Advocating for Events During Budget Cuts: Meet Karli Williamson from Gregory Event Services

September 29, 2022
Kelly Cheng
Kelly Cheng
Head of Marketing at Goldcast

Maximize Your Marketing ROI

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 chatted with Karli Williamson, Sr. Events Manager at Gregory Event Services.

From serving in hotel banquets to running a wedding venue to putting on international meetings for high-tech associations, Karli (she/her) has worked all over the event industry in her 10 years of experience.

As a passionate, data-driven event marketer, Karli found her home in B2B Startups and currently has the pleasure of working alongside a variety of clients at Gregory Event Services. She helps teams build out their event strategy, align more closely with sales and leadership, and set, achieve, and report on key metrics and goals.

Enjoy the full interview on-demand, and check out our top takeaways below.

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Here are the top three takeaways from this episode ⤵️

Takeaway 1: Every person’s career path is unique, and there are valuable lessons to be learned in each role

Like a lot of people in event marketing, Karli had a pretty windy trail to her current role, each step replete with learning.

After signing up for a college course in creative writing, she quickly pivoted to a Communications, Public Relations major. Managing coffee shops on campus and being a part of the business office for dining services were her first steps toward events and made for a great experience.

Her journey then took her to a small boutique hotel in Nashville, where she worked at the front desk, as a bartender, and as a banquet captain. The last, she admits, was the hardest job she has ever done. As a banquet server, she learned a lot about what an event looks like, what clients look for, and how to run things on site.

She then got hands-on experience at a small boutique marketing company, where she built up her skills in graphic design, website building, and social strategy.

Her idea to rent out the distinct office space for events on weekends meant a hustle, with Karli developing the website and logo, networking, and putting together the contract. It also translated to a whole lot of learning about how to manage an event space.

She then broke into tech, working for a high-tech association, where she did a lot of international events for high-tech companies.

Her next step was into the startup world of B2B SaaS startups, with a gig at Gremlin. Her time there lent her the strategy piece to her puzzle. Today, Karli has become an industry leader in events and has found her home in B2B events.

At Gregory Event Services, as an Event Manager, she works with some of the fastest-growing startups in the space and helps event marketers learn how to be more data-driven.

Karli’s path was anything but linear, but she learned key skills in each role that supported her passion for events.

Takeaway 2: Pivoting to virtual events during the pandemic offered a special sense of community

Being at Gremlin at the height of the pandemic, Karli recalls, was a unique experience. She and her team reacted quickly to become pioneers of virtual events. The company as a whole, and the marketing team, in particular, moved quickly to tide over things, considering any and every idea that came up.

With everyone getting behind whatever was on the anvil, it all went pretty smoothly. At the time, seeing many events canceled, the team decided to pivot and pulled together a 10,000-person virtual event in five weeks. An incredible feat, indeed!

But the most important thing for Karli was bringing together people and providing an avenue for connecting. They could provide a space through their virtual events where people could give voice to their sense of isolation during the period.

Notwithstanding the uptick in lead-gen and sponsors at a difficult time, building that community proved invaluable for the team at Gremlin.

Takeaway 3: Be able to map your programs to different spending scenarios during budget cuts

Karli shared tips on getting executive buy-in during uncertain financial times, setting expectations with shrinking team sizes, and more on how to be your own advocate.

To start with, it's important to communicate to leadership about setting realistic expectations. Among other things, practice mapping your programs to what you're achieving and provide scenarios of what you can do with “x” amount of resources.

For example, a program spot that brought in a certain share of the total leads during a year is a great metric to share. You need to be able to position your pitch for a headcount or a larger budget with demonstrable benchmarks on goals.

You can also go the other way and communicate the trickle-down effect that, for example, reduced leads from a program would have on sales and revenue.

Ultimately, you just need to pull up as much data as you can and show your executive team how your work affects things across the board.

Another thing to map programs toward is cutting costs. There are definitely ways to have a presence at an event that doesn't involve a full sponsorship. With this tool, the most important part is showing your team what you are able to do with a certain reduced budget and the outcome and impact of that.

At the end of the day, remember virtual events are a really low-cost way to get your content out there. But at the same time, bear in mind that virtual leads are not the same as in-person leads, and they're going to need more nurture. But this, too, is an opportunity for marketing!

Thanks so much for joining us, Karli! That’s all for now, but we’ll see you soon for another episode of Event Marketers Live.

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