Using Data to Take Events to the Next Level (With Mike Dietrich)

Blue yellow and green bubbles with the text Using Data to Take Events to the Next Level (with Mike Dietrich)
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Episode description

As event planners, we’re always striving to make our next event better than the last. This growth mindset constantly causes the landscape of the industry to evolve, and as it does, new trends begin to rise to the surface. But how can you begin to capitalize on these trends?

In this episode, Mike Dietrich, Vice President of Product Marketing at Cvent, joins the show to delve into the results from Cvent’s latest industry trends survey. Mike details the effects of the pandemic on events, with results showing that more attendees expect digital elements to be involved in some way. By using this information, learn how you can begin to successfully incorporate technology into your event. You’ll also discover how you can leverage event data to make adjustments during your next planning phase.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How the data shows that a team effort makes for a great event
  • The impact of the digital boom on events
  • How the pandemic has affected industry trends

Things to listen for:

[02:02] Getting to know Mike
[03:27] Results from Cvent’s latest trends survey
[07:30] How digital aspects of events are making a difference
[11:23] Navigating the technological boom
[14:50] Key recommendations from the trends survey

Meet your host

Alyssa Peltier, Director of Market Strategy & Insights, at Cvent

Meet your guest

Mike Dietrich, Vice President of Product Marketing at Cvent

Episode Transcript

Mike Dietrich: So a couple things, a couple things kind of struck us. The first was what organizations are trying to do with their event program. And, first, organizations were looking for revenue growth. Organizations were looking to get back in front of their customers, kind of give those customers a bear hug that they haven't seen probably in person in a long time.

And they were looking to accelerate digital transformation. And one of the things that was interesting about this is the people that responded said, our event programs are helping us do this.

Intro: Great events create great brands, and it takes a village to put on an event that engages, excites and connects audiences to your brand. And we're that village. I'm Alyssa. I'm Paulina. And I'm Rachel. And you're listening to great  events, the podcast for all people interested in events and marketing.

Alyssa: Hello everyone. What has been going on in this wide, wide world of events? My name is Alyssa, and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. I am joined by our VP of Product Marketing, Mike Dietrich today, to chat a little bit about some industry trends and some findings that we were able to capture here at Cvent based off of a recent study that we did.

It was conducted with one of our primary research partners, Forrester Consulting. So with that, welcome Mike to the podcast.

Mike Dietrich: Thanks, Alyssa. It's great to be here. I've been following this podcast for a while now. You guys are killing it. Thanks for having me on.

Alyssa: Have you been on before? I had this thought this morning as I was getting ready. I was like, has Mike been on?

Mike Dietrich: I may, I may, we have to get in the way-back machine. I may have been in one of the first podcasts three or four years ago.

But it's great to be back. Great to be back.

Alyssa: Awesome. I'm super excited to talk about some of this stuff. So Mike, actually was my former boss at Cvent. I feel like I've had multiple former bosses on the podcast, so I think you guys are getting an understanding of me as an employee here at Cvent. But Mike, tell us a little bit more about yourself, what you do at Cvent, a little bit more about the product fun, uh, product marketing function, and then how this survey came to be.

Mike Dietrich: Sure. So Mike Dietrich, I'm the Vice President of Product marketing here at Cvent. I've been at Cvent Alyssa now about eight years, and yeah a lot of those were with you. But, and prior to that, kind of a lifetime spent in subscription based SaaS based tech businesses. Right. And. One of the things that, one of the favorite parts of my job, on the marketing side, is just keeping your eyes and ears super open to what is happening in the marketplace.

I mean, we, our marketing department, sits on the seventh floor of Cvent and one of my favorite sayings is, there's no unique wisdom on the seventh floor, right? You have to get out into the, in, into the world and into the market and hear what is happening and talk to customers. And so Alyssa, that's kind of what, what prompted this study.

Alyssa: Interesting. All right, so I think that's a good segue to, you know, what we're attempting to do with this particular episode is translate some of those findings, some of that research to recommendations that you as an individual might think about as you're trying to evolve your own programs. Trying to tap into some of that unique wisdom that exists out in the market.

So can you tell me a little bit more about the study, Mike? When was it conducted? What was the actual purpose of it? Obviously we just covered that briefly here, but what were we hoping to, uh, glean from this information and who, who was it that was surveyed? Cause we do have a pretty vast set of customers at Cvent.

Mike Dietrich: Yeah, so, so Alyssa, this is how this, this started, right? So it, as we were coming to the end of 2022, it kind of struck us that. Okay Omicron was behind us and as we were all looking to 2023 and 2024, this may be the one of the first years we'd had in a while where we could build the event programs we wanted to build virtual as a have to wasn't there anymore.

We had this new toolkit of in-person and virtual and hybrid and, and how were. Customers kind of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again when they had all of these formats at their disposal. So we wanted to go out to the market. How were people thinking about the event programs? How were they structuring them, and then why were they structuring them that way?

So we went out globally, Alyssa, we went out to well over 500 meeting and event professionals. And so that, I mean, I mean event planners, I mean marketers, and we did this across the globe. In associations, non-profits, tech companies and and in companies of all kinds of revenue bands. Just to get a sense of how they were doing this and why they were doing it that way.

Alyssa: Very nice. So pretty broad, pretty open-ended, but just really about the kind of changing landscape of events, if you will.

Okay, so what were some of those key findings? We'll, we'll kind of just cut to the chase for the listeners today, so you don't have to go and read the whole study if you don't want to.

You can just listen to Mike and I chat about it. What were some of those key insights, key findings that we were able to glean from it.

Mike Dietrich: So a couple things, a couple things kind of struck us. The first was what organizations are trying to do with their event program.  A couple things really kind of came to the forefront first, organizations were looking for revenue growth. Organizations were looking to get back in front of their customers, kind of give those customers a bear hug that they haven't seen probably in person in a long time.

And they were looking to accelerate digital transformation. And one of the things that was interesting about this is we asked, that's what they were trying to do, grow revenue, get closer to my customers, and become more agile and more digital, and without exception. The people that responded said, our event programs are helping us do this.

89% said our event programs are core to our strategic path to growth next year.

75% said they were, they were, they were key to our customer experience initiatives. And one of the things that snuck up on us was 81% said that our events are going to help us accelerate digital transformation. So Alyssa, all those years that you and I spent on the other end of a virtual event, that started to get baked into people's DNA and how they want to experience events.

Alyssa: Interesting. This reminds me of a campaign that you and I worked on together where events are business critical, right? Like that's, it's proof that events matter. We miss them during the pandemic, or certainly like the, I would say the, the diverse portfolio of events, in person being part of that portfolio matters and was missing as a result of the pandemic. So coming back to this landscape where all options are viable was clearly important per the survey results. Right.

Mike Dietrich: Yeah. So it had, it had it, it had changed a bit because virtual and hybrid were now there in the toolkit. They were fundamentally more digital. Everybody kind of saw them that way. There was a great finding that 77% of respondents said that their attendees were expecting much more digital features, even in their in-person events.

So all those virtual experiences we had with, with video and with interactivity and with on demand afterwards, all those things came into our expectation set of what an event should look like and feel like, even if that event is entirely in person.

Alyssa: Was there any discussion in the survey or I guess, insights gleaned from the survey about how businesses are quantifying some of those, those insights through a more digitized channel, if you will. Was there any discussion around that?

Mike Dietrich: There was some good stuff and some, uh, and some stuff that's just such a head scratcher still. So there was widespread acknowledgement that the digital part of the events much more measurable, right. It's interesting as those events became more digital, I'm not talking about a virtual event. I'm talking about even the digital components of an in-person event. Widespread acknowledgement that this, this is measurable. This, all this, it gives us all this reach. It gives us all this data on our attendees, but unfortunately, the industry still really struggles. Alyssa, and I think you and I have seen this for five years. The industry still really struggles with how to capture all of it and activate it all. That's been a bugaboo, on the event space now for, well, as long as I've been at Cvent.

Alyssa: I know that, where I sit and, and the function of the organization at Cvent has a lot to do with the enterprise space and different teams that are coming together. Was there any discussion about team structure, organization, digital teams, becoming a little bit more interested or curious about what's going on and what has historically been a more analog channel? Right. The events, just to help with that quantification at all.

Mike Dietrich: Yeah. The survey certainly pointed out that events were much more of a team sport now. One of the questions that was asked is who is now more involved now than they used to be? And, and what we saw is we saw a couple key functions that came to the fore of that. The first was sales. This is a great channel for me to get back in front of my customers and prospects in a deeply engaging way. Customer experience and client success was a function that has, that is now much more involved. And the third was brand and corporate marketing. So I think the lesson that that showed me as I, as I looked at all of it, is okay, it's, we got, we got a lot more stakeholders in the game now.

And so we've probably got to be a lot more deliberate about how we define what we are trying to get out of each of these things and make sure all these folks have a seat at the table and are inputting the requirements inside into the event in the first place.

Alyssa: Yeah, I think it just shows the vastness of events objectives, essentially sales and lead generation being obviously one of those. But the CS component is an interesting insight there because I think oftentimes, Certainly when I was in seat and marketing, we talked a lot about lead generation because it's directly tied to, to revenue and pipeline and things like that.

But there are these other softer things like the customer experience, right, that isn't always so easily quantified. And certainly that might be the reason why it is harder to prove impact sometimes, but that there's investment or there's interest from these other parties, because they do understand the value of the event experience to that customer, the customer profile, understanding the customer more deeply.

So very interesting that there are new stakeholders that are intrigued by the power of events, outside of the meetings and events team.

Mike Dietrich: And, and I think maybe just to, just to underscore that we have to remember the macroeconomic environment we're in, right?

All of us are trying to protect our base. And so a, a customer, customer, client success, customer experience function, really valuing events for building brand loyalty. Retention, product adoption.

I think as I looked at the data, that may have been one of the catalysts for having your customer experience and client success folks so vested now in what does that event look like and what it, what its outcome should be.

Alyssa: So interesting. All right, let's talk about kind of this technology boom that's gone on over the last few years. I know we've seen our landscape of competitors just explode over the last couple of years. How are event leaders thinking about this? How are they navigating that, that sea of, of tons of vendors, providers, partners, if you will.

Mike Dietrich: Uh, they all seem to have a similar journey. It was, it was interesting. We, I, I guess we all got to get in the way back machine and go into March of 2020. And figured out that, okay, every event we have has to be rethought and it's got to be entirely virtual. And so I think all of us can be forgiven. Alyssa, we went out and we pulled whatever off the shelf that we could, just to get through it. Right? And, and certainly the data, the, the data that we got back in the research bore that out. Everybody went and went the point solution route. Uh, I think well over 40% of respondents said we served our needs through that time with three to 20 different pieces of technology. So it, again, it was a land grab and it was it, I mean, God, God bless them. It was just whatever, whatever we could get our hands on to work. It's been very interesting to see though how that's changed.

Alyssa: Hmm. How have you seen it change or how what? What came out in the survey findings?

Mike Dietrich: So what the survey said, survey said was that at, at coming out of that, and this was a factor of compressed budgets, need for ROI, smaller and more agile teams, everybody needed to get that same amount of work done more efficiently, and there was a big push towards consolidation. And I think those, many of our, many of our listeners today are probably seeing that play out in their organizations today.

And event tech was no different. So there is a, there is a broad shift in the market to, we got to take all this stuff and put it into one place for an efficiency reason and engagement reason and an ROI reason. And so I think in that same, in that same study, Alyssa, while 82% of people rely on point solutions, something like 76% said they deliberately needed to get it all back together again.

Alyssa: Interesting. So that could, we could see that as a major priority, not just for the 2023 planning year, but maybe even into the future as well. We know how long it can take to not only connect all these pieces together, but then disconnect all of these pieces once they've been put in place. Right. And that reminds me of another episode that we did a few months ago. It was with, I think he's no longer there, but former head of marketing operations at aws, Darryl Alfonso, episode that we did, which was more, is not better per se. So really thinking strategically about how you're investing in those technologies and allowing them to play critical roles within your event tech stack or within your holistic marketing tech stack.

And not just buying, just to buy, to serve that, uh, an immediate pain point, not something for the year, but thinking long-term about that technology investment strategy. I just recommend that as an accompanying episode to this conversation because it's a proof point from the marketing technology buyer side as well.

Mike Dietrich: That's really interesting. You use that term long term because that's what we're seeing in this study. That's what we're seeing in a lot of the analysts that'll cover the space is, is people are now out of, they got out of have to, and they're now interested in what is my long-term event strategy? What is the long-term technology foundation that needs to be built to serve in person, hybrid, virtual, and do all of this stuff in a pretty agile, efficient manner.

Alyssa: All right, so let's shift to, you know, making some of this actionable for programs. I think we've been doing a pretty good job along the way here, but were there any key recommendations that came out of this study, Mike, just kind of must dos as a result of these findings.

Mike Dietrich: Yeah, so what, a couple things kind of came to the fore here. The first is around this consolidation reason, and I think a couple things are at work there, Alyssa. I think one is just the efficiency moniker. I think the other one is, look, we're all going to see our customers and prospects in all of our event types over the year, right?

If you were my prospect or customer, you're probably going to come to an in-person event. You're probably going to show up at a virtual event. You may show up at a hybrid event.

And so there's this, there's this sense that we need, we need a source of technology that's going to be able to deliver you a consistent branded experience, understand who you are, keep that buyer's journey going, in a way that's probably just not, not as efficient in a disjointed tech stacks or by a bunch of point solutions.

So I think that was one. The other one is this event data and quality and analytics as a primary requirement. I love it that you had somebody from marketing ops on a, on a previous podcast. Cause where we see this really be successful is when planning teams are sitting down with marketing teams a few months before the event even starts and figuring out what's a lead from this event? What data should we capture for this event? Because that lets technology listen for and capture what's important. And so that was another, that was another finding. There are a couple more I can point to, one was, if you're going to see your customers in all kinds of events, virtual, hybrid in person, go find people with expertise in all of them.

Alyssa: Hmm.

Mike Dietrich: One trick ponies are going to be tough here because you're probably just going to end up with siloed tech and siloed data, and under powering the execution effort in one of those event types unless you've got somebody that really understands all of 'em. And then the last one was, I think they were reading the market. ROI is on everybody's mind. It's the macro environment we're in. It's the macro environment we're probably going to be in for a while. And I think it is elicit the other side of that data equation. These events can be significant part of marketing program budgets and just like any other investment, they've got to show return.

Alyssa: Right. Certainly not cheap to produce, but pay dividends when, when quantified, and when you can actually prove their impact. So it's becoming a priority to really, effectively and accurately measure that impact.

Mike Dietrich: And the data is the key there. But there is, I, and we've seen this for, we've seen this for years in studies like this, but it, there was an exclamation point this year, I think probably driven by the need for all of us to be more efficient. The need for all of us to show proof of impact with spend.

Alyssa: Well, thanks Mike. Always a pleasure talking to you about what's going on in the market with events, what's going on in marketing at all. So I really, really appreciate this conversation and having you on the Great Events podcast today.

Mike Dietrich: I love it. Thanks for having me on. And looking forward to the next time.

Alyssa: All right, listeners, so thank you as well for joining us. As always, send us a message on LinkedIn or send us a note at greatevents@cvent.com if you have any additional things to share with us, thoughts about our conversation today or ways that we can take some of these insights and make them even more actionable.

Once again, thanks for tuning in to Great Events. We'll see you next time.