Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 2014

4 Experts On How Corporate Event Marketing Makes Meetings Better

By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor
less better rather than trying to do everything. It's infinite what you can do with social media, but you want to do it well, so I try to just do little things and promotions with social media at our events.

LL: Dell has a pretty impressive social-media scope. We have what we call SMaC U — Social Media and Communities University — and it's available for all Dell employees and teams that are embedded within Dell as well to understand what Dell's policies are, what Dell's voice is, and how to communicate with our customers directly. When it comes to events, understanding the basics of the social-media tool or tools that you've chosen for yourself, whether it's Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or whatever — [it's all about] being able to be consistent in your message. So whenever we're working on an event, we'll create the key editorial calendar for social-media releases that we'll distribute to everyone that has a Dell-related social-media account or anyone who has been identified as a personal influencer through social media, so that they know what our schedule is. And if the message stays consistent through retweets, reposts, whatever, then you see that it picks up and spreads very, very rapidly through your constituents and anyone that's listening or viewing the social media. It's when you don't say much that people take the voice into their own hands, and that's when you can run into trouble.

What's the single largest event you work on?

LL: Dell World is kind of a little baby; it's still a toddler. We just finished our third year of Dell World [this past December], and I was fortunate enough to be on the team to launch it three years ago. We started as a small, executive-focused event for about 1,500 people here in Austin. And [founder and CEO] Michael [Dell] stood on stage that year and said, “Thanks for coming to Dell World. Next year, we'll be three times as big!” Oh, really? Okay. [Laughs.] So we called the [Austin] Convention Center and said, “Hey, can we get the whole convention center next year?” And that's kind of how it grew really hugely year over year. We really expanded the second year and got to about six-thousand attendees. We've been on a path to try to keep it at around that six-thousand-person mark until 2015, when we'll get a lot more infrastructure at JW Marriot [Austin] and a number of thousand-room hotels coming into town. Right now, it's kind of that manager/executive level, but we're moving into adding user-conference type attendees as well as the folks that are using Dell software and Dell products that are more administrator level.

PG: [OSIsoft's Users Conference has] been at the Hilton San Francisco since we were there in 2006 and then we returned in 2008, and we've been there since. This year we're looking to have 2,500 people; we're growing every year. The primary mission is to share with our customers what we're doing with our products and where we're going forward, and get from our customers how they're using their products, what value they're getting, what new they need, and give them a chance to have a much closer relationship with us. People walk up to our CEO and founder, they talk to our president, they meet everyone of our VPs; and anyone attending that conference has that kind of access.

We're kind of unique in that our product is not industry-specific; customers get value out of hearing what other people do in other industries, and that's not typically true. A lot of our customers are in the process-control arena, and they go to mining events if they're in mining, they go to power events if they're in power, and they hear what their peers are doing, but they don't necessarily understand how other businesses are getting value across their business. One of the things they like about our conference is they can meet with their peers in the same industry, but they also get ideas from people outside the industry and new ways of looking at doing things that they're not exposed to in other events.

SL: It's our annual sales kickoff, and it's for 2,600 attendees. It includes our worldwide sales force as well as our partners, because a good part of our sales process is through our partners. It's called One Team Conference. It's in Vegas, and we have 50 percent coming from the Americas, 25 percent coming from EMEA, which is Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and 25 percent coming from APAC [Asia Pacific]. Our fiscal year just started on Feb. 1, so we try to have the sales conference as soon as possible after earnings have been released. Our goal is to motivate, engage, inform, and align the sales team and partners in order to prepare them to drive results in the new fiscal year. And in order to do that, we have our general sessions, we have our breakout sessions, and just making sure that the right messages are being told to the sales team. It's a motivational conference.

WB: I've had the opportunity to work on a couple of mega events. One I had worked on a few years ago was called Shanghai Expo — what was the old world's fair. It's held in a different city every three years, and the lifespan of the event is six months long. So you're planning several years in advance for it, and it was the first time that Cisco had participated in this type of event. We created a building, and it was for many uses. We had demonstrations in there, we had several meeting rooms, we had training, we had a reception area, we had really cool interactive videos. We did a lot of things on our telepresence, where you're able to talk to people from different countries.

This lasted for six months long, every day, people coming in. We had meetings with government officials, with our customers, with partners. [Cisco Chairman and CEO] John Chambers came out for a few days. It was the biggest event that I've seen and participated in. Trying to do it on that large of a scale and to have that lifespan of six months, so that it's living, open seven days a week, and the staff to support it, and with all the different languages spoken and the different laws in the country and business is conducted differently — it was very challenging, but it was probably the most exciting event I've ever worked on. Those are the type of events that I'm attracted to, something that puts me out of my comfort zone and something I can really learn only by having that experience.

What are some lessons or takeaways that any meeting or event professional could apply from corporate event marketing?

SL: The key lesson I would say is, you're looking at that big picture. You're not just looking at the logistics for the day or the food-and-beverage or AV for that day or for that meeting. You're looking at the overall big-picture event architecture, on how this event as well as other events can deliver the results that your sales VP needs for the year.

PG: For any planning at all, the earlier you start, the better. [Laughs.] I think really defining a theme and a message that you're trying to deliver, and letting that message permeate everything you're doing — that makes a better event for people, and they feel like they're part of something important happening. They want to understand what you want to communicate, and the easier you make that happen, the better.

And I think in events, people don't want gimmicks and tokens and things; they want things that have meaning. So even giveaways should have meaning. They should be tied to what you're doing, they should make sense. Everybody likes to get something when they sign up for a conference, but I think they'd rather have something that meant something to the conference or tied to it or was part of your theme rather than a bag full of things you'll leave in the hotel room when you walk away.

LL: Being connected with your peers and having conversations outside of your own organization is vital. We have a tendency to be navel gazers. You have to get out of your own bubble and see what

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