How do you take your current budget and make your corporate events bigger and better, spending smart while hosting an event that will act as that critical nudge to get you to the next level?
For companies recently having raised a significant C or D round of funding, every move they make must be carefully calibrated to help them ascend, fully leverage the resources at their disposal and grow their brand footprint – all while remaining at the peak of their field.
So the question is: How do they take their current budget and spend it smart, while still hosting a corporate event that will act as that critical nudge to get to the next level?
To accomplish this, the “unicorn” companies need to communicate to their customers that they’re an industry leader, using their resources to host bleeding-edge, engaging events that are more than just a lackluster product demo or keynote. They need a sophisticated event partner with an eye for innovation and imagination, yet one adept at also keeping budgets in check.
To truly create a next-level event, consider the following ways to project commercial power and influence:
Scale up Your Venue
Part of embracing and fostering growth is being able to showcase growth. One of the most immediate and indisputable ways to convey a company is on the rise is to scale up the physical venue for your event.
This, for most high-growth companies, involves making the move from a hotel to a convention center for your next conference. This transition is a classic and bold signal that a company has “arrived,” and should not go unremarked upon: Okta Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Carlson made note of how “this room is twice the size of any in the past” when he introduced the 2017 Oktane conference keynote in Las Vegas.
The optics of this jump from smaller rooms to the big stage has a distinct “wow” factor for attendees, giving exponential growth a tangible dimension. For Okta, this translated to attendees marveling at the way the company had transformed itself.
“It’s just really energetic and really fascinating to see in just over 4 years how Okta has grown from where it was to where it is now,” said Neeraj Malhotra, IT manager at Broadcom Limited. “I’m going to come back to Oktane, this is my second year and definitely would like to be here next year.”
Similarly, hosting multiple conventions in different locations can leverage growth as well: Marketing platform provider Drift recently expanded its successful Hypergrowth conference, adding a West Coast version of the conference in addition to the traditional Boston event.
However, this jump in venue size isn’t without its challenges: A larger space requires more robust infrastructure, including production elements, physical layout, attendees check-in and security. Furthermore, moving from a hotel to a convention center can create logistical problems related to transportation and accommodations – after all, even if you’ve left the hotel behind, your guests need somewhere to stay while attending the conference. The key is to first determine the why of needing a bigger event, then enlist an agency who can accommodate the challenges and opportunities of scaling up.
Consider Design and Culture in Events
Scaling up events isn’t just about bolstering the bottom-line: The broader goal is brand awareness awareness and ubiquity. This means looking beyond just what new products or innovations you showcase, and considering how you use event design to engage with users on a cultural level.
Many companies have already begun to embrace the use of high-tech art and cultural installations at their branded events. The key is to align these cultural features with your brand:
- Music streaming app Pandora hosts a yearly holiday party, complete with musical performances by some of today’s hottest artists.
- Meanwhile, digital media brand Refinery29 launched a pop-up event called 29 Rooms to celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary, and the event itself features immersive and interactive vignettes, curated by different artists and brand sponsors.
“As a digital brand, we were thinking about how to take a lot of the different topics that we cover, as well as the creative voices we elevate on our platform, in a physical space,” Refinery 29’s co-founder Piera Gelardi told CNN. “We like to have a portion of it feel really playful, because we think that opens people up, and it’s joyful.”
These kinds of cultural activities have a vital secondary function: They help facilitate networking. Users, partnership sponsors and industry leaders can all meet and greet in a less pressurized environment, connecting over the cultural events taking place.
Even without the enormous infrastructure of a corporate giant, businesses on the ascent can selectively employ these kinds of interactive combinations of technology and design at conferences, effectively creating a dynamic, culturally-relevant event that is more than just a product showcase.
Emphasize a Cause
Sustainability and global citizenship efforts have become a nearly universal driver of engagement and brand goodwill. Consumers, particularly younger ones, are attuned to corporate marketing efforts that are built on sustainability and giving back: According to Horizon Media’s 2017 Finger on the Pulse study, 81 percent of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to be “good corporate citizens.”
“Now brands are taking these do-good values and baking into their corporate identities,” Horizon Media’s Kirk Olson, VP of Trend Sights, told Forbes. “It’s important [for companies] to find the connection organically.”
When planning a major conference, take into account the kind of “giving back” programs that organically tie into your mission statement while making the world a better place. This can include:
- Combining your corporate event with a charity fundraiser for a local cause.
- “Going green” at a conference with sustainable, reusable products, such as by replacing disposable lanyards with digital beacon wristbands.
- Spotlighting the efforts of young entrepreneurs, a la the the #PledgeitForward campaign at Salesforce’s 2016 Dreamforce conference.
The goal is to show users that your events are more meaningful than just another product demo or industry showcase, offering a greater perspective and making the world better. This was something that David Cancel, CEO of Drift, spoke about in a recent interview about Hypergrowth 2018. Cancel framed it as a gathering of not just influencers, but people who act as positive example for the entire industry.
“We’re not doing what everyone else does, which is to have the same group of speakers out there that you hear every single conference,” Cancel said. “Our bar for people who come on this show, as well as people who come and speak to you in person at Hypergrowth, is that those are people that we consider personal role models and/or mentors that we look towards, who are helping us grow either virtually or in-person, and share those mentors with the community.”
Think Global Via Live Streaming
As you escalate the scale and scope of corporate events, consider the virtual footprint as well as the physical one. While the jump from a hotel to a convention center can expand your guest list by thousands – bringing with it its own challenges – live streaming has the potential to deliver your content and ideas to a global audience.
With Go-Globe reporting that conferences and speakers make up 43 percent of most-watched live content, tied with concerts and festivals, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major company that doesn’t currently utilize live streaming in one form or another. Given the ubiquity of the live streaming platforms, it’s a relatively low-cost way to boost the profile of an event. Yet behind the scenes, there are critical considerations that go into organizing a conference that fully leverages the capabilities of live stream technology:
- Are your keynotes, speakers and demos dynamic in a way that will come across via streaming video?
- Are the audio-visual elements of your event – including lights, music, presentation screens and so on – optimized for the streaming audience?
- Do you have multiple cameras positioned throughout the event to offer alternative perspectives?
- Who will be in charge of what the live-streaming audience sees and doesn’t see?
In this regard, putting together a content strategy that builds off the concept of bringing a local event to a global audience is key to making sure that live streaming isn’t simply an afterthought.
Whether it’s a sustainability initiative, an interactive art installation or live streaming, high-growth companies must scale up events in ways that are more than just big and loud. The goal is to create a truly can’t-miss event that utilizes smart spending and bolsters your valuation, complete with innovative content, design and the widest possible reach – all of which requires an airtight event content strategy and an experienced planning partner that knows how to take things to the next level.