In this podcast episode, Evan Babins, XM Producer at Bond Brand Loyalty, discusses his experience producing successful roadshow events in four cities for a software client. The events brought together small- to medium-sized businesses in the accounting and financial services industry.
Babins sheds light on the complexities of planning successful events and the importance of prioritizing attendee needs, data-driven decision-making, and professional adaptability in the ever-changing events landscape.
Here’s what else you’ll hear about in this episode of Event Experience:
[00:00:10] 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’re talking with Evan Babins, Experiential Marketing Specialist at Bond Brand Loyalty. We’re hitting the road with Evan as he shares how to produce an event in a box — otherwise known as a roadshow — and how his team successfully executed experiences in four cities with unique audiences and demands. Join us as we unbox his expertise in this episode of Event Experience.
[00:00:56] Rachel Moore: Welcome everyone to Event Experience. Across the microphones from me today is someone who wields the term XM in his history and job titles, and we’ll get more into what exactly that means. I am speaking with someone who is an XM producer, project manager. His titles and his history include working for C2 International, Clear, XM producer for Diamond and most recently, he is the Experiential Marketing Specialist for Bond Brand Loyalty. I am, of course, speaking with Evan Babins. Evan, thank you so much for joining us here for Bizzabo’s podcast.
[00:01:32] Evan Babins: I’m so happy to be here and I am excited for this conversation.
[00:01:36] Rachel Moore: Me as well. Can you talk to us a little bit more about your role with Bond Brand Loyalty as their Experiential Marketing Specialist?
What all do you do?
[00:01:45] Evan Babins: Yeah, for sure. So my team is a team of XM producers. We’re event managers. We are project managers. So at Bond we fuel growth for the world’s most iconic brands. And what the company really does is we build relationships with customers, employees, and businesses. Specifically on my team and our team, we produce and execute XM activations events across the country for some of the world’s biggest brands in the sports world, in the automotive world, and in the CPG world.
[00:02:24] Rachel Moore: It’s always interesting to hear about the different verticals or industries that our event designers and experiential designers and creators are involved with.
And so with our audience, I think today we’re gonna be zeroing in on one specific event that you have worked on and tell us what that is and let’s dig into it. What are we talking about today?
[00:02:43] Evan Babins: This is a previous event that I did in my last role. It was a four city roadshow that we did for a software company. And we basically were responsible for the entire end-to-end production of the event. So everything from , invites, reach out, AV, content, branding, speaker management, opening night parties, all of that.
I’m excited to share some light on this event that I just produced this past May and June actually right before starting at Bond.
[00:03:19] Rachel Moore: Well, and I love that you mentioned roadshow. You’re basically picking up and taking this event to a different venue, a different city, and executing it all over and over and over again. Am I on the right track?
[00:03:29] Evan Babins: I like to call it an event in a box kind of thing. You get to your venue in city one, you open the box, you take everything out of the box, set it all up, bring it to life. At the end of the event, tear it all down, put it back in the box, an 18-wheeler trailer and you bring it to the next city and rinse and repeat all the way across the country.
But yes it’s basically copy and paste, small tweaks here and there, depending on the market and the city. But generally speaking, I would say it was the same copy and paste event in all four cities across the country.
[00:04:03] Rachel Moore: So I am excited for us to dig more into this because this sounds like a lot of effort and energy going into this.
I’m sure you had some goals set out for what you wanted to accomplish with this road show, this event in the box that you took to four different locales. What goals were you trying to achieve with this event?
[00:04:22] Evan Babins: So number one is obviously what I like to call the intangibles, right? So the post-event survey results. Did people have a good time? Did they like the food? Did they meet new people? Did they network well? This event was very much an industry event open to the public, but for a vertical of an industry in the accounting space and financial services.
And so it was really about getting the community together in the different markets with some crossover. Some people came from market to market. Not many, but there was a few which we measured via post-event survey that we executed right after the event was over. We collected the results and then we distilled that back to the client.
Number two on the client side was attendance rates versus invites versus acceptance. All of those metrics that they were measuring on. Because at the end of the day, they were sort of driving how many people actually came out to the event.
And then for us on our side, the number three thing was event margin, profitability of the event based on working with vendors, and our chosen vendors and our venue partners getting the most out of it from our side in terms of margin and making the most money out of the event.
I would say those would be the top three.
[00:05:43] Rachel Moore: Let’s dig into that target audience. So I know you are putting this on in a few different regions. What groups were you going after? Were there differences between where you were executing this event?
[00:05:56] Evan Babins: So, like I said, it was the accounting financial services industry. It was very much the sort of small to medium sized businesses. Generally it was the business owners or executive teams that was coming.
Demographics looked like a pretty even split male to female. Your average age range is high twenties to early sixties in terms of age range. Pretty wide spectrum of demographics. It’s our job to tailor the event to that demographic.
And when it’s so wide, you really have to do a good job of honing in on what are your goals and what are your expectations of attendees so that they get the most out of the event, whether it’s who you’re bringing for external keynote speakers or how many breakout sessions you’re doing?
Are you incorporating breaks and mental relaxation time through the day so that people aren’t going nonstop session to session without any breaks for them to recharge and be able to reset for the next break so that they can absorb all the information you want them to get.
We noticed that in different markets and different cities, the makeup was obviously different.
So what you had in Toronto, you didn’t have in Montreal or in Vancouver or Calgary, where the events were. The makeup and the demographics shifted slightly: west coast skewed a little bit more female; Toronto skewed way more male. Montreal was a good sort of split.
Numbers obviously were very different. Toronto was the most amount of people. It was just around the 600 mark. Montreal was the smallest at like 250 I would say, and then Calgary, Vancouver we’re around the 350 or 400 mark. In terms of guest counts.
[00:07:42] Rachel Moore: You also use this as data gathering. Are you using that data too now to say, okay, well if we go back to Toronto and then versus if we go to Vancouver, maybe we need to adjust our approach a little bit or, or things like that. Are you using those findings for crafting your future content?
[00:07:59] Evan Babins: Absolutely. You definitely look at it. You look at like speakers specifically in the different markets. And who resonated the best with the audience and what they were talking about. But sort of taking it to a step further, I think a lot of people fail to realize, and people sometimes don’t even recognize this, but events, whether they’re virtual in person, hybrid, doesn’t matter, are the best and easiest way to get free data from people.
Now, free is quote unquote, because people are paying for event tickets or whatever it is. But we actually get, and we’ve noticed this over the last number of years, and regardless of the company that I’ve worked for or where I was working, it’s the same concept.
Anytime you have a registration for an event, you are getting all these data points that you’re now using before the event to tailor the content to that event, and then for post event to how you tailor the next one. A lot of producers and planners don’t recognize that, and they don’t use it to their advantage where you’re looking at all this data that you’re getting from the registration fields and you can have custom fields or just your standard name, email, phone number, title, company name, whatever it is. But there’s so many data points that you have that you can really just use that and not collect anything else, and you would have a mountain of information to help you produce better events.
[00:09:30] Rachel Moore: Was there any special or unique aspect to this event you’d like to call out, maybe an element of tech or engagement effort or something like that?
What do you got?
[00:09:39] Evan Babins: We tried to do things very simple, but also get the most out of our spend, I would say. So we didn’t have the 90-foot LED back wall, and we didn’t have the multi-camera shot for the front of the stage or whatever it was. But what we did do really smart was we tried to incorporate the client’s branding in all the different touchpoints across the spectrum from the first email invitation all the way through the journey.
And I think that’s really what really resonated with people. And when they came on site, they recognized the branding because they’d seen it in a few different touch points already, whether it was in the original invite, email online, filling out the registration forms, getting to the venue and seeing it fully branded and everything. And then having everything be cohesive. That’s what stood out to audience members. And that stood out to the client team as well was how succinct it all was, how cohesive it all was, and we really were taking people on a journey from the beginning all the way through the different touchpoints. So it doesn’t always, you don’t always need to have the flashiest equipment or the biggest stage or the most amount of LED walls to really make a difference.
Now being able to have all those things at your event, if your budget allows, obviously makes things a lot more fun from a AV side of things and a tech side of things that a lot of us are into, and me especially. I’m really into that kind of stuff, obviously, but sometimes it’s the little things.
And the little things can go a long way. And that’s what we really focused on in terms of this.
[00:11:27] Rachel Moore: I love that you point out that.
You were super thoughtful and I love that you mentioned the comprehensiveness of it, that things just tied together and seemed like a really good package.
[00:11:40] Evan Babins: And I think just like going off that, a lot of people think if we just have like a million dollars to spend, let’s just throw at so many things and so many more lights, bigger screens, bigger staging, but like, all of that is fluff and like I’m gonna get a lot of heat for that probably.
But I’ll stick by it all the time. Is it great to have big budgets where you can spend on big production? Absolutely. I would love a show that has a million dollar AV budget that we can go crazy on and do really cool things — 100%. But is it necessary to execute an event? With all of those things like I think we can all agree that you don’t need all of those things for a successful event to execute. You need some basic things. Obviously some screens, microphones, audio, like there are some basics that you need across the board, but if you can take that money and put it into better places for event specific things that will get you a better outcome because let’s be honest, like average Joe Attendee in an event doesn’t know what kind of moving lights you’re using. Or what lumens your projectors are. They don’t know.
As long as they can see the content on the screen, it’s not fuzzy. The color isn’t yellow on a white PowerPoint screen. Like they can hear the speaker in the back of the room with the microphones, like the average person doesn’t know what we know on the backend: I’m gonna get an 8K projector versus a 4K projector, or I’m going to use this kind of moving headlight versus that moving headlight.
Right? That’s all like internal and and event production people knowledge. And so if you can get people to walk away with something that’s more tangible for them, that sometimes can make a bigger difference than if you had an LED back wall versus doing two projector blend on a screen.
So I think a lot of people focus sometimes on the wrong things and they don’t think from the attendee viewpoint, they just think about it from the producer standpoint of like, what would look better and what’s better for me as a producer? Not from a Joe Attendee who doesn’t know anything about AV or production.
What are they gonna get out of it and what’s best for their angle and their POV, and that’s what we really tried to look at for this event was we don’t need the flashy gear. Which I mean, don’t get me wrong, we still had gear, we had lighting, we had screen and projectors, we had stage backdrops, we had all that stuff, but it wasn’t over and above. Where we chose to spend more time and energy was on this cohesive experience for the attendee vision and that really sent ripples through the crowd because they really got it.
[00:14:42] Rachel Moore: This segues beautifully into my next question for you. So if I am an attendee and I’m finding myself at your event, what am I experiencing?
[00:14:51] Evan Babins: It was really multifaceted. It started off, like I said, in those pre-engagement communications. From that invitation, open it up. They saw the information of the event, click here to register for the city that we’re inviting you to. They went to a custom splash page on the website that would have all the information that they would need for registration. Fast forward to event day, show up onsite. The event is fully branded. The venue’s fully branded. They came into breakfast and networking.
We had a bit of a trade show environment where we had sponsors that were showing off the technology side of the industry. So the tools that these people would use on a day-to-day basis, improvements on the tools and on the software, and potentially sometimes on the hardware.
Then we went into an opening session keynote where it was like the leaders of our client’s company walking them all through what happened last year, what’s happening next year.
Then we went into an external keynote that we had a speaker for, then there was a break. Then we went to three different rounds of breakout sessions throughout the day.
A break for lunch in the middle of the breakouts. And then after the final breakout, we went into sort of cocktail hour and then party. So it was just like food stations, band, dj, some activations in the main room, open bar, food stations, all that kind of stuff. So that was really the the guest experience and the sort of front to back of what it was. And then, day after the event in the guest email, there would be a post event survey that we talked about earlier.
[00:16:37] Rachel Moore: Let’s dive into some of the more personal questions now to let our audience get to know you a little bit, Evan? Is there an item that you have ever forgotten for a work event that caused you some panic?
[00:16:49] Evan Babins: Always. There’s always something. So for me, this is actually funny that you asked that.
I don’t remember who posted it on LinkedIn, but someone posted what item do you not leave home without before going to a live event, in-person event. And I came back with three essential items, and I think this will answer your question as well.
Number one is a phone charger, physical cable for my iPhone with a plugin brick as well. Number two item is a mobile power bank because that is an absolute essential. And then number three would be my DJI handheld gimbal. And for making videos and whatever with my iPhone.
So those would be my three things. And to your question, I cannot leave the house without any, all of those things must be with me. Everything else is bonus.
[00:17:54] Rachel Moore: I think we can all relate with the phone stuff, but particularly when you are a content creator, you’ve talked about that too.
All this content you’re making, it is certainly a huge part of any experience.
Is there anything that you’re listening to, watching or reading these days that you cannot put down?
[00:18:11] Evan Babins: What am I watching these days? I mean, outside the events world, I’m a massive F1 fan.
And so we’re right in the middle of F1 season right now, so I’m watching F1 racing. I watched and I’m paying attention to sort of NHL trade deadline stuff and moves in the NHL. So that’s exciting. And then, honestly, this is gonna sound really cheesy, but I’m just seeing what event industry people are posting about.
What companies are putting out, a lot of close clients and friends are doing a lot of really cool stuff online that they’re posting about. It’s a great time for the industry. I think people like Julius Solaris, Adam Parry, and all the other guys that are sort of the movers and shakers of our industry, referring to this time of like the great resurgence of events.
I think that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I think we’re on track for 2023 to do more in-person events globally than any other year in the history of live events, I think people are excited again about events.
As a new parent, you’re sort of always thinking about the other side of things. From a safety perspective. I’m not gonna go too detailed into that, I’ll just leave it at that. But I think for me personally, am I going to a lot of events with big numbers of people? Like, no, I’m still being careful and choosing where I’m going and where I’m spending my time more carefully than ever before. But I think it’s a great time for the industry. It’s a great time for events. So I’m excited to see what people are posting about, recaps of events that people are going through that I can’t be at. I think that’s what I’m sort of watching and reading and, and listening to right now.
[00:20:05] Rachel Moore: Is there a particular social post or a piece of media or possibly a hot take about events that you found interesting lately?
[00:20:14] Evan Babins: I don’t know if there’s like one piece of content necessarily. There’s a lot of great content coming out of the Bizzabo team.
I know there’s the report that just came out for the event industry report. You guys are doing a lot of really cool webinars and things like that. So yeah, I look forward to what Bizzabo is putting out all the time.
And I’m excited to see the report, the future of in-person events report that’s coming out soon.
[00:20:44] Rachel Moore: I’m sure that content team will love to hear that too, so that’s awesome.
[00:20:48] Evan Babins: Shout out to the Bizzabo content team.
[00:20:49] Rachel Moore: And where can our listeners find and follow you online, Evan.
[00:20:53] Evan Babins: Yeah, I’m everywhere. I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Instagram, I’m on Facebook. I’m not really on Twitter. I just started on Threads. That’s like a thing I’ve had many discussions with people of: Is Threads gonna be the new clubhouse where it was like super popular for like three weeks and then it sort of just died out into the abyss. There’s a debate about that if that’s gonna happen or not, but that’s a whole other podcast conversation that we can have.
But yeah, I’m really everywhere and anywhere. Like I always tell people I love talking to smart people about events in any shape or form, and I’m always down for a conversation.
[00:21:46] Rachel Moore: It’s time to unpack our SkillUp segment. Evan’s insights about event planner endurance could make all the difference for the industry’s future.
[00:21:54] Evan Babins: Be open to feedback, be open to new experiences. Be open to challenges. Be open to failure and rejection because it’s gonna happen. Be open to learning from people, whether that’s networking on LinkedIn at events, in a Slack community, whatever you’re part of — just be open.
Because I think the people that are more open versus the people that are more closed off are the ones that last in this industry and in this business. Those of us who were around pre-COVID and are still around in the same capacity are still there because of that fact that we are open to all of those things. I think a lot of people, unfortunately didn’t make it through COVID in the events world, whether they changed industries or you know, decided to do something different or realized it wasn’t for them, when it wasn’t just in-person execution and they had to learn new skills of how to be a video producer or how to be, you know, an online event producer, right? I think a lot of people that made it were the ones that said yes to a lot, that were open to change, that were open to new experiences, that were saying yes to things.
So that would be my biggest advice for anyone, regardless of if it’s your first day in the industry or you’ve been in the industry for 50 years. I think it applies to everybody across the board — equal from anyone and everyone in the industry.
[00:23:32] Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Evan Babins for joining us on Event Experience, and thank YOU for listening.
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You can find transcripts of each episode and key takeaways on bizzabo.com/podcasts.On behalf of the team, thank you. We’ll gather again soon for a new episode of Event Experience.