This week we are focusing on the ROI of events: Aligning internal stakeholders to achieve organizational goals through events. We’ve put together an awesome panel of industry leaders! Our guests include Tahira Endean (Event Producer of #BCTECH Summit – 2016, MeetingsNet Changemaker, Top 30 CMP Influencer, Top Five Women in #EventTech), Claire Repass (Director of Events, Inspirato with American Express), and Eric Ly (Founder and CEO of Presdo, Co-founder and Founding CTO of LinkedIn). We’ll be tackling topics such as: How to Show Different Aspects of ROI, How Building Community and Networking Affects the ROI of Events, and our panelist’s Favorite CRMs and Tech Tools. You definitely don’t want to miss this!


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Will:Hello everybody. It’s Will Curran from Endless Entertainment. I am back in Phoenix, Arizona. It is another amazing, amazing episode of #EventIcons. I am joined today by my amazing co-host Laura Lopez. Laura Lopez, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Laura:Hello, I’m Laura with Social Tables. How is everybody doing?
Will:Awesome. I am so excited to be here. I know that you are extremely excited about this week’s episode. We’ve been waiting for this one for a very long time. Before we introduce our amazing Event Icons, we’ve got to explain this because I see there are some new viewers in today who haven’t watched an episode before. If you haven’t watched EventIcons before, this is unlike anything you have ever seen before in the fact that we are not here just for me and Laura to ask our amazing Event Icons questions. Ask them a question and then it goes back and forth and you guys just sit there and watch, nah, that’s boring. That’s so 21st century. We’re in the twenty-second century now where you guys actually get to ask any question that you have for Event Icons.
Throughout the show, hop on Twitter with #EventIcons or on the question pane of GotoWebinar over on the right-hand side, type your questions. Ask what you want to ask. Let us know what you’re feeling. We would love to answer your questions live on air. Also remember because this show is all about you the audience and really creating an amazing conversation, this is about getting as many people from the industry in here as possible so really, really quickly, pop out your phone or your TweetDeck or your Hootsuite or HubSpot, whatever you’re using to manage your social media, and post a message. Say, “Hey, we’d love to have you on the show, so check out #EventIcons,” Share us on social media. Get your friends in here. Get your best friend. Get your dog, get your cat, whoever you want to be in here. Let’s create an amazing conversation.
Without any further delay, da-da-da-dum, let’s get the show under the way. That was drumming. Didn’t mean to do that one. Let’s introduce our amazing guests that we have. The first guest that we have is someone who … Here and I go all the way back to laying on the floor in IMAX last year, Tahira Endean. Tahira is absolutely amazing. I just saw her in Amsterdam a couple of weeks. Control + delete if you guys didn’t watch that … Search, control + delete, check that out. Tahira, was actually her birthday so we got to celebrate with some cake and amazingness. Enough with the cake and everything. You guys ought to hear this amazing resume. You guys have all heard the certifications. We were talking about how we needed [inaudible 00:02:45] certifications. Tahira has a ton of them because she’s awesome. Tahira is a CMP and also a DES. Then you’re saying you have another too you just got?
Tahira:I’m working on a CED.
Will:CED coming soon. Awesome. Tahira is actually the event producer behind #BCTech. She is Canadian, which is really awesome. Vancouver, am I right?
Will:I love Vancouver. It’s beautiful this time of year. She’s been a Meetingsnet Changemaker, Top 30 #CMP Influencer, one of the top 5 women in #EventTech … Lots of hashtags going on right now. In 2015, it was inducted into the Media Incentives Canada Hall of Fame. We’ve got a hall of famer for us. So excited to have you. Thank you so much for being on the show, Tahira.
Claire is up next. Claire and I go way back, back to the marketing days of Social Tables. She is absolutely awesome. She’s also a CMP. This girl has got a resume that kicks ass. Oh my God. She’s the Director of Events at Inspirato. I’m going to let her explain what that’s all about. Really, really, really cool. Awesome stuff. Producing a massive, massive amount of events. She’s been recognized similarly to me, 40 Under 40 by Connect Magazine, PCMA’s 20 In Their 20s, Special Events Magazine’s 20 Young Event Professionals To Watch nominee. She’s served on the MPI Rocky Mountain Chapter, Women In Travel, the WINiT … I’m always learning about awesome new associations … And has served on a ton of event rolls including with the US House of Representatives and also with, as I was saying, the darling, as she described it, Social Tables. Thank you so much for being here Claire.
Claire:Thank you for having me.
Will:Last, but not least is the man, the myth, the legend, Eric Ly. Eric is the founder and CEO of Presdo. He will have to explain what that is. Really, really, really cool, but essentially it’s like LinkedIn for events. Allows you to do biz dev. Allows you to do networking at events. Really, really cool. Big topic that everyone is always talking about. You might say, “How is this man qualified to create the LinkedIn of events?” Believe it or not, Eric is actually one of the co-founders of LinkedIn and was the second member of LinkedIn as well. We got a legend in the house. If you use LinkedIn, you can [inaudible 00:05:17] this guy. He’s a legend for sure. Thank you so much for being here today, Eric.
Eric:Thank you.
Will:I’m so excited to be here. Usually I kick off with the first question. This time, we’re going to switch it up. Laura, you want to kick it off with the first question?
Laura:Yeah. I want to know what got you all into the events industry. The way my screen is laid out here, I’m going to start at the bottom. We have Tahira. I’ll have you go first and then Eric and then Claire. What got you into the events industry?
Tahira:In the olden days, I was a hairdresser and I loved it. It was an amazing job, career. Then I had to have this crazy surgery. They said, “You’ll never do that again,” and they were right. I went to school and did a diploma in event management. Then I worked at PCO, Professional Conference Organizing Company for 8 years, and then moved into the creative event production side. About a million years later, here I am having a good range of experience in meeting, in events, incentives. I’ve done crazy things like open a container port and work on the Beijing Olympics. It’s been really super varied and interesting and good I think. I also teach event planning at BCIT and it’s always fun to see what people are doing as they … What they think a career is going to be versus what it can potentially be. Very short version. Next.
Laura:Eric, what got you into the events industry?
Eric:In the olden days, I was a technologist. I’m still a technologist, but the way that I got started was a lot of the event organizers came to me and said, “Hey, we need social networking at events. You seem to know something about it, so wy don’t you do something about it?” We did. That was a few years ago. We were surprised at how well it was working. We just ran with it. I’ve learned a lot about the meetings and events industry since then. Very fascinating space. Lots of moving parts. Lots of subtleties, complexities. It’s all good. That’s how I ended up here.
Laura:Claire, tell us how you got your start.
Claire:It all started in aisle 11 at the local grocery store when I was 4. My mom was throwing me a birthday party that was just supposed to be a 4 year old’s birthday with food and I for some reason decided that I wanted to do noodle necklace making. As the story goes … I don’t recall this, but as my mother tells anyone who will listen, I then spent about $90 of hers on raw macaroni noodles and rigatoni and as much as you can do and then just completely took over my birthday party from there. It was something that I was destined to do, combining food and events, not too bad of a trajectory. I went to school, University of Illinois for Recreation Sport and Tourism Event Management, graduated, went to Washington DC to work on the Hill for a Congressman. The joke is I did his scheduling and his events and his fundraising and was his babysitter. I did that, and he did not win his reelection campaign.
I jumped over to AIPAC, which is a lobbying firm in DC. Stayed there for a year and then moved over to Social Tables, where I was in the [20s 00:09:00] for hiring and did events for them and content. Couldn’t do it all by myself so I was looking for a sidekick, right hand and luckily found Laura. Couldn’t hire Laura fast enough once we met. Laura is holding down the fort for me because I’m not at Inspirato, which is a luxury destination travel club. I run all of our member events and sales events around the world.
Will:Can you explain exactly what Inspirato does?
Claire:Sure. Basically, you pay to become a member. There’s a 1-time membership fee and what that gets you access to is 2 things. One is a private portfolio of destinations and they’re luxury destination, million dollar residences and very high-end hotel portfolio at highly discounted rates. We also have personal concierge service. It’s an all in one travel company. Then in addition, it also gives you access to our events, of which we’re going to have about 600 this year. Then we have networking events and sales events all over the country. To Eric’s point earlier, it’s creating a social community within Inspirato. Instead of just joining a club that just gives you product, you’re actually joining and meeting new people and making lifelong relationships.
Will:I think you guys are really … You guys are rock stars completely. You guys have the experience to be able to talk about this topic that we really wanted to bring up. It’s been something we’ve been tetering around in a couple of different shows, but we really wanted to dive deep into it a little bit more in this show. That’s how do you get ROI for events? Especially, Claire, you guys are having to put on really awesome events that make these members feel like, “This is the best thing ever. I really feel like this is worth my money to be here. Eric, you’re all about getting people to network to each other. Then Tahira, you’ve got so many damn events going on as well that you’ve got to make sure that they also have an ROI, especially on the BCTech side of things.
My question to you guys is everyone is talking about ROI and how to prove that they’re a profit center rather than a cost center at these events, but there’s obviously more than that way just providing ROI. What are some different aspects in which you think that people can create ROI for their events and justify putting on these epic events? Eric, why don’t we start off with you?
Eric:Great question. The first thing that I want to say is that there are many different kinds of events. There are associations that rent conferences, corporations they run user conferences, sales kickoffs. There’s many different kinds of events and I believe there’s different ways to measure ROI. Certainly one of the important things is to definitely have a sense of what you’re measuring for whatever that might be, be it the number of people that you’re getting. A lot of events are lead gen type of events. There’s a pretty clear ROI there. If you’re able to get more leads or turn in more business as a result of those events, those are metrics as well. What’s important is actually to have a set of metrics, whatever they might be, and to keep on measuring that across separate events and not to necessarily switch metrics because then it makes it hard to measure. To measure that, hopefully they’re improving. Looking at how you can tweak different things around the events so that the metrics that you care about are improving over time.
Will:Tahira, what are your thoughts? What different aspects can you measure ROI with?
Tahira:You need to start with measuring. I think one of the things that we haven’t done a very good job of … We have a big discussion at every event thing that I go to pretty much that is, “People don’t understand our value.” They don’t understand our value if we haven’t clearly articulated what it is that we’re bringing to the table. Until we actually start setting hard measures to every event that we’re doing … What are we measuring on? Are we measuring on it was good? We can’t measure on that. Are we measuring … You need to clearly define what you’re measuring. You need to make sure your stakeholders agree with these measurements. It’s not just random measurements that are out there.
It’s kind of Event 101, but it’s still a step that a lot of us are missing is clearly identifying our audience and what their needs are, assigning measurements that are going to target back to what they need to get out of the event, whether it’s a sponsor, whether it’s a participant, whether it’s an exhibitor. So few events are about how many leads did I bring home because quite often those leads are just literally pieces of paper. Sometimes you have to measure on how many conversations did I have that can generate a new idea, a new collaboration and turn into business? Did I have a conversation where I started or grew a relationship that can turn into a piece of business based on mutual trust, which is where business starts from.
There are definitely hard and soft measures, but we so infrequently actually stop, write down what those measurements are, go and talk to our stakeholders, make sure that we’re on track with those and then move forward with our event design. I think that as much as we talk about it, we need to get better at actually doing it and then at the end measuring and then 3 months later measuring and 6 months later measuring for our big events. If we said we were going to have quality deals, did we get some deals? Who are we asking? It really is about being very targeted about what we need to expect. I know we’re going to talk … There’s so many tools available to help us do that now.
Will:I like how you said taking it from the audience’s perspective and what they need and then measuring it from there. I think a lot of times we think very selfishly obviously. Event planners thinking, “How can we make it better for us?” Really we need to look at it from the audience’s perspective, so I like that a lot. Claire, what are your thoughts?
Claire:I agree with everything Eric and Tahira just said. Instead of repeating it because most of that was what I was going to answer is to take it a step further with the measurement conversation because we can measure against ourselves all day long. We can show growth all day long from ourselves. However, what’s really important is to measure success based upon what the foundation of the company is doing. I’ll use my example. We have members of our club, so my measurements are NPS, retention, booking activity, referrals, etc. I think there’s a list of 10 of them that I report on weekly, but I report on that and then I measure against what members in the company are doing who aren’t attending events.
You can show that delta for an engagement for folks who … What’s happening to Eric because he attended an Inspirato event last week versus Tahira, who came in and is paying the exact same amount of money, has the exact same amount of marketing coming their way? What are they doing in between the person who attended and had a face-to-face conversation and was directly plugged with the information that we were pushing at the event, versus Tahira who was not there. Starting to see that delta … There is a delta, a huge delta, once you start measuring those things.
2 important things just to take away is you have to measure your events and you have to measure them against yourself so you can show internal departmental growth, but then you also have to measure it against the foundation to make sure that you’re showing the company, that not only do events matter, but they’re actually engaging the group of folks you have as either your attendees or your customers that are a totally different model.
Will:It sounds like you have so many metrics that you are measuring. What sort of tools are you using to measure all these metrics?
Claire:I use Salesforce for everything. I’m surprised Salesforce haven’t rolled out its own true event platform. I think they will soon. I think I told Laura that 2 years ago when I went to Dreamforce that it’s only a matter of time. Literally everything is tracked in Salesforce from the cost of the event to our invoices, to the attendees who received the invite via email to a phone call. We change them to invited. If you RSVP yes, you get changed to RSVP yes. If you back out last minute, you’re a dropout. If you’ve attended an event, you’re attended.
It’s really easy for me because of that CRM to then go back and say, “The impact of this campaign was that 60 days later, 30% of the people who attended had booked trips at a rate that is 13% higher than people in their same group or their same territory that did not attend an event. That’s maybe because I have the benefit of using Salesforce, but there are so many great CRMs and you can do it yourself even if you have an Excel document. Those of you who don’t have access to that type of tool, it will take a lot of work to get it up and running, but you will thank yourselves day after day for putting in the hard work to be able to do those measurements.
Tahira:How many don’t have even a CRM? I know when I talk about event technology quite often at conferences and I start off talking about the business of running your event company and say, “Who is using a CRM?” Literally, it is generally about 10% of the room. Even if we assume that some people don’t raise their hand because they’re not hand raisers, we’re probably still only at about 20% of people even using a tool. Even Excel to say … Whether it’s your own company or other people’s events, “How are my events doing?” Also how is my business doing? Where am I getting my clients from? Are the clients that I consider my best clients because I like them? Actually my best clients because we’re bringing them the best value as their event planners by watching their events grow? Are they the ones who are in turn then we’re growing together?
It’s so uncommon to … I had this conversation earlier with somebody today who is battling in a production company with a sales team, “How do we … ” I have Salesforce and they’re not using it. I can bring them more leads, but nobody is going to know. It’s about start to use those tools that we have available.
Will:There are so many that are available now that are free too on top of that. It used to be, “It was expensive to send all these things.” Now you can totally utilize … You don’t even have to have … I know Salesforce are really expensive, but there’s free CRMs out there for sure that you can at least start with. Tahira, on that thought, are there any tools that you’re using to measure ROI at your events?
Tahira:We use a whle range of things, but our particular event is … What we’re ultimately measured on at the innovation council is jobs created. We have a whole data analytics team that uses a variety of tools that are … My forte is making sure that I create an event that speaks to our multiple audiences. Their forte is making sure that we measure it.
Will:Eric, I think people really- go ahead.
Laura:I was just going to say, Tahira, when you chat with folks who don’t have a CRM and they’re struggling with measuring the ROI on their events, what do you suggest that they do if it’s somebody who is just … Maybe it’s all manual or it’s just all over the place. What’s one way to bring it all centralized?
Tahira:You just need to start somewhere. I think that we’ve been using these tools … Pick a thing. In this case, it’s ROI, but whether it’s sustainability or how we feed people or the kinds of … Whatever it is, you just need to start somewhere. If we’re talking about in this case your investment and your return on investment, your return on objectives, start at the very basics. Start with making sure that you have your goals and objectives and measurements and then figure out a tool that is going to work for you to measure those.
Then make sure that you’re putting all those tools in place from the beginning so that you’re literally setting your evaluation questions up for the end of your event at the same time that you’re setting up your goals so that you know that you’re asking questions that are going to track back. Whether you’re asking them live and in person, in focus groups, through a local app, through a survey system, through a post-event survey, through Survey Monkey, through the metrics like Claire is using, just start taking those steps to start to measure. It’s the only way we can show our value and prove the value of events.
Eric:I just want to add to that a little bit. Before, Will, you asked me the question, you meant to. It does seem daunting sometimes to get going on setting up a system, but like Tahira was saying, it’s just important to start and to define a couple of key metrics that you want to measure. Then as you’re measuring those, new metrics will come to you. You start to ask more nuanced questions. Then you’ll add more metrics to the mix. Claire’s case is a really great example. You come up with a battery of metrics that eventually … It evolves over time, it’s not like any organization. Here’s our clear metrics on day 1, but it will evolve over time and you can track those things. You’ll ask new questions. You’ll learn about your objectives and your business and where you complete things to help you improve things. It’s always an evolutionary process. Even though it may seem daunting at the beginning, it could start in a very simple, not so painful way.
Claire:Just to add to that, don’t feel like you guys have to be the ones answering the question of what to measure. Put together your own list of things that you personally want to be measured on. Then go ask the C-suiter. Go ask your executive team. Go ask anybody in the company who will listen to you. The simplest question is just what does the events team … Or what does this event need to do to prove value to the company? What do you want to see? If you keep that message in front of them and if you keep reporting, keep asking that question monthly, weekly, whenever you see them over coffee, keep asking and they’ll keep giving you different answers. To your next point, it’s going to always continue growing. I think it’s very appropriate that Eric was the one that said, “Just start somewhere because Eric was employee number 2 at LinkedIn. Is that correct?” They started somewhere. LinkedIn didn’t start being a multi … I don’t know. Are you guys a billion users at this point, Eric? That had to start somewhere.
Eric:[crosstalk 00:23:59].
Claire:Everything starts at zero and you work your way up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help on that.
Will:[crosstalk 00:24:09]. I was just saying I love everything you guys are saying. Keep going.
Laura:Sorry, yeah. We have a question. This is actually going back to the CRM discussion. This is coming from Karen Lions. Thank you for joining us Karen. Which CRM do you all think is most suited for events?
Tahira:I don’t think we need a CRM suited for events. We need a CRM that’s suited for our business.
Eric:[crosstalk 00:24:36]. I’d like to take a shot at that. One thing that I just realized recently, events are so important to a company’s marketing. There are studies out there or surveys out there that say that events are either the biggest budget item or the second biggest budget item in a company’s marketing budget. Other people have indicated it is part of marketing and yet there’s really a lack of measurement around this very important and significant activity. It ought to be measured with tools that are already being used inside of an organization. There are tools like Salesforce that are really good at encompassing a lot of marketing activities. They have a platform basically that you can plug a lot of different things into including the event data and that’s what makes Salesforce interesting. I know of another platform called Ungerboeck, which is more of a CRM for events and that’s something to look into as well. In general, it needs to plug into the overall marketing platforms and tools that the rest of the organization is using.
Tahira:Also data in, data out. Claire, you guys, it’s like, “Whoa, look at … You’re doing such a good job with data. I’m so proud of you. It’s important. Again, it’s that whole struggle of the sales people won’t input data. There’s a lot of plug-ins and tools as well that you can also automate those systems with so it becomes much simpler. They send a Gmail to a client. That Gmail then plugs into Salesforce and then now you know at least you’re tracking what was talked about as an example. It’s just important that you start to look at getting everybody on board with why these tools are important and that it doesn’t take any more time to scribble a note in your notebook than it does to actually type something into your CRM, but without that data, you can’t really move your organization forward in a meaningful way.
People always say, “We want to scale up and we want to grow.” You scale up and grow one customer at a time. If you don’t start to collect the data on that lets you know what people want and need and are thinking and how you can help them and create solutions … If that solution is an awesome destination vacation in a luxury property, that’s fantastic, but it’s about finding again those right places like, “Where do they like to go? How can we help them? What are the things that are going to make their experience better?” Writing that down, not just having that incrementally stored in somebody’s brain and then they leave the company and that data is gone.
Claire:I think there’s a challenge or sale component to it. If your company is not going to take the time and the money to invest in the events program … You certainly don’t want to do this if you don’t have an option or don’t have a game plan for plan B if this question gets answered in the incorrect way, but if a company is going to spend even $20,000 on events, not including your salary for the entire year, that’s $20,000 that the company is spending on events that they could be spending elsewhere. Sales teams, marketing teams, member services teams, all of them have goals that they have to report on every single day. I can’t name a single company that doesn’t have that.
I think it’s funny and it’s ironic that we want to report on stuff and the company wouldn’t invest in that when all we’re trying to do is show the company that that $20,000 was well spent, that they were actually … At the end of the year, you can prove that $20,000 generated XYZ. The challenger sale is simply, “Boss, manager, CEO, if you do not want to invest in events and you do not want to take the time to give me the tools that are necessary to show you how much events impacted, you shouldn’t even have events. You shouldn’t have an events program. I’ll walk away and I’ll go find a company that does know how to do it.”
Again, don’t do it just on a whim. Certainly don’t do it when you’re mad at your boss or something, but think about it in that way. No one is just going to give you a $20,000 check and say, “Go have fun.” I don’t expect any reporting on this. I don’t expect you to use a portion of this to go buy your own tools to do the measurement. Put together a strong plan about it. If you have to do the measurement by yourself and by hand manually and not ask for help from other departments, then do it while you’re small so that when your company starts getting bigger or there is a little windfall of revenue that gets pushed your way, you can start plugging it in and making a bigger impact.
Will:That was an amazing transition into my next question that we had coming in. That was why do you think more internal stakeholders aren’t aligned with hosting events? Why are people so opposed? Obviously, everyone here … A lot of us already have events going on and everything like that, but some of us joined organizations or want to have events, but just no one wants to let us have events. Claire, why do you think there’s this fear or anxiety for it? What do you think? Why aren’t stakeholders aligned with having events?
Claire:I think stakeholders can be defined in a couple of ways, stakeholders being the people who you’re working with to help put on an event and then stakeholders meaning executive team. I’ll focus on the people who are helping you, your sales teammates, your member services teammates, etc. Human motivation is intrinsic. People have busy lives and if you’re on the sales team and you have goals to hit all month long and then all of a sudden, Laura is coming to you and saying, “Yo, I need you from 5pm to 9pm on Thursday night, and I need you to put in data into the campaign. I promise it’s good for you,” but I’m not going to give you much more context or show you how you personally impact this, nobody has time for it. It’s not a fair ask to say to someone, “I need your time, but I don’t need anything else from you.” “I need your time, but I’m not going to empower you to go up there and to talk to the entire group. I’m not going to train you on how to walk up and have a conversation with somebody.”
There are a lot of us who are very social and outgoing and who freeze when they talk to somebody new or when you’re trying to get into a little circle of people who are all tight knit and talking and having a good time and you know the big fish is one of them, but you don’t know how to tap a shoulder and get in and not be awkward. Train people so that they’re not afraid to go up and make those deals. Tell them how they can help with the event and ask them to participate in the planning process. Empower them to understand this event is a tool for them to close deals or to find referrals or to increase an existing customer from one level to the other. Teach them. We make the assumption that people know what we do all the time and they don’t. I couldn’t do a salesperson’s job ever. I couldn’t just be thrown on the phone and say, “Go call 40 people all day.” If somebody asked me to do that, I would be like, “No, thank you.” [crosstalk 00:32:00] 2 things that you [crosstalk 00:32:01].
Tahira:I think those 2 things that you just said, the 2 words that came to mind … One is intention, figuring out what the intention of the event is and letting people know what it is, and measuring the impact. Those 2 things of how can you impact it? Why are we doing it? [crosstalk 00:32:24]
Claire:You could even reverse it. Why do you guys think we should have an event? Could an event be helpful to your sales goals this month?
Tahira:What do you think Eric?
Eric:I think the other thing is that events are these tremendously expensive things. They’re really expensive to do. They’re major endeavors and they’re very complicated to put together an event that’s interesting, that provides a great experience. There’s so many moving parts and for organizations that haven’t done events before, it’s a really large endeavor. It’s everybody pitching in basically and doing it. For those organizations that have done events for a while, they’re just going by inertia almost, doing the same things. Many of them doing the same things every year and tweaking around the edges to make it incrementally better. Whereas basically the rest of marketing has really been disrupted by technology. There’s lots of ways these days to get online and to put an ad up on Adwords and test that and do it pretty cheaply. Events are these major commitments and investments that you have to do.
I think the whole conversation around ROI, around events really does need to be had in those organizations that are not already doing events because usually it’s such a large chunk to bite off. It’s possible to start in very small ways, tip your toes in the water and grow bigger. In our work within the organizers, we’ve heard so many people have started in a very modest way in the first year starting with very small events and then just really developed a life of its own. Now they’re at a point where they’ve got to limit the number of people who are attending because they just can’t manage the size. Those are great stories. It’s always inspirational to hear those things, but it can be starting small and growing into something that’s much more major.
Laura:We have another question from the audience. I’m very excited about this one. This one comes from Brady Miller. We love you, Brady. Thank you so much tuning in. If anybody else has a question, please feel free to throw your question in the questions game. Brady asks … This is a 2-fold question. Do you think event professionals get lost in the process of trying to track or prioritize their business relationships? Going back to what Claire is mentioning. We have different stakeholders that we need to show the value to in a B2B CRM, in addition to relationships that we’re managing and both need to be tracked at the same time, but they have different KPIs. Do you think that event professionals are getting lost in tracking? Then are the KPIs for those different kinds of relationships … ? How do you track those? Brady, feel free to hop in the chat. Let me know if that covers your question. I guess Tahira we’ll start with you.
Tahira:That is a lot to start with. I’m not even sure where to start with that one. I think it’s a better … Let’s start with Claire on this one.
Claire:Thank you. That’s lovely.
Will:A nice redirect.
Claire:Thank you. Thanks for that hot potato Brady. Appreciate that. I don’t know how to answer that question because I have always been very fortunate that the people who I have reported to have given me very discerned KPIs and one group of them. I’ve never had to have one stakeholder who is expecting one thing and another stakeholder that’s expecting others. I would imagine, however, yes, I’m sure many people are stretched incredibly thin especially because so many of us are constantly being asked to do more with less and less often means bodies. Less often means not as much money to spend and it means longer hours and it means burnout.
Brady, my answer to you is I personally don’t have that experience, but what I think I would do in that situation is just get those stakeholders who expect different things from me together in a single room and outline the 2 different priorities that are at some points complimentary or not so much and just see if you can get on the same page. I don’t think anybody chooses to make someone’s life more difficult. I think if you can lay out something of a plan where both parties are in agreement that that information is good … I would imagine if you do it right, people wouldn’t be opposed to that.
Tahira:I think it’s also-
Will:Some people would differ that the AV companies try to make people’s lives more difficult.
Laura:From the AV guy.
Will:Typical AV guy. Tahira, go ahead, sorry. I totally interrupted you.
Tahira:We often have different and competing KPIs for sure. For me, it always goes back to what is the audience experience? We have stakeholders 100%, but it’s also … The reality of an event is to have an event, you need to have stakeholders who will invest in it, whether [Chris 00:38:12] that’s monetarily, time wise, whatever it might be, resources. We also have audiences and we often have more than one type of audience, so we do need the always take it back and say, “What do people really need?” I think that quite often what happens with our stakeholders or with event planners is we get mired in what we think and we don’t ask the questions.
I think it is what you just said Claire is going back and asking the questions of those, “What are the things that are going to matter?” At the end of the day … I almost hate this term, but it’s like, “What does success look like for you?” That’s important to understand because success looks differently for everybody. Success is almost never tied to … I saw question from Karen that said investment is always defined in monetary terms. I’ve rarely worked on an event on any side, as a supplier trying to get leads, trying to satisfy sponsors, where the monetary is the key KPI. It’s very rare. As long as you’re not losing money, generally it’s fine.
It becomes about would they come back? Did they make a deal? Did they have the right conversations? Did we create a space that really worked for them? To define that, we talked a little bit at the beginning about return on investment versus return on objectives. I think that they’re kind of the same thing. We can call it ROI, ROE, ROO. It doesn’t really matter what those letters are. It is about defining quite often for more than one segment, but always tying it back to, “At the end of the day, what does my organization need?” Almost no matter what side you’re on.
I think that many of us also sponsor events. When you look at an event that you’re going to sponsor, you’re going to run through a set of things like, “Do I get a speaking opportunity? Do I get a booth? Do I get … ?” Never in that criteria, do you say, “Am I going to get 23 leads out of this?” You’re always looking at some bigger picture things that you know are going to be those parameters that are going to help you drive to that next business relationship. Really, it’s finessing what is going to be the right thing. It’s always going to be different. I’ve never worked on an event where it’s going to be the same.
Laura:On that note about relationship building … We’ll start with you Eric this time. Whenever you attend an event, obviously you’re building community, making new relationships, networking. How does building community, building those relationships, how does that add to the ROI of an event?
Eric:That’s such an interesting question, Laura. It goes back to the previous question in terms of different objectives that different stakeholders have. Of course, I think from the attendee side … Let’s just use the term attendee in a very broad way in terms of actually attendees and also sponsors and exhibitors. I feel that they’re primarily, or in large part, for those relationships. That’s what they’re going to ultimately get out of events, the relationships that they develop and the relationships that they nurture and that ongoing conversation that goes on way after the event is over. Hopefully some of those relationships will get nurtured some more the next time the event comes around or in some other channel. The relationships are … I think for us because our company is in the business of fostering relationships at events is tremendously helpful.
Just to draw one contrast as to why relationships might be even more important at events is that there’s a large part of events these days that concerns content or education. People talk about the main purposes of events, whether it’s going there for the content or education or for the networking. One of the interesting things that’s actually happening with education is that you can actually get a lot of that in digital form nowadays. You can watch an event after it happens. You can get a lot of content that happens, that can be consumed outside of events.
I know that being a planner, I spend a lot of time on the education part and I spend a lot of time on the experience part, but we sometimes wonder, “What is the ROI of that?” If you can get it in digital form, but you can’t get the relationships nowhere near the quality of being in their own person, the face-to-face interactions. There’s a lot of talk about that and I believe that because you can’t replace that in digital form. You can only get that at these live events. The ROI really does come from, we believe, the relationships part of the events.
Tahira:I always look at it that the content is going to be the thing that … You can take the content to your boss and say, “I need to go to this event because this is the content that I’m going to get out of it. This is what I’m going to come back with. I’m going to learn XYZ and I can apply it in ABC to our job.” Once you get to the event though, you’re 100% right. You return from an event. You don’t necessarily remember more than 2 or 3 nuggets of things you can apply, but you certainly remember the people that you’ve started to develop a relationship with.
It’s going to be often those relationships that then are going to turn into those next ideas, those next business sales, those next whatever it is that you need in your business. I think that it’s difficult to measure that. No boss is going to say, yes, you should go to that event because we think it will be really fun. Then if you look on the other side, I think … Correct me if I’m wrong, Claire, but I think probably the events that you’re doing, being member events that are designed to really get people more inspired to book more luxury is a different … It’s a different thing. It’s really what you’re looking at.
Again, I don’t know. I’m just totally taking a shot in the dark here, but what you’re looking at is using that sense of community and that sense of tribe and that sense of, “We’re all in this together and together we’re going to create these more interesting experiences in our lives,” which is a wonderful place to be in if you can be at that place in your life. Nobody wants to have an experience alone, so you’re able to get people into a place where they can share that. It’s easy to measure from a business perspective in that they booked. It’s a little bit more difficult to measure as in, “Why would they come?” They’re going to come because we want to belong to things, whether it’s any kind of association …
Then with tools like what you’re working with, Eric, with Presdo, it then gives us a digital base now that we all … We all carry these around all the time. Now if I have a digital base that’s going to allow me to connect with people before … Potential during to really find like, “Are you standing by the green thing?” Then after. It gives us a way to combine human experiences, technology, CRMs, all of those things. It’s so not cut and dried any more. We can’t look at ROI or technology without really looking at the humans who are the base of every experience.
Claire:I’ll just wrap it up with this which is as you grow older, it gets harder and harder to meet new people. It gets harder and harder to find new outlets for people to bounce ideas off. Going to an event does 2 things. It introduces you to people you would not otherwise because introduced to that you share a heck of a lot in common with either a business or becoming a random friend at Inspirato. Tahira, to your point, it’s to get people together so that the family who can afford to go on these luxury vacations have 2 little nuggets that they’re bringing with them everywhere, so that they can go meet another family who they could maybe travel with or so that they could hear about one family’s travel and how great it was. Now they’re going to go to that destination because they have trust in the product and in that space because they’ve heard it from someone. It’s that 2-fold part. It’s meeting someone and then it’s also about almost having validation of the content you learn about.
Tahira:If I read online on a banner ad that Presdo is an amazing piece of technology, I’m going to have that impression and look into it and say, “This looks great. I’m going to go read the case studies and see the customer reviews,” except the customer review is probably going to say something like, “Presdo is the most amazing new event technology tool that I’ve ever experienced,” Tahira E., user. I’m going to say, “Awesome, they’ve got some good users that really like them, but then all of a sudden, I’m running into Tahira in person and she is going on and on and on about it. Now there is a personal connection. Now I don’t feel so out on my own on a limb about asking a company or about asking myself to put my trust in this specific product. It’s almost about walking out of a presentation and listening to the Q&A and asking somebody, “Have you done this?” How do you do this?” It’s what we’re all talking about right now. Everyone who is attending this webinar [crosstalk 00:48:11].
Eric:All of the things that you said, Claire, about Presdo is true so thank you, Claire. I just want to say one thing about … Since we were talking about Salesforce before was I was reading this amazing book that Mark Benioff wrote recently about the creation of Salesforce and how he was leveraging events to the company’s success. There was an amazing story in there about how … They were leveraging bringing customers and prospects together into the same event for the referral selling where the customers would actually be very persuasive in terms of converting prospects in the customers because it wasn’t an overt sales pitch from somebody from Salesforce to get people to use the product.
It was customers sharing great success stories and experiences about how they had success with Salesforce and getting prospects to really believe in that and trying it out. Actually the ROI that came from that, which was really amazing … That’s another example I think where there’s really ROI around relationships that can happen at events that is frankly just hard to get anywhere else, especially in the digital media. That’s another reason why events are very powerful.
Laura:Eric, that is a fantastic transition to our next question. Also I just realized we have about 10 more minutes. Are you all okay if we potentially go over by a handful of minutes? This question is really good. It’s another one from Brady. Are you guys okay with that if we go over time?
Tahira:Go Brady.
Claire:Bring it on, Brady.
Laura:Oh Brady. Cool. This is a great one. Eric, thank you for this awesome transition. Brady asks with a growing emphasis on inbound marketing, that long-term cultivation of potential clients, how do event planners convey the benefits on ROI of an event when the quantifiable results aren’t immediate or even meant to be immediate? You can’t show, “Hey, we got 10 leads out of this one event that we did.” You might have gotten 10 leads 6 months down the road. What is the best way for planners to do that, to show [crosstalk 00:50:41]
Eric:I actually disagree with the premise of that question, but thanks Brady for the question. Times they are a-changing. I think one of the things that’s really interesting, historically I think it’s been really hard to quantify results, quantify ROI from events. It’s a really complicated activity that happens, but from where I’m sitting with the technology tools and so forth that we’re starting to have at our disposal, we can actually measure things as they’re happening in real time and report back things that are happening in real time. It’s like the mobile apps especially that are actually not only doing helpful things for attendees, but you can actually look under the covers of what attendees are doing and what parts of the events are resonating and what’s not and really have an insight into how your event is going.
That’s why those tools I think are very powerful. I know I’ve talked about Salesforce quite a bit in this time, but one of the things that they do is they really do … They’re really at the forefront of acquiring technology at events. They do have this thing where they can actually analyze what’s happening at an event like Dreamforce, figuring out all the things that are happening on the floor and very quickly take those results and understand what each person is interested in so that they can craft the appropriate follow-up to that person, to all the attendees. They’re doing this at scale.
Last year, Dreamforce had 160,000 people. They’re goal is to get back to each and every person with a crafted message, part of that marketing journey to use some buzz words, within 48 hours. That’s a lot of data that they’re tracking from events that they can apply very quickly back into the process. They’re doing amazing things like that. I do think that the time is coming where tools and things like data are really going to help provide a lot of great insights around what’s happening at the events and providing great ROI around what’s happening.
Claire:2 examples I’ve seen, one when I worked at the lobbying firm … We did a massive, massive, massive event at the Washington Convention Center. We were using … I can’t recall the name, so I’ll have to get back to you guys on it, but it was a heat-mapping tool. We basically had an AV nest and we were watching the heat maps of people about where they were going in terms of traffic flow so we could start opening up elevators or closing down elevators that weren’t working or sending staff somewhere that very clearly there was a back-up so that people weren’t super upset. That was really cool.
Then another one … Laura, maybe you could help me with this one. Last year, Dan spoke … Dan is the CEO of Social Tables. He spoke … It might have been IMAX honestly. He spoke and because of the QR codes that people … The staff was standing outside of each door scanning people in to be able to know in real time how many people were sitting in those seats. Because of that and because of the popularity and the response of Dan’s program, about halfway through his program, they decided to add a second program of his to the following day that wasn’t originally on the schedule. Small things like that can make a crazy impact because I’m a disappointed attendee that I can’t get into this really cool, really awesome education session. Then all of a sudden, I get a push notification in my phone that says, “Sorry we weren’t able to accommodate because of how much people want to see him. We’re going to bring him back tomorrow. Sign up now. You get the first choice.”
Tahira:I think it was MPIWSC.
Claire:Those are just 2 examples, but the tools do exist. To Eric’s point, they’ll grow. They’ll keep growing.
Tahira:We just need to keep using them. That’s the biggest barrier is people say, “Everyone is using mobile event apps. Nobody is using mobile event apps. Are people going to keep using them?” For God’s sake, everyone arrives with a smart phone. Everyone has a badge on. Let’s use these tools together and use the tools that are available to us and not in a creepy, weird way, but in a way that allows us to make sure that everybody has that best experience. Responding to them on social media, watching the heat maps and seeing how they’re moving. What are they eating? What should they want to eat? What are they drinking? What could they we doing to make something better? Do they like the the entertainment? Is it too loud? Is it too quiet? Whatever it is, we have all of these tools that are going to create … Ultimately if you have a better experience, you’re going to give better evaluations and you’re going to be more likely to return the next year. It’s really simple. We need to use the tools that are there.
Will:So many questions have been coming in. It has been awesome. We have to wrap up. I want to wrap up with our last 2 questions that we have, first being what is your one tip that you have for planners in 2016? For example, one question we couldn’t fit in at the last minute is Cody O’Malley had a question of what is the number one obstacle event planners are running into? Why don’t you tie this into what is your one tip to avoid a huge obstacle where you see event planners running into these days? We’ll start off … Claire, why don’t you give us your one tip for planners in 2016?
Claire:Why do I have to keep going first? That’s not fair.
Will:[crosstalk 00:56:31].
Claire:One tip for obstacles, gosh you could go a million ways with that. You guys had prepped us with that similar question, and the thing that just kept standing out in my mind was just to keep asking yourself like, “What are you not doing that you could be doing? Who are you not talking that you could be talking to? Who doesn’t know the information about the success of your program that should?” Those are 3 questions that I think will help you go around obstacles or get to someone who can help you with it. I don’t have a tool in terms of a piece of technology or a piece of advice on that. I think so much of it is just the going back to, “Great, you have this information. So what? What are you going to do with it?” “How do you make sure that the right people know about what your goals are and know what you want to do with your program to take the company to the next level.”
I know that’s not a one size fits all question, but I think it’s from the book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Great book. Read it. That’s the question I always ask myself is what am I not doing and I should be doing across the scope of everything for an event, in a relationship with a colleague, in a meeting, in preparation for something? What is it that you could be doing that you’re not. I think that that mentality will lead you to answering a lot of the questions to help you get around those barriers that you perceive you have in front of you.
Will:Tahira, I know you have to go, but can you fit in your one tip in 60 seconds?
Tahira:Yes, I can. You said I just saw you in Amsterdam. I was in Amsterdam doing the Event Design Certification. It’s such a great program because it takes you back to the beginning. You go through, build the empathy maps for your stakeholders, really look at what pains and gains and expectations and satisfaction and what is really going to work across the spectrum of your event, really a great tool just for identifying that gap analysis and helping you move forward.
It’s 2 fold. It’s, 1, taking a step back, looking at all of the stakeholders, asking the right questions, talking to people, then being able to map it in a really systematic way, work with your team, keep it creative, keep it open, keep it fluid and be able to respond because things change and figure out something that’s going to help you do that. In this case, I’ve found that it’s a great tool in helping us move forward this year in using that. It’s been really good. Thank you guys very much. It’s lovely as always to see all of you and to meet you, Eric. Out.
Laura:Bye sister.
Will:[crosstalk 00:59:15]. Tahira has got to run. That’s what we get for getting such busy people onto our show. We’ll keep wrapping this up. Eric, what is your one tip that you have for planners in 2016?
Eric:This goes back to the whole topic around ROI on events. My advice is to try to develop a multi-event perspective on events because I think ROI really comes when you can look across multiple events and focus on, “What are you going to have as goals?”, or, “What do you want to achieve some years from now from where you are right now?” A lot of the event organizers are … It’s very intense to find an event and they’re exhausted by the time that event is over. There’s a to of learnings that maybe get missed if you’re just looking at events as these point projects that you keep doing and in similar ways from one year to another, but to just have a trajectory in mind and that will help you see the future and what you need to do to today to [get a tip 01:00:24] from one event to the next and so forth.
Will:My spitfire last question that I have for you guys. Everyone is always getting really excited about new links and tools and resources and things like that. I want you guys to share what is you guys’ favorite resources right now. It could be a book. It could be a piece of technology. It could be throat lozenges because I have the cold. Whatever it may be. Why don’t we start, Eric, you’re a really tech savvy guy. What’s your favorite resources that you have right now?
Eric:I was just saying that I’ve really recently become of this book that Mark Benioff wrote. It’s called Behind The Cloud. It talks about the story behind how Salesforce was created. There’s so many great stories in there actually about marketing and sales. They’re a master at doing all that. One event really caught me was how passionate they really were about events and all the different things that they did with events. Dreamforce right now is really big. I think there are lots of great lessons in there for everybody from event organizers to marketers and sales people. That book was written a few years ago, but I actually just recently picked it up. I had a chance to read it on the plane. I just found it a gold mine of lots of interesting stories and insights. Check it out. It’s on your favorite bookstore. You know where it is.
Claire:Is Benioff paying you for these plugs?
Laura:Do we get a cut?
Eric:I’ll send you free copies.
Claire:Thank you. I’ve read that book too. It’s awesome. It’s a great, great book. Mine is actually similar, just content. Just constantly continuing to learn. I read Skift every day. every new piece of information that Skift puts out, S-K-I-F-T, is amazing. A lot of it revolves around general hospitality, hotel real estate and events and meetings, but it’s amazing information. Whenever you guys have a second for that, definitely check it out. They’ve got a great newsletter. Laura does a really good job with their content at Social Tables as well. She’s got a team of a couple of people that works really hard on that, so check that out as well.
Laura:Thanks Claire.
Will:For those who missed Tahira’s suggestions on resources, we’re going to post them in the show notes after this show, so you can catch all of the resources that have been posted throughout the entire show. You just head over to the blog and the recording and all the show notes will be up there later. We’ve gone massively over time, which is totally my fault as the host, but we had so many amazing questions from you in the audience. We want to fit them all in. Thank you audience so much for tuning in. Also a huge, huge thank you to our guests, Claire, Eric and Tahira. Thank you so much. Everyone give a round of applause.
Claire:Thank you for having us, guys. I’m glad we were able to this.
Will:Yes, definitely, definitely. We’re so excited to have you guys here and, again, thank you so much. For all you guys tuned in right now, don’t worry. It’s going to be next week again, Event Icons is coming. We have another amazing episode. Just stay tuned. If you signed up, you get an email every week reminding you about the upcoming episode. Tune in. We’ve got another set of topics, another set of amazing Event Icons. Enjoy this week’s episodes. We’ve got more, plenty, for you next week. Be sure to tune in. Check out the blog for all the recording and all the resources afterwards. Laura, do you want to sign us all off for the evening?
Laura:Sure. Thanks everybody for tuning in. This happens every Wednesday so please be sure to sign up to get the notifications for every show. Also, if there’s somebody that you’d like us to interview on a future episode, please feel free to tweet us. Will is @itswillcurran. I’m @1aura1opez. The Ls are 1s. Let us know who you want to see on a future episode. That’s about it. See you next week, next Wednesday.
Will:Bye everyone.

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Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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