Why Circa?

Dana Pake

Director of Corporate Events


Dana explains how COVID forced her to think more creatively about events and really ask herself, “Why are we gathering?”

I'm Dana Pake, I'm the Director of Events atGitHub. GitHub is home to 65 million developers who come together to build the future of software. What brought me to events, it was a zig zag. I think first is to acknowledge, I come from a long line of gatherers, so I think it was pretty inevitable that I do this, my grandmother... I just remember it was a home of always welcoming people, my grandpa was a liquor distributor, so I just was always out in restaurants, and it was always about bringing people together, but my start was... I'm totally aging myself. I did a launch event with MSN 8, “It's Better with the Butterfly”, and looked down on Wollman Rink... What the hell is that? How do you do that? I didn't know what experiential marketing was, and fell in love with events because there was no other channel, that brought a brand to life with all five senses, but I have stayed in events because of human connection. It's really for me about designing transformative experiences where people leave smarter, more connected and more inspired to do what they do.


Covid disrupted the events industry, but change was long overdue

Yeah, I think pre-covid, it was pretty formulaic, especially with large conferences and this mentality that bigger was better, and lots of sage on stage, and I think losing sight of why we do events, which is to gather people. 

I think of events as group therapy, no matter if it's a B2B event or a B2C event, or you're going to a concert, and everybody looked to what DreamForce was doing as a model and go to any event, it felt the same, the only thing that was different was maybe the branding, and what excited me about the constraint present on to us now is it really forced creativity, we have to think like storytellers, we have to be really intentional about “Why are we gathering”... We have to be thinking about“what's the problem we're looking to solve, not only for the company, but for the attendee”, and it just goes back to being super intentional instead of the glitz and glam of it. And taking down the veneer of what the event is, and just getting back to authenticity and connection.  

I think at any event, the most special moments are actually the in-between, so I think about how do we manufacture serendipity, so that means not over-engineering your agenda, giving a lot of breathing room, but creating content that inspires conversation so then connection can happen, and then from their connection builds community.


How to plan for the unplanned

I think beyond the obvious of the global pandemic, you have climate change in front of you, you've got natural disasters that can happen. I've had colleagues who've had really terrible mass shootings at their events and you obviously cannot plan for any of that, so what I like to think about is, Well, what can I control? What do I know right now? So looking into the foreseeable future is digital first for us, and really thinking like broadcasters and again, storytellers and changing up tempo and timing, and designing those moments where people can connect digitally too, but then it's also asking the question, Why are we doing this event in the first place, do we need to do an event? And then thinking about a hub and spoke model, so that if you want to... If you have a regional strategy or a global strategy that you're designing smaller bespoke really curated moments in these different regions that you can throttle up or down as needed, but you still have your digital first moment that democratizes the experience, you have massive reach and you can control that no matter what's happening outside in the world.