Behind the Curtains of a Global Events Strategy: Meet Sarah Reed of ZenDesk

August 19, 2022

Kelly Cheng , Head of Growth at Goldcast

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 Sarah Reed, Sr. Director of Global Strategic Events at Zendesk.

As Sr. Director of Global Strategic Events, Sarah Reed shares her empathetic approach to customer service through thought-provoking writing and exciting live events. Sarah has a passion for creating connections and promoting meaningful relationships. She’s been building teams, improving customer experiences, and developing better business relationships for two decades. 

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

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

Here are the top four takeaways from this episode ⤵️

Takeaway 1: There’s a big difference between event planners and event marketers

“Event planners” are more focused on overall event management and facilitating all of the moving parts to ensure an event goes off without a hitch. 

But when it comes to B2B events, we need event marketers. Event marketing still involves the overall event management but is also heavily focused on strategic and performance-based components.

Event marketing goes further than simply ensuring that the event looks flawless. And it’s a lot more than project management. 

According to Sarah, there are four skills that event marketers should be equipped with to differentiate themselves from event planners:

  • Broad digital marketing knowledge
  • Ability to lead and manage a team
  • Literacy of technology and tools
  • Ability to prove business value (the biggest differentiator)


Takeaway 2: Event marketers need to look at pipeline and revenue along with registrations and attendance 

Event marketers are extremely performance-based. They look very closely at pipeline and bookings numbers associated with events—but that wasn’t always the case. It took time for event marketers to discover where those touches and opportunities were. 

In the early days, event goals were simple: registration and attendance. And while those numbers are important, it doesn’t prove that you have the right people in the room. And you can’t be sure that the content you are delivering is influencing them in any way. 

With digital events, you can measure engagement at almost every touch point: chats, polls, time spent in a session, and even more to see if the event influences pipeline. That’s the power of digital. 

At Zendesk, Sarah and the events team operate in lockstep with the campaigns team, and events collectively have a number pipeline number to hit. 

Because of the data the team collects, Sarah is able to connect the dots and see that events influence 75% of the pipeline across all campaigns. That’s how she’s able to showcase the power and impact of events. 

Takeaway 3: Event marketers should know and prove their worth

As an event marketer, you need to be able to measure metrics like pipeline and bookings from events. You can ask your business intelligence team or go to your technology partner like Goldcast to learn how to get this information. 

Then, go to your CMO and say, “This is what I am contributing to the top line. This is more than just entertaining and educating our audience. This is more than just product announcements”. 

Learn more from your events, and understand what other departments are doing. It can be anything from content marketing to building and managing campaigns. Take the time to learn about all of the different aspects of audience acquisition and marketing so that you aren’t ever viewed as “just an event planner”.

Takeaway 4: Digital-first experiences are the future of events

Sarah also shared that she really hopes that everyone takes all of the learnings from the last couple of years and implements them long-term. 

According to Sarah, “Attendees have been asking for changes for years! And, unfortunately for many of us, we were in this never-ending cycle of producing so many in-person events because we had a playbook that worked and we didn’t have time to really rethink our approach.”

Now, there are clearly times that we don’t have to be in-person anymore. People are more than happy to sit back and watch compelling keynotes digitally. What they want to do is engage, network, and ask questions. That’s where the in-person events really add value. 

For Sarah, hybrid is the future of events. But more importantly, she thinks marketers have to change the benchmarks of what a “successful” event is if you have to take a digital-first approach to events. 

Sarah shared that Zendesk’s large global event will be digital this year. The digital-first audience will continue on the digital path and choose the most relevant journey whether that’s more content, a light demo, or a deep dive with a product expert.

But, the team is also planning an intimate in-person event with less than 250 attendees. This will allow key customers and prospects the chance to connect with executives and dive deep into conversations

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



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