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Eric Holman

CEO

Splash

Eric expresses his opinion that the future of events are going to be smaller and more frequent, requiring event technology that can support that type of strategy.

My name is Eric Holman, I'm CEO of Splash, splashthat.com, and Splash is an event marketing platform. So we help marketers create events that are beautiful, that are data compliant, and that are easy to scale, so you can do many, many events with just a couple of clicks of the button, and it looks like you've had a design team working on it for months.Very easy to use our platform and have successful events.

So there's a whole bunch going on with events, and the biggest problem with events is the word event, because that could be a birthday or a bar mitzvah, or it could be a Dreamforce or a Cannes film festival. And all those are events. And so when we talk about how events are changing and transforming, the kind of events that we talk about, B2B events, are completely changing in a large part because of the pandemic and event marketers learning how to do some really cool things with digital technology.So we're seeing the digital transformation that hit CRM is now becoming the digital transformation for events, how to become a digital event marketer. So you need to be able to have tools like your virtual event capabilities, and then how to use those same tools to do the best in-person events as we emerge from this pandemic.

 

Downsizing our events to improve attendee experience and ROI

So we're excited to see both of these things come together, and probably the most exciting thing that we're seeing is that the future events are small and frequent. So the really big events never really had great ROI, you'd have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people showing up at these gigantic events, and it'd be a half boondoggle and a half sitting in conference rooms or hotel banquet rooms just listening to a session. When you look at the best events, it's when you have 40 to 80 people who all have a lot of things in common, and they're coming together and networking and building one-to-one relationships with each other, like authentic networking, and also with the sales teams that are trying to help them to make a buying process and buying decision.

So we believe very much the future of events is gonna be transformed to digital, and much more digital, and it's gonna be more often smaller than bigger, and that creates a whole new series of problems. Lots of small events are hard to execute, really hard to execute, so how do you get the right tools for planning? Like with Circa, how do you plan these events so you can do many, many more of these without having lots of effort? Every event can't be bespoke. And then how do you make them successful and beautiful? And that's really challenging to do at scale, if you're gonna do30 events in a quarter, how do you make those beautiful and easy to repeat when you're only looking at 40 or 50 people showing up? You gotta make sure it's worth their time too. So events are changing, post-pandemic is gonna be so exciting.

So the magic of field marketing is, it's the one time when marketing, the brand, gets to interact directly with buyers and sellers. That's the job of field marketing is to bring buyers and sellers together, and it's been challenging to be a field marketer forever, because you have to be able to do everything. A field marketer has to be able to do the advertising, the website, the design, the promotion, the catering, the invitations. They always get to know the people that are showing up to these events, they are a one-stop CMO in a package, that's field marketing and it's so under-appreciated. So the future of field marketing is how do you take digital tools and apply them to that job? How do you make the mundane stuff automated and easy to do? How do you make the exciting stuff easy to scale? How do you make my program, where I'm doing events, I have more of the right people showing up, fewer of the wrong people showing up, and my sales team is engaged, like deeply engaged with that process.

 

A focus on virtual events and the tools that support them

And that's really, really hard. The tools are starting to come out. We believe very much that field marketing is gonna be what the future of marketing. I believe that field marketing is gonna be what the rest of marketing follows. We've seen digital marketing take the lead for the last 10 or 15 years as digital tools come online, now we're starting to seethe role of field marketing to connect buyers and sellers is what digital marketing is going to follow and support. The future of events when you think about hybrid and in-person is gonna be so different than what we've seen in the past, there used to be virtual was a webinar, and that was run by the digital marketing team, and in-person was either field or event marketers ran their events, and through the pandemic, event marketers had to figure out, "How do we take this webinar thing, which is clunky and static, and give it some of the pizazz of field marketing, where you have networking and engagement?"And they learned how to do that, and they only had to connect the CRM system, they learned how to automate tools and make virtual events feel like in-person events to the best extent possible.

Well we saw, what event marketers saw is, virtual events could draw huge numbers of people, we would see about 8x more attendees at a virtual event, than at an in-person event. The attendance rate was lower, that would be in the like 30-ish percent attendance rate versus the50% or 60% attendance rate for in-person events. But they got so much more reach, so when we talk to our customers about what's happening with their hybrid event strategy, they're thinking about it like a program and over a timescale where you start with a couple of virtual events, where you get hundreds of people attending and then from that list of attendees, you start to invite the right people to come to your in-person events, and then boom, boom, boom, a series of in-person events ending rapidly up with a hybrid event at the end, to kind of bookend your programs. Hybrid is virtual with a whole bunch of in-person in the middle, that's what we believe is gonna happen.