The B2B Revenue Executive Experience
The B2B Revenue Executive Experience

Episode · 10 months ago

The Secrets to Effective Hybrid Events


You’re in college in the mid-80s and you have a choice: Study for that final exam in electronics you need an A in to get your custom-pager business off the ground or join all your friends piling into that old VW van that runs on Doritos and paternal disappointment and head to the Winger concert. You make the responsible career choice, but the next day, you see the blurry Polaroids of your friends partying backstage… Well, you’ve never felt so excluded. What if we could hold events where nobody feels left out?

According to today’s guest, Julius Solaris, VP of Marketing Strategy, Events at Hopin, we can — and it comes down to hybrid events

Join us as we discuss:

  • How COVID has changed events permanently
  • The value that hybrid events can deliver your organization
  • How to get started with hybrid events 

Now that you know the secrets to honing your hybrid-event strategy, are you ready to learn more about post-pandemic selling or the B2B buyers’ journey? Check out the full list of episodes: The B2B Revenue Executive Experience.

You're listening to the BDB revenue executive experience, a podcast dedicated to helping executives train their sales and marketing teams to optimize growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's accelerate your growth in three, two, one. Welcome everyone to the BB revenue executive experience. I'm your host, Chad Sanderson. Today we're talking about how to effectively leverage virtual and hybrid events and how to make them as effective post event as possible to help your marketing drive revenue, things of that nature. To help us, we have with US JULIUS SOLARIS VP of market strategy events at Hoppin in two thousand and twenty his virtual events have been attended by over sixty thousand event professionals. Has a lot of people in a lot of virtual environs. So welcome to the show, Julius. I appreciate taking the time to be with us today. Thank you for having me, Chad. Very excited to talk to you and yeah, let's talk virtual awesome. So, before we jump in, when we always like to start with a topic, just through the audience to get to know you. I'm always curious to know something you're passionate about that those that only know you potentially from a work environment might might be surprised to learn about you. Well, I'm e Talli on Chad and you know, I'm a big coffee Geek. So I spent a lot of time. I'm actually training to become Barista. So I spend a lot of time crafting my espresso making and getting into lat the art as well, if you know what that is, like making shapes with milk. So yeah, so, yeah, that's that's my passion. How did you get into that? Well, you know, my espresso needs are kind of sophisticated of my life abroad. I've been living in Australia and in the UK for eight years and now in the US six years now. So you know, for any Italian being away from Espresso it's a big deal. So I had to kind of like work my way to do my own espresso in most cases or lack of availability. So that sort of spiraled out of control and now it's a lot of I love it. Thank you so much for sharing that. That's amazing. All right. So let's talk virtual events. Let's talk about the event space first in general, because, I mean it took a huge change, right. I mean it's one of those industries that was severely impacted by Covid, not that others weren't, but you know, we went from everybody getting together in large convention centers to now having to transition to virtual events. And I'm curious about just in general, what it is about the event space that you're so passionate and excited about. How was under story? I understand the story of how you got into that. You know well, you know, as you said, it first to go, last to come back. That's how I'm saying it here and unfortunately that's that's the reality of it. You know, the events industry, event professionals as we call them, you know, they're my family in a sense, right. I've been writing. My previous background is in media. I found that website called event and be that I sold in two thousand and nineteen after ten years of writing and researching about the use of technology and events. That was my passion. It made me achieve a lot of stuff. I gave me a green card to come to the United States. So I I have like a lot of I own a lot to the event planning community. It's literally my family people that I care about and it's my passion. I love. I love the the feeling of connecting people. I love to you know, I think it's unique facetoface industry. Three unique and it's very tough to find the same level of engagement that you get at events in other marketing channels and I've always loved that that, you know, serendipity, unexpected moment that you leave literally... when you attend events. To a certain extent I'm an introverted person, so events challenge me to go outside of my comfort zone and that's why I love them so much, because other was it's very easy to be behind the screen and protect yourself, but like events, challenging. That's this is in person events. But equally passionate about technology and I challenge the industry. Since two te USAND and eight, you have to have been one of the first to talk about the use of vashtags in events, back in the days when twitter was like all the rage. And you know, I've been challenged the status quo in the industry quite a lot because you don't join events like you don't become an event planner because you like technology. Right, it's very counterintuitive. Like you, you join events because you like people and offline. But with years we've seen that either you embrace technology or you're not going to be able to scale. You serious a about events, like you gotta Join The Bandwagon. So I've been pushing that quite hard. You know, I've been having a lot of heated conversations for the years, but you know, at the end of the day, I really cherished this community that has been incredibly resilient. All there the nightmare that happens since March night line? Yeah, absolutely, there's definitely a lot of changes. And so now you know, flash fast forward kind of almost two years. Everybody is has been in some virtual event, hopefully somewhere, in some way, shape former fashion, and there's definitely good ones and then there are those that you just can't wait for them to end. So so, from your perspective, when it comes to virtual what is it that makes a great virtual event? What's that foundation look like? So those people that are continuing to do virtual events should be aware of I don't want to stay the obviously are, but like we're burnt out by screen exposure these days. Right, I think is happening. Like virtually we're working virtually a lot of us are working remotely in business environments, so we're over exposed to interaction over screens and and we got to be aware of that when we think of good implementation of events. But I going to make you an example of that. That went viral and my Linkedin, so I'm going to use that because it resonates quite a lot with people. That's our internal event at Hoppin. We are fully virtual company that uses the platform for our own events as well, right internal events, and we have an event every Friday morning. We had it this morning, as we're recording, at seven am in the morning Pacific, for me least. It goes obviously around the world, different time zones. Let me let me tell you this is an event Friday, seven I am in the morning. I'm actually looking forward to I'm excited to join it and when it's not there because it's holiday or whatever, I'm kind of bummed because it's not happening. So I can you believe it, like I'm actually can way to join it, and the reason for that this is multiple reasons. First off is like it's a mandatory event, so you got to be there. So, you know, this is really puts you in kind of a lot of would scare a lot of people. Often actually love it, and that's for a number of facts factors. One, the hosts are incredible. We have always like incredible hosts that know how to manage an event, virtually having MC's moderators, however you want to call them, that, kind of like make you feel like you're almost watching a TV show so important and overlooked. Like people like we bought a company called Stream Yard that, you know, helps a lot of content creators to live stream what they do and like a lot of the people that join hopping come from stream yards. So their content creators. So they're extremely well on screen right. So they they do some of it. Then it's like it's a fun event. It's a serious event, but it's a fun event as well. It's a serious event where our CEO every week shows up to give an update. It's very important update. You know, there's challenging stuff that...'s happening, there's exciting stuff that is happening, but at the same time it's also it's like we're not taking ourselves too seriously and that's a mistake. There are a lot of virtual events, you know, being boring, being like flat, having like long form like presentations, like our presentations not go over ten fifteen minutes at most, sometimes five minutes. The rhythm is super the pace is super fast. Is like always the exciting, always something coming up next. There's a and then there's fun. There's music at the beginning. Everybody's tuning in, there's loud music, everybody's using the chat, posting gifts, having fun right and engaging with each other like celebrating its Friday. And then we have competitions. We have, you know, show up in costume like over Halloween, over like you know, we keep it like really engaging, and when I say we, I mean our internal events team, which is just amazing. Like this is not like something budget crazy. Is just like a matter of designing right events. I think this is very important. This is not a problem with at all. Virtual events as such are not boring. Events can be boring, whether they're virtual in person right, true, is just another of like designing it right. I love it, and so there's a lot of there's a lot of factors are right. There's obviously the tool set that brings people together. The connectivity, there's the design of it, there's the understanding of the dynamicism, if that's even a word, dynamic nature of interaction, and so there's a lot for people to think about when they're trying to craft virtual events that are truly engaging and do allow individuals to connect. So I would love if you could boil it down to, say, three areas that you would suggest companies focus on in order to create great virtual events. What would those be? Absolutely so, first off, technical implementation, right. Nobody wants to see things that are not working and you know, everything that's to be smoved, everything has to work, and that goes in that boils down to the experience that we have online. Right. And I feel to a certain extent, what was part of the success of Appin for context, for those that don't know about it, are founder, Johnny Boofer, had found it hopping in two thousand and nineteen. Okay, after you, we spent two years in bad with an autoimmune disease because he couldit a ten events and and so, but he wanted a better event platform, like better than webinars right, where people could connect and like we went from like zero in two thousand and nineteen to a thousand people in a billion dollar investment two years later. So there's a reason for that and to me that's the experience part. It's just like, like the technology has to work and deliver on that. Some technologies are better than other. So keep that in mind, not just saying hopping is the best. I think to me it is. But, like you know, there there's there's a lot of tools that are better than others. So you got to make sure the tools work right and, you know, everything is flawless, everything super easy to to watch, there's no friction when you're signing up for an event, when when you're like logging in, like everything has to work right. It's like a turning an event in person, like you don't want to be in line forever, right, we're not in one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine. Well, we have technology to support like super speed check in and all and all that. So keep that in mind. Things have to work. And the second point is you got to keep it simple. I don't want to say like Geo Very I level Banya. Stuff here like this is becoming so important right now in designing like effective virtual events. We're bored in like long, enormous amount of time spent on like a day, two days, three days. We see that like keeping it short and sweet works extremely well. Then you can have multi multiday, but be like keep in mind and having like six hours, keeping six hours people on a screen, it's not going to work right. So we've seen that wait time, keeping it...

...short and sweet and to the point and valuable. That's what people care about because, listen, giving you my time today it's a big deal. We don't have a lot of time, right. We stressed with a million things going around us more than ever before. So if you ask for my time, it's going to be well used. So it's not about like being bored with virtual events. We're being frustrated with waste of our time, I feel. So you got to use our time well. I'm going to make sure you're delivering on the promise. And then it's got to be novel because an event is an event for a reason, right. I feel that's got to be a cont like some level of novelty, whether it's a speaker or surprise, something that you creating and makes that avant unique. Otherwise, I just got to go on Youtube and watch someone speaking right I don't need to be in an event. I can watch a beady of someone speaking online right being involved in and probably is going to be more, more produced and better implement so these are my top three areas. I love it so now when people are approaching the concepts of putting together a virtual event strategy, because I have a feeling. I'm I could be wrong, but as even as we move and let's hope moving towards the end of the of the pandemic and people can start to get back together in some way, shape former fashion, I still think virtual is going to be a part of everything moving forward. Right, there's just cost savings and time savings and things that factor in. And so when a company, let's say, okay, they've given their thoughts to how I'm going to design a great event, but that needs to be part of an event strategy, virtual event strategy or a hybrid event strategy, and some companies will try at once and fail or not do it to say the level that they want to do in the runaway from it. So I'm curious to know, you know, what is it when I start to put together, you know, my virtual event strategy that I should be thinking about totally. That's such a great question, Chad. I feel that a lot of people don't think that way when it gets to events. But can you think about it like applying the same mentality to other marketing tools? is like you tried email marketing once, if it doesn't work on alle right, all right, yeah, it's just like, obviously running events is not as easy setting up an email. So we feel the mental block of having to go through some planning and dedicating time. It is true it is an activity that requires time. But like the economies of scale that you can get with virtual events are incredible, right, I'm precedented to a certain extent when you compare them to in person events that really require an effort. Right, it's very tough to find scale within person events because it's always like you know, in person and there's a million of moving pieces. With virtual you kind of can create canvasses that can be reapplied right when you find a structure that works. You have the ability to create templates that you can, you know, immediately redeploy every month. But on a strategy level, what really this is going towards in a sense, and in this is like redefining, I guess also the role that events in general have in the marketing mix. I feel that the strategic part of having the new categories such as virtual events, which, by the way, is by no means new. Virtual events have been around forever. But, like you know, it's got to be sad we've seen more development in technology in the past twenty months than in the past twenty years. You know, it's just incredible at hoping. We shifted hundreds of features in the last year alone. So the tools are developing, wherein ear three of the biggest revolution and virtual events. Sure. So what does it play in in your strategy? I feel that we like to call it shared the experiences strategy, or redefining it as a d then driven community. That's what we like to call it. So there's a shift in marketing and creating communities, right, creating like sort of your niche, your group, your tribe, where your customer can feel closer to you and with each other. And I feel that, you know, if you're thinking about events, it makes a lot of sense to run your monthly, quarterly events that then culminating an in person...

...event. I feel that's where with the direction where we're take, we're taking at least in the short term, because attending in person it's still difficult right many places in the world, probably not as much here in the US, but still there's a lot of components that are going to that personal safety, you know, stuff that we feel concerned about. Therefore, thinking about how can I use virtual events monthly or quarterly or weekly in some cases, to create that community feeling and then culminate all of that would a premium in person experience. That's like so powerful, because events make you feel closer. was there an extent the brand? It's a perfect middle of the finnel strategy to that it's more intimate than whatever you can do in a marketing level. It's more intimate than social media, I would say, because social media has a lot of noise and confusion and information. Yeah, so there you go. I mean it really makes you feel a part of something when you have ten events and see that's a perfect perspective, and so I love the idea that culmination right and the personal safety. Everybody has to make their own choice. I literally went to Mexico the first week of January and popped positive for covid and what was supposed to be a seven day trip turned into a sixteen day Mexican adventure. So I completely understand some of the you know, the fears the people have and then the different, you know, entrance and extras requirements based on country and self, especially if your global company. So you know, I love that idea, that concept of that culmination in an in person event. Talk to me about the difference between. I mean we get virtual. I think everybody interstands that. When we say hybrid events, what are what do we mean? What does that look like? So this is like there's a big debate about hybrid events right now in the event planning community and finding a definition of it. The traditional definition is the one event that it's happening online and offline at the same time. Okay, so that's that's what we're we're defined. So there's two audiences, one online, one offline. They could potentially interact right, but that definition itself we find it very exclusive in a sense of other ways of thinking about hybrid. So we feel that some events, for example, are defining hybrid also as an event that it's happening, say, in person only and then a week after there's a virtual version of it. So there's there's a new definition of synchronous versus a synchronous hybrid to a certain extent. So we're the synchronous cybrid experience is one that is happening at the same time. The asynchronous is one that is happening at different times but with the same audience in some cases with the same content. The emphasis here with hybrid is obviously there's benefits. There's cost involved, obviously, because in most cases you're planning more than just planning one virtual or in person event, but there's also opportunities. Right you can extend the audience of any person event and right now, with the pandemic and the trouble of traveling, you're including also people that cannot be there. Just a big deal for a lot of organizations. Think about internal events. Don't think only conferences in trade shows like you know, you got to be inclusive of people that are working from home. Are you do that? So if you have multiple offices or you have a hybrid office, it spaces in this use case is becoming INCREA, incredibly important. It is, but you got to be able to involve everybody. You can leave people and say sorry, you're working from home, you're not party of a part of the company anymore. Right. So that feeling of the exclusion is something that hybrid events kind of immediately give an answer to. But all on the longer term, the use of hybrid events, it's more significant than just, you know, pandemic issue. There's travel...

...that it's probably not going to happen in the same fashion of paranamic going forward. So people are not going to travel for like one day across the country here and the last. What can you think about that? But these things right. And then the second part is so there's there's a lot of debate about, you know, the sustainability issue here as well, which is one of the younger generations feel very, very passionate about. Right. So, you know, hybrid events are direct answer to that. Because your room. Some people want to be there in person. Some people, like you know, feel comfortable with it. They don't care about the virtual some other people are don't feel comfortable with going in person for their own beliefs and they you know, you got to create an experience for both. Now what technology platforms are doing is actually trying to shift the focus and instead of planning to events for one audience, you really planning one event for to audiences. That's that's the shift, that's the ability to the enemies of scale. D technology companies are building in the background. So you have one system, one dashboard that has multiple audiences and you can start optimizing and planning for two separate scenarios. That's where we get into I love it. And so when we think about the technology that's going to enable this, and we could talk, I mean, we could talk about all of the platforms that are out there, but I'm really more interested in kind of you mentioned a hundred, I think said a hundred features that happen in ship in the past year and a half or two years. When you think about the technology, what are the top two features that you think the technology needs to provide in order for it to support the level of engagement that is optimal in these situations? Virtual or hybrid totally. That's that's such a great question. So, first off, the technology that you use for your events these days is got to be all in one. Okay, so you got to be able to use boards that offer the tools, the basic tools that you need to run in person, virtual or hybrid events. So if you invest in one person, one platform that does just virtual or just in person, then you're in a nightmare of exporting, importing, you have no data points. It's just like crazy create. So you can't afford to do that. And like for all in one. I mean also ecosystems. You bet on an ecosystem like what we like about what I we like to do a hop and it's like integrating. We have a lot of partnerships with a lot of different tools that you already use that can immediately kind of be integrated with. It's also you have a more sensible data because, if we're talking engagement, this is a very dear topic to us at opping. We've seen a correlation between engaged audiences, whether it's sponsors, act in these or speakers, and the success of an event. If you have engagement, you have a successful event. But how do you measure engagement? Right? That's where we're working on right now and having only one platform, it's the first step to being able to have the data that matters to create more engagement so you can make better decisions in terms of the length of the sessions, the speakers that work or work better. You know, there's a million things that you can get in terms of inside. Then a second bit to me it's what I call serendipity or liminality more. I refer to that as that lose. What we miss about in person events, Chad, is that is not we don't miss attending a keynote session in a dark room for an hour. We don't Miss Them. What we miss, what we miss is, like, is the walk that we do between that keynote session and the next session during a coffee break. Is the person that we meet in the corridor or doing a coffee break or at a party. That's what we meet. That's what we value about in person experiences and some virtual platforms. And I think hopping was became viral at the beginning of the Damic specifically...

...because of a feature that we have, which we call networking shuffle, and it's like, you know, you just click on it and you get randomly assigned to meet someone within the event and you have three minutes to talk to them. You can decide to extend the time if you want to. That's actually attended an event last week for Streemard, are quarterly event. I spend like an hour during the event like meeting random creators on the platform. I had such an amazing conversation. Some others like some some more than others, but it's fine, like you move on right, but it gives you an opportunity to discover and create like excitement by not just the content that's being present. So those are the two that I would look at. I love it, I love it, and so when you think about what's happened at happened, I would love to understand you're not only what you do there, but why you chose to work there, what you find so compelling about the organization. So, Chad, I started I'm Italian. I started writing about the use of technology and events in English in two thousand and seven and I was literally talking to myself, like not even my family could understand what I was writing because they couldn't speak English. So I've been talking about the use of taking events forever. You have to think that probably in two thousand and fifteen, one company called double Dutch raised fifty million dollars and we were shocked, mindblown by that amount. It was like unprecedented in events in industry to see that level of investment in an event technology company. So when hopping comes around and in the space of two years there is a billion dollars. You know, this is like something that you see once in a lifetime. You know, after spending fifteen years talking about this, to see this materialize in front of you, it's just unbelievable. So to even have that opportunity to be part of that, it's just something that, if you've been in this industry and talking about technology, is not going to I don't know if it's going to happen again, but like definitely I'm not going to let that opportunity pass away. I love it. I love it all right. So let's Change Direction here a little bit. We ask all of our guests kind of two standard questions at the end of each interview. The purse is simply as a VP, that makes you a prospect for a lot of people and so you're obviously getting approached and and miss sign up. You know, asked to buy stuff a lot. I'm always curious to know when somebody doesn't have a trusted referral into you, what is it that works for you when somebody's trying to capture your attention and earn the right to time on your calendar? So I thought about this little bit in preparation for our chat, and that was funny enough. Like I one that really worked with me was actually someone that invited me. Invited me to speak on their podcast and then followed up with a sales request after the podcast. So they were using the podcast strategically to generate leads. It's like I didn't see coming at all, like I was like genuinely excited to be on the PODCAS so clever and like no, I didn't feel it as I'm very, very sensitive to people reaching out on Linkedin. I have like almost twentyzero contacts on Linkedin. Like yeah, contacted every day. Is just like nightmare. Or like, you know, emails them kind of like you know, scrape for databasis. Now that is just a nightmare. All of like Julia's. Would you like to hear more about that? I report a spam immediately. So I'm very sensitive to that. But like the way they did it just clever. They were like creating value for their audience because they you know, I just shared like action about advice to their audience. At the same time they're like Oh, but it's they're like, you know, something we can work on together. So it was like very, very clever. They really tapped into my ego maybe. I don't know. Everybody wants to talk these days, so I feel that you don't have to do a podcast episode necessarily. But, like you know, if you're...

...doing, say, for example, a ten people around up post on your blog or whatever it is, or your Linkedin, you know, involving these people asking for their opinion and then sort of the elevating a relationship, I think it's very clever, nice and so okay, last question. We call it our acceleration insight. So if you could give and we'll just make it for industry event professionals, if you could give one piece of advice to industry event professionals that you feel like would in able them to exceed their targets or their metrics or their goals, what would it be and why? So we're entering award a cookie. Last word, right. We know that that's coming. I had it's going to be incredibly difficult to find data right, to get data from our customers. It's not getting easier, let's put it that way. Events are by far the at all, and virtual events specifically, where everybody's willing to give away all that data to enter your event and access the content and access the community that you created. So that's going to be an incredible touch point for your strategy where people are actually willing to give away data and and then once they're in, you have a million additional data points, such as you've don't loaded a PDF or you're interacted with a session. So you can start creating credible personas based on the data that gets created within the virtual environment. So don't discard it because, like you know, the data that you can get out of it can make the difference and they really give you break for I love it all right, Julie's. If somebody is interested in learning more about hopping or talking to you about these topics, where's the most ideal place for us to send them? Absolutely hoppingcom free to actually run your own event up two two hundred people. So just get on it and try it. You know there's no cost involved, so nothing to to lose. Their hopping calm or Julia's at hopping. They'll coom if you have a question for me, if you have more complex programs, you need to talk to someone within the company. Excellent, just I can't thank you enough for taking time to be on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure to speak with you. Thanks for having me, Chad. All right, everybody that does of this episode, you know the drill be to be REV exactcom share with friends, family co workers if you like. What you here do is a favorite writers or review on Itunes. Until next time, we have value sewing associates, which were all nothing but the greatest success. You've been listening to the BB revenue executive experience. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show and Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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