by who is in it is defined by who it isn’t for.

[00:13:43] Rachel Moore: Mm-Hmm.

[00:13:44] Arianna Black: So for us, that’s been one of the most challenging pieces is understanding how to, in digital space especially, how to create spaces for meaningful interaction peer groups and near peer groups. And we’re a community that thrives on inclusivity, but there are some conversations that need to happen executive to executive. So creating segmented spaces within the larger container and yet still maintaining overall inclusivity has been a puzzle that is fun to get to put together. 

Looking at the Peloton experience

[00:14:18] Arianna Black: Early days pandemic, I remember I’m sitting in my garage, I’m on my Peloton. No, but sorry, I’m on the Peloton app on my million year old spin bike, correction. And. And I was loving what Peloton was doing and how they were building this sense of community when we so badly needed it and how interactive it felt.

[00:14:37] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:14:38] Arianna Black: And I click into this virtual event that’s two in the morning. And ’cause nobody’s sleeping, it’s pandemic. We’re all stressed out and trying to figure out what events even mean in this new landscape. And I’d never even hosted a webinar and I wanted to make them not suck. Most of what I had experienced in like events online were like TV shows with a chat feed, and that wasn’t meaningful. And yet in this two in the morning event that I click into, I ask a question in chat. It was a thoughtful question about the representation of women. I was asking it to like VP of NASCAR or something, and I remember the moderator reading my question out and I got to be part of the conversation. I got to influence the experience of other people showing up in synchronous time. And synchronous time is the one resource that we can’t make more of.

[00:15:32] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:15:33] Arianna Black: And so I think it’s really important to make it matter for your attendees that they’ve showed up and they’ve given you their time. 

Why show up to events

[00:15:42] Arianna Black: There’s a lot of things we can consume offline. If I’m gonna get the recording, if me showing up is not going to make a measurable difference in what happens. Why am I going to show up? I will consume this on my own time while I weed my garden in my ears. But if I have a chance at sharing my experience, directly getting my questions answered participating in some meaningful way, then I’m gonna show up.

[00:16:08]  So I try to build for that.

[00:16:10] Arianna Black: I try to build spaces that are not, I think everybody’s done being presented to.

[00:16:15] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:16:16] Arianna Black: We’re just done. We’re done. 

Sage on the Stage is done

[00:16:17] Arianna Black: We’re only a click away from contributing. We got used to that in virtual space. Everybody gets a VIP ticket. Everybody gets to ask their question, and so I think now as an industry, we need to think about how we build that into what happens on site

[00:16:33]  because the sage on the stage, those days are done.

[00:16:36] Rachel Moore: We’re hearing that a lot too, that we’re done with the fire hose of information. 

[00:16:40] And now the challenges for all these event planners out there, okay, well, how do we craft those, those spaces, right? Which you’d think with all this technology would be easy, but it’s probably not right.

[00:16:51] Arianna Black: Yes and no. One of the things that I look for in either a physical space or a platform is multiple modes engagement because I think of my attendee personas and I think about who’s traveling through this space or this experience, and I want to create ability for folks like me who will show up and go camera on and want to be actively a part of the discussion. And then I always picture, I’ve got my new moms who want to stay relevant in their industry. They want to continue to be on the top of their game, but they’re not in a place right now where they can be turning their camera on.

[00:17:26] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:17:26] Arianna Black: So I wanna respect that and I wanna create other ways for them to continually engage. And, and for my speakers as well, one of the most beautiful things over the last few years has been I’ve had speakers who were only able to speak because we’ve maintained a strong digital presence. And they couldn’t necessarily travel. We’ve been able to increase diversity across all measures, attendees and speakers, because of the accessibility of the online space.

[00:17:55] And so it’s really important to me to maintain that even as we start to go back to onsite activations. And how do we build that space in. My argument before was like, I’m not going back on site until you gimme 500 scholar tickets. ’cause that’s what I can do in digital space. So looking at how do we create lowered barriers to entry to onsite events because, I’m in the space of professional conferences and quite frankly, those are elite as hell.

[00:18:21] Rachel Moore: Yep.

Elite expensive events and understaffed chat

[00:18:22] Arianna Black: I came up in events from a tiny catering company where it was a huge deal for us to go to Las Vegas for the big show. It was a huge deal. We were only able to do it my last year with the company.

[00:18:34]  And should people from small companies have less opportunity to upskill and meet other people in high quality, held spaces, because that’s the other thing is like an empty zoom room is not anybody’s friend

[00:18:45] a chat feed. And that’s the thing about technology. A chat feed is great, but if you don’t have humans in that chat feed holding that space, that’s like empty hallways at the Hilton. You would never do that at the Hilton, so don’t understaff your online events either.

[00:19:02] ​ Rachel Moore: We’ll be right back with more Event Experience after the break.

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[00:19:47] ​ Rachel Moore: Attendees aren’t the only audience we’re playing to in the events we design. Let’s rejoin Arianna as we ask her how her sponsors get the best Event Experience possible.

[00:19:58] Rachel Moore: We just talked about a lot about try to provide value for the attendee.

[00:20:01] You know, community gathering, inclusion, making you feel like you’re not walking down that empty hallway at the Hilton. You’re actually feeling like there’s a great experience there. However you also have to balance that with your sponsors.

[00:20:14] Because they’re a big reason why, you know, you’re able to fund and do the things you can do in your event. They also need to have a great experience too, which a lot of times involves selling, you know, and then trying to like, you know, pitch things to the very attendees we were just talking about. I’d love to hear how you balance and navigate that.

[00:20:33] And of course, any examples you can share of ways you have successfully done that.

[00:20:39] Arianna Black: One of the things that we have learned is that, I hate the word hybrid, but I’m gonna use it ’cause I don’t have a better one right now.

[00:20:45] in this sort of hybrid landscape some of the challenges and constraints that we used to have don’t apply anymore. So for example, like it, 

Guiding sponsors to make their booth a stage

[00:20:54] Arianna Black: back in the day, sponsors always wanted stage time. And now being able to help a sponsor use their booth in a meaningful way help guide their content in there so that it is so valid and so relevant that attendees are rushing the booths to hear from people has been, that’s been one of our big wins, is that in the beginning, nobody knew what to do with a virtual booth. And they were like do we just show up? Do we answer? And how many people can we have in there? And so helping people understand that this is your mini-stage and like you’ll get as many folks in there as you produce quality programming. And so one year we had, we were blown away. I actually, I love it when they do this, but one of our sponsors, AirBNB, was actually stealing people off of my main stage because their booth was so popping. I’m like, and I’m on the backend. I’m like, why are there 500 people in the AirBNB booth? And then I look through and they’re doing a really actionable practical key takeaway session from product managers. And so one of the things that we really lean into is we support our sponsors in much the way that we support our speakers, which is that we give them data on here’s what our attendees have asked to hear about this year specifically.

[00:22:06] We really push them to lean into have, whenever possible, do a case study, bring a client up to speak on your behalf. How can you talk to us about how product happens at your organization rather than nobody wants to sit through another demo. Nobody wants to sit through another demo. So we always encourage them to like basically create a, an internal version of the content that our speakers are speaking to, because that’s what we know resonates with the attendees.

[00:22:34] And it’s just been really about support. It’s been so much about support. About making sure that we have content experts from our sponsor companies that we directly work with. Because 

Working with content people at sponsor companies

[00:22:46] Arianna Black: the folks that are signing on the dotted line and whose budgets it may come out of, may not be the best ones to actually develop programming.

[00:22:54] So we, for us, because we are Women in Product, we try to make sure that we’re not just working with a recruiting lead or.a biz dev lead, but that we also are working with a product lead so we can help them think about who they might recruit from their company, how they might build content, how they might talk about it in their agenda descriptions, ’cause the agenda drives the bus. So also making sure it’s not just here from four women leaders at Company X, not exciting. What have they built? What did they come up against? What was the challenge they faced? What was the problem they solved.

[00:23:23]  ‘Cause the company just wants to talk about the company name. And so we often find that tell the stories about behind the people that are making this company name so great and just helping them to rethink what they’ve always done

[00:23:37] Rachel Moore: yeah, yeah.

[00:23:39] Arianna Black: and understand that this is the opportunity that you’ve always wanted.

[00:23:43] The other thing that, so you know, some of our sponsors want thought leadership, which is when I really lean into content guidance, some are recruiting. And I go back to 2019. In 2019, you had to be a top level sponsor. You had to be a platinum sponsor in order to get a private interview room.

[00:24:02] And in digital space, any company can get a private room.

[00:24:06] You are one click away from a private interview room in digital space. So helping them understand like how many interview view rooms can you have? How many staff people are you gonna send to attend the event, man your chat, and make themselves available to take one-on-one calls?

[00:24:20] That’s how many rooms you get, like how hungry are you? And so being able to level the field without the constraints of physical space, like I personally never wanna see a space allocation grade ever again. I’m so grateful that is no longer part of the things that I have to manage.

[00:24:36] Rachel Moore: Nice.

[00:24:37] Arianna Black: But because it’s building a digital space is really infinite. And so as I’m thinking about what this looks like and how this plays out as we go towards a more distributed strategy, I’m really thinking about how do I help, how do I help sponsors in the onsite experience translate everything that we’ve learned here?

[00:24:57] Please just don’t bring back your squish balls as we go back on site.

[00:25:01] Like we’ve worked through together how to create meaningful engagement. So helping them translate that from beyond the zoom room, back into the booth and again, this is an opportunity for thought leadership.

[00:25:14] Rachel Moore: I think we can all relate, right? You go to the virtual event and you, you do see virtual booths, and many times you go in there, it’s literally just one, maybe two people who’s just sitting there and they’re probably sales and they’re just.


[00:25:30] Yep. Yes.

[00:25:31] they are. 

[00:25:32] Arianna Black: They’re doing their email. 

[00:25:32] Rachel Moore: That’s right. 

[00:25:33] Arianna Black: Please don’t do your email. 

[00:25:33] Rachel Moore: They’re, oh my gosh, don’t get me started. If you are sitting there looking down at your laptop, you are not looking out and you’re not approachable, stop it.

[00:25:41] Arianna Black: There’s other things that we also do on a real tactical level to drive sponsor success. When I was in, back in my 3D printing trade show days anybody that attends SolidWorks knows that as a vendor you wanna be next to the brownies. The SolidWorks brownies. And that’s what they did back in the day.

[00:25:56] They fed you in the expo hall, put the snacks in the expo hall, but. But it’s like, how do you, what is that popcorn like? How are you driving folks to go there and incentivizing? And so one of the things that we do is in our digital sponsor pavilion, we put our attendee resources at the bottom of the pavilion. So as I’m scrolling through, I can see how many folks are in various booths, what’s happening, and I’m way more incentivized. So it’s like co-locating other things and not just putting the sponsors off in like scary sponsor land, but like really integrating them into all of our programming.

[00:26:29] Rachel Moore: Yeah, no, that makes a ton of sense. This kind of goes tangent to what we were just talking about. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about you know, providing those containers for community online and on offline. Talked about, especially for virtual stuff. How do you provide that same balanced val balanced value experience for attendees and sponsors?

[00:26:48] Going back to attendee experience once more with feeling did you feel like virtual events. The arc that we’re going through with virtual events, has it had a positive or negative impact, or kind of a mixed bag on attendee experience?

[00:27:03] Arianna Black: I am super obsessed with this topic. Things that I thought would be true when designing in 2020 are so different than the actual things that I now know to be true. 

Arianna finally learns the ways of digital attention spans

[00:27:15] Arianna Black:  2020, I had this, like this great plan that people were gonna read my emails and really educate themselves on how to get the most out of a virtual event.

[00:27:26] I made explainer videos, I created pre-event networking opportunities, and I realized that through two painful years of denying evidence, I realized that in digital space you don’t have me until my calendar tells Slack that I have a meeting in 10 minutes.

[00:27:47] My attention span you, you start to prime my experience 10 minutes before.

[00:27:53]  I’m gonna read through the calendar, invite it better all be in the invite, put all the information in the invite, everything I might need to know in the invite. ’cause that is the only thing I will check. I will not go dig up through my email from my attendee best practices guide. Nobody will. And I had to learn from my own behavior, like I had to learn that I’m not thinking about the event until the event’s happening. Whereas in physical space, I know I need to get to the Hilton. I’m gonna at least Google and see which BART station that is, I’m gonna figure out, what floor registration’s on. So you’ve got the person thinking about you a little bit beforehand for a giant event like your CIMAs of the world, like you’ve got ’em from maybe a week beforehand.

[00:28:33] They’re planning their agenda. Nobody does that in digital space. And I finally surrendered. And I’m super lucky. We do have the most hyper-engaged community. I had 700 people on platform two days early last year planning their agendas. And my problems are so different. One of the things I learned is that product managers take their trivia so seriously. We were doing live trivia and there is a, there’s a latency delay that was caused ’cause I was streaming into the platform. So there’s, and that three seconds in trivia is everything. They were playing for vintage swag, which is just a sassy way to say old swag and still the knives that came out in this feed.

[00:29:16] I still get like absolute heart palpitations just thinking about it. I’m like, please, I’m never doing trivia again. The enthusiasm that this community shows up with is like bar none, and still most of them will not be thinking about me until 10 minutes before.

[00:29:33] Rachel Moore: Mm-Hmm.

[00:29:34] Arianna Black: And so I’ve really built for reality rather than building for how I want reality to be. So I no longer play my explainer on beforehand, I build it as a part of my onstage programming.

[00:29:49] I’ve done agenda workshops early in the day where as a group, here’s us helping you carve the time out for yourself.

[00:29:56] Rachel Moore: Nice.

[00:29:57] Arianna Black: I love to get this horrible feedback every year, but I love it.

[00:30:00] But I get all this FOMO of there’s too much happening and I make a lot of very strategic decisions about what I do not record because there’s no stickiness if I record everything.

[00:30:11] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:30:12] Arianna Black: Going to a conference, whether that’s onsite or online. When you go to a conference, if it’s a robust, large experience, you’re making decisions about what to miss. So as planners, how can we help people. One of the things that my organization is working on doing is realizing that we create annual programming all year long. So we really don’t have to cram it all into the conference. As tempting as it is it creates a feeling of overwhelm. So I’m really looking at how do I extend the tail end of the attendee experience arc. Because in digital space, in physical space, you’re taking picture every, on stage you’re trying to capture this slide. You’re taking all these, you’re on your phone half the time, even though you’re sitting in a ballroom.

[00:30:56] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:30:56] Arianna Black: and here you are one link away from additional resources. So how do we lean into that? And for me the balance is always do people want what they say they want? ’cause they frequently will say that they want connections, but then they don’t act in ways that facilitate building meaningful connections online.

[00:31:18] So balancing the data of what I know of them to be actually doing. With what they say that they want and then trying to build for both in some ways.

[00:31:27] Rachel Moore: All right, this last question, easiest one of all, where can our listeners find and follow you online?

[00:31:33] Arianna Black: Find me on LinkedIn.

[00:31:35] I’m Arianna S Black on LinkedIn. I love talking about what we’re doing at Women in Product. This community has taught me so much, and it’s been so cool to be able to test things at scale in a way that I just feel like I’ve gotten to make my mistakes very publicly.

[00:31:52] Rachel Moore: Yeah.

[00:31:54] Arianna Black: And there’s one thing, like when you have A thousand attendees trying to download the app all at once, and you realize that they all registered with one email and are trying to get in with another, and you write templates very quickly around this. And the power of the numbers of this community, coupled with the enthusiasm, have allowed me to learn some things very quickly that I would’ve otherwise taken decades to get enough data to learn.

[00:32:16] Rachel Moore: How do we, Where do we learn more about women in product in case for people who are interested in, in that?

[00:32:21] Arianna Black: WomenPM.org is our website. Definitely check, like if you are a woman in product, if you think you might be a woman in product, if you’re an events technologist, you’re probably a woman in product. Our Facebook group is a huge source of knowledge and resources, and we do events all year long.

[00:32:49] Rachel Moore: In this Skill Up segment, Arianna shares why we should each strive for our events to be more than brief experiences. Could they — in fact — be life-changing?    

[00:33:00] Arianna Black: The thing that I’ve been leading with in design. There’s not just one answer to this question. There’s one answer to this question for every one of your personas, which you should definitely be mapping out through your event design, but how do you want your attendee, whether that’s your sponsor attendee, your speaker attendee, your GA attendee, how do you want your attendee to be changed from having showed up here? 

How do you want them changed? What’s the number one way? Is it Are they more equipped? Are they inspired? Did they hear about a new opportunity? Did they meet a person? What is that number one thing you want to change?

Events are the freshest place where ideas are exchanged.the talk comes before the book, it comes often before the cohesive blog post that goes viral. The talk at the event is place where ideas are tested. Where new relationships, new deals, this is like the seed. So what’s, what do you want that seed to grow into for each attending persona?

[00:34:05] Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Arianna Black for joining us on Event Experience, and thank YOU for listening. 

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On behalf of the team, thank you. We’ll gather again soon for a new episode of Event Experience.

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