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Episode 95 / April 1, 2024

Harnessing the power of content, AI, and data for event success with Natasha Wood

Tune in to hear Natasha Wood from FT Live discuss the strategic use of event content and the impact of technology on enhancing the attendee experience.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Natasha Wood, the Head of Strategy for FT Live, the events division of the Financial Times. Wood shares her extensive experience in the events industry, focusing on strategically using event content to enhance attendee experiences and achieve organizational goals. She also offers personal insights into her go-to resources and her passion for classic crime dramas and strategic business books, providing a well-rounded view of her professional and personal interests.

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

  • The shifting landscape of event strategy, focusing on people, products, and processes to drive success in the dynamic world of events
  • The untapped potential of event content as a tool for ongoing engagement and strategic advantage
  • How the integration of data analysis and artificial intelligence is transforming event planning

Mentioned in this episode

Transcript

[00:01:08] 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. 

Strategy is where an event starts and where it stops… or does it ever stop? That’s where we’re going in this episode’s discussion with Natasha Wood, Head of Strategy for FT Live, the events division of the Financial Times. Natasha adds the strategic lens to how we use and re-use event content, and you’ll come away with ideas for how you can leverage content to achieve your strategic goals and ensure your attendees have an ongoing Event Experience. Let’s get started!

[00:01:08] Rachel Moore: Our guest today is no stranger to the stage whether that’s behind the scenes or in the spotlight. She is not only an event aficionado, but also a motivational speaker, which I think is always awesome when I can get someone in here who is used to being behind the scenes, but also knows how to pick up a microphone so to speak. For the past 17 years she has helped execute events in the energy, infrastructure, and financial sectors, just name a few. And today she joins us as the head of strategy for FT Live. And that is the events division of the Financial Times. Natasha Wood, welcome to the podcast today.

[00:01:45] Hi, Rachel. Thank you so much. I’m super excited to be here.

[00:01:50] I love

[00:01:50] that you’re here and really appreciate you taking the time out and speaking of time I literally spent maybe 30 seconds just now describing to our audience what anyone might see if they go check out your LinkedIn profile. But I have a feeling you could probably expound a little bit.

The role of strategy in event management

[00:02:06] Can you tell us a little bit more about what goes on in your world as the head of strategy for FT Live?

[00:02:12] Natasha Wood: Yes, absolutely. It’s a bit of a catch all term, my job title. On the face of it, I am responsible for defining the strategy for FT Live alongside our managing director, Orson Francesconi, and other members of the senior leadership team within the key functions, and then very much responsible for ensuring its execution.

[00:02:33] So I often have my program manager hat on to ensure that any of the key strategic programs that we have in place, whether that’s related to technology, whether it’s related to a particular event, or whether it’s related to a particular theme are being executed and utilizing all of the structures in my toolbox from KPIs, OKR frameworks in order to ensure that our strategy is being executed. I often divide my world into people, products and processes. 

[00:03:06] And I spend a lot of time thinking about our people strategy. Have we got the right people in the right roles at the right time? And, the processes piece, anybody in events spends a lot of time thinking about processes.

[00:03:19] It’s actually quite an exciting place to be at the moment, especially with the evolutions we’re seeing in technology and AI and how technology can really support our efficiency and make sure that we’re freeing up our time to, to do more strategic thinking. Product and proposition is probably where I spend most of my time.

[00:03:36] And that’s what events are we running whether it’s in the infrastructure space or should we be doing more in banking and finance, asset management? Looking at the customer appetite whether it’s the value proposition itself, what are the types of events that we’re running and why. 

[00:03:53] Is it roundtables? Is it large scale conferences? Is it festivals? What’s the customer proposition there and the value proposition. And then also within that product and proposition bucket is our technology. I really enjoy and spend a lot of time thinking about the use of our third party technology to support our event proposition.

[00:04:15] Rachel Moore: I’m exhausted. Frankly, that’s a lot. And, I’m preaching the choir here because everybody listens to this podcast, event planners all around at all levels of title and experience. But we know there’s a lot on our plates anyway, but you seem to have your hands in the thick of a lot of things, but it’s all very intertwined.

[00:04:34] And I’ll personally say I just have a heart for anyone who is speaking to process. I love that you talk about that and that’s a huge part of your role is, about finding the pathway forward on things that is efficient and saves people time and energy and money but delivers the way it needs to. 

[00:04:51] Let us get to know you with some personal questions. One thing we’ve been asking our guests lately what are your go to on the ground event day shoes? What are you going to be wearing on your feet when it comes to I gotta be around in the action.

[00:05:05] Natasha Wood: Yeah. It’s the biggest decision that you can make and the most consequential decision you can make right the night before an early start is, this is going to make or break my day But I do have a pair of brown leather brogues, which they can take me from bag stuffing right the way through a day of meeting into the cocktail reception and they keep me going without a blister plaster in sight.

[00:05:27] Rachel Moore: Oh golden, that’s the pair of shoes, yeah, especially if you can wear it through all manner of, engagement that you have to be part of, and you’re like, yep, these are the same ones I had on this morning, so that’s awesome.

[00:05:39] Natasha Wood: Yeah

[00:05:40] Rachel Moore: Is there anything that you’re listening to, watching, or reading these days that you can’t put down?

Natasha Wood’s personal favorites and inspiration

[00:05:46] Natasha Wood: This is going to give you an insight into my soul. I’ve just finished binge watching, back to back, all three series of Only Murders in the Building. Which I absolutely loved. I’m a huge fan of classic crime and the fact that this US show really captured the essence of the sort of interwar murder mystery, which is British thing.

[00:06:11] I just loved it. Absolutely loved it. And I cannot wait for the next season. On a more, serious business note, I am reading Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne . I’m really fascinated by their idea of defining a strategy that opens up a new market or creates demand by just differentiation at low cost.

[00:06:32] And I’m super excited about that. I really think we spend an awful lot of time worrying too much about our competitors rather than thinking about the new products and the new product space that we can be opening up.

[00:06:47] Rachel Moore: Nice, excellent recs. You just taught me something. Cause I love Only Murders in the Building as well. Not just because I really love the actors in it, but that’s wild to hear that it’s harkening back to kind of British crime drama. 

[00:06:59] Natasha Wood: Yeah. Little known fact, I moonlight as an author. I published one book, an espionage thriller and I’m often pootling away on the next one, and I’ve got some classic crime ideas as well that I like to work on.

[00:07:11] Rachel Moore: I love that you just shared that and just going on a side tangent, but I love any of that crime espionage. It’s all fascinating. And, God, it’s like harkening back from the James Bond and 

[00:07:22] Natasha Wood: Absolutely, yeah, 

[00:07:24] Rachel Moore: stuff.

[00:07:24] Natasha Wood: Yeah.

[00:07:25] Super super glamorous, right?

[00:07:27] Rachel Moore: It’s very glamorous, dangerous and glamorous. Just what we all want. Good combination. Is there a particular social post or a piece of media or even a hot take about events that you found interesting lately?

Understanding the value of event content

[00:07:39] Natasha Wood: Yeah not super recent, but from last year the thing that really stuck with me was from Gartner’s 2023 Marketing Benchmark Survey that stated that third party events are the second highest Source of marketing qualified leads at 11% for marketers. And so underestimate the value of events at your peril especially in this cookieless world that we’re heading into.

[00:08:04] Rachel Moore: Ooh, that’s a good point. As much as we’re excited about the things that tech is going to bring our way to help make our jobs easier. The cookieless era.

[00:08:13] Natasha Wood: It’s scary.

[00:08:15] It’s scary and it’s not scary. If you work in events, then people are going to be coming more and more. 

[00:08:20] Rachel Moore: Really good point. Oh I think you just laid the groundwork for more business coming all the way of the event planner. So that’s wonderful. 

[00:08:28] We have had discussions with guests on this podcast that range from the minutia of event tasks on the floor, on the day of, and in the action, all the way up to higher level vision of events in general and I know you’ve talked a bit just now about what all that strategy means.

[00:08:45] How different is that from hands on work? So there’s a like event business strategy and then what else is there.

[00:08:50] Natasha Wood: Yeah, I think that’s a really great question. So 

[00:08:53] Natasha Wood: a lot of your listeners will be event delivery managers and they’re really down in the weeds of that waterfall process of event conception, the way through to delivery the marketing piece, the execution piece, the operational piece, sourcing venues what happens at this point in the process.

[00:09:11]  It’s absolutely essential. What really matters for me is how those foundational processes roll up into our business strategy. And we’re a commercial organization so to your point about running very efficient, cost effective processes, that’s a really important part of our strategy.

[00:09:33] So although I am not spending my days down in the weeds on the individual events, we run 200 plus events a year of different shapes and sizes and formats. I am looking with my colleagues, of course, how are we executing and delivering our webinars and how can we do that more efficiently?

[00:09:53] And how can we do more of them? How are we delivering and executing our roundtables or our large scale conferences? And I suppose that very much rolls it up into, event business strategy. It’s one pillar. I’ve mentioned the three pillars that I focus on within the process piece.

[00:10:12] Rachel Moore: When you talk about delivering, events, different types of events, the different audiences you have looking at the strategy behind that.

[00:10:20] And again, what you were saying 200 or more events, which is a lot. And some of our event planners are like, I do that all the time. So when it comes to Financial Times and the journalism piece, how does what you do inform, or support that?

[00:10:35] Natasha Wood: I can speak a little bit to FT Live’s mission, and there are five parts of that mission. The first is we believe in the power of human connection. The second is relating to your question, we are the global stage where world’s business leaders go to explore business critical issues and shape decisions.

[00:10:51] The third part, and this is the bit that really speaks to your question, is we are the live platform for FT journalism. I’ll go through four and five. We recognize that profitability is essential for our future success, which relates to our commercial orientation. And we serve our customers, our colleagues, and our stakeholders with integrity, creativity, and agility.

[00:11:11] And I really love this mission because it encapsulates all the key aspects of what we do here at FT Live and to come back to your question around how we are positioned with our journalism, it is our raison d’etre, we are the live platform for FT journalism.

[00:11:31] So what you’re reading in the newspaper translates onto the event stage, but what makes it a super exciting product proposition for our attendees, whether they’re subscribers or not, is that. It’s the most interactive form of our journalism, right? You get to hear from the journalists interrogating industry experts firsthand, you can pose your questions to them live within the auditorium or online if it’s a digital event. You can sit down next to them at lunch and have a chat about what you’ve just heard or the interesting things that you’ve read in the FT. That’s the super exciting bit of our product being part of this amazing media brand.

[00:12:17] Rachel Moore: We talk often about when our event planners are, prepping content, everything from what people are going to see and feel in here in the environment of an event, virtual or in person. But also the people that are going to hear from. On one of our just recent podcasts, we were talking about entertainment and, choosing keynotes and things like that.

[00:12:35] And, there’s that star power there where it’s like, Ooh, do we want Ryan Reynolds or someone like that? But I love that you have this infused already a bit, because with you being a journalistic entity that has known writers who are, personas in that environment. So there’s that trust there.

[00:12:54] There’s people who follow specific writers, journalists, in FT where they can be like, Oh my gosh. And I get to go meet them. I always love tapping to the fangirl part of events, but what a great draw that’s inherent in your events already.

[00:13:07] Natasha Wood: Yeah it’s not just the journalists themselves. They are a huge draw and in different guises, they’re a really big draw. If I were to take our weekend festival, which is our big B2C festival. There are guys that are lining up. You’d think that, I don’t know, George Clooney was speaking, but actually they’re waiting to meet Rana or Martin Wolf like that.

[00:13:31] Rachel Moore: Hopefully your colleagues are listening to this podcast and I’m like, Oh my gosh, she just called us George Clooney of Financial Times. Awesome. Who wouldn’t want that? But that’s great. Great classification. 

[00:13:44] Ad Intro: We’ll be right back with more Event Experience after the break.

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[00:14:35] Ad Outro: We’re back with Natasha Wood on Event Experience as we contemplate content, content, everywhere, and not enough time to utilize it.

Event content use: Challenges and solutions

[00:14:46] Rachel Moore: You have particular interest in and have definitely have some thoughts on content utilization.

[00:14:51] I think all of us think, yes, we know we need to utilize content but does it actually get done? And there’s always that aspect. And that’s not just for event planners. That’s for literally anybody who’s in some way, a part of creating content and then saying. Yes, there needs to be more where this content can go.

[00:15:10] What do you think are the challenges around why event content is underutilized.

[00:15:17] Natasha Wood: Yeah, I think there are lots of reasons and we all say the same so often whenever you’re having that conversation, we’re producing so much content, especially organizations that are streaming or recording their live content.

[00:15:29] Natasha Wood: There is a wealth of content data there and we all know what the opportunity is, but we don’t quite know how to grasp it.

[00:15:38] And I think there are three areas in no particular order of priority. The first is that as event professionals, we’re not necessarily wired to think about the post event experience. I know that, back in the day when I was at the coalface delivering conferences, I’d get to the end of an event.

[00:15:58] Done, move on, you know, what’s next, if I were running an event in Miami, I might sit by the pool for half a day. And then I’d be thinking what’s the next thing? What’s the next thing? I wouldn’t be thinking, wow, what a treasure trove of of content I’ve got here.

[00:16:14] What can I do with it?

[00:16:16] So I think we need to shift our mindset a little bit and it is hard because there’s always the next deadline to be considering.

[00:16:22] The second point is, it’s quite difficult to really measure the value of that content and therefore justify the investment of time that it takes.

[00:16:35] And that value can be anything from post event engagement that really maintains that community feel in order to drive attendees to other products or future additions of the same event. Or it can be more tangible. There is a potentially revenue associated with this content that we can realize, whether it’s through VOD offerings or repurposing the content to create derivative products.

[00:17:03] But that again, it needs a little bit of work and a bit of a change of mindset in order to be able to think about it.

[00:17:10] And then the third point which again,

[00:17:12] Natasha Wood: I think is a really important thing is how accessible it is to transform to transform that content post event and the post production piece and the work that goes into it, finding what you want and how you want to use it. Until pretty recently you could spend hours scrubbing through hours of content to just find the quote that particular speaker said this thing, but you can’t remember whether it was the beginning of this session or the end of that session, and you’re scrubbing through here.

[00:17:48] And I think that where we are currently is a bit of a pivot point in terms of the technology that’s available. I don’t think it’s quite there yet, but there’s going to be a big shift in how accessible and how searchable our content can become which is super exciting.

[00:18:11] Rachel Moore: It is exciting. If you’re doing 200 plus events a year, which you mentioned you are doing, and you’ve got hours of content for each of those. Yes. That’s a huge lift to ask people to say, okay, go find the best parts, and turn them into smaller pieces everywhere.

[00:18:27] It’s a lot. So it’s very inspiring to hear you say. And we’re all able to acknowledge there might be easier time for us in the future when it comes to the tech.

[00:18:34] Natasha Wood: Yeah, and it’s something that I’m not going to say I’m looking at it daily, but I’m very much keeping an eye on how that technology is evolving and how the providers of this software are evolving their products to make video content more searchable. And not just searchable, but actually using AI to surf without us even having to ask to surface the stuff, the really good stuff, which again, super exciting.

[00:18:59] Rachel Moore: It’s all good stuff though. Especially everything you’re giving me today is amazing. So it’s great. All right let’s talk those specifically too. Utilizing content, getting all those pieces and, what FT does, to do that.

Advice for non-media brands on content sharing

[00:19:11] Y’all are a media brand though. So you have your own channels already in play that, we just were talking about how, even your journalists have their own kind of reputation and following and stuff. So you’ve got all these channels as a media brand. What would be your guidance to businesses that aren’t media brands like FT?

[00:19:28] How can they tackle the sharing of content for their own channels?

[00:19:33] Natasha Wood: Absolutely, Rachel. It’s a great question. And I feel very fortunate to work for the Financial Times. We have a great platform to amplify the amazing content that we produce through our events. But I think,

[00:19:48] Natasha Wood: any organization shouldn’t underestimate their owned platforms, right? Their social channels the platforms that they’ve built over time to speak to their customers and prospects.

[00:20:00] The great thing about events is that you’ve got so many people who are invested in your product. You’ve got speakers, many of whom will have fantastic platforms of their own.

[00:20:11] Even your attendees they’ve got platforms. So tapping into those amplification channels to get your event content out there is where the opportunities lie.

[00:20:22] Rachel Moore: I agree. We all have those in mind, right? We all know those favorite brands out there and Oh my gosh, if I only had a following like they do, or if I only had, tapped into the power of these channels, like they obviously do.

[00:20:35] Natasha Wood: I think to your point, which is an extension of that point is we can all look with envy at these brands that have huge social media followings some of the B2C brands. But at the same time, I know that some of my products are incredibly niche B2B events and actually it’s not about volume, it’s about value and talking to the right people.

[00:20:59] I can shout as loud as I want, but if nobody’s listening, I’m just going to lose my voice. So making sure that you’re targeting the right people whether it’s through earned social or paid social that’s the really key thing.

[00:21:14] Rachel Moore: And that all drives back, like you were saying too, that’s why it’s so important to pick those best parts of the content and that’s what all of us need to be doing as event planners. As event marketers and, just people who are, like you said, trying to give an audience what they want and need which all drives back to , as you’re overseeing strategy profitability, which is something we need.

[00:21:36] Natasha Wood: I think you also make a really good point there and it’s really key to understand what your objective is for any individual piece of content. What part of your lead generation campaign is this speaking to, for example, which part of the funnel what is the objective here? Is it to raise awareness?

[00:21:54] That’s going to be a very particular type of content, or is it like further down when you’re looking at conversion, when you’re looking at retention, you’re looking at keeping your existing customers within your universe and satisfied. So selecting the right content and selecting the right channels is going to be really important based on your objective.

[00:22:15] Rachel Moore: Where can our listeners find and follow you online?

[00:22:18] Natasha Wood: Great question. It is best to find me on LinkedIn. That’s where I usually hang out.

[00:22:35] Rachel Moore: Natasha reminds us as we SkillUp to never forget the gift of digital content, even as we all rush back to in-person gatherings. 

[00:22:43] Natasha Wood: I think you cannot underestimate the value of digital content. Post COVID our industry has rushed back to in person events. Believe me. Like anyone, I was never so happy as to see a self service badge scanner as I was early in 2022. I loved getting back to in person but you can really leverage that additional investment in capturing your events and creating digital content and expand your reach through that.

So I would really advise to be thinking about that.

Start small. Don’t be overambitious. I think I am probably speaking to a bunch of perfectionists in your listenership. And I certainly identify with that master procrastinator waiting for everything to be perfect.

But experimental mindset, let’s just try it. Let’s just, yeah. Take some of this content, be clear on our objectives test it. Don’t wait until you have the perfect plan for all of your event content to distribute it to the world. Start small, don’t be overly ambitious.

[00:23:52] Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Natasha Wood for joining us on Event Experience, and thank YOU for listening. 

If you’re enjoying this show, we’d love to hear it!

Connect with us on social and subscribe, rate, and review us wherever you’re listening. Also, don’t forget to share the show with your colleagues and friends. 

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.

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