Over the course of the next several months, we'll be interviewing some of the smartest, most interesting event professionals around--sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. We are thrilled to kick off this series with Marissa Pick, formerly events marketing manager at BizBash Media and currently global director B2B social media at The CFA Institute.
Marissa, you've got an interesting background, spanning marketing, journalism, and associations. Can you tell us a little about your past experiences and your current role, particularly as it relates to event planning and marketing?
While finishing my master of public administration I was completing a graduate internship at NBC Universal as a part of the digital marketing team, and after the 2007 financial crisis hit I was unable to find a full-time role in the field I desired. At the time my father was President of BizBash media in NYC and they were looking for some event marketing help, so I decided to give it a shot.
As social media emerged as a field, we started developing strategies aimed to incentivize people to sign up for the event and engage with us before, during, and after our events. We were one of the first companies to develop social media lounges onsite, and watching people get excited to see their tweets pop up was such a rush. I gravitated towards social media strategy with an interest in leveraging it onsite at events to enhance the overall experience for attendees.
Last year we housed a social media lounge onsite at one of our events and had a “social media” powered vending machine where attendees could send a tweet to dispense a treat. It was a real wow factor! And while some actively participated, many walked up to ask questions and learn more about what we were doing, which was a win in my mind. Regardless of the industries I’ve worked within, a good social media strategy integrated into an event is crucial and still my favorite part of my job.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Convincing people that social media is worth the investment of time and resources. In my current role, I’m focused on developing strategy and working internally on execution. We’ve rolled out more creative offerings at our larger scale conferences, but the question of KPIs and success is always a tricky one.
Someone may see an ad or discount code, think about converting, and come back the next day through Google—so we drop off the attribution tagging we placed. It’s easier to show engagements and page visits, but harder to track back direct revenue, especially after making an initial investment. As we’ve brought additional platforms it’s become easier, but it’s always still challenging to have to make a case as to why social always should be a part of a cohesive communications plan.
I’m fortunate that my employer and CMO see the benefit of having social media and digital marketing and are supportive. I think for many marketers it’s a question of convincing teammates why they should invest time and or energy into the field.
What types of event-related technology do you use in your role?
We’re always trying to leverage and test new event-related technology within various parts of our business. We’re longtime Livestream users and we’ve seen massive success given the recent integration into the Facebook pages. It makes it seamless to see professional livestreaming within your feed and leverage engagement from your social media audience.
Also, when you can complement the Facebook/Livestream with a paid social media strategy, from my experience, it’s a real home-run. We’re also loving Sli.do for live audience engagement and interaction. It makes it fun to share questions or comments and others can "like" it to push your question to the top of the stream.
What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year, particularly in relation to event technology?
As technology becomes more advanced, I’d say the personalized experience matters more to consumers into 2018 than anything else. Six out of ten millennials (who now make up a third of the United States population) would rather spend their money on an experience than buying material goods.
Now that social media tools allow businesses to not only promote their event but also listen to attendees before, during, and after the event, those businesses can better understand what makes the difference for them between a fine event and a must-attend—which is priceless.
As event technology and social media tools evolve, this will become more refined to help marketers listen, interact, and develop customized plans to help deliver a better product, onsite experience, and way to interact with customers. Personalization also can help with long-term customer loyalty: if you’re able to show your customers you know them, the relationships will grow.
If you could give event planners / marketers one piece of advice, what would that be?
Have no fear. Take chances, be creative and think outside of the box. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for developing a plan, and as our field evolves, there are new tactics to test at every step along the way. I’ve learned to take chances along the way, and having failures is part of recognizing what success truly looks like. If you’re going to fail, fail fast, and move on.
Many times I’ll check in with friends who work within similar roles across a variety of industries and float an idea and try to refine for success. I originally saw the Twitter vending machine at Twitter HQ in California and brought to my financial services event in Montreal. It was an outside-the-box idea and not something we have done within our past events. To implement it took a lot of hand holding, explaining, and showing to help give people the full spectrum of why we should have it. But in the end, it was a real success and that experimental idea not only enhanced our event but also deepened our delegate experience.
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