Engaging Hybrid Events and Award-Winning Trade Show Strategy: Meet Wendy Laugesen from MariaDB

February 15, 2023
Belinda Joseph
Belinda Joseph
Head of Events & Community at Goldcast

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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, Belinda chatted with Wendy Laugesen, Director of Global Events at MariaDB.

Wendy started her career in hospitality. After years of valuable experience running banquets, managing logistics, and more, Wendy became an event manager at a software company. Now, she is responsible for MariaDB’s annual user conference and trade show strategy as their Director of Global Events!

Explore Wendy’s top insights below, and be sure to catch all of her wisdom in the full episode.

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Here are the top three takeaways from this episode ⤵️

Takeaway 1: Hybrid experiences require careful attention to detail to keep engagement going

Just when we thought B2B events were going in-person again, they took a slight detour. With talks of budget cuts and people not being ready to attend physical events, organizations are smart to take the hybrid route—and MariaDB's 2023 event strategy reflects this.

Wendy explained that MariaDB's 2023 user conference will be hybrid with a virtual-first approach. The event will see the majority of attendees join virtually, with an intimate group of 200-300 attendees joining in person in New York.

It's a challenge to engage both physical and virtual participants simultaneously, and it can feel like you're planning two separate events. To combat this, the organization has planned different activities to cater to each audience type.

With talks of budget cuts and people not being ready to attend physical events, organizations are smart to take the hybrid route.”

Wendy recommends focusing on providing a white-glove experience to the in-person audience. The company plans to do this by having product experts and consumer-facing teams at the venue, engaging with the prospects and customers and answering their questions. Similarly, the Q&A sessions, roundtable discussions, and training sessions aim to boost engagement at the event's physical space.

Meanwhile, for the virtual attendees, MariaDB will employ an emcee to keep things fun. Rather than making attendees feel like they have to sit through yet another live stream, the emcee can make the sessions interactive. The simple act of asking, "Hey, I see <X person from the Y company> here today!" can make attendees feel they're a part of the event.

And lastly, encouraging both audiences to use the event app to participate in polls, Q&A, and surveys can really amp up the engagement for both groups. Wendy also suggests gamifying and incentivizing certain activities to keep the audience's attention for a longer duration of time.

Takeaway 2: Get creative to raise brand awareness at trade shows

When it comes to attending trade shows, establishing an in-person presence is Wendy's priority, simply because when it comes to events like those, people tend to prefer the in-person experience.

Here, MariaDB is focusing on quality over quantity. It's best to choose a handful of trade shows and use your budget across those to get a better outcome than spreading yourself too thin.

Raising brand awareness at trade shows is a huge goal for a relatively new company like MariaDB—and, considering participating in a trade show is expensive, you have to stand out on the floor and be memorable to bring in any ROI.

When speaking about how to be memorable in the crowd of 500 booths, Wendy shared her experience of participating at AWS's re:Invent 2022. The team designed the campaign around the theme of "Unstoppable Performance," and the visual identity centered around sea life, which directly related to MariaDB's sea lion logo.

With this campaign aesthetic, the company designed promo material such as airport ads, booth standees, staff shirts, and giveaways.

The result? The company won an award for the best use of footprint for a 10X20 or smaller booth at the show! We'd definitely call that a success.

Takeaway 3: A hybrid approach for most events will take you far in 2023

Outside of trade shows, Wendy feels that people will not be very interested in IRL events this year.

She explained that in-person attendance will likely remain low, at least during the first half of the year. And that's not entirely because of budget cuts, either—it's a post-pandemic, comfort level thing. People are just not as keen to jump on a plane and show up at crowded events anymore.

So, what should you do?

This goes back to quality > quantity. Focus on offering high-value events and try to bring in a hybrid approach so you can meet folks where they are. The digital component allows you to reach your larger audience, and—as MariaDB is doing with their annual conference—you can still provide a more intimate setting for your in-person attendees.

Focus on offering high-value events and try to bring in a hybrid approach so you can meet folks where they are”

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

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