In-Person Events, Large-Scale Conferences, and Budget Cuts: Event Marketers Live IRL

February 13, 2023
Kelly Cheng
Kelly Cheng
Head of Marketing at Goldcast

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Join 10,000 other marketers already getting the best tips on running engaging events that boost pipeline and create raving fans.

Welcome to Event Marketers Live, a fast-paced series where we shake off the jargon and get real with the humans behind the scenes of our favorite B2B events and experiences.

In this episode, Kelly sat down (in person!) with B2B event leaders Stephanie Pennell, Director of Event Marketing at ZoomInfo, Shannon Taschereau, Head of Field Marketing Strategy and Content at Adobe, and Global Events Leader Lindsey Cohen.

The panel spent an hour discussing their learnings from 2022, including what worked and what didn’t, event horror stories, and their insights on planning for budget cuts.

Explore the panel’s top takeaways below, and be sure to catch all of their insights in the full episode!

Want to join the conversation? Register for the next Event Marketers Live event!

Here are our top three takeaways from this episode ⤵️

Takeaway 1: Be strategic about choosing the right format for your event

From going strictly virtual to getting people back in conference halls again, the B2B events landscape has seen rapid changes since 2020.

And while in-person events are making a comeback, not everyone is ready for them.

When sharing the biggest learnings from 2022, Lindsay talked about SynkWeek–a small roadshow targeting top cities around the world. The event's purpose was to bring the company's brand, ethos, subject matter experts, and thought leadership to its users, prospects, and customers.

The event received mixed responses, with some cities being more involved and engaged than others. For instance, although San Francisco has a huge product user base, the SF roadshow saw the lowest attendance rate. Turns out that demographic was not ready for in-person events just yet.

Lesson learned: Keep your target audience’s preferences in mind when choosing your event format. Lindsay recommends striving for the right balance of digital and physical events in your overall lineup.

You really need to meet your attendee, your customer, your prospect, where they are." - Lindsay Cohen

Shannon also had a similar experience with Adobe events. While the company's intimate events got a good response, people still don’t seem as comfortable with large-scale physical events. Because of this, Stephanie suggests first understanding what’s important for your customers and then figuring out how events fit into the picture.

Takeaway 2: Piggy-back on other, larger events

Participating at large-scale exhibitions or trade shows requires significant investment with no promised ROI. There's also a risk involved, as Stephanie explained.

No matter what you do on the show floor, you're probably never gonna stand out amongst everybody else that's there." - Stephanie Pennell

Stephanie suggests finding ways to piggyback on larger events to connect with your prospects and customers. Again, it goes back to meeting your audience where they are.

Sendoso did this at Dreamforce, where they rented a toy store to host a VIP lounge. The company bought out the toys for each of the days; anyone who stopped by the store could take a toy home for their loved ones, and the company donated the remaining toys.

Stephanie and her team did something similar for ZoomInfo. Instead of paying an exorbitant amount to buy space at Dreamforce, the team decided to host a VIP lounge near the exhibition.

After the hotel they booked backed out at the last moment, ZoomInfo found an abandoned shoe store right on the corner to host the VIP lounge. The team ripped down the shoe brand logos and set up ZoomInfo’s pull-up banners that doubled as window signs. They also rented furniture and converted the space into a lounge with four separate meeting spaces.

Then, the ZoomInfo team reached out to people who might be interested in meeting with them. They analyzed where their strategy and enterprise customers are based and where they'd most likely be, and then they planned their approach accordingly.

Takeaway 3: Keeping budget cuts in mind, focus on quality over quantity when planning events

It’s no secret that companies are considering budget cuts, which can directly affect planning and attending events in 2023.

At Goldcast, we surveyed 500 event attendees to understand how they plan to navigate their event strategy for the coming years. Here are the key findings:

  • 66% of companies are restricting travel budgets
  • 80% of companies are encouraging the use of virtual and hybrid events
  • 75% of attendees report large-scale events are becoming less common
  • 73% of attendees predict hybrid events will become the most common event format

It’s clear that companies will reconsider investing huge sums into events, making it necessary to be mindful of how you approach your event programming.

In fact, according to Stephanie, if the event didn’t bring 3-5x ROI last year, it’s a hard pass.

Shannon recommends focusing on quality over quantity. Rely on your virtual event platform to plan hybrid and virtual events that host a few hundred attendees. And for in-person events, you can plan intimate experiences across the country with 20-30 attendees.

Lindsay suggests finding ways to do more with less. Maybe you don’t need to be at every trade show. Instead, you can again piggyback on the larger trade shows to make the most of your resources.

It's really just a matter of being smart about it and making sure that you're in front of your audience when you need to be.” - Shannon Taschereau

That's a solid explanation of our major takeaways, but that's far from all we discussed during EML! Check out the Q&A session to learn about measuring event ROI, what leadership needs to know about events, and the ideal hybrid event setup.

And thanks so much to this awesome panel for joining us! That’s all for now, but we’ll see you soon for another episode of Event Marketers Live.

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