In this third part of our Cvent Virtual Week series, we debunk the myth that virtual events are boring. That couldn't be more wrong!
Our guests, Lauren Allison and Noel McWilliams, share their tips on how to make virtual events engaging for attendees. Whether virtual or in-person, events can still be engaging and accomplish the same goals for attendees.
Cody Liskh Lauren and the well thank you so much for joining the podcast. Before we get started, can you briefly just tell us a little bit about how you started at Cvent?
Lauren Allison Sure. So, this is Lauren Allison. I started at Cvent in 2014 fresh out of college in the mid-market sales team. And then after a few years, I realized I loved our technology and wanted to be even more client-facing so transitioned over to a role in our meetings and events team.
Noel McWilliams Awesome. And I'm no Well Mike Williams manager of sponsorships here at the event. I actually used to work for a not for profit organization on the business development team. They're selling sponsorship for meetings and events. I moved over to Cvent about four years ago and really work closely with our planning team on the execution and selling of sponsorship for our programs.
Brooke Gracey so excited to have you guys here. Noel is in our Portland office when we're allowed to be in the office. And of course, we're all still working from our home offices.
Noel McWilliams Yes, I cannot wait to see Cody and Brooke
Brooke Gracey It is really great to have you guys here today because this is the third episode and our three-part series on virtual events where we're busting some myths and today we really want to talk about the misconception That virtual events is just another zoom call and I know both of you firmly disagree with that statement and I'm so anxious to hear more about that.
So, to start that off as far as the main objectives that our listeners should be thinking about, especially when they're trying to different differentiate virtual events with that kind of run of the mill zoom call. What are some of those things they should be thinking of?
Lauren Allison So, for me at least when you're thinking about our virtual event It shouldn't be that much different than an in-person event, you still need to run a show You still need an event producer and you still need to treat it like this is a marquee experience that your attendees are You know, are coming to you because they want to learn more about the topic.
I think, you know, a misconception is that you just, you don't really need to prepare, which is definitely not the case. You want to have rehearsals You want to have shown callers and you want to make sure that it's a cohesive experience that really showcases your brand, to the best of its ability
Brooke Gracey I agree. Actually, it's funny you say that because, you know, Cvent has been doing these Mix and Meets every couple of weeks, but I remember when we did the first one. It was sort of like how do we kind of even start this and how do we make sure that everything's working correctly. And it was surprising to me the team that you needed to have in order to execute something like that from a production standpoint, you've been
Lauren Allison Right. And I've been, you know, hosting and moderating those Mix and Meets and so I think it was really nice to be able to peel back and you have A host who's really running the logistics of the room and helping with breakout sessions and is there to answer questions you have someone who's Sharing the content needs to be shared So you don't have to, you know, fumble with that. And then you have the moderators there to really kind of make sure the conversation is flowing smoothly.
Cody Liskh That's really just kind of thinking about it differently. And, I mean, we know it's not an in-person event, but what are some of the ways that we can make our attendees feel like it is as close as possible to an in-person event.
Lauren Allison So one thing that I think you know allows the attendees to really think it's an in-person event is making sure that this content, you don't, you're not logging on to watch a webinar. You're, you want to experience You know these events, the content needs to be really engaging and fresh and you need to Broadcast it like it's live, you know, have live QandA or have a chat box QandA that's getting answered and making sure your attendees are staying engaged and sitting at their computers to Engage with the presenters is really important. So, they're not, you know, walking away, during the content.
Noel McWilliams And I think, you know, to piggyback on what Lauren said, I think that's really where this new evolution of sponsorship is coming in, you know, how do you break up that content. I actually think attendees are more hungry than Ever to almost get kind of a video ad in between those speakers or get Some sort of, you know, pop up survey questions that just break up that content. And that's really where we're looking at how does sponsorship fit in these virtual events.
Brooke Gracey It's almost like when you're watching a TV show, right, like you expect there to be little breaks, where you have a little commercial video or something like that, this could even be more interactive, which makes me think that hosting these virtual events is closer to TV production than a webinar.
Noel McWilliams Absolutely. As we're kind of looking at our Program just here at Cvent and obviously, then helping our customers and clients and prospects.
It is changing, even, you know, our contacts within a lot of organizations that we work with When they sponsor Cvent Connect, for example, it's almost now are we working with the advertising group are we working with the sponsorship groups So really starting to identify who our persona is in these organizations to work with from sponsorship or advertising point of view.
Cody Liskh Yeah, definitely. And you know, I was just thinking, one of the things that I love about in-person events or even though virtual events is gamification, and I think it's a really cool tactic to make the virtual meeting more engagement. How should our listeners, be thinking about gamification with virtual events.
Lauren Allison So, I have seen some really unique ideas gamification anything from if it's a quick networking session to really loose in people up. They asked the attendees to Talk about the craziest quarantine purchase they've made. And so, something like that I think is really unique or they're also companies, you can work with. You can do these quick five-minute icebreakers and that could tie throughout the entire event.
Brooke Gracey Okay. One of my favorite questions. What crazy quarantine purchase of you guys made?
Cody Liskh I want to know. I want to know.
Lauren Allison Oh, this is Hard I Definitely purchased a lot of clothing, because there are a lot of really good sales. but nowhere to go.
Brooke Gracey Exactly.
Noel McWilliams I am boring. I'm juggling 2 under 2 so a lot of Kids stuff to keep everybody entertained.
Noel McWilliams you know, Lauren brings up a good point And I think that's another area that people can think through sponsorship ideas, you know, is it A virtual mosaic, Is it, you know, how do you engage those attendees to maybe upload a photo of their fun quarantine buy into building a mosaic with somebody logo or something. So, I think through gamification You can also think through new and unique sponsorship opportunities.
Brooke Gracey Yeah and that mosaic to does that plug into social media and is there really any advantage to bringing social media into that virtual event experience.
Noel McWilliams Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that's what all of us are trying to figure out, right? how to do all these different things Plugin how do all the different platforms kind of plug into each other to create that that holistic approach.
Brooke Gracey and I know both of you and a lot of planners and marketers that are probably listening right now. Part of their research is going to other virtual events and seeing what other people are doing. Have you guys seen anything really cool or unique that you might want to share with us?
Lauren Allison I definitely have been attending a lot of virtual events, just to see it, you know, all the cool ideas out there, I think one of the virtual events that really stayed with me and I thought was, was such a unique offering and it was a host your own dinner party night. so, about a week before the event, they released an ingredient list for a cocktail and ingredient list for an appetizer. And then things you could find in your backyard to make a centerpiece for a table. And they kind of broke it up into portions. So, you made the cocktail first so you can enjoy the cocktail while you were making your tablescape arrangement, and then you went into making the appetizer. And it really felt like you were, you know, add a class with these other attendees, but really you were watching it on Instagram Live
Cody Liskh That is so cool. I would love to do something like that. I think that's such a really creative way to get people to be engaged and That's one of the things that I love about going to in-person events is the engagement. But one of the other things, too, is just networking with other people, other peers, how can the event professionals incorporate networking into virtual events.
Lauren Allison So, I think networking and it's always such a huge reason why you go to events. I think some of the best connections you have the connections you make when you're not trying to make a connection. So, ways that I've seen incorporating the networking It could be anything as small as registering for a You know 30-minute coffee chat if you're interested in talking about, you know, new ways to spice up your virtual events or indicating interest in a specific topic and then joining It could be a zoom meeting where you at 20 other people are talking about the coolest you know things you've seen a virtual events, kind of like we're doing here, making sure that You're, you're not just watching and attending content, but you're also getting to interact with other you know other attendees of this event, even though it's, you know, computer screen to computer screen, instead of face to face.
Brooke Gracey Yeah, and I think that even with some of these virtual platforms, you can start to plug in networking into that even if it's not through zoom. But even through Chat. You know, from a sponsorship point of view, I can imagine you know even being able to express interest, almost like reverse lead capture through these virtual platforms can be really valuable.
Noel McWilliams Absolutely. And we're just definitely trying to brainstorm all those unique opportunities just obviously at the end of the day, our, our sponsors want leads.
Brooke Gracey So, we know that a virtual event isn't a virtual event unless people actually show up. Right. And I guess part of my role here at this Cvent is doing those campaigns and I know with Cvent connect virtual coming up. There's been a lot of discussion about how the promotion changes with a live event versus virtual events. Do you guys have any insights into that?
Lauren Allison Definitely think you know one thing that's unique with a virtual event is you have to be cognizant of people's time when you're traveling to Las Vegas And, you know, being present eight am to essentially 10 pm is easy because it's what you expect, right, you're going to be walking from breakout session to breakout session.
So I think just making sure that you acknowledge in your promotions that it's manageable chunks of time and is something that's going to be really important because You know, I don't have children at home, but I know Noel has 2 under 2 she can't spend eight hours a day sitting in front of her computer screen there. There are times when you're going to need to be able to Be a little flexible. So, I think working on those chunks of programming and making those chunks really something that the attendee wants to experience is going to be huge When you're promoting the event.
Cody Liskh such good advice. But you guys it's been so great having you on the podcast I got to ask you, our favorite question. If you had to leave one takeaway or piece of advice, what would that be?
Lauren Allison I think one of the takeaways I would give you is that you know I think everyone was really thrown into the world of this virtual event at the same time. And we're all still learning and some of the best ideas I've had have been Making sure that I asked questions to other people in our industry with what really entices them to join a virtual event or what do they think is the most unique we're all learning and evolving, and I think that's going to be most important as we continue with the landscape of this virtual event.
Noel McWilliams I love that. Lauren and I, for me, it's really, I feel as though I have kept my eyes and ears open more than ever you know when I sit my two-year-old to watch the elephant at the zoo Do something I try to think of that, and how does, how can we bring that to life. How can we turn that into Something in this new virtual space for the meetings and events industry? I just have been looking at every single opportunity that's come across my way and think how I can apply this to my role to my world to the world of sponsorship to the world of event technology.
Brooke Gracey I love that. Just that whole gaining inspiration from all different things that are happening because that's what's really cool about events is, we're really seeing These things being infused into that experience. We've talked, you know, Cody and I have laughed before that I love to gain experience from some of the trashy TV I watched you know like Going ax-throwing was something we might have been able to do before COVID and I saw some of the housewives doing, you know, something like that. So even just the zoo experience I think is a really good example.
Cody Liskh And I mean, the subject of today's podcast was just that, you know, zoom meetings are not the same as virtual events. And is there anything you guys want to promote or share with our listeners.
Lauren Allison Well of course Cvent connect virtual taking place in August is going to be, you know, a really world-class event, and we hope everyone can join You know, join us there, but also to Cvent Mix & Meet. I think, still have had some really great conversations coming out of them. And the next one is going to be in July.
Cody Liskh I was hoping you were gonna mention both of those.
Brooke Gracey Will be there.
Cody Liskh Will definitely be there. Well, Lauren and Noel. It's been great having you guys in the podcast. Thank you so much.
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