Ankush (00:26): Hi everyone, I’m Ankush, founder of, a review platform for business conferences. You are listening to the Building Awesome Events podcast and our guest today is the very special Lauren Grady, Senior Manager, of Strategic Events at Vimeo. Welcome, Lauren to the show.

Lauren (00:42): Hello. Thank you so much for having me.

Ankush (00:44): Love to have you here. Lauren, let’s start from the very beginning. I see that you spent almost four years with the American Heart Association. How did that come about and how did you really make the early decision to get into the event space?

Lauren (00:55): I did. I’ve been in events my whole career and it really started with an internship that I had in college with the PGA Tour, the National Golf Tournament here in the US and I essentially worked on all of the events surrounding the golf tournament itself.

 There was a Women’s Day, a Family Day, a Celebrity tournament, and a Military Appreciation Day, and all of these events surrounded it. So, I kind of got a taste early on of the logistics and operations and sponsorship piece. But ironically in that role as well, the other half of my job was around managing two nonprofit programs.

So when I graduated college, I did a stint in the wedding industry. I also tried an internship there and found that corporate events were a little bit more aligned with what I wanted to do.  And I saw the opportunity at the American Heart Association.

 It was a nice blend of my event experience and also a little bit of a nonprofit experience. So that’s really what kicked off my professional career and stint. After four years working for the Boston chapter, working on seven different signature events, and their coveted Boston Marathon program, I really started to learn the ropes.

Ankush (02:03): And That’s amazing. I think that’s quite something going from the PGA to the wedding industry and then onto events like the Boston Marathon. It must have been quite a rise.

Lauren (02:13): Yeah, it has been. I always joke that I have a very versatile background because I’ve been in the nonprofit industry, pharmaceutical, and B2B tech industries. I’ve done everything from operations and logistics to sponsorship, event content, to executive programming. But it is nice having a kind of taste of every area just because as a whole you can operate in a more efficient way when you understand all of the different aspects of events.

Ankush (02:38): Absolutely. That’s amazing. And after this, you had another long stretch with Work Human. How is that portfolio structure in terms of proprietary and third-party events, and what was your key role out there?

Lauren (02:52): So my key role at Work Human, which is a B2B tech company was of an event content manager. So Work Human produces a really impressive annual conference called Work Human Live, and it’s entirely for HR professionals. When I came in, they had kind of split the responsibility of that conference amongst many different people.

So I was the first person to come in to really own that role in terms of, owning the 80 breakout sessions, the 110 speaker relationships, the eight main stage keynotes, help determine what that framework is, what the flow is going to be, who’s going to speak about what, and then also focus on the very process-oriented thing. What is the call for papers going to look like, who’s going to be on the vetting committee, etc., etc. So that was a really exciting opportunity in a new role at the organization.

I ended up creating an internal Global Speakers’ Bureau. So essentially, we had this Annual Conference, where we had a bunch of regional forums and executive forums throughout the US and EMEA primarily where we had intimate conversations with groups. But then I created this internal Speakers’ Bureau to streamline all of our messaging, and all of our asks to the speakers- the experience as a whole.

So that was a really great opportunity to take on, which meant about 30 additional speaking engagements per quarter in addition to our marketing events. And that helped me understand the form, after all, it was a new role at the time. I tried to understand what that speaker’s experience and process is going to look like, both from an internal perspective and an external perspective.

Ankush (04:26): That’s pretty interesting. And we spend some time, speaking about the role of event content managers, and you just spent some time talking about that. So I find that pretty interesting. That’s such an important role because programming can really make or break an event. Right?

Lauren (04:43): Absolutely. And as part of the Event Content Council, we just had our meeting, our monthly meeting on Tuesday of this week, and that is one of the topics we were talking about — the role of the event content manager and how some organizations see it as a nice to have versus a need to have.

So we got into a really great conversation about being the voice of the attendee and being the expert on how attendees engage with content. The same way marketing teams have individuals who are experts on how their target audience engages with an email or all of the other, channels, and the event content manager is the expert on how they engage with either live content or, or on-demand content and the need for that these days. It was a really interesting conversation amongst about 15 or 20 of us that were in that meeting.

Ankush (05:41): Absolutely. And what we are trying to build with our platform at Eventible is at the end of the process, as an event content manager, you’ve put in all the hard work, you’ve worked in on some great speakers, you programmed some good topics, finally, you want to know what attendees have thought about the event. So our platform is a neutral platform where they can finally come and voice their opinions on what they actually thought about the event, what bits they liked, what speakers they liked, and so on.

So I think that really completes the loop, and I’m sure feedback is very important for you. You probably, run an internal survey. You want to take in feedback, and what we provide is, is the other side of the coin where people are expressing on an online forum, online platform, their opinions about the event that you just programmed.

Lauren (06:18): A hundred percent. And I mean, at the end of the day, people go to an event and at least from a corporate side, go for the content, and the experience that it brings alive, but they’re attending based on content, they’re getting approval for budget based on content and what the takeaways are. So if you’re going to double down on any area, for me, it’s really the core of the entire experience.

And to your point, the content is completely run on audience insights, which is feedback. From ongoing basis at the beginning, the middle and the end, you know, you’re going to be creating an event for yourself more than for your target audience.

Ankush (06:50 ): Yes, absolutely. Well said, Lauren, finally, let’s just, move to the event tech side of things with Visible, that’s the organization you moved on to after working at Work Human, and that must have been a little crazy, right? I mean, tell us about that, because that’s a sector that rests on an unpredictable edge right now with in-person events starting to come up so much once again. A lot of people are wondering what’s going to happen with these companies. So what was your ringside view and even inside view like working with Visible?

Lauren (07:19): Sure. So it was interesting as an event professional, because one uses a lot of different event technology and being on the other side of the house working for an event tech organization gives you a perspective.

There’s been obviously a lot of uncertainty in events and just in general a lot of experimentation in the event tech space over the last two years. The biggest trend I would say that I’ve seen is around tech consolidation across the board.

So whether it’s SMBs or it’s enterprise companies, people want to consolidate the amount of tech that they’re using to fuel their events and their marketing. So what that domino effect has is that there’s this additional layer of scrutiny that comes with people evaluating solutions because they’re looking to use, hopefully one to two tools or platforms to do all of the things for them.

Lauren (08:03): With that being said, I also experienced a lot of blanket statements in the industry as a whole. You know, when the pandemic came about, we heard a lot of people say in-person events are dead and that we’ll never see them again. And now what we’re starting to hear is our virtual events, are dead. People are contemplating whether we need virtual events anymore.

And I really see the future as a healthy mix of the two. Yeah. It is not going to go away a 100 percent. It’s just how we decide to leverage them as event marketers that matters, which will change with the times depending on what the stakeholder and attendees need. So those were my two biggest takeaways.

It is nothing but everyone trying to consolidate their technology. That is tech side, that’s why you’re really seeing people take a lay in on what they’re going to double down on and add value to. And on the other side, on the more event professional individual side, people are kind of quick to try to decide what the future’s going to be like when in reality it’s going to be a mix of things. You know, now that I’m at Vimeo, it’s opened up my eyes to almost a whole other world of the power of video and how that plays a role in both executing and marketing events. That’s kind of opened up a whole new world as well.  And I’m learning a lot being on month two about just the role that video now plays in both in-person and virtual events, which is really exciting too.

Ankush (09:21): I think just to go back a little bit, I’m not sure whether in-person events died or was it just companies like Visible and the other event tech companies proclaiming that in-person events were dead because seeing the search of such events and the return that’s happening right now, it always feels that, people always felt event professionals felt this was a comfort level and this is where they really want to get back to.

Lauren (09:45): Oh, absolutely. I mean, in-person events are back more so than ever. And you know, Visible is a company that powers in-person virtual and hybrid events, so they were very much on the side of power of choice. And it’s in the hands of the organizer, but I mean, I think we’ve seen an increase, it’s like 300% increase and in, in-person events. So I, they’re definitely back and they’re here to stay and now people are wondering about virtual, but virtual certainly has its place as well.

Ankush (10:08): Absolutely. So from a tech perspective, you’ve worked at Visible and you know now because there are like a gazillion tech platforms out there. If you were in the market, I mean, what were some of the qualities that you would look at prior to making a purchase decision, for an event tech or an event management product?

Lauren (10:22): So, outside of just them having the, basic functionalities that we would need tied and aligned to our event and the level of support, I really look at their roadmap. I mean, that’s one of the questions, if I’m interviewing an event tech company, I’ll ask- what is your roadmap? What do you have on the docket for the next 12 to 24 months and how fast and efficient will you be able to implement feedback from your customers?

Our world is changing so rapidly that I want to know if everyone in my partner and vendor ecosystem are two steps ahead of me when it comes to predicting what the next best thing is going to be. By the time I meet the functionality as an event leader, I want them to be prepared If I go to them and it’s going to take another 12 months for them to implement it, I need them to be ahead of me so that when I do come to them, it’s already been on their radar. I then want to know how fast they will be able to implement it. Will the process of implementing that feedback take an average, six months, or will it be three months?

So that’s something that’s really important. And also just understanding what are the recent challenges that they have had with some of their customers. I want to know the top two or three most recent times that there was a lag with their broadcast. I want to know if something didn’t work as it was supposed to- the ‘Why?’ behind it, what bug it was, how fast it was for them to fix it, how it was communicated to the customer, etc. etc.

So all of those things are just really important. Nothing is ever going to work a hundred percent with technology. So it’s understanding how they operate in those scenarios in addition to what their roadmap is and how innovative they are.

Ankush (11:55): Absolutely. And I can see you being a tough customer for these guys. All of these questions will definitely make someone shed some tears soon.

Lauren (12:04): Oh no. I mean, I pride myself on being a good partner as well, and once you have enough experience in this space, I think you have to start asking the hard hitting questions.

Ankush (12:14): Show them some tough love.

Lauren (12:17): Exactly. Yeah.

Ankush (12:19): So Lauren, in terms of traditional marketing, how do you really create awareness for your events? What are some of the channels that you think work best around audience acquisition or working the demand pipeline? Has this been a cross-functional activity, so far for you? And how involved have you been with this?

Lauren (12:33): So, from a zoomed out perspective, you really want to set your appropriate air coverage on your event. So organic and paid social, paid ads, in some cases, you’d have to follow the data there if it makes sense or not. To really just get that general awareness, email marketing. Email is always going to be number one in terms of what drives the most registrations. I’d be shocked if you talked to anyone where email was not the number one source of registration.

Ankush (12:57): You are absolutely right. Everyone else who has spoken to us, agrees on it. An email is the number one channel.

Lauren (13:10): A hundred percent. So if you’re going to perfect one area, let it be email. So in terms of taking the time with segmentation, with your list, with your copy, really track results and the click-through rates. Make updates if things are not performing and aren’t comparable with industry benchmarks, if you’re seeing below 2% click-through rate, go back, and try something different.

I mean, that’s really the area you want to nail. But then as you zoom out, so you have the air coverage of your organic and paid social ads, you have your number one driver. You’ve perfected your email campaigns. You want to use all of your other events in your portfolio to work for you. So if you have monthly webinars, the bookend of each of those webinars at the start and the end, you should be promoting your annual conference that’s coming up.

Lauren (13:40): You want to really tie all of those events together, especially if the audience is similar. So there’s a lot of noise up there. There are a lot of events, there’s a lot of marketing. You have your air coverage, you’ve tied it in and you’re reporting through, your own events, but now you’re working with your go-to-market team and your executives to set those personal invitations and really making sure people are seeing that and understanding it.

So to your question, it’s hugely cross-functional in terms of who brings this all together but it’s all important to know that your audience and, of course the event that you’re targeting, if you’re targeting executives, that one-on-one invitation is going to be how you’re going to get them there. Versus if you have a 15,000-person event, you have to be sending a lot of frequent communications to your full database to get to.

Ankush (14:36): Absolutely. And when you say one-on-one invitations do you send it via email or something else?

Lauren (14:37): It can be an email. So you have your standard marketing push, but then you have a different email copy, or you can use outreach sequences. For sales team. So that could be just be shorter copy, maybe there’s something more special or behind-the-scenes bit/footage that you’re sharing with them. It could also be a call script that you’re giving them. It could also be a LinkedIn copy that you’re giving them. So I think giving them a toolkit of resources is really important, but knowing that they are also going to rely heavily on email.

Ankush (15:12): Absolutely. I think a lot of valuable takeaway in there is for the event marketers, listening in, Lauren, if someone, wants to join your team, what are some of the key attributes you’ll be looking for?

Lauren (15:23): There are a few things. I think at a high level, someone’s passion, their drive and their curiosity are important attributes. That’s ultimately what’s going to take them way beyond the role that they’re interviewing for.

So if they have that, there’s the potential for them to do so much within their team and organization. I also think just from these three pillars their ability to be strategic, to think more, to look at the big picture and tie things back to business results and levels is important. The second kind of pillars focus on the execution. They are the doers, they are someone who could take a vision and make it come to life. They are the ones who do the small tasks and the micro tasks, and accomplish all the things. And the third is to be process-oriented, which is not only to be more efficient for your team, but these people are also very organizational and have great process for things. It positively impacts the wider company.

Lauren (16:14): So what they tend to do with how they run meetings and the resources they provide and how they kick off a project or an event–all of these start to have a domino effect. So someone that has that skill will not only help your team, but he/she will help the wider organization. And then lastly, I would just say the one question that I always have in an interview, regardless of the role, is someone’s ability to influence and that too for impact.

So much of our jobs at this point, involves mobilizing internal teams and managing key stakeholders that I always want know more about. I want to get to know if they have the ability, if there are lots of different perspectives in order to get a group of people to move forward in a productive way, or if we really need to reinforce a certain mythology that they’re able to influence both internally and externally. That’s really key and successful in any role today.

Ankush (17:09): Absolutely. I love what you just described- to influence for impact. I think that is so important. And otherwise, I think you pretty much described the perfect candidate out there, a tough customer, tough manager. Whoever is listening in and wants to work with Lauren and think, you check all these boxes and there are a lot of boxes, feel free to write to us.

Lauren (17:23): Yeah. And I mean, some of you don’t have to have all the boxes. Like I said, at the foundation, if you have the passion, the drive, and the curiosity, whether you have the number of years of experience or everything on that list, you can make it far. You can definitely reach the person that you’re interviewing with strike that potential chord in alignment with them.

Ankush (17:46): Absolutely. And, on that note, you know, do you want to give a shout out to the one person you think who’s really helped you in your own career, Laura?

Lauren (17:54): Oh my gosh. I have so many amazing mentors. I’ve been really lucky that even my direct managers in all of my roles, my first manager from American Heart Association, he’s still an unbelievable mentor to me. He now works at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, is a VP there. My direct manager at Work Human is another one. When I first got into the content space and the VP there really showed me the ropes. And most recently my manager who is both at Visible and Vimeo. Now Devin Cleary is a huge influencer in the events industry space. If you don’t follow him on LinkedIn, I highly recommend it, but – –

Ankush (18:28): I do. We’ve spoken. Yeah, I know Devin.

Lauren (18:32): Great. Yeah. He just is full of not only life, but innovation. I mean, he’s so creative, so I’m really lucky to be able to take a lot from all of those individuals. Right.

Ankush (18:42): Yeah. Shout out to you, Devin. Uh, well done. Finally, Lauren, you know that we are the world’s first review platform for B2B events, and our goal is to help marketers further their brands through the power of social proof and community marketing. What really does social proof mean to you? How important is it in your arsenal and do you think your attendees really care about it?

Lauren (18:57): Oh, social proof is hugely powerful. And I think for the majority of our marketing and materials, whether it’s our landing page, our emails, I always strive to include testimonials, quotes, images, anything that’s going to speak to that. It just adds a layer of credibility. I mean, even looking at products, with all the products out there, you’re much more likely to try something that a family member or a friend has approved or recommended.

 So absolutely. It’s very much the same in the event space and events are very similar because people are becoming cautious with how they spend their time and their resources. So, I would just say that a seamless way to incorporate social proof into your process is, if you can conduct a handful of one-on-one interviews after your event wraps up, identify a few executives who attended, identify a few customers, identify a few speakers, you can conduct those one-on-one interviews with them to give feedback to the team to incorporate.

And so naturally when they have a positive testimonial or endorsement about your event, when you’re putting your next event, you can go back to that and ask them for permission to use that quote to put their name or their company and attribute it to it. And then obviously you have your product that kind of does that naturally for people as well, where they can go there and can see what people have.

Ankush (20:19): Yeah. Absolutely. And I think what used to be, word of mouth, probably for an older generation is now an online review that is here to stay.

Lauren: A hundred percent. Yes.

Ankush (20:33): Alright, well, that’s it from us. Thanks so much Lauren. I think there’s a lot of useful nuggets in here that give perspective to marketers and other folks listening in to it and will want to really dig into. Thank you so much. Has been a real pleasure chatting today.

Lauren (20:47): Thank you. I really enjoyed the conversation. I hope we can chat again.

Ankush (20:00): Thank you, Lauren. Thank you so much. Bye.

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