With Virtual events being so prominent, many event planners have questions about integrating different platforms and their respective benefits. Lori Wildman, Senior Marketing Manager for DMA - DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc. talks to us about her experience with moving her events to a virtual platform and how using different systems helps to reach one end goal. She also shares her views on how beneficial it is to use a virtual MC, other engagement strategies, and shares some alternative benefits that have been noticed by moving to a virtual platform.
Lori Wildman, Senior Marketing Manager at DMA -- DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc.
Alright, Lori. Thank you so much for joining the podcast. But before we get started, can you briefly just tell us a little bit about how you became a senior marketing manager for DMA
Sure. Um, it's really been a progression over a lot of years.
I've been in marketing for longer than I would like to admit, started out at the very beginning, working for a small chamber of commerce In Indiana and just, you know, built my career. From there, I had the opportunity to work with some really great mentors Along the way, and really doubled quite a bit and event planning over the year and was a one-man shop so everything from building a website to email marketing to event planning, you know, you name it. I've, I've probably done it.
That's awesome. So, we're getting a lot of good insights from you today. And I know that you have a lot of experience or I guess a lot of recent experience on moving to virtual and a lot of times, moving to a virtual format often means that you're using several different systems All for that one goal. in your experience, what have been some of those best practices like you know when you're tracking registration or making sure you have data integrity. Just like any tips and tricks to keep things simple.
Sure. I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned You know, using two separate systems or more. I think that depending on your, you know, the size of your marketing department, the size of your Budget on the tools that you have at your disposal marketing marketers tend to be very savvy and scrappy. And what I mean by that is We'll find a way One way or another, regardless of the blocks that are in our way so You know, way back when I started in event planning It was, you know, paper and maybe a spreadsheet and it's evolved over the past 20 years to You know, much more robust software cloud-based, you know, and has really changed the face of event planning and for me, my mantra is work smarter not harder. So, what can I do, and what can my team do to streamline our processes Put everything in one place so that we can slice and dice that data However, we might need it.
Whether it's for our C suite reporting or our business development folks who want to know, you know, who attended, who was a no show that type of thing. I want to be able to access that data quickly and get it in the end version that I need for my particular internal audience.
Yeah, and you add there are always going to be some kind of integrations that are needed when you're using different systems Just to avoid that really manual process. And when I talked to you before you mentioned this Cvent is where you're going to house registration, but you're planning on using Salesforce as your single source of truth.
How are you using that integration to your advantage? And are there any other integrations that you're using.
Absolutely, yeah. I can't say enough about having a leadership team who understands the value of your time and providing you with the tools that you need to do your job effectively and efficiently. Cvent has a great way of utilizing API's which is just a fancy way of saying that it pushes and pulls data back and forth Between Cvent and whatever those other software programs are that you use. So, for us, we utilize Salesforce as our CRM. That's where we store All of our information about our clients or prospects and so forth. And we want to make sure that the Cvent, which is the software that we're using for all of our event planning can See what's in Salesforce and push and pull it back and forth so that anytime we can see in Salesforce exactly what has happened within our event planning. we push and pull information such as did they attend an event; did they request her CPE certification So we actually do continuing education with our attendees Did they answer specific poll questions And what were their answers. all of that we can push on over to Salesforce to give our business development team and again, our leadership team that visibility that they need to make strategic business decisions.
I love a good integration way totally understand like it connecting those systems makes life so much easier.
And I know I know that when we're moving to virtual that needs for having clear reporting doesn't go away. In fact, it might even be more important to be able to see the differences between the in-person and the virtual. So, what kind of reporting has been helpful to you when you've been moving to this virtual platform.
You know, I don't know that it's any Different necessarily between virtual and live. But I think that there is maybe more possibility. So what I mean by that is, in our little world when we do live events, pulling is not something that we're doing, we're having, you know, engagement conversations You know in real-time with these folks in the room, However, when you're in a virtual setting You don't have that. So how can you utilize technology to your advantage to build that relational piece of it because you're not in person. So, we use polling, for example, and that's, you know, all those little rich data points that we're asking them. So, for example, we’ll ask them what CRM they're using, or what ERP are they using what you know what software, they're using, or we might ask them, you know, we're in tax consulting So we might ask them, are they under an audit right now and what states are they under audit with. And then we utilize that information to help assist them in their business world. So for example, if you know someone tells us that they're under audit right now in California And we know have some great little Tax snippet that may not be very well known of how it might save them some money, we would be able to offer that information. So, it's really all about how to utilize that data and make it visible to the people that need to have it.
Yeah, I love that that you know there's just ways to get that information using the tools that you have but one of the things that I'm really excited to hear about from you is The engagement piece that has been like a huge struggle when I talked to people like how to get people engaged when you have a virtual event. So I'm curious to hear what if you use or what did you use in your recent virtual event to keep people engaged. What are your strategies?
Well, this is really fun. I don't know. I'm sure most of the listeners have probably you know participated in a webinar before If you haven't hosted one and you're considering hosting one, I would say what's stopping you go ahead and jump in and do it.
But, you know, initially, this was a big paradigm shift for our organization, we had done only live events. We've never done anything virtual. However, I had had experience with virtual events at a previous company So it wasn't new to me, but we had a self, self-team member approached me with a really great idea, and that idea was this ”Hey, Lori, we can't do this in person roundtable that we were going to do at a restaurant, we sit down and we eat the food we talk to them for a couple hours and we have a conversation. It's not a sales pitch. It's information sharing. I have this idea I'd like to still feed them lunch and his idea was to provide virtual gift cards for a local restaurant to Not just every attendee, but every registrant so we kind of put our money where our mouth was, and we were willing to pay for lunch for people who may or may not show up.
And we got a great turnout off of that one event and everybody loved it and several of them were actually eating lunch during the meeting. So, it was very You know conversational, and down to earth. And I think as close to an in-person event as you possibly could have. And then, of course, I mentioned the polling question that's Another one that you know breaks the monotony especially if you've got speakers who might be a little bit nervous, you know, they're not used to being present in a webinar. Maybe they're fine in person. But this is just a different channel for them, and it can be a little intimidating. So, we utilize our MC to kind of break up that monotony and pop in with a poll question throughout the webinar.
I love the idea of using an MC because I know I hear about it a lot, especially in in-person events, you know, it's really Important just kind of keep things running smoothly. But it sounds like you had really great success using them in the virtual environment to can you tell us some of the benefits and how they could be used effectively.
Absolutely. I think that a lot of times, marketers think okay, I could be the emcee I've got this, you know, I know the technology. This is the marketing department quote job but look at it from this perspective as well. Yes, I can sit there and I can emcee my webinar and do a fine job but what might I be missing because I'm not A subject matter expert that perhaps someone who has a subject matter expertise that I don't have could Engage the speaker, a little bit more, maybe than I could provide some color around what that speaker is sharing and kind of expound on it. So what we have found works really well is to utilize Folks within our organization who have some subject matter knowledge and can really have a conversation with that presenter In sort of pull more information out of them, that they may have not planned necessarily on presenting and they can also ask strategic questions and ask for more clarity on some things that the presenter may be talking about
Absolutely. I love the idea, especially with the production value, you know, really using that MC to get the most out of the audience, I love that role. I think it's so important for events of virtual or in person.
And you know, it's almost like as we start to do more of these virtual experiences There are some almost like silver lining some kind of alternative benefits that we see from virtual versus in person, which is probably why people are talking so much about moving To hybrid because it's nice to have that element. What are some of those Silver Linings that you are you're finding?
Well, I think number one is the cost savings. Right. So, you know, we've gone from like renting a venue and paying for food for folks, which you know if any of you have had a book fnb at order at a venue. It's really expensive. I think it's like $60 a gallon for coffee, for example. So, we're saving all of those costs flying our SME's in and spending overnight You know, transportation travel airfare all of that is wiped out. So, our costs are just down to you know what a Cvent costing us what's other software costing us. It's really cut back our costs significantly and it allows us to have a larger reach so because we're not tied down to geography And people aren't you know pressed for time and, oh, it's too far away. I really would love to go but you know I can't make the trip or what have you. We've taken that travel time out of the equation for attendees and really, they can sit down and listen to us wherever they are, whether, even if it's in their car. It removes that barrier. So, we're getting a larger reach geographically, we're getting a larger reach just from a number’s perspective.
And for example, what about folks who maybe have some disabilities and they really struggle with, you know, being able to get from point A to point B That removes that barrier as well. So, it's, it's much more inclusive and it's also a little bit less intimidating. So, I think sometimes when people have the opportunity to attend a webinar it takes away the fear of being sold to having to sit through a sales pitch or something like that, right there. They're not in person. It just kind of takes that fear away from them in that perspective as well.
I really like that a lot. I think that's, that's a really great way to think about it. There are people that maybe have some disabilities like they can't physically get there or maybe they have really bad anxiety. I think that it really opens it up and does have much more reach a larger inclusion and the one thing you said about a 90% cost savings that blow my mind that is phenomenal.
But you know as attractive as a 90% cost savings is do you think DMA is planning ongoing 100% virtual now moving forward to keep up with that savings.
No, you can't replace in-person events. There's just that there's that human element and that relationship building that you can never get in an in a webinar or a virtual setting you can get close. What I think is that there's a mix there right you're adding to your marketing mix to your tool belt just another tool. So, I believe that hybrid is the future, a little bit of in-person, a little bit of virtual
I think that eventually, we will see both in the same place. So, you know, there may be some folks in person. Some folks virtually and I think You know; we need a rich robust marketing mix to drive those prospects down the funnel. So, I'm glad to see our organization really embrace Going virtual and our sales team is absolutely loving it there. They're able to connect with folks that they haven't connected with before. And now that we're well versed in how to run these virtual events It's a valuable tool for crisis management moving forward.
Yeah, you know, I mean, it wasn't a great situation that got us here, but I think, you know, there is a positive spin, we're all learning How to adapt in this new normal and finding the benefits of that virtual
Experience and I'm really excited to see what happen in the coming months and years, and how we use that as part of our holistic events strategy, so I mean, Lori such great insights.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us today and I'm now going to ask them, probably the toughest question which is If you could leave one piece of advice or, you know, just one thing that our listeners should be thinking about when they're moving the virtual, what would that be
I think one piece of advice that I would give is not to be afraid. Go ahead and jump in and tackle it. You'll be amazed at the amount of tutorials and information that you'll find on the internet If you just look Cvent, for example, has a lot of great advice, Best practices. They've got a blog that's helpful. It's really not that difficult. It takes a lot of organization. But if you're an event planner, you already know that. And the benefits far outweigh any fear that you might have. So, I highly recommend it. Give it a shot.
Join us in this Cvent community. We talked about best practices in our little group. You know, find a group of event planners on Facebook or LinkedIn where they're going, virtual on they're having success with it and take their best practices, there's no sense in reinventing the wheel, find what works for you and then just keep enhancing it making it better and I think you'll be amazed at your results.
I got some solid advice right there. Just use your resources that you have and don't be afraid. Lori. This is so great to have you on the podcast. My last question is, is there anything you want to promote or share with our listeners.
If you haven't heard about this Cvent community. It's an organization or it's a group of event planners, just like me, just like you. We’re all trying to get our job done in the best way possible and in bring results for organizations and we talk about what's working and what's not working. So, I recommend that you give that a shot. And if you don't give it a try, you’ll never know what might have been possible.
thanks again for joining the podcast. It's been such a pleasure to have you on here so much great advice. Thanks again.
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