Join us in this episode as McNeel Keenan touches on how we can use trade shows to connect with customers and prospects even during a shift from in-person to virtual events. Learn new, creative ways to connect with your sales leads virtually. Don’t forget to tune into the webinar that launches tomorrow, June 4th, to hear McNeel dive deep into this topic.
Today we are so excited. We're joined by McNeil Keenan, he's the Vice President of Product Management here at Cvent and he's going to talk about some creative ways to approach virtual trade shows And how we can still connect with customers and prospects who might be struggling to fill a gap in their leads
That's right. He's bringing us a great perspective on thinking outside the physical trade show booth and is here to share some valuable lessons learned when shifting a trade shows strategy from in-person to virtual.
Thanks, guys. Excited to be here.
Yeah, can you start by giving us a little background on what you do? At Cvent and how you ended up as a vice president
Sure. So, I've actually been its Cvent for 13 years I think June is my 13th year anniversary. So, my journey, maybe may not be the typical one. I started right out of school on our sales team so doing Inside Sales hitting the phones all day long actually helped us enter the Australia sales market over time. And so, started in sales My first five years, and really the to give you the short version of it. My last seven or so has been focused on the product side. So, I went from selling the products that we were building to really helping build the products and kind of shape the strategy of where we're going.
A true event success story McNeil
Oh, stop Brooke.
So, things are changing, right. I'm sure the past couple of months has been pretty crazy, especially from a product standpoint.
And now we're talking everything about virtual all the time. And one of the things that always comes to mind is the exhibit hall or exhibiting at events because it was a really important part of that live event experience. What does this look like in a virtual trade show?
Sure. So, I think A lot of people tend to think, well, hey, it should look like a virtual trade show. So, some of the software's out there We call them kind of virtual conference providers Will actually provide some sort of skew morphic type of experience. So, meaning it's a digital representation of the real-life environment. And so certainly at some shows, you might see something like that, where a virtual booth Almost looks like a booth. But then, it tends to be kind of populated with chat room type experiences.
Other tools are really just kind of digital-first and that you've got your digital listings. You've got your digital virtual booth. Largely, it's really just talking about digital real estate instead of physical or in-person, real estate.
So that's what it looks like but doesn't really speak to exactly, you know how it would actually work.
And so, I'm just thinking from the perspective of our exhibitors. This is such a new experience participating in virtual trade shows. McNeil What's the secret really to successfully participating in a virtual trade show
So I mean, I think the big thing here is you're just being listed on a website which can almost be what a virtual trade show can look like You know, it's not going to be enough just to kind of sit and wait. First, you've got to figure out what's your promotion strategy. How do you get people Digitally there? And ultimately, once you get them there How do you actually make contacts and in a more meaningful way. Right. It's not just relegated to A chat room, you know. Oh. Can you send me you know one piece of collateral you send it and not a lot of value is exchanged either way? And so it really ultimately you got to think about how do you get people to the booth so that you can have face to face conversation, even if it's over video conferencing technology so that you can have a meaningful conversation.
So, this brings us to this whole engagement piece, right. So, I'm in marketing and engagement is super important for us. This is how we get those leads in. And so, when we're at an in-person virtual or in-person trade show is all about getting people to the booth or setting up those ones on one appointment. Right. Are you seeing that same engagement? When you're using a virtual platform.
Yeah, so I think you got to realize what a virtual Event really represents right it represents a kind of traditional time that the industry gets together reevaluate their technology partners re-evaluate service offerings and their vendors and they want to hear about the industry trends.
So, the virtual events that still holds. Right. And so, it's really about how do you capture that moment in time that moment of the industry. So, you know, again, you can't just sit there and watch it and kind of passively participating So people are engaging on social media, they're engaging in new channels. You've got to be there. You've got to take a proactive approach so Brooke, like you, said, scheduling appointments You know, it's a great icebreaker it's a reason for your sales team to get in touch. Hey, I know you usually attend this event every year. We're putting on a lot of Special Activities, we're making our subject matter experts available at this time or making our executives available to this time are doing X, Y, and Z presentations at this time.
So ultimately that virtual event can really be that driver that the driver of urgency, which marketers always love they love to rally around. Hey, there's a reason why I'm calling you now versus any other time.
So, we see that is being the key is to ride the wave, so to speak, and capture it. And a lot of times that does manifest itself into just now's a good time to schedule an appointment with our team or come see us present, we're going to be doing a live presentation at XYZ time
So, you're saying that one on one interaction with prospects or customers can still happen in a virtual platform like how what does that look like
Sure. So I mean, look, It's always the goal of the sales team to schedule this one on one interactions, whether it's an initial phone call to a demo to, you know, reviewing your contract and really just kind of moving a deal or opportunity through the Pipeline so virtual events, again, kind of service that urgency. So, you might have your Inside Sales teams or sales development reps pre calling your show list. So maybe you start with attendees that visit with us last year.
And you actually will go ahead and call it on that list, and you know to use that call to action and scheduled the appointment. So, then you kind of build that That momentum going into the event. So, you've already got a list of people that you know you're scheduled to speak with you're going to connect virtually over something like zoom like the experience we're on right now. And you're not just going to be reliant on the people that digitally stop by your booth.
I'm really personally excited to see all this action. And I think I'm going to be able to see it with Cvent connect because, you know, Cvent recently made the decision to switch to a virtual for Cvent connect. How was Cvent planning on conducting this now virtual trade show
Sure. So, for us, it's a little bit unique. So, we run maybe a traditional user conference, what a lot of technology companies are doing over the last five or 10 years. So we've got two different types of booths, we've got our own booth traditional we've referred to this as our innovation pavilion where We showcase our latest products and a little bit of our roadmap and we staff, our booths with our product experts, you know, really can answer all of our customers and prospects questions.
And then we've got what we call the trade show where we connect a lot of the industry's venues and destinations with the industry's planner. So, both sides of the equation of our customers. So on that first piece for our product showcase booths You know, we are going to look to run a virtual booth, so people can join, essentially, what is a zoom meeting and we'll have each booth staff with subject matter experts for that relevant product area. Now some people might be a little bit intimidated by, you know, just joining and having a conversation So to alleviate that we're also going to be looking at times presentations. So maybe on the hour every half hour. People know they can come in. No pressure, and just do a quick five-minute presentation or an overview of what we're going to be doing. Now, if they want to go in-depth to their specific use case Zoom specifically some great functionality called breakout rooms. So, we can say, great, why don't you actually talk to Cody here.
We're going to throw you into a breakout room. So, you can have a one on one conversation and no one else is going to be, you know, listening in and you can tailor it a little more specific to their needs.
So, we're excited about that functionality, of course, we're also going to be Kind of packing that digital booth with all sorts of collateral and information that people can get so maybe they're listening on that presentation. They can multitask with other collateral and things like that as well.
On the other side, you know, we're, we're trying to connect our third-party sponsors to our audience of planners and marketers We're going to go with something a little bit more structured in the form of a virtual appointments program.
And the nice thing with virtual appointments is people can kind of move from appointment to appointment in the digital realm extremely quickly. So likely, it could even just be an industry hour or maybe it's a maybe it's one or two hours long, but people will be able to do those six to 10 minute Kind of quick meetings to keep the conversation industry going and provide a really engaging experience, not just value to our sponsors but also you know really facilitating a sense of community within the event itself.
Very cool. And, you know, one of the things I'm also excited about is your webinar tomorrow. And I heard that you have five ways to drive leads all of our exhibitor audience is going to want to hear this. Can you tell us a little bit about these five ways?
Sure. So, we have a lot of customers that are just exhibitors right they use our universal appointments and universal lead capture solution and they've used that solution from there in-person events. Right. So, they go from maybe 50 shows a year 100 shows a year and ultimately, they're looking to get Value two ways.
One is brand awareness and the second is leads generated right so they're just trying to capture new leads and so those two goals haven't changed in virtual They're still looking for brand awareness, they're still looking for leads, but the way to do it isn't the same as somebody walking up to the booth and scanning their badge.
So, you know, as people visit with you digitally. You've got to have that ability to quickly act that comes in two ways.
One Somebody is interested, maybe don't just leave the conversation in a chat room. Bring it to face to face and fire up a WebEx meeting or zoom meeting or go to a meeting. Just be ready to go. Have your sales team equipped for that playbook.
And second, don't just have the conversation and then hope that the customer and prospects can follow up with you, but make sure you have a structured way for your sales team to capture those leads qualify them and ultimately act on them at the backside of the trade show.
But that's kind of the arc of what we'll be talking about tomorrow.
The Sneak Peek everyone and we will put a link to the webinar for tomorrow in the episode description. So, I encourage you guys all to join.
Now McNeil, wouldn't you go to trade shows, I mean companies spend lots of money right to go and exhibit And a lot of that is their brand right their brand is everywhere at these in-person events. How does that translate to this virtual environment?
Sure, so You know, I think Part of the brand is authenticity being thought of as a thought leader in the space. And so, you know you combine that way with ways to drive urgency. You know, I think just being live versus recorded or pre-packaged content is going to be pretty critical, you know, ultimately, that means that the most valuable opportunity for a sponsor exhibitor at an event Is to have a presentation to be part of the event schedule to be a part of. Maybe not just making an explicit sales pitch, but be part of kind of the zeitgeist of the event, so to speak So they're actually contributing to the content and ultimately that's going to create great brand awareness, we're even seeing some
Some planners offered to share the attendance list, assuming that attendees agree to that with their sponsors.
So not only do they get brand awareness thought leadership as being a presenter contributing to the content, but they're also getting leads from those that actually attended.
So cool. Well McNeil it's been so great having you on the podcast, especially for your first Sneak Peek for your webinar for tomorrow.
But before I let you go. If you had to leave our event professionals with one takeaway, or just a piece of advice when thinking about virtual trade shows, what would that be
A virtual trade show as well. I mean, I think it's still some of the basics right in that You know, some people are questioning, can they get value out of a virtual trade show.
One thing is values and equation right it's cost plus benefit and that's how you get to value. So, the cost of exhibiting in a virtual trade show, it's quite a bit lower, but we're seeing some really high-quality outputs as well. So as long as you've got the playbook Your value equation might actually even increase compared to some of your historical in-person trade shows Because you know the cost of flights, the cost of hotels time out of an office that's tremendously lower And if you're able to capitalize on the experience. And again, that moment in time that everybody's kind of thinking about how to connect with the industry and stay in touch. You can capitalize on that Then your value equation might net increase.
And that's, you know if you're an organizer That's how you've got to be thinking, you've got to be able to prove that to your exhibitors And on the exhibition side, you know, again, that's where you got to have that playbook to capitalize on it.
Sounds great. And are there any resources, you'd like to share with our audience.
Sure. So, we'll definitely be providing a link to sign up for tomorrow's webinar.
Plus, we're going to be talking a lot about virtual events plus everything all the other updates we have Both at Cvent and in the grade across the greater industry had Cvent connect virtual it'll be happening August 25 and 26 so if you haven't signed up for that yet definitely make sure to do it.
Count me in. I will be there. And thank you so much for joining the podcast McNeil
McNeel KeenanAwesome. Thanks, guys.
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