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Episode 74 / September 25, 2023

What’s changed (and what hasn’t) about in-person gatherings

In this episode, three industry powerhouses discuss the state of the events industry and in-person B2B conferences in particular.

Join us for a dynamic episode about the state of in-person events today — based on responses from more than 4,000 organizers and attendees who participated in Bizzabo’s in-person B2B conference survey from June 2023. 

In this podcast episode, you’ll hear from Kathryn Frankson, the Global Director of Marketing for Money 20/20; Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX — the largest global trade show for the events industry; and Huong Nguyen, the Head of Client Services at Shiloh Events.

These industry experts agree that in-person events are still the most valuable marketing channel and networking ecosystem for businesses but also acknowledge the rising cost of attendance and the need to compete with virtual events.

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

  • Why in-person events are the most valuable marketing channel and networking ecosystem for businesses
  • How to deliver networking and learning experiences that are valuable to attendees
  • Tips on how to overcome and solve current challenges and address the attendee preferences

Mentioned in This Episode

Note: This podcast episode originally aired as a webinar in September 2023. Want to watch the webinar? It’s available on-demand here


[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. 

In this audio version of Bizzabo’s recent webinar — What’s changed (and what hasn’t) about in-person gatherings — Oren Berkovich moderates an energized discussion featuring Kathryn Frankson, Carina Bauer, and Huong Nguyen. Oren is the Head of Experience Lab at Bizzabo, Kathryn is the Global Director of Marketing at Money 20/20, Carina is the CEO at IMEX, and Huong is the Head of Client Services at Shiloh Events. 

This episode showcases insights from more than 4,000 event organizers and attendees from Bizzabo’s recent report on the State of in-person B2B conferences. Keep listening to hear what these industry experts have to say about conference trends, organizer challenges, attendee priorities, and why in-person events are the most valuable marketing channel and networking ecosystem today.

[00:01:24] Oren Berkovich: Hi, welcome everyone. I am so excited to be here with all of you and congratulations. You made it. You’re here. I know these are busy times, but you made it a priority and we’re here together. So kudos for you, and thanks for being here. For those of you who don’t know me, which I suspect is most of you, my name is Oren, and I lead the Event Experience Lab at Bizzabo.

[00:01:45] My team and I work day in and day out to help event professionals and marketers design their strategy and their event experiences to make momentum building events. This really started a few weeks ago. This webinar -Bizzabo released a survey that had some exciting findings about the state of B2B events.

[00:02:05] They asked about 4000 participants, respondents, a bunch of different questions. Half of these people, about 2000 people, were event professionals, like many of you. And the other half were event attendees. And the responses really highlighted how business critical in-person events are in gatherings.

[00:02:26] So we thought it’ll be a really good idea to bring some of the leading experts to have a conversation, see what they’re up to, and ask them about what is the state of B2B conferences. So this is a three part web series that we’re running on the Bizzabo Event Experience OS. We’re kicking off part one today.

[00:02:45] We’re going to dive deep into what changed and hasn’t changed when it comes to in-person events.

[00:02:51] And honestly, I am thrilled about the experts that I get to chat with about this. First is Kathryn Frankson. She’s the Global Director of Marketing for Money 2020. I’m sure many of you have been or at least heard of Money 2020. It’s the most unmissable event in FinTech. Wait, is unmissable actually a word?

[00:03:15] See, this is what happens when you ask ChatGPT to write speaker’s bio. So, whether unmissable is a word or not, it is to not be missed. It’s a great event and Kathryn has been leading the marketing for that. This next part I know is true. She spent over 10 years in events, sales, and marketing. And she’s one of those experts in my network that you go to when you need to have some creative marketing ideas, how to cut through the noise and get people’s attention. So thrilled to have Kathryn with us. 

[00:03:45] We’re also here with Carina Bauer from IMEX, which I know many of you have heard of and have been, is the largest global trade show for the events industry.

[00:03:55] So Carina has been managing this business for two decades successfully, I should say. You know, she’s definitely been there and seen a lot of the ups and downs when it comes to the event industry, and I’m excited to dive into all these lessons learned and insights with her. 

[00:04:12] And last but not least, for sure, we have Huong Nguyen. She’s the CEO and founder of Shiloh Events, which many of you might know. It is a full service agency and Huong has been the founder and CEO of it for over 15 years. So it’s been 15 years that she’s been talking to clients, big clients, small clients that manage all sorts of events and helping them make informed decisions about their next events. She worked with Zoom and Samsung and Microsoft and Phillips and many of the big events that you know. 

[00:04:46] So with that, Kathryn, Carina, Huong, welcome, welcome to our show. How are you all doing? Where, where does this webinar find you?

[00:04:57] Carina Bauer: Well, for, for me, I am in Brighton in the UK, which is just on the south coast of the UK. 

[00:05:04] Oren Berkovich: Fantastic. 

[00:05:06] Huong Nguyen: Hi, everybody. I’m dialing in from San Jose, California. Wishing you guys all the best from where you are. I’m excited to share my insights with you. 

[00:05:14] Oren Berkovich: Yeah, thanks for joining. What about you, Kathryn?

[00:05:17] Kathryn Frankson: Hello! I’m calling in from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Technically Hopkins, Minnesota, or as I like to say, Hip Hopkins, you know, for those in the know. 

[00:05:26] Oren Berkovich: Well, I’m glad you joined us, and you might have realized that you’re here for a reason. So let me bring up that slide one more time. So here we go. Kathryn, since you’re laser focused on Money 2020, I’m really looking forward to hearing from you the brand experience. What is it like to kind of lead a single event, be year round focused about that brand and that community. So I really want to hear that brand perspective. 

[00:05:52] Huong, you speak to many different clients regularly. So from you, I really want to hear that agency perspective. What is it like to kind of work on the other side and help clients plan their events? What are they asking you about? What are they worried about? What’s motivating them now? So I really want to have that agency perspective.

[00:06:11] And you Carina, well, you know, you bring thousands of event professionals together every year. So I would love to hear from you that kind of macro level industry perspective. 

[00:06:21] And I know I’m not the only one that’s excited about this. We had so many people register for today: over 500 people registered and many of them from many different companies, you know. So this is going to be fantastic.

[00:06:33] And as we get started, I really want to level set and kind of see how everybody’s doing. So I prepared a little mood board for that. And we’re going to try to chat now. I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder to answer the question, how you all doing and how are you feeling, but we’re going to give it a try.

[00:06:51] So I’m curious to see what people are going to put in the chat. How are you feeling about planning a B2B conference this year or next? And maybe while we wait for everybody to chime in the chat, I want to hear from you three. How are you feeling about it? And you know what? To make it more difficult, I want you to tell me a number and also describe what that feeling is.

[00:07:12] Are you concerned? Are you excited? What is it? Huong, you’re leaning in. 

[00:07:16] Huong Nguyen: Yes, I think my number would be number one. that’s just who I am and how optimistic I am about the industry and how hopeful of the fact, you know, the information that we’re about to share with you guys and resulting from the study. So I’m just like, like that. 

[00:07:32] Oren Berkovich: Fantastic. Very timely and looks like Chaviva as well.

[00:07:36] Chiming in the chat, she’s feeling very Barbie like as well. What about you, Kathryn, Carina? How are you feeling? 

[00:07:43] Carina Bauer: Oh, well, I can’t get past number 8. 

[00:07:47] I think when I look at the IMEX shows this year and how the demand for the shows and we’re always just a reflection of the global business events industry.

[00:07:59] You know, they’re really back to pre pandemic levels. People are confident and excited. And yeah, for me, that’s a real kind of excitement, we’re there, I’m looking forward to it this year and also looking into next, so that’s an eight for me. 

[00:08:16] Oren Berkovich: I’m glad this is how you’re feeling as we’re about to go in this webinar.

[00:08:19] It’ll be really, really terrifying for me if you’d be like number three or something like that. I’m glad you’re, you’re pumped and excited. Kathryn, what, what about you? 

[00:08:29] Kathryn Frankson: Yeah, I, I’m definitely number 13. Like I’m feeling good. It was between 13 and 8, actually. So, Carina, I’m with you on that one. But yeah, it’s, it’s a really, really exciting year.

[00:08:41] It’s an exciting time. We’ll talk a little bit more about this, but for Money 2020, we’re coming off the heels of a really cool and exciting year up event. Obviously, we’re a couple months out from Vegas. So, yeah, we’re, we’re in it. We’re designing some pretty amazing stuff. So, it’s exciting. 

[00:08:57] Oren Berkovich: I see, I see on the chat quite a few eights, so it’s, it’s really good that a lot of people are, are pumped.

[00:09:03] Looks like there’s quite the distribution, I gotta say. Like, there’s nobody’s feeling like three or nineteen, so, so that’s all good, like, thankfully. What, Huong, you had something there to add?

[00:09:14] Huong Nguyen: No, I was just thinking from the perspective of my clients, what they would choose. I think right now, some of my clients would probably choose number three, because of the changes that are happening and they’re like, Oh my God, what am I going to do? And then I’m already having multiple conversations with them about redoing the budgets, redoing the program plans, because all of the different directions and moving targets. So I think if I were to choose for my clients, it’d be number three. 

[00:09:38] Oren Berkovich: Okay well, hopefully we’ll get to cheer them up and and you know, it’s not a big surprise that there is a mix of feelings I was expecting to see a lot of different numbers fly through here.

[00:09:48] I’m glad the Barbie memes were, there’s lots of 13s and ones. So that’s that’s all good and look the reality is there’s lots of different feelings and we start diving into this, you know In some ways, at a high level, not a lot has changed when it comes to events, right? People still forget to unmute themselves.

[00:10:07] I’m just kidding, but you know, event professionals, I feel like we were always under stress, right? There’s always high pressure. There’s always uncertainty. I mean, ups and downs, obviously, you know, 2020 was quite the rollercoaster year, but, but it’s, it’s kind of been always an evolving. Industry and the space of events and bringing people together has changed a lot and is continuing to change.

[00:10:30] So in some ways, that’s sort of the standard. But, you know, when when you look at the Bizzabo survey, we’ve seen, you know, the vast majority of people really kind of talking about how 80 percent and more are doing in-person events, are thinking in-person events, are their kind of main marketing channel for community building.

[00:10:51] So in some ways, like, it’s business as usual. We’re kind of, you know, always been through this rate of change in some ways. But when you look closer, things have been changing. You know, we did hear a lot of is, is different now, right? Like,

[00:11:07] Sure, people are kind of over attending fully virtual summits and full day on zooms and whatnot, but, but people are very picky about which in-person events they want to attend. They’re not worried about flying as much maybe as in the past, but, but they’re definitely more picky. We know registrations and sponsorships are coming in later in the cycle now when it comes to event planning.

[00:11:30] And so. When you look closer, a lot has been changing, and is changing, and is different nowadays. 

[00:11:36] So this is the plan for today. I want to have an open and honest conversation about these changes. There’s a lot of event professionals, a lot of marketers here, and I want to help manage through this uncertainty.

[00:11:47] I want us to kind of leverage these collective insights and your expertise so we can come up with tactical next steps on you know, ideas and examples that people can walk away and implement in their planning cycle. And you’ll notice I highlighted the word conversation. You know, and this is for all of you on the other side of this that are not speaker.

[00:12:10] This is where you come in. I’ve spent a lot of time with, with Carina, Kathryn, and Huong, and we’re going to continue chit chatting for many, many times, but, but today, today we’re here for you. We could have pre recorded this and just send you a link, but we wanted to do this live because we want your input.

[00:12:26] We want you to help us kind of guide where you want to go. What are you curious about? The speakers know that I’m willing to kind of throw all the slides and questions out and really follow everybody’s lead on what is the most topic that, what is the topic you all want to talk about.

[00:12:42] So with that, let me get these slides out of here and we can kick it off at a high level first, before we dive into specific examples. I want us to kind of start with, with you, Kathryn. Your, your big event is coming up. It’s about two and a half months away, I think.

[00:12:58] It’s coming up quick, I’m sure. 

Planning for Money20/20

[00:13:00] How, what are you experiencing? How is planning for Money 2020 this year compared to maybe previous years? What’s different? What’s the same? Give us the, the high level scoop. 

[00:13:11] Kathryn Frankson: Yeah. Well, it’s interesting because if you look at 2022 and the earnings for Money 2020, that came out and we had double digit growth for Europe.

[00:13:21] We had 50 percent growth for the U.S. Event. We’ve since expanded into Bangkok, we’re doing a world tour and, you know, in, in past cycles, you might go, you’re great, set, you’re all good. And yet, even given that, we are really in a state of innovation for 2023 events. So Europe traded in June, which is, which is kind of nice just because we’ve got some signals from that and we’re able to get some learnings from it.

[00:13:48] But what we’re seeing overall is some of the same things in your report, which is that even for a strong brand, even if you’ve really got a smart foothold in your market, you have got to reinvent, you have got to be really, really sharp and clear with networking. So even again, if we use U.S. and Europe as an example, last year, there was a lot of new content formats, new stages, new production, and then this year, it was networking, you could network in paddle boats, down at the beach, and throw in your Money 2020 shades, and go out and have a conversation that way, and not just in a ballroom. And so, formats are still changing, product is still changing, sales cycles are different this year than they were in the pent up demand of 2022, and in marketing specifically, what I would say, high level that teams are really having to focus on and anchor into is how do you communicate about and capture new business?

[00:14:44] How are you growing that in a smart and sophisticated way? Because the landscape has changed so much. So those are high level what we’re seeing and what we’re really focused on. 

[00:14:53] Oren Berkovich: Yeah. So I’m hearing like a lot of focus on experiential, right? Like making this a little bit different, but also how do you communicate this effectively and maybe differently to participants to get their attention.

[00:15:05] That’s fascinating. Thanks for that. 

Budget Concerns and Shifting Strategies

[00:15:09] What about you, Huong? Like you talk to clients all the time. Are they motivated? Are they worried? I mean, you said a lot of them are like, you know, in tears now. Is this normal? Like what’s going on? 

[00:15:24] Huong Nguyen: The luxury that we have on the agency side is that we get to experience and view so many different sectors and industries, right? And we work with a lot of tech companies. So right now our clients are definitely feeling that uncertainty of if we do an event, who’s going to show up? How many people are we going to get? Like the investment that we put into it, what’s the return on investment of that? And the revenue, the concern about sponsorship revenue, ticketing revenue, and the added, you know, component of like the economic downturn.

[00:15:51] And so what we’re experiencing is like a reduction in budget and how to shift, you know, from having to, you know, I used to have 2 million, but this year I only have 1. 5, and I have to do the same amount of work and experience and having higher return, but with less, right? So, for example, we had a client who was given a 3 million budget, and she asked us to plan out, you know, what would it be like for a large user conference for 800 to 1000 people?

[00:16:17] And so we gave her several analysis of what the spend would be for that. And then we gave her alternatives of what she could do for the same amount but smaller events in regional locations. And that way you can have a higher return on investment by targeting more specific audience. And so you get to have that intimate connection, networking opportunities and be able to touch more on a deeper level.

[00:16:41] And so we were able to, you know, show her the result that, yeah, smaller executive programs, smaller regional programs might have a higher yield on return versus doing larger programs. And that’s the way that you can manage the same, you know, the reduction in budget. 

[00:16:54] Oren Berkovich: I’m hearing basically that, you know, people are worried about registrations and selling tickets, which I feel like that’s always a concern, right?

[00:17:02] Like, you never know really how many people are showing up until the event is happening, and sometimes even after the event, there’s a lot of that. But what I’m hearing you say that has been changing is there’s now more pressure to do more with less. In fact, we had a whole series about this a couple months ago because budgets are shrinking.

[00:17:19] You know, there’s always uncertainty, but maybe like when it comes to economic uncertainty, which seems to be kind of around, you know, in the last six months, you know, a year, at least there is extra pressure on budgets and maybe even getting attention of C suite. I mean, we heard that come through. So that’s interesting.

[00:17:36] I’m curious. Could I kind of dive in? And you know, you’ve mentioned an example of going to like running a few small events compared to a large scale event. So we’re going to dive into these examples and decisions. 

[00:17:49] Carina, you, you run a very large scale event. And so there’s no road showing opportunity for you.

[00:17:54] Like this is happening full on with thousands of people. I know in the travel industry, after all the kind of, you know, restrictions were, were lifted, there was a lot of pent up demand, right? Like people were kind of revenge traveling. They were really eager to come in and travel. Do you see a similar demand now coming up in in-person events?

Event Experience Changes 

[00:18:17] Are you feeling for this year’s IMEX which I also think is in October, right? It’s happening. Are you, how are you experiencing this from your point of view? 

[00:18:26] Carina Bauer: Yeah, I’m exactly the same. I think for in-person events, or I would really say in-person experiences, it’s what we believed would happen during the pandemic.

[00:18:37] So during those dark days, I was very much a believer. The events would come back even more strongly because we all felt what it was like not to have those in-person human connections. So I think there’s been a lot of talk over the years of will it be all in-person or all virtual? And obviously we’re understanding now that that mix is really important and people are also understanding and I hope businesses as well of how to create events that really match with their strategic objectives. And the importance of choosing the right channel, the right type of event, whether it’s a large scale event like mine or Kathryn’s or a smaller scale roadshow. I think the main thing is like focusing first on those objectives.

[00:19:24] But as an attendee, people’s objectives coming into events have also changed a little bit, I think, and that’s where we really have that focus on experiences. And I think there was a question in the chat about, you know, how to increase human interactions and events. And really, I think, you know, what Kathryn was talking about in terms of really thinking through how people engage together and bringing in design and behavioral science, that’s really how you make it engaging and fun, but also ramp up what people want from an in-person event, which is engagement, because that’s what’s hard online.

[00:20:02] Kathryn Frankson: I was going to say there were some questions in the chat, too, around content formats, because I know I sort of breezed past it.

[00:20:08] Oren Berkovich: Monika from World at Work asks, how are you feeling about content format? And she got some fires and hearts. So, yeah, you had something to comment there? 

[00:20:16] Kathryn Frankson: Yeah, so content formats are really important to change because they they are also an extension of your experience and the connection.

[00:20:22] But how people are learning and they’re taking everything in, it’s important to keep that fresh. So just some tactical examples that we’ve done at Money 2020. We had what we call it an on and off the record stage attendees had to put their phones and yonder pouches and they came in and it was really limited.

[00:20:38] Small, no press so that it was kind of a really off the record. Anything could be discussed and it became a really fresh experience for them. We did a riff off of, we called it Sunday Night Live. So we had kind of like a Saturday Night Live, you had a cold open and a DJ. We had an encore stage where you would actually vote for the keynote that you’d wanted to come back.

[00:20:57] So it was all of our keynotes lined up. So, I can drop some more examples in, but there’s loads of ways to continue to refresh that content so that, you know, because I think a lot of the conversation is keep them, keep them shorter and that’s a part of it, but it’s also the flow within your event. Money 2020, we’ve moved to a circular design so that you’re finding content as you’re exploring the floor and there’s just some ways that you can get really tactical with that, but still delight your audiences each year.

[00:21:22] Oren Berkovich: Yeah, and I, you know, I can add to that as well in terms of formats. I feel like pre pandemic, it was very common to have like a 45 minute keynote followed by a 15 minute Q&A. And then when, when we were doing this virtually, we realized, oh, I guess people can’t really follow 45 minutes. And so let’s change it up and do like a 20 minutes or let’s bring in the Q&A throughout.

[00:21:45] And I, I see that format now traveling to the in-person where talks are getting shorter, right? You know, 15, 20 minutes sometimes is, is now common. And you see people are like looking down at their phones. regularly. So even though there is, you know, they’re in-person now, we still need to be innovative and kind of more engaging when it comes to these formats.

[00:22:08] So I love that off the record option. I think this is really cool. The talk show, like just kind of thinking differently, right? What could you have people experience when they’re there that maybe they wouldn’t be able to experience remotely. So thanks for taking that one on. 

Micro-events as a Part of Event Strategy

[00:22:22] Any other comments kind of at a high level or any kind of question that you want to jump in on? Okay. 

[00:22:28] Huong Nguyen: I want to, I want to say something about the value of doing smaller, regional, executive events but also doing some kind of livestream.

[00:22:37] So that way you still incorporate that technology to reach the top of the funnel and still, you know, brand evangelize and take that content, record it, publish it for post, you know, post event on demand and still drive that adoption. So I think it’s important to know that even though you’re doing a small event, you’re not losing out on that massive, like promotional opportunities.

[00:23:00] Oren Berkovich: Yeah, and I think that post event is really key, right? Like, for me, one of the things that, it’s, it’s always I don’t want to say sad, but like, a missed opportunity, is that we are so focused on execution, that we’re, we’re a lot of times kind of missing the opportunity to think about what happens after the event.

[00:23:17] But when you think about it, the event, Is not the thing. It’s it’s what happens after the event. Really, it’s how we change behavior, it’s how we build brand awareness. It’s how we create, you know, other opportunities and generate leads and top of funnels activity like it’s it’s so important to think what happens after the event, even more so nowadays.

[00:23:36] So I love this kind of high level conversation. I love that. We already got a couple of things from the chat in here. I promised everybody that we’re going to be really, really specific. And so I want to I want to bring in some really good and specific examples.

[00:23:51] You’ve mentioned a few. Let, let’s dive into some of them now. And for everybody to know, like, we’re going to spend about 20 more minutes in, in this, in this format where we’re, you know, all chatting and taking some questions from chat and and bringing some slides from time to time. But the speakers are going to stay for another 10 minutes after the this portion is formally done.

[00:24:14] So if you’ve got a question that we didn’t get to, or you’ve got a little bit of time, stick around after quarter two, and we’ll we’ll be here and take some additional questions after this is done. So I’ve prepared a number of topics, and I’d like you all to pick a number, pick a topic, and then think about specific examples.

[00:24:36] If you can share numbers, debates, you know, pushbacks you’ve had, things you were worried about, like, tell us a story of a specific examples that people can walk away with. So pick a number and tell us more about it. Maybe we start with you, Huong? 

Enhancing Event Networking Experiences

[00:24:51] Huong Nguyen: Yeah, cool. I mean, I have to I have budget and I have networking, but let me start with networking.

[00:24:57] So, you know, honestly, to be quite frank, I’m tired of sitting in a room and listening to people talk for 30 minutes at me. I mean, the content is great. And I love it. But at the same time, there’s some speakers that don’t have the energy, right? And I’m like, I spent 1, 300 to go here. What am I really learning?

[00:25:14] What am I, what’s my takeaway? So we just got back from CEMA, which is an event marketing association conference, and it’s amazing where one of the popular formats that we experienced, and it was filled overflowed with seats, was a guided discussion where a facilitator was focused on a topic or a workshop or a problem that we all need to solve.

[00:25:33] And they broke us up into smaller groups with where the facilitator guided us to different questions and we got to talk about it with each other, having intimate conversations and learn and share. And then we share that corporately with the group. And this was impactful for me because I got to learn everybody’s you know, experience and then in my small group and then network with them for later on in the, in the, in the event.

[00:25:56] So I thought, you know, trying something new instead of the usual, you know, people standing in front and talking on a stage to. 

[00:26:02] Oren Berkovich: Yeah. So there’s a couple of things that I like from this. First, you know, people tend to think that networking happens during the break, but you brought, you know, this example brings us into the content, right?

[00:26:11] Like the content is the prompts. It’s the backdrop. But then you give people an opportunity to discuss and through that meet one another and network. I like to say that, you know, when it comes to engagement, you want to turn it in these two participants, right? And then these are passively listening.

[00:26:29] They’re being talked at, right? Participants are leaning in and they’re excited and they’re active and if they’re active, they’re engaged. And if they’re engaged, they’re going to remember this and it’s going to be a good experience. So bringing a workshop type of thing and round table conversations with a small group is a great example of that.

[00:26:44] So thanks for sharing that specific example. Other topics and specific examples.

[00:26:53] Kathryn Frankson: Shocker, let’s talk marketing. Let’s talk some marketing tips. This is going to be quick, but I do want to make sure that everyone can leave today and go, “Okay, I’ve got some stuff that I can do or I can try.”

[00:27:06] So the first thing is Digital, find the 37%. So for anyone working in event marketing or running events, and if you’re responsible for getting attendees and scaling and growing, it’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of pressure, right?

[00:27:20] Even for a strong brand, everyone is working really hard. As Carina said, as Huong said, audiences are really choosy. So, just one quick tip, one thing to remember is that at any given point, only 3 percent of your audience sector of your industry is looking for your product, right? Branded search, that’s all our little bottom of the funnel stuff.

[00:27:40] So they’re looking for you. That’s great, but that’s pretty small the opportunity for you to grow and for you to build a bigger event base and to get new people to your event is that there is this is buyers pyramid stuff. There’s 37 percent of your industry who has the propensity to buy what you’re selling.

[00:27:58] They just need to be convinced. And so to convince them, they don’t need to know the number of people coming to your event, what they need to know is what you’re solving for them. Do they need to get continuing education? Are they going to roll out a CMS? Do the startups need to meet VCs? Right? So that’s what you have to lead with, with your message.

[00:28:15] And that’s just critically important. It’s about them, not about you. So that’s when you’re thinking of your digital channels. So really audit what you’re doing messaging wise there. 

[00:28:25] Oren Berkovich: So it’s about them, but it’s also about the why, right? Not the what. You’re going to see this many people, this speaker. No, no, no.

[00:28:31] It’s about why you should be there, I think is the message that they need to hear, right?

[00:28:36] Kathryn Frankson: It is. And you have to, that’s where you have to start. And breaking out of that is so hard. And don’t worry, on your landing page, you can talk about you and the value in this, because even if something is product centered for you, like, well, they have to know these things, these bells and whistles.

[00:28:50] That’s, that’s the value. But they’re not in that that headspace yet. You have to meet them right where they are and that’s the unlock where you go, “Great, I can sell new people into my event or attract new people into it.” So, really quick on the social referral side, if you’re doing social referrals, right someone registers and they get the graphic I’m excited to come, think smaller.

[00:29:13] How micro can you make that specific paths? For if you’ve got, you know, an advisory board. If you do, we do a rise up and amplify program. If you have first time, think really small because the more specific you get instead of just broad brushstrokes, the more pickup you’re going to get, the more people are going to share and everyone really is a micro influencer.

[00:29:32] Now emotion. We just all have to challenge ourselves to if we really look at our most important messaging. Is it going to make someone feel something? Is it going to make them leave their office, leave their family, spend the money, come, and we have to, we have to challenge ourselves with that. Copy: one of the examples I, I shared is we do you know, here’s our attendee list, just companies only, and, and we put it all in an email, and that could be pretty long and boring.

[00:29:57] But we’ve got in there, right, this just really funny copy, and look at you, you scrolling maniac, and is this the longest email you’ve ever seen, and is your finger sore yet, what are you at, scroll 47, and it’s just tiny, but it’s, It’s, it’s meaningful and so you can win on copy in, in, in small ways. I filled out a form the other day, the landing page was like, and you’re done.

[00:30:17] Those 10 extra A’s, I was like, that’s funny. 

[00:30:20] Oren Berkovich: And you’re saying put A to shame because this has to be human at this point. 

Using AI tools in Event Planning & Management

[00:30:26] Kathryn Frankson: Use AI for some of your supplemental or maybe some of the more standard stuff that you’re doing or initial passive landing pages, but in those touches that are gonna if someone’s opening four tabs and comparing different events or if they’re, you know, sourcing that way, just do those little micro things that are really going to make you stand out because it’s It’s a combination of practical and emotional decisions and then video.

[00:30:48] We know that we’re tasked with, especially on the brand side, like, okay, I’m going to open registration. And what do I say before I’ve got all my agenda? Or if I’m going to kind of, you know, build an audience year round, what do I say? And video is that opportunity. And you really can create FOMO, all of our, our favorite word.

[00:31:04] And what we’ve done is, you know, instead of just b roll and testimonials, we, we sent some crews with speakers and our content team and to see behind the scenes and to really tell that story. And I think that’s just a great way for you to, to shift the hype video a little bit and to make it more, more meaningful because audiences are really discerning and they want to know some of those details before you’re going to have them to market.

[00:31:27] So. A couple of marketing tips. 

[00:31:28] Oren Berkovich: That’s great. Thank you. These are really awesome tips. 

Budgeting and Negotiating for Event Tech

[00:31:31] Huong Nguyen: I want to touch on budget because I think that’s really important for planners who were experiencing that reduction in budget. And the things that I want to touch on is that currently we’re seeing a trend that Event Tech is being incorporated in a lot of their programs.

[00:31:44] You know, it used to be when you’re building a budget, you have a big bucket of venue, AV, food and beverage, right? But lately we’re seeing an increase in spend in event tech. So it would, you know, it used to be mobile app, but now it’s virtual streaming services right now, right? Like live streaming AI, even networking.

[00:32:03] And so the tips that I want to share with the attendees today is when you are incorporating event tech and you’re sourcing it. I mean, there’s 800 event tech companies out there to source from. How do you go from 800 to one and pick the one that’s right for you? And we have a process to do that.

[00:32:17] But the one thing I want to share is the negotiation part. How do you negotiate? 

[00:32:21] So when you guys are negotiating for Event Tech, there’s three points that I want you guys to know to negotiate for, which is, number one, quantity of registrants or users. It’s important that when you have a goal of 1, 000 or even 500, you don’t buy all of those licenses, right? And even if you do, you want to ask for reduction so that way you can get your money back. Let’s say 80 percent show up, you don’t want to have to pay for a hundred of them. So don’t buy more than what you need by you know, reasonable quantity. 

[00:32:48] The second thing is ask for training and support hours. Normally like they only give you a set but you can ask for more and have that built in and then you can get like 24 hour support. Ask where their support is coming from because when you’re building it and you know, you’re struggling, you need that help right away. 

[00:33:05] The third thing available discounts of like, let’s say if you sign a contract of one or two year deal, you get 15 percent off. If you pay annual payments right up front and you get 5%, if you’re signing a contract within a certain certain time 2%, and it all adds up to at least like 15 percent off of the entire contract, so I’m really hoping these tips will help you guys. 

[00:33:25] Oren Berkovich: Fantastic. Yeah, and you know never take anything for granted, right, like always to try to negotiate, try to find a different way. If somebody says no, try to find a way to get them to say yes, like, you know, everybody wants to everybody means well usually and they want to make it happen. And so finding the way through is, is always key. 

Exhibit Floor Tips & Examples

[00:33:43] And let’s go back to you, Carina, a few people wrote exhibit floor. Can you share some specific examples? How do you make that more effective now? Then maybe you needed to do in the past? What are some specific techniques you use? 

[00:33:56] Carina Bauer: Yeah, so I think so. For us we are a trade show, first and foremost. So, you know, things like the education programs are on the show floor or they are the day before. So for us, the exhibit floor is everything. That is our promise. Yeah, who are exhibitors and our buyers that they will have a good experience there. So one of the things that I think is critical for us is how we keep people on the exhibit floor.

[00:34:24] And so if you have an exhibition component that you have to understand that that’s what your exhibitors are paying you for. And the other things for them are important, but they are the added value. They are not the core value. So I would say to anybody asking questions or looking at something like the Exhibit Floor, first of all, what is the core value that you are giving to your participants?

[00:34:49] Work that out to try to work out then the importance of the Exhibit Floor, when it’s open, where it’s positioned, and what else is on it. So for us, because it is everything, and our exhibitors not only pay a lot to be on the exhibit floor, but they also pay a lot to stand out on that exhibit floor. We actually craft the entire event around the floor.

[00:35:11] So all the education during the exhibit hours is on the show floor. All the food stations is on the show floor. But the other thing I think that’s important. And this actually links back to the sponsorship strategy that some people want to talk about, but also audience engagement. What we’re looking for is how can we create a really engaging experience on that exhibit floor?

[00:35:36] And how can we work with our exhibitors and our partners to do that as well? So we’ll put a lot of thought into things like cleaning of the cafe areas, but that’s also a great sponsorship opportunity. Or we’ll work with some of our exhibitors to say, well, you know, the, this is what we are trying to achieve in the event.

[00:35:57] You know, we wanna create wellbeing areas, we want a really sustainable event and try to work with them to make sure that they get value, say from a sponsorship, but that they’re also adding to the engagement of the exhibit floor. And I think Kathryn was talking about Money 2020 going to a circular approach which I’d love to see and experience.

[00:36:19] And I think you know, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming that’s about how thinking about through how your audience was engaging with each other. And so I think for us, I don’t think that could probably work, but really thinking quite creatively. And I think post pandemic, what the pandemic did was give us an opportunity to break things and remake things.

[00:36:42] And so what I would encourage people to do is to be brave post pandemic because we’ve shown ourselves and the industry and our attendees that we can do things differently and I think you’ve probably also shown the C suite that we can achieve results but in a different way and so we need to be brave as an industry to try different things but ultimately how you justify those trials and experiments is about really knowing your audience, which I think Kathryn was talking about as well, you know, knowing what their pain points are and knowing what your show is delivering or your event is delivering.

[00:37:23] What is the core? And then you work around that to actually try to think about what will deliver that, but things like you know, the audience engagement and sponsorships helping the exhibit floor. I think there is a layered approach. That’s what I would recommend. 

[00:37:39] Oren Berkovich: Yeah, like starting from kind of putting yourself in the shoes of your participants kind of user centric design in a sense, right and seeing what why they’re coming. You know, we’ve all been in those exhibit floors where if it’s done poorly, you’re sort of like not trying to avoid eye contact with anybody because you’re going to get like three pens and squeeze balls.

[00:38:01] But if it’s done well, you know, you’re like, you’re, you’re kind of like a kid’s in a candy shop. You’re like, you want to go to talk to all these people. And so it really is about the experience. I a hundred percent agree with you. 

[00:38:13] Carina Bauer: And I think, you know a show like IMEX, of course we’re very lucky because of the exhibitors that are there and how they are able to present themselves.

[00:38:21] But even if you have a different kind of exhibit floor with smaller exhibitors, maybe hardware booths. You can help them to stand out. You can help them to design those booths differently. You can talk to your venue or your contractor to have different materials available for them to give them ideas of how to do a stand with no walls for example, that can be great.

[00:38:43] Use AstroTurf, think about the design of every element. And the other thing that we do as well, and you know, people have the opportunity, is we’re looking at the flow of the show. But we also look at utilizing technologies like Zenus, which is giving us sort of emotional understanding of how people are actually experiencing different activations.

[00:39:08] Is it increasing their joy when they go into a certain cafe area? Is it not? And actually really thinking through the behavioral science and design. I think that’s how you can really up your audience engagement, but also sell better sponsorships as well. All tied together. Exactly, all tied together because that’s what your sponsors are looking for.

[00:39:29] Oren Berkovich: I’m going to just say a couple of things. 

[00:39:31] Thank you for joining us and a big thank you for you, Kathryn, Carina, and Huong. I mean, it feels like we can talk about these things for so long, and I’m glad that we were able to kind of you know, set the scene in terms of what’s happening at a high level, but also give some very, very specific examples, which is what we try to do.

[00:39:48] So thanks again for making the time, and I’m going to start reading some questions out. Let’s switch over to the Q and A, and I’m going to channel some questions over here.

[00:39:58] So the first one is from Amanda Sicaletti, so this is for you, Kathryn. 

[00:40:04] Kathryn Frankson: Sicatelli. I might, I might or might not know her. She’s amazing. Yeah. 

Using ChatGPT for Event Copywriting

[00:40:07] Oren Berkovich: Yeah. She’s fantastic. And she’s asking you, Kathryn, how is your team using chat GPT in copywriting? Like how often, how much, how do you manage the sometimes robotic outputs of it?

[00:40:20] How do you manage when ChatGPT makes up words that like unmissable. And, and things like that. But yeah, tell, tell us more. 

[00:40:27] Kathryn Frankson: That is a real word. I think it’s a real word. I use it as if I’m going to 

[00:40:31] Oren Berkovich: have to check it out. 

[00:40:32] Kathryn Frankson: Yeah, let’s check it out. Maybe, you know, humans are wrong. 

[00:40:35] Oren Berkovich: And this is what we’ll get back to everybody about that.

[00:40:38] Kathryn Frankson: Yeah, stay tuned for the LinkedIn post on that. Yeah, we’re, I would say we’re at the tip of the iceberg. So we, we are not fully using ChatGPT in a depth of sort of daily ways for especially any of it where we would call our tier one content where we know that there’s so much of that special sauce in terms of how we, you know, our process for unveiling keynotes is really thoughtful.

[00:41:04] We do these sort of really robust sessions, deep diving into their background and what would be like a really interesting angle and something that would, that would stand out. And what’s the subject line. What’s the preheader text. What’s the first line of copy to get someone to read the second copy.

[00:41:18] What’s the CTA. So it’s very copy for what we’ve done is so meticulous and just such a part of our DNA that really at this point it’s playing around with it, getting prompts better, feeling like we’re having a deeper understanding of like tone and feeding that into it and building it as a future state engine, but we’re not using it for the copy that you’re seeing going in market at this point. 

[00:41:43] Oren Berkovich: Yeah, some people said, and we’ve had a few folks from Jasper on a webinar not long ago, and they were referring to this as almost like having a junior you know, marketer on the team where they can come up with, like, initial drafts that are not great. They’re definitely not ready to go out, but they help you kind of get your thinking going.

[00:42:03] So I know this is a lot of times how people refer to these generative AI. 

[00:42:09] Kathryn Frankson: Well, and it, it can be a good kickstart. The last thing I’ll say quick, anyone working in event marketing going, oh my gosh, I have 10 emails I have to get out this week. I mean, the volume of messages, landing pages, specifically email marketing.

[00:42:21] I’ve got all these different audience segments and how do I message that, that volume of versioning for based on past type, based on personas sector. Seniority level is a massive lift and a real opportunity and challenge, depending on the day of the week that you’re you’re living it in.

[00:42:39] And so there’s real opportunity with AI for that as well for personalization, because we’re not at scale yet, even those using dynamic content. And if you have like the best data flows ever, it’s still a real heavy lift. And we know that we live in this, we’re in B2B, but it’s like all consumers expect one to one and getting to that state of we know you, we have the message for you and we can continue that for the whole path is tough, right?

[00:43:04] It’s what we’re all trying to get towards. So that’s going to be the big unlock. I think with AI. 

[00:43:10] Huong Nguyen: One thing I want to add to with AI and surprisingly is the empathy side. Like there was one situation where a client you know, they had to redo their entire theme and messaging. And I plug a situation into chat PTT, GPT and said the situation is they, you know, they had to let go of everybody.

[00:43:27] There’s a brand new team and they need to inspire this new sales team. Give me some themes that’s going to speak to the heart of the people to help retain them, to encourage them and inspire them. And surprisingly, it came back with amazing ideas that really spoke to the emotions of the empathy side. So that’s something that you guys have to try in your prompt.

[00:43:47] Oren Berkovich: Yes, yeah, and you know, like there’s no real cost of trying it and so it’s not like you’re risking anything by just giving it a try. So, hopefully, you know, this has been now, what, six months I think since ChatGPT came out, like hopefully at this point everybody got a chance to try it. 

[00:44:02] Let’s look at another question here before we all jump off. This is a good one. This is from Lorianne Perez from Marathon Health. And she’s asking, you know, how do you convince the content owners, you know, and I would tweak it a little bit to say decision makers, in general to implement some of these creative ideas. 

[00:44:22] So I know there’s always that, “well, let’s just do what we’ve done last year or the year before. Like it feels safe. It’s feel familiar. We know how much it’s going to cost. Like why going on these adventures now when there is so much uncertainty.” So how do you get C suite executives to implement it? 

[00:44:38] And you know, for you, Carina, maybe you can talk about like conversations you’re having with your sponsors because you know you you can make a lot of decisions on your own. You don’t need to convince anybody but in situation where you do need to convince people, tell us a little bit, how do you get people to kind of move away from what’s familiar and try something new because if we don’t do it We’re never going to get the value that we want right?

[00:45:00] And it’s just going to get more and more stale over time. So tell us about C suite conversations. 

[00:45:06] Carina Bauer: Yeah, I think there are a few different ways you can approach it. One thing I would say is if you do have decision makers who are maybe more risk averse or less open to change, I would look at how you can present things as small experiments and then measure those experiments.

[00:45:26] And then go back in. So don’t think of it about I’ve got to change everything this year and it’s going to cost a million dollars. That is going to be very hard to be able to put a commercial business proposal around. But if you can take in some small experiments that are not risky, if it doesn’t work, it’s not going to impact everything, but make it measurable because if you can measure, what you are doing this year, then you can present that and show, you know, whatever, and show the business case and the objectives, then you’re likely to get more buy in for doing that in a bigger way next year.

[00:46:05] Or you, or you might get more buy in for just trying more experiments, right? And slowly. Over time, you can move your decision makers into a place where they might be a little bit more open to change and to trial. But, and then the other thing is whether you’re going in for something small or something big, try to have as much sort of commercial approach as you can.

[00:46:30] And by that, I mean, you know, Make it a proposal. Make sure that you have a business case. Make sure that you have some data if you can to back it up, whether that’s yours, or maybe there’s a survey like the Bizzabo survey, something that can show, you know, if we do this, I’m doing this because we need to improve engagement.

[00:46:50] Our NPS score is here. We need to get it to here. These are ways to engage people, whatever that it is. That is, and that’s what you need to focus on. Don’t go in saying, I feel that this might be a great thing to do. And one person told me it was great. So just really think about, you know, that’s a bit of an extreme example.

[00:47:08] I’m sure nobody listening would do, but you know, we really need to articulate our ideas in a way that’s going to that a C suite person can really get behind and have that data behind. But my biggest advice is start small. And yeah. And say, this is a beta test, this is an experiment. It’s small, it’s not a big ask.

[00:47:28] Let me just try it. And, and you can go in and show how pro proactive you are and, and I think you, you win a attention and you win a lot of trust that way. 

[00:47:38] Oren Berkovich: Yeah, and I think this is a really, really good tip, is positioning this as a small experiment that is fairly lower risk than trying to bet all of it, you know, on this one thing because somebody said, backing it up with data makes people more comfortable. I like to think about this, you know, as kind of fall versus fail. I’m teaching my daughter now how to ride a bike. And you know, she’s going to have to fall in order to get it right. And that’s just a reality of it, but it doesn’t make her a failure. And in that way, when you think about it, like we’re going to have to try a few things, but what are the things that if we fall, the whole show is not going to be destroyed by it, but we’re going to actually learn from it.

[00:48:17] And we’re going to do better because if we don’t do it, We’re never going to know, we’re never going to, you know, in her case, know how to ride a bike. But in our case, you know, actually create meaningful experiences. We have to try new things, but we have to try things that don’t destroy the whole thing.

[00:48:32] And we have to bet the entire thing on it. And so, you know, people like to say we have to fail and we have to fail fast and we have to celebrate failure. Nobody is going to buy into this. Nobody’s going to like to celebrate failure. But falling versus failing, I feel like is more, I guess appropriate to have a C suite conversation with.

[00:48:49] And so positioning things as small falls perhaps is the way to go. 

[00:48:52] Carina Bauer: Yeah, exactly. Because everyone in the C suite understands that innovation is important, that change is important, that we have to keep our events fresh and new and exciting. They’ll understand that. And so just doing it in ways, as you say, don’t bet the whole ship on one thing, and then you’re likely to get a little bit more traction.

The Growing Importance of Sustainability and DE&I

[00:49:11] Oren Berkovich: Yeah, fantastic. Is there any other question on the chat that you see? 

[00:49:15] Carina Bauer: The one thing I would say, actually, about the importance of sustainability and EDI and whether that’s more important post pandemic.

[00:49:24] And I would say that it definitely is more important post pandemic. And I think it will become even more important as people, as companies from small to large, need to implement their ESG strategies. And we can’t be running events that aren’t coherent within an ESG strategy. So although we haven’t been yet absolutely directly impacted that is coming down the line. And so I think it’s really important for people operating events to think through how they are making them inclusive, how they’re fostering a sense of belonging, but also how they are really minimizing the carbon impact. So we are already seeing that across the events landscape that some big corporates are.

[00:50:12] Looking not just at their costs and their budgets, but at their carbon budgets as well, and that’s adding to the choosiness of events. So we really need to think about that. And you need to help your audience or your participants to make their case internally now, not just on cost and time, but also on carbon.

[00:50:30] So I think that’s a really important one. 

[00:50:32] Oren Berkovich: Yeah. And this is a great kind of positive message to, to, to leave on. We’re going to continue these conversations and we’re going to have more and more conversations to help you all event professionals and marketing leaders to, to make your next events more impactful and learn from other experts in our industry that are experimenting, that are trying new things and that are in it and know what’s going on and can share those insights with you. So thanks again for everybody for joining. I had such a great time talking to you all. Take care. 

[00:51:04] Carina Bauer: Thank you. 

[00:51:04] Huong Nguyen: Bye everybody. 

[00:51:06] Kathryn Frankson: Bye.

[00:51:14] Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Kathryn Frankson, Carina Bauer, and Huong Nguyen — and to Oren Berkovich for moderating the discussion. This has been a special episode of Event Experience, and thank you for listening. 

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