What do you do when the pandemic has disrupted the way you conduct business? Do you give up and wait for this to blow over and a sense of normalcy to take place? Or do you re-skill, become nimble and turn your eyes toward the future? Liza Lampi, owner of Eventive Meetings was faced with that exact scenario. Here is her story about how she took 20 years of industry experience and re-skilled with the Digital Event Strategist course.
Tell us a little bit about what you do and what made you pursue DES in the first place.
I recently celebrated 20 years in the event industry this February, with 14 of those years operating my own event planning business. We run the gamut of clients (nonprofit and corporate clients), and the types of events we do (conferences, live shows, incentives, fundraising, galas, transportation, etc.).
The reason I decided to take the DES course was like everyone else, once the pandemic shut everything down, we were all propelled to move into virtual. We all wondered, what do we do? How do we proceed? How do we decide to go virtual or not?
I needed to know what the next step was. As a business owner with repeat clients – some for over 10 years, I knew they needed guidance and leadership and would look to me for answers. My partner and I realized we needed to figure out more.
I didn’t want to be reactive. I wanted to be proactive. I wanted to become an expert in the area that our clients needed help in. It was a good decision to dive into the DES course. I believe in educating myself, and it became very empowering when I started getting information from the DES course that I was able to use immediately.
I took the course in the summer of 2020 and passed my exam in December. In the fall when I was in the middle of studying for the course, I also produced two virtual events. When I finished the course materials, I had to table all studying until after I got through my second event. And then after all that dust settled, I studied for about a week and then took the test.
Some of our other DES graduates were on the same boat as you were, that they were studying the course and producing their events at the same time. They told us that it was an interesting parallel experience.
Yes, it was amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such an immediate, applicable environment of what I was learning and transitioned that to work. At the time, I was working on three events, two that were happening in the fall and one for the future. I would have my notepads for each client out. As I would learn new ideas from the course, I’d just put my notes into each notepad. It was just really interesting to immediately use what I was learning.
That’s the best way to learn — to be able to apply what you hear immediately. What key learnings from the DES course have you implemented in the event(s) you’ve worked on / are working on?
The biggest take-away is that virtual is here to stay. I have been pounding this idea into my clients in very subtle ways because people are still a little resistant to the idea. I’m an advocate that virtual needs to be part of your permanent strategy. I’m trying to be very delicate as I’m translating that message to different clients, depending on their comfort level with accepting that, but I do believe in that.
Second, how to monetize online events, reuse them for branding and get a longer marketing life. It’s not incredibly applicable to my current client base because the revenue models of their events are a bit different, and they don’t rely on ticket sales or on-demand content sales. I’ve really liked the idea of how to monetize virtual events, but I just haven’t had the chance to put it into practice yet.
Another key take-away is the planning process for digital events. I’ve learned you need to plan from concept to execution differently than you would for an in-person event. That has helped me keep my clients’ expectations managed. It’s not just learning how to do a virtual event myself, but also how to lead my clients down the journey together. To be able to manage client expectations is huge as it alleviates frustrations. For example, I learned that we can’t just convert an agenda for an in-person event into one for an online event. I have to go to the client and let them know that the agenda comes fourth in line before all these other steps. Learning the new process of planning has been huge for me in planning our events and guiding my clients.
Last but not least, platform vetting. The subject matter expert of the technology module Will Curran explains it in such a simplified way: You need your must-haves, nice-to-haves and wish-to-haves, and then you continually reprioritize those lists. When I first heard this method, I was thinking to myself that this didn’t sound very strategic. Turns out it’s incredibly helpful as I advise my clients. There’s no perfect solution and you have to give and take on almost every decision along the way. This method has been a very nice formula for me to explain to the clients, and it’s very easy for them to digest.
A simple method is the best method sometimes. Virtual is here to say, although it may not be a sentiment shared by many.
Virtual is here to stay in conjunction with in-person events when it’s safe to do that. I just get excited to think that we’ve found a new way to find a lost market of the audience and been able to reach them through virtual events. I had a conversation with a client yesterday and I told them if in three years, your attendance isn’t up at this event, I’d be very surprised because we’ll have both in-person and online components and we’re able to meet a broader base of attendees.
Keep down the virtual route for as long as we need, and then go hybrid, and then when it’s time, I’ll say hybrid is here to stay. We’re going through a pandemic now and fingers crossed that we’re getting on the other side soon. But a lot of experts are saying this type of situation may come back in the future. So why not make virtual part of your long-term, strategic plan in case it all happens again?
Exactly. Should a disruption happen again, you’ll have these virtual event production skills in your back pocket as your insurance policy.
If a friend or colleague is on the fence about taking DES, what would you say to nudge them?
I would say, this is about your future. As a business owner and event planner, this was the best thing I could do for my clients in this situation.
One thing that I’d suggest is to just do the Business Event Bootcamp. That’s what I did. I first completed the Business Event Bootcamp and thought it was really good. I saw there was more and decided to continue my learning with the DES course.
To nudge someone along, especially someone who may not have the means to pay for the full DES course, I’d say renew your PCMA membership, and take a look at the Business Event Bootcamp that is one of the membership benefits. And then you can decide whether to pursue the DES certification.
The Digital Event Strategist Spotlight series features Digital Event Strategists and how they are making impact in their work through digital and hybrid events.
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