Event Marketing

ECEF Panel to Explore New Event Realities

by Kimberly Hardcastle

On June 1 at the J.W. Marriott in Washington, D.C., Galen Poss will lead Charlie McCurdy, David Loechner and Deborah Sexton in a moderated discussion about how new technologies, new competitors and the increased pressure for continuous innovation have shaped the evolution of the events business. As an ECEF sponsor, mdg convinced these three visionaries to give InnerCircle readers a sneak peek at their upcoming session…

What aspect of the new event reality have you seized to improve your event?
Sexton: We’ve responded to the expectations attendees have for a more engaging event experience with open space learning environments. We started with a Learning Lounge and evolved that into a more engaging Learning Lab, with tech demos, wellness sessions, Workspring theaters and vertical specific hubs. We also deliver pop-up education in this area as a way to extend conversations from traditional learning sessions.

What aspect of the current or future new event reality keeps you awake at night?
McCurdy: Increasingly, our exhibitors are looking for a demonstrated return on their trade show investment. Directly or indirectly, they are looking to measure qualified leads and sales obtained as a result of their exhibiting experience. We can certainly pivot our attention to quality of attendees versus quantity, but it remains a challenge to objectively prove exhibitor ROI.

Give me an example of a technological application that is facilitating a change in your event business model.
Sexton: This past January, PCMA had its most sophisticated hybrid program to date, with nearly 1,400 attendees. We enhanced our hybrid MashUp Studio with timely interviews and commentary, and drew the onsite audience into the experience with live studio broadcasting. Additionally, we’ve been able to prove hybrid conversion to future onsite attendance, membership and product purchases. We are now touching and engaging with people around the globe that we previously had been unable to reach.

How do you foster a culture of innovation, experimentation and/or risk-taking within your organization?
Loechner: It’s important for our staff to get inside our customers’ businesses and walk a mile in their shoes. When we talk about their business versus ours, new opportunities and solutions often present themselves to us. This kind of market insight greatly minimizes the risk involved with experimentation. In general, we strive to create an entrepreneurial environment at Emerald — one that includes some process and control elements, encourages and rewards innovation (at all levels of the organization), and doesn’t penalize failure.

How has the way you define your competition changed over the past few years?
Loechner: I don’t worry about someone trying to re-create what we are doing, rather trying to fill in a gap that we are leaving. Loyalty and retention rates are still strong in our business, but we know that will last only as long as we’re providing an effective event that meets and exceeds customers’ goals and objectives. Knowing what the customers’ wants and needs are today, anticipating what they will be tomorrow, and delivering on both remain critical to our continued success.

McCurdy: More and more, corporate marketing managers are evaluating their spend comprehensively and then allocating budget based on past performance. Fortunately, trade shows still rank well based on perceived performance. Unfortunately, the fast-growing share of B2B marketing is moving online. In this sense, we’re now competing with search engine marketing (SEM) such as Google AdWords, the performance of which can be tracked quite effectively.

To hear more from these thought leaders — and others — join mdg (and hundreds of our industry friends!) in Washington, D.C., at the Exhibitions & Conventions Executive Forum on June 1.