In this episode of #EventIcons, Will welcomes three tech pros, so it’s only fitting to call their conversation event tech rising! Please welcome: Liz King Caruso of techsytalk, Sean Holladay who is a co-founder of Crowd Mics, and Laura Lopez of SocialTables. Since the time of the recording, Sean and Laura have taken on new and exciting projects, while Liz King Caruso is still crushing it within the events industry today.
The knowledgeable quartet chats 2016 trends, cool new technologies, and most importantly, answer some of the listeners’ questions. They turned out to be quite the visionaries: they already talked about the power of hybrid events back when most people didn’t know what they were!
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on May 13th, 2021 for clarity purposes.
Event Tech Rising: Social Platforms For Event Promotions
After doing their rounds introducing themselves, the icons were posed the first question. What do they think the best social platform for event promotion is? Laura jumps straight in and suggests SocialTables, “a combination of Twitter and social”. “If you have a visual product, something like Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter would work really well, but it really varies person to person,” she adds.
Liz talks about the power of email marketing directly to another person. “I used to say Twitter was the best social platform marketing, but honestly, it’s so filled with so much noise now and it’s very hard to get messages across and really genuinely connect with people.” She’s been seeing a lot of success on Facebook. “I’ve really found great community building on that platform because people like to see what happens in your real life behind the scenes of the company, too. When it comes to marketing events, it’s worked really well for us.”
Will adds his precious two cents. “One thing that’s been huge for us are LinkedIn groups because we can really focus on a niche audience.”
Event Tech Adoption Tips & Tricks
“There’s different varying levels of adoption when it comes to technology,” says Will. “Have you ever found that there’s been issues with adoption or is there certain tips and tricks that you have for getting it?”
“What it comes down to is just understanding what problem they’re trying to solve with technology and then just working through it,” says Laura. It’s not always that easy, though. As Sean explains, Crowd Mics encounters a different demographic at each and every event. “We did two big events with UVS Financial recently. One for the tech investors – amazing adoption. For media investors, not so much. We did the exact same thing, but had completely different adoption. You have to cater it to the specific group that you have. And for us, that varies.”
“From an event planner perspective, it’s a little different because you have all kinds of attendee groups that are in your event and they have different adoption levels,” explains Liz. “How do you implement a Crowd Mic when there are people who are definitely going to jump on board and love it, and there are people who have no idea how to download an app?”
Next up, event icons answer the question from one of the listeners. “Which platforms do you find foster the strongest, most engaged followings to motivate people, to take action, or show up somewhere?”
“If you have a big event that’s happening in December, spend all the previous months engaging with your potential audience or your community,” says Laura. “Just figure out what is your strongest or most engaged audience, where they live, and just talk to them.”
“LinkedIn has been the most engaging platform from that perspective,” adds Sean. He advises the audience to let the connections sit for a while once you make them, though. “Slow play it. Be a friend before you try taking their money from them.”
Laura agrees and follows up on Sean’s thought. “People want to buy from people, not necessarily brands or companies nowadays. Having that personal touch really seals the deal.” An important part of that is making sure to introduce yourself!
Reaching Out Creatively
Building on engagement strategies, event icons then talk about the most creative ways they’ve reached out to their communities themselves. Liz goes first. “It really is about understanding who your audience is. Who do you want to have come out to your events? When we pigeonhole people and put them in a box ‘marked prospects’, we lose our hopes of really getting a good relationship with them.” She doesn’t really get all that creative. “For us, it’s a really manual work process. The percentage of people who buy a ticket or engage with us is not that high if you consider all the people we’re connecting with. But I feel good at the end of the day that it’s like a meaningful connection.”
Sean suggests to the listeners to be a fan of everyone. “Make sure people know that you care about their work. Not just how much they care about your work. We do fun stuff. We did a mass email recently. You could chat on our website and if we didn’t answer within 15 seconds, then we would send you an iTunes gift card.”
Event Tech Rising 2016: The Cream Of The Crop
Will takes the conversation back to strict tech talk. “What’s the coolest, newest event technology that you have seen and how has it changed in the events industry?”
“Data is a huge thing for 2016. Any company that allows us to understand, collect, analyze, and use data,” says Liz. She is a fan of a company, called QuickTapSurvey. “They really allow you to do all kinds of cool things with leaderboards, collect data in all these interesting ways and then allow you to analyze it. We’re going to see a lot of interesting things happening in 2016 with companies that allow you to pull in your data from registration lists, newsletters, social media, and make some sense of it.” And let’s not forget about data privacy, either!
Sean mentions FastBar. He’s a fan because it’s one of those technologies that make events more seamless and organic. No more fumbling around with your wallet!
Laura mentions something that comes in handy for both event planners as well as properties: virtual site visits. “You can actually schedule a walkthrough,” she says. “The application for this is going to be huge for destination planners and for venues who want to show off their space to people who can’t be there.” Will loves it. “That’s what technology allows us to do: connect and do things faster, better, and without having to physically be there as well!”
An informed listener then tells the event icons present that livestream is going to be huge. And they agree! “Livestream platforms are changing the game when it comes to sharing content,” says Laura. “Doesn’t PCMA Convening Leaders always have a hybrid component of it, so you can actually log on virtually for free? I think that’s going to be huge for 2016!” Turns out Laura was right! Hybrid events are the new normal in the events industry and they come in various shapes and sizes.
Before they wrap the episode up, Will asks his guests whether they think that there is such a thing as too much technology. They unanimously agree: “Yes!”
Sean even shares a little anecdote to support their opinion. “We worked with Iowa Association of School Boards; not a good fit for Crowd Mics. They thought it was good and so did we. But then, we got there. A lot of people didn’t know their iTunes password. Some didn’t know how to download the app or get them on the Wi-Fi data. Some of them had never connected to a Wi-Fi network!” There was definitely too much tech going on for that specific group of people. “They just needed to show up, do their event, and focus on the content. We were distracting them, trying to get them on this mobile device.”
Event Tech Rising: Resources
Since Will has so many great minds with him on the podcast, he asks them to share their resources. Sean suggests reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s books, such as The Thank You Economy and Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.
“I get inspiration from what other people are doing. There are a lot of people outside of the event industry who are doing really interesting things with technology, customer service, and social media,” says Liz. “Sometimes, we get like a little cooped in the industry and you just focus only on event resources.” On that note, she recommends the following sources: Mashable, Wired, and Inc Magazine.
Laura and Will both attest to the quality of Product Hunt where you can discover all the latest apps and tech products.
Before they say their goodbyes, Laura shares one last tip for event planners. “Trust your technology. Once it stops working for you, find something else. Too many people try a million different things and then they become a master of none. Instead, try something out, learn everything about it, and get really good at it.