How Event Farm Cultivates Empathy

The series format: a happy hour and panel.

The marketing team members at Event Farm — an event-marketing software company headquartered in Santa Monica, with offices in Washington, D.C., Boston, and Los Angeles — spend their workdays writing about events and thinking about events. But none of them had ever actually planned one. That was always the separation between their group and the clients they aim to reach — and last fall, they decided to jump across the gap and see the view from the other side.

Lauren Taylor, the company’s brand marketing manager, announced the event launch in a blog post: “As our CRO, Chad, likes to say, it’s an exercise in eating our own dog food,” she wrote. “The marketing team prefers to think we’re sipping our own Champagne.”

“I think it’s important to have a certain level of empathy with your broader audience,” Event Farm’s marketing manager, Sarah Friedman, told Convene. “And in order to be empathetic, we had to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients and create our own events series, even though it was something that made us really uncomfortable.”

Adding to that discomfort was the ramp-up time for the event. Once the team decided to host an event, they set the date for Nov. 8 — one month away — at the WeWork White House space in Washington, D.C. The event, designed to be the first in a series, was called “Women Crushing It Wednesday” — named as a nod to the popular #wcw Instagram tag, which stands for “Woman Crush Wednesday.” By leaning heavily on Event Farm’s software to plan and execute the event, Friedman and her team gained deeper insight into the audience they market to — and the series has become a success in its own right, too.

They started with a topic they cared about. As an all-female division working at a tech company, the idea of women in tech bubbled up right away. First they considered planning an expo, then they thought about a showcase of small business leaders. But eventually they settled on a networking happy hour and panel discussion on the intersection of community and technology.

Friedman’s group aimed high from the beginning. They quickly landed five prominent panelists from companies including Spotify, Snapchat, and National Geographic. They not only wanted women leaders on stage, but in the audience, too. Using a feature in Event Farm, they created customized invitations to a select list before opening the event to public registration.

“We wanted some high-name women at big companies to end up walking through the door, so we needed their names on the invitations and to ensure that they couldn’t transfer them to anyone else,” Friedman said. “You don’t have that kind of control when you’re using a regular public registration website.”

The team hit their goal of 150 registrants in a single day, the day the registration went live. One hundred of those registrants showed up to the complimentary inaugural Women Crushing It Wednesday; roughly 40 percent were those hand-selected invitees and the rest came from a public registration site, which Event Farm promoted on its social-media accounts.

The second WCW, held Dec. 13 in the same space and using the same panel format, focused on social responsibility and service. Friedman increased the registration cap to 175. Again, the slots filled up the day the registration went live — and more than 30 names were added to a waiting list.

When attendees arrived, Friedman’s group had an innovative approach to on-site activations. Everyone received an NFC (near-field communication) wristband at check-in, linked to their original invitation and registration details. When they tapped that wristband to one of four iPads or one of three iPhones designated for the event, their name popped up, along with a request to answer a few questions.

“They go through this little survey to answer things like, ‘What song makes you feel like a boss lady?’ and ‘How do you want to connect with us after the event?’ and ‘What do you want to see as the theme of the next event?’” Friedman said. “We have really fun questions laced in there to get to know people better, but we’re also able to garner really important information for our marketing team.” As an incentive, the more questions an attendee answered, the more times they were entered into a giveaway for a one-month subscription to the clothing rental service Armoire.

In spite of how smooth it all sounds, Friedman said there was some inevitable frenzy behind the scenes. “I think no matter what, events are always going to be stressful,” she said. “Our platform is intended to make that a lot easier, and it certainly does, but on the day of, you’re always going to be running around and feeling like there are loose ends.”

That last-minute scramble has been “a huge eye-opener,” she said, affecting “not only how we position our marketing content and create notifications within the platform itself to make it feel easier, but it’s also been a great thing for our entire organization.”

Event Farm’s customer success team, in particular, worked with Friedman’s group to improve the platform so it can better support people “when they’re in that panic mode” on the day of an event. “Having been in our clients’ shoes, it’s so much easier to know what we need to have readily available for them,” she said. One new addition since hosting WCW? “Content offers that have ‘insider’ tricks and tips,” Friedman said. “We’re very candid about what we learned from the experience and how others can use that information to optimize their processes.”

Friedman plans to keep WCW going — and she said several Event Farm clients have already asked if the series can travel to their cities. Right now, plans are in the works to first expand to New York City and Los Angeles, and then travel around to other client hubs.

“Although it was our first time planning an event, we were very thoughtful about the mission and content of Women Crushing It Wednesday, and I’m not surprised that it has resonated with people,” Friedman said. “It’s so exciting to see how many people are joining us to elevate female leaders and create a strong, supportive community of powerhouse women.”

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