It Might Be Time To Say Buh-Bye To Big Trade Shows: How To Modernize Events in 2024

January 16, 2024
Lindsay McGuire
Lindsay McGuire
Associate Director of Content and Campaigns 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.

In our last Sip & Share event—hosted during prime spooky season!—we created some hauntingly delightful cocktails together and talked about the modernization of events.

Lindsay McGuire, Goldcast's Associate Director of Content and Campaigns, was joined by Arthur Castillo, Head of Dark Social and Evangelism at Chili Piper, and Stephanie Pennell, Director of Event Marketing at ZoomInfo.

Arthur brings a background in sales to his role and has successfully driven $7M in pipeline through field marketing efforts—wowza! Stephanie, on the other hand, has tried to leave the world of events multiple times but keeps coming back. At ZoomInfo, she not only manages all internal and external events, but is helping to build the company's community and advocacy program, as well as its executive advisory board.


These two had so many interesting tips about how to modernize events as we head into the new year. Let's get into our recap!

Read on to learn:

  • How have events changed in the last few years? What's no longer working?
  • Modernize your events by building a loved and trusted brand
  • Create content at your events!
  • Why you need to host an event series in 2024
  • Modern times call for modern measures

If you want to watch the entire conversation (and why wouldn't you?!), get caught up below!

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How have events changed in the last few years? What's no longer working?

Before we talk about what needs to shift in terms of event marketing strategy, let's talk about how things have changed in the last 2-3 years.

The diminishing returns of trade shows

One major change is that large trade show conferences aren't providing the same returns they used to—especially if you don't put in the effort outside of the conference. Arthur remembers being at a conference and realizing that his booth was drawing in much more floor traffic than the other booths; it dawned on him that that was due to his other marketing efforts to build brand awareness.

"Field marketing and events should not be an isolated marketing strategy." - Arthur Castillo, Head of Dark Social and Evangelism, Chili Piper

That was the first time Arthur realized that your field marketing efforts should never live in a silo; you have to be working hard at other things like your social media strategy and community building, so that people are seeking you out when you're at a big conference because they already know who you are.

It’s time to try out new event tactics beyond booths

Gone are the days of spending $100K on a booth and expecting that to be enough to drive visitors! People are spending less time wandering the vendor halls and more time trying to soak up new learnings and network with other attendees; you'll have to connect with them before the conference if you want them to stop by and see you!

"Companies aren't sending their people to find tools anymore. They're sending people to events to find ways to solve problems." - Stephanie Pennell, Director of Event Marketing, ZoomInfo

Stephanie notes that for the last two years, ZoomInfo hasn't sponsored a Dreamforce booth, instead opting to do ancillary events on the side. Not only does the company save money that way, but they own the traffic they do get, and they get to control the narrative as well. "You also have more opportunity to make sure you're talking to the right people," she points out, versus chatting with every person who stops by your booth to pick up some swag.

Less booth scans can actually be better

Both companies agree that they're more intentional these days with who they scan and upload into their database, whether at their event booths or their own events. Scanning a demo request or someone who you've actually had a conversation with is going to pay off much more than scanning every single person who stops by because they want a free water bottle!

One other big thing that has changed is that people aren't being swayed as much by advertisements and direct outreach; they want to hear from their colleagues and peers. If you can think of ways that help your audience connect with other people who work in the same space or do the same job as them, you may stand to see a lot of ROI on those events, even though you're not directly selling folks on your product.

Modernize your events by building a loved and trusted brand

The key to modernizing your events, then, is to take what's not working and flip it. If big trade shows are a bust and people want less hard selling, the opposite of that is slowing down and taking time to connect with your audience, where they're at.

"Modernization of events is meeting people where they are and making it less about the sell and more about how you can help them." - Stephanie Pennell, Director of Event Marketing, ZoomInfo

Think about how you go about finding information when you're ready to make a big purchase. For most of us, we're not reading up on what the "experts" recommend—we're going to our friends and family and asking what they think! We want to hear from people we trust. That's why meeting folks on a more human level and trying to figure out what they need to feel heard works better than a hard sell.

At Goldcast, we call this building a "loved and trusted" brand—you're kind of like a peer to your audience, in that they know they can count on what you say, and they have a relationship with you. But you've also got an expertise that they can lean on, and that's important! However, at the end of the day, you're never losing sight of the fact that you're marketing to, and selling to, people—not numbers.

At Chili Piper, the team has shifted its community sponsorship approach to in-person executive dinners. Whereas in the past, Arthur felt they didn't have much control and were instead choosing from a "menu" of options, the dinners provide a way to gather everyone together (which people are very much still craving, post-pandemic!), save money, and foster connections.

At the dinners, Arthur and his team are looking to foster organic peer-to-peer connections, and they encourage that by strategically seating top customers next to top prospects. And it works! He recalls seeing a customer whose deal had been stuck for a while talking with a happy customer, and suddenly, voila! The deal was done.

PS: Interested in learning how to become a loved and trusted brand? Watch this episode of Donuts & Demand!

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Create content at your events!

Arthur's a big fan of creating content at events. There are so many talented people there, right? Why not take advantage of that?! Sure, you get awesome content, but you're also building relationships with the folks you're interviewing!

"Content at events is very much slept on, but it seems to work." -Arthur Castillo, Head of Dark Social and Evangelism, Chili Piper

This might look like doing on-site podcast interviews while you're working a booth at an event, like Lindsay did when she attended the HIMSS conference. Or, you might do a quick chat with some of your keynote speakers to get their hot takes.

This gives you a wealth of new, reusable content that you can distribute across platforms to reach more people. You might never be in a room with those specific leaders again, so take advantage of it while you have the chance!

Why you need to host an event series in 2024

We love a series here at Goldcast. The goal is no longer just to get people to sign up and attend—it's to keep them coming back, and series do that so well!

Here are some benefits of doing an event series that Arthur, Lindsay, and Stephanie pointed out:

  • There is always an event for someone to attend as they move through their customer journey; your series events can also serve as "bookends" for a higher-investment event.
  • You keep the conversation flowing with your audience over time.
  • You establish yourself as a subject matter expert and build an association in the minds of your audience.
  • Series have built-in distribution. When someone attends, they're already going to know about the next event and the cadence, and they'll be primed to sign up.
  • You help create a sense of community—this is super clear if you look at our Event Marketers Live series!

This is also a great time to introduce our new series called, well, Series! It's a masterclass series that's all about how to pull off your own event series.

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Modern times call for modern measures

Arthur and Stephanie gave us a lot to think about, and that's the real magic of Sip and Share—we all emerge from the event as better cocktail makers and better marketers.

Don't forget to watch the full episode to pick up on all the best tips, tricks, and pointers when it comes to modernizing your event strategy and getting ready for a successful year ahead!

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