What is event experience? Why is it important? And what does virtual event flow have to do with it?
We believe the best way to answer these questions is through a successful real world example. And with that, let me introduce you to Karli Williamson.
Karli Williamson is event marketing personified.
Taking the events industry by storm, Karli’s past experiences range from banquet service, to wedding planning, to non-profit conference coordination. Now, as Senior Event Manager for leading Chaos Engineering platform Gremlin, she’s taken on her biggest challenge yet.
We caught up with Karli to find out how her small but sophisticated team of marketing superheroes pulled off an impressive 2,000 attendee event, with a 50% MQL rate and an average attendance time of over 3.5 hours. 🙌🏻
Karli Williamson’s path into event marketing had an early start. As a kid, she was often responsible for organizing shindigs for her extended family (26 cousins, and that’s just on mom’s side 🤯).
“I realized I've just always planned events, and it’s always brought me joy. I grew up in a big family, so there have always been opportunities to organize, put people together and try to find ways to motivate them to come to things.”
With passion and experience in abundance, it’s no wonder she went from family party planning pro to event managing mastermind at fast-growing startup, Gremlin.
On a mission to build a more reliable internet, Gremlin teaches systems engineers to break things on purpose, so they know how to fix them in case it happens in real life.
The outcome? Fewer outages. Minimal downtime expenses. And a more dependable internet for all.
Karli knew the best way to spread the word about Gremlin’s awesome mission was to, “get in front of people, explain what it is we do and how we can benefit them”.
And that’s exactly what she and her event marketing team have been up to with Failover Conf, a virtual event that was planned and executed in just six weeks amid the chaos of 2020.
But when the time came to replicate Failover Conf the following year, Karli knew she needed to up her virtual event game ― and that she’d need a smart virtual event platform to help.
Despite the challenges, Failover Conf 1 was a huge hit. So when it came to replicating that success for Failover Conf 2 in 2021, the pressure was on.
And her unique brand and audience posed two very specific (and very big) hosting challenges:
“They’re really different from other audiences,” says Karli of her ultra-discerning engineering audience. “They're there for the content, that’s what brings them to events. You have to make it engaging. You have to make sure they're getting something out of it, that they're able to participate.”
And this time Karli also faced a whole new challenge: Zoom fatigue.
“A lot has changed over the last year. You can't just throw together some good talks and have people show up. So, we were looking for a solution that was interactive and allowed us to have really dynamic content.”
She knew she needed some special technology to keep her niche and knowledge-hungry audience interested.
That’s when she met Goldcast. 💥
With best-in-breed production tools and next-level engagement functionalities, Karli knew Goldcast was the right virtual event platform for Gremlin.
“We were looking for panel discussions, fireside chats, etc. We really wanted to give sponsors a place where attendees could interact with them. Having that interaction and the ability to have a wide variety of content and networking opportunities is where Goldcast came into play. We needed something that could adapt with us, with the kinds of content that we were looking to create.”
For Gremlin, content is king. Karli knew she’d need a virtual event platform that could help make balancing live and pre-recorded content a breeze.
“As we were building out the agenda, we knew we wanted to do a lot of different types of content, and so the platform and the production had to pivot really easily from live, to pre-recorded content, to slides and beyond. I thought that would be the easiest thing to find on a platform, but it turned out to be really difficult without using a third party.”
And Goldcast delivered. By switching up the display of Gremlin’s world-class content and introducing a variety of easy ways to interact, Karli kept her audience engaged — and generated awesome results for the business.
Karli knew for Failover Conf 2 she’d have to fight for people’s attention — because unlike the previous year, her audience had grown accustomed to (and bored of) standard virtual events.
She and the team focused on securing two results to help bring clients in and accelerate their journey through the funnel:
“With such a wide and often introverted audience, fatigued from virtual conferences, we wanted to make sure there were lots of different ways to interact. From watching a video, to clicking on content, to being able to chat in a networking room or talk face-to-face in a booth… that was key for us.”
Karli overhauled Goldcast’s interaction functionalities, crafting a truly Gremlin-like virtual event flow that offered attendees essential downtime and networking opportunities without ever leaving the platform.
“We used the booth feature for our networking rooms. One was playing a cartoon marathon, so if an attendee wanted to zone out for a while they could just hop over there.”
And it gets better.
She and the marketing team also made sure attendees could follow a choose-your-own-path virtual event flow, seamlessly popping into any session that caught their attention whenever they wanted.
“It's a shame that on some of the platforms you don't have the ability to stay with the talks while also clicking around. Instead, we’re like, ‘You can get curious, please click around. We've spent so much time and energy thoughtfully building out every single piece. Please, check it out’.”
But for the Gremlin team, Goldcast’s seamless streaming and engagement features were the secrets to qualifying over 50% of attendees as MQLs.
She and her team used the ‘backstage’ feature to prep speakers before their sessions, without messy external links or complicated steps for a true VIP experience.
“Backstage gave us the opportunity to greet and guide speakers. We also had someone in the room after so they could pat them on the back and say, ‘Great job!’, just making sure our speakers, who bring this amazing content, feel supported."
The simplicity of the digital platform also made it easy for Karli to ensure her audience dipped their toes into every area of engagement, in a natural and unforced way.
“The autoplay feature was really helpful in allowing us to gather ourselves, prep for the next session and make sure everyone knew exactly where they should be. It helped the day flow and minimized the number of things that could go wrong.”
Rather than spending time putting out fires, Karli could focus on the strategic content that would wow her audience and provide more wins for Gremlin.
Like any field marketer worth their salt, Karli knows the work doesn’t stop after the event closes.
“Our marketing team is small, but we're very sophisticated and thoughtful in how we guide people through the funnel,” says Karli. And as you might expect, she and the team have a fully-fleshed out process for how to score, segment and follow up with attendees after the event.
Here’s an inside glimpse at Gremlin’s post-event follow up strategy:
“We map out our scoring ahead of time: 25 points for this, 50 points for this. Then each sponsorship level receives different lists. We're really particular about who crosses that MQL threshold.”
From these insights Gremlin can use personalized conversation starters to design a better event attendee journey and ultimately, lead to greater conversion levels, for example: “We saw that you clicked on this white paper, do you have any questions about it?”
But Karli and her marketing team also use event data to learn more about what resonated most with attendees. In addition to analyzing session attendance data, she makes sure to ask for feedback on each event component (including the platform).
Despite her awesome results, a successful event goes way beyond the numbers for Karli.
For her, it’s all about the little wins that make the attendee experience the best it can be. “Attendee experience is the most important part. They're the reason we're all there, so we might as well give them a really good show.”
With the right platform to support her, a heightened level of engagement and simplicity made it easy for Gremlin to deliver on their promise of a truly worthwhile virtual event flow.
“It was just a really seamless experience. We had a lot of great feedback about the flow of the event, the platform itself, and just the ability to sit back and be guided through it.” And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.