Welcome to Event Marketers Live, a fast-paced series where we shake off the jargon and get honest with the humans behind the scenes of our favorite B2B events and experiences.
Kacie Hogan began her career in event marketing over a decade ago as an intern at iCIMS. She has since climbed the ladder from intern to manager to Senior Director. With lots of valuable experiences to share, Kacie has insights on the state of B2B events.
Explore Kacie’s top takeaways below, and catch all of her insights in the full episode.
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Here are the Top 3 Takeaways from this episode ⤵
Forget the panels, show booths, and complimentary breakfast buffets — conference attendees want to network. As Kacie underscores throughout her interview, networking opportunities are the lifeblood of any conference.
Of course, we aren't claiming that other vital elements are dispensable. They absolutely aren't. However, Kacie explains that although keynote speakers might bring people through the doors, attendees find the most return on investment (ROI) through meeting and greeting. Ultimately, what conference attendees look most for are solutions, and this comes through rubbing shoulders with like-minded people who have gathered at an event around a shared purpose.
When strategizing for events like trade shows, planners must provide as many networking opportunities as possible. They don't have to be ultra-official, buttoned-up affairs. In fact, a certain casualness is necessary to create environments where people feel ok being open and honest about their shared interests, struggles, and needs. But they do need to be planned and set in a comfortable setting, so it's important to have partnerships with restaurants, hotels, and vendors that you know will provide a conducive location.
Event Marketers like Kacie constantly express that with networking events, more is merrier. However, event teams mustn't forsake virtual audiences. Especially now, as almost every event includes digital components or live streams, virtual networking is a must.
When strategizing for events, planners must provide as many networking opportunities as possible. The feedback that we get, year after year, is to add on more networking opportunities — both for in-person and virtual."
Kacie explains that even in her experience of over a decade of event marketing, virtual networking remains a difficulty for event planners everywhere. But she's learned a lot along the way and provided a few expert tips to turn virtual networking into a smashing success:
Feel free to apply these points to in-person networking events as well. But these are crucial when setting up a great networking opportunity for virtual audiences.
You should even consider finding ways to engage online and in-person attendees. After all, they are all there to learn and grow together. So creating more opportunities for like-minds to connect is one of the best ways to improve ROI for everyone involved.
Any event manager knows that planning comes with limitations, especially financial ones. Sure, limitless cash sounds lovely, but that's a fantasy. In the real world, you'll likely be left trying to turn a shoestring budget into something spectacular.
So — what should you do when the budget isn't all it could be?
Kacie reiterates that when dealing with a small budget, always choose quality over quantity. In terms of event planning, it means three things: prioritize, Prioritize, and PRIORITIZE! Then, if you're up to it, prioritize a bit more.
Kacie explained that although there's still immense interest in trade shows, people attend fewer than they used to. Therefore, it's vital to list out the top events and, from there, select the likeliest ones to generate quality leads. As you might guess, quality events produce quality leads.
Another great idea Kacie mentioned is reaching out to key targets and customers before the show. Touching base beforehand increases the chances of building quality connections. You can set up product demos, meet and greets, or send happy hour RSVPs — anything so you don't leave success up to chance. And the best part, these things hardly detract from a budget.
Similarly to networking, it's crucial to incorporate virtual elements into your events. For example, setting up live streams comes with extremely low overhead and can be a great way to bring in prospects from afar.
Lastly, Kacie stresses the importance of taking advantage of regional field events. These events cost very little and allow you to focus on target audiences. So, after picking the event(s) you know are a must, research and find areas where your target audience will be throughout the show. Here, you can join events in smaller settings, which are great for helping form further connections.
We are hearing feedback that, again, because budgets are lower, travel costs are lower, folks are picking quality over quantity. So where they may have in the past been able to go to a trade show a quarter, now they have to pick one for the year."
Although every event marketing team is chasing success, that doesn't mean you're at odds with other event professionals. In fact, it's just the opposite — you're all in it together. Kacie recommends plugging into communities of like-minds to gain and share inspiration regarding best practices that can boost engagement and lead to better events.
It's important to get creative and leave no stone unturned. Use social media — especially platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest — to tap into ideas from other event marketers.
A lot of times, you'll even find groups and discussions dedicated to improving and experimenting with event programs. Likewise, it's important to keep your social media presence up to date.
Having an active, discoverable presence increases the chance of forging interaction with other professionals. Be sure to follow tags and groups associated with your specific type of event marketing. Ultimately, keeping up with social media channels is one of the best ways to stay up with cutting-edge strategies and ideas within your industry.
Establishing yourself in dedicated communities, like the Event Marketers Club, is also crucial. Here, you can access quality resources and plug directly into groups of people looking for the same thing: ways to improve talents and form new approaches to creating events that drive ROI.
Being intentional by joining online conversations is a great way to stay updated on the latest happening in your field. There might be a simple but vital idea you've missed out on, and being in places where experts willingly share advice and tips is essential to both short and long-term success.
Thanks so much for joining us, Kacie! That's all for now, but we'll see you soon for another episode of Event Marketers Live.