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Dave Stevens

Director of Global Events and Field Marketing

Alation

Dave speaks on the importance of adding polish to virtual events so that people can enjoy themselves, while highlighting the important motto that events are what people attend, while experiences are what people remember.

My name is Dave Stevens, and I run all of global meetings, events, and field marketing at a company called Alation, which is an enterprise data catalog. So I very intentionally went after events. Very early on in my career, I was in sales. I worked a trade show. I was instantly hooked. To age myself, this was in the late 90s/early 2000s. I ended up quitting a six-figure sales job to go work for a radio station doing events full-time, making minimum wage, and I've been in events ever since. So Alation is an enterprise data catalog company. We are a data company. So when things all changed, we had to adapt. Fortunately, myself and my then head of global events, who is now our official digital events producer, he's one of the few in the world, we just went online.

 

The immediate response to Covid and the importance of adapting

When it first happened, we had two trade shows in the queue. We had speakers, customer speakers, that were lined up. And we thought, "What are we gonna do? I don't know, let's put them online. Let's do a webinar with them, let's just... They're already committed to the time and the date, so let's just make it happen." And actually, those webinars beat our trade show goals that we were gonna do for the live event. So we were very happy. Fortunately, because of our backgrounds coming from non-traditional meetings we were very savvy and familiar with production, so we realized that it was still an event, it just was executed in a new way.

So now we were digital instead of in person, but let's treat it like a real event still. Let's have music, let's have production. Let's add all that polish so that people enjoy what they're experiencing. So our team adapted the motto of experiences over events.Experiences are things you remember, events are things you attend. I don't know where I saw it. I saw it on the internet somewhere, and we have it as the opening of our slide deck any time the events team presents something. We tooka people-first approach and the technology second.

 

The people-first approach to events

So when a sales rep or someone in the field says, "Oh, we wanna get people together", our first question is,"What do you wanna accomplish? What does success look like? Why do you wanna do this?" Not, "Oh, you wanna use Zoom," or, "Oh, you wanna use this platform," or, "Oh, you wanna use this?" No. We like to use the objective to drive the technology because there's so much tech available to us now that we lead with people first and then figure out what technology will actually help execute against that. And then we measure it through a myriad of different ways: Post-event feedback, how busy the chat is, how many people showed up, how long they stayed. People will show up and leave sometimes if you're doing a 40-minute keynote online, and they're checking out, they're no longer interested. So we've just tried to really ensure that we keep people's attention, embrace the truncated attention span people have nowadays, and bring the production to keep them engaged.

 

A health crisis within the events community

So I am an avid cross-fitter. There is a thing called the CrossFit open that is a worldwide global qualifier for the CrossFit games, which is basically the Olympics for that sport.

Two or three years ago, they started enabling people to put hashtags that identified them with their career. And I am the self-proclaimed, I will say, and uncontested fittest man in meetings and events. So the fittest man and the fittest woman on earth is what they crown the winners at the CrossFit games. And during the open, I was the only male I found that participated that used the right hashtag for multiple years now. SoI took the title.

The other reason I took that title and started promoting it and put it on my LinkedIn and everything else is I think there isa significant need for us as event professionals to really focus on our health and well-being. We work crazy hours. We work long hours. And my workouts are what bring me sanity. That's what balances me. Some people its meditation, some people it's yoga. It doesn't matter what it is, but move and find what brings that center for you, because we're so busy taking care of everyone else we don't take care of ourselves. And my workout routine is my self-care, and I think we as an industry have an opportunity to get a lot healthier than we currently are.