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Ep13. Event Planning and Strategy Development: Stronger, More Effective Experiences

The growth of experiential marketing has created larger event budgets representing bigger portions of the integrated marketing mix. They’re being planned within larger marketing campaigns and as a result are more connected to brand objectives and ROI than ever before.
This episode of EM All Access it about the shifting strategies, shrinking turnaround times and the orchestrator model.

Video Transcript

Hey there, event marketers. Jessica Heasley here with another episode of EM All Access where we connect you with some of the industry’s most innovative events and the marketers behind them.

I spoke with GES’ Senior Vice President Dan Hilbert about shifting strategies, shrinking turn-around times, and what he calls “the orchestrator model.” Let’s listen in.

B2B events today don’t look a lot like the B2B events of event just a couple of years ago. Could you talk about some of the trends in B2B events that are really impacting the industry right now?

The major trends are actually coming in terms of the way people are planning, not necessarily in terms of “stuff,” like what you see at the events. What I mean by that is there’s a couple things happening:

1. Events are being planned within a larger marketing strategy. Within a marketing team and within different touch points—advertising, digital, public relations, whatever the particular brand or client is going to market with—events is now part of that mix. What’s interesting is that the power of events has made it a larger part and a larger spend within that mix. So because of that, what we’re seeing is a different way of planning that, frankly, is becoming less of a lead time. What I mean by that is if you are part of a marketing mix, there’s an assumption by the client that you can move, shift, go into other things at any point in time. So the trend that we’re seeing actually is we’re getting opportunities and RFPs on events that usually have a nine- to twelve-month sales cycle come in six weeks before the events actually happen. And that’s a trend that’s both a challenge but it’s also exciting because clients and brands are looking at events as a critical marketing touch point that’s akin to advertising and public relations. So that’s one challenge.

2. The Orchestrator Model is coming into play. The other trend is, as it comes to who is actually managing the actual events with the agencies, and there’s this orchestrator model that’s happening more and more when it comes to the relationship between an agency, or agencies, and that particular client. And what I mean by that, again in terms of ways of working—the day of land-grabbing with agencies in an integrated agency team is over. Literally, agencies have to stop doing that. Because the orchestrator model actually puts the client in the middle, who already has decided that they are going to use several agencies based on their services to complete an event executing plan. The best agencies are those that respect and have empathy for the services and expertise of other agencies and are able to work together that way.

So with the different kind of model, the different kind of format, does that create space for different kinds of event strategies, then, when you’ve shifted how big B2B industries have been doing things for a while?

One good example in terms of the way of working—to your question—is that, let’s start looking at an event over several days, over two days, over one day, as a campaign that starts from beginning to end. It’d be the same plan if you looked at a promotion or an add or PR campaign. The aggregate adds up to the final message, and hopefully the final message has created awareness and amplification. If you take different components of an event—general session, awards celebration, networking opportunities, learning labs, whatever it may be—you can treat those as separate entities that, when put together, create a campaign within the entire event.

What you begin with, potentially, is the idea of awareness. Awareness of the issues at hand with the brand. Then you have to decide what type of form that’s placed in. And you can finish with essentially asking for advocacy. So to go through this campaign just like a brand would, from awareness to consideration to trial and then to advocacy. And that’s what an event can do if you take a look at is as different components to an ultimate campaign.

So I think a lot of event marketers put a lot of technology out for technology’s sake or for that wow factor, but that’s not necessarily always the best strategy. Can you talk a little bit about technology as a trend?

Yes. It’s kind of very close to my heart in terms of how we address technology in the event space. I think in many regards, we are all blue-sky-thinkers, we’re marketers. And the requests to have innovative technologies, to go places where a brand has never gone to in terms of engagement and events is quite commendable, but it’s also quite aspirational. And in a lot of ways not necessarily pragmatic when it comes to investment. And I truly believe that that’s why what you’re seeing in terms of what has been utilized in technology has been very focused and on apps. Things like registration, sharing, social media.

When you look at virtual reality, when you take a look at some more evolved RFID technologies, they’re not in those events. They’re not in events currently because I think they’re cost prohibitive. And as that goes down certainly those will be used more and more. But I think we all have to be honest with ourselves that our aspirations may not translate to what we can actually do.

We should always be aspirational and dream about what we can use technology for, but when we do programs and develop programs together, I think sometimes the resources and the energy to try and figure that out, knowing that it’s not going to happen probably because of costs, I think is energy that could be put forth on other parts of the event in the way it’s planned and executed. It’s probably counter to what a lot of people believe out there, but it’s real. It’s fact. If virtual reality was really possible, you’d see it at every event. But you don’t because it’s so cost-prohibitive.

So let’s continue to do what we’re doing and making the guest experience at these events more engaging by using things like apps. And one day it will change, but those cost issues need to come down.

As events are becoming more integrated within the marketing mix, they’re being viewed as platforms for campaigns, no longer just a moment in time. Positioning events as campaigns or part of campaigns requires smart planning and the embrace of new trends and strategies.

I’d like to thank Dan for joining me and you for watching. Get more live event insights, tips and trends— explore all the videos in our library of EM All Access series.

About the Author

Daniel Hilbert

Dan Hilbert is EVP GES Events. With more than 30 years’ experience in the event, agency and entertainment business, Dan has a deep understanding of true experiential marketing and what it takes to make clients successful. Having also worked on the client side managing brands for Fortune 50 companies, he knows the power of face-to-face activation as a strategic growth imperative within the entire marketing mix. As EVP of GES Events, Dan and his team bring brands to life by creating and producing some of the world’s most impactful and immersive brand experiences.

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