Jane Beard and Fiona Jenson on the Market Mentors Podcast
Feb 6, 2020

Should events be a lever to growth? Find out why and what ROI to expect with Jane Culcheth Beard

By Matt Dodgson

Co-Founder - Recruiter & Marketer



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Fiona Jensen: Welcome to Market Mentors, a podcast for the marketing leaders of today and tomorrow. I’m Fiona Jensen, a director and co-owner of market recruitment. For over a decade I’ve been helping B2B marketeers find the best jobs with great companies. Together we’ll discover how marketing experts reach the top and learn from their experience. Ask career related questions you can’t get answers to elsewhere. Be tough, be challenged, be mentored.

Fiona Jensen: So I’m here with the lovely Jane [Culture Beard 00:00:47]. So there’s a bit of a story behind the name. Should we cover that off?

Jane: Yes, certainly. Well, the Culture bit is my bit, and the Beard is my husband’s name. I wants to keep my name, but also take his. So that’s why I got the Culture Beard. But Culture is actually the name of a little village in Cheshire. And it’s from the band Culture, who came over with William the Conqueror. And my dad actually did quite a bit of digging on our ancestry. And one of our ancestors is Captain [Blood 00:01:16] who stole the crown jewels.

Fiona Jensen: No way!

Jane: Tried to steal. He wasn’t even very competent. I think he failed to steal the crown jewels.

Fiona Jensen: To have tried is as exciting and now you also a pirate in my eyes. Very exciting.

Jane: Absolutely. Yes. Very dashing, isn’t it?

Fiona Jensen: Yeah, I think so. And the Beard fits into that as well.

Jane: I thought of that, but yes. Blackbeard the pirate, I Imagined that as well. They’re a pirate family.

Fiona Jensen: Love it. Love it. So from a real life marketing pirate who is specialist when it comes to experiential marketing events, can we listen a little bit about your past experience and sort of summarise the wealth of knowledge that we’re about to dig into?

Jane: Thank you. Well, experiential marketing, I’m glad you call it that because a lot of the time when I have conversations with people about events marketing, which is a really important B2B discipline, people say, “Oh, events, that’s great. Yes, my sister’s a wedding planner.” And we have this sort of lightly surreal conversation. I was like, yes, it’s not quite like that because at its best, and I really believe this, experiential marketing is where fantastic events experiences meet strategic enterprise marketing and you get this amazing emotional connection with your attendees and you deliver great business results.

Jane: So that is the essence of what really makes experiential marketing work. But of course there are lots and lots of factors that contribute to getting to that end desire point. And I think that’s where it’s not just about organising events, it’s really about thinking how am I going to really use events in my strategic marketing mix? What am I going to do to make them really effective to maximise the results? And I’d be really keen to share some of what I found over my career to be really effective in that and how you really bring value to the business through event marketing.

Fiona Jensen: So your roles, you’ve been with Novel and with HP and you now operate at a global level or what’s your remit now?

Jane: Yes, that’s right. So I’ve been in technology marketing for about 25 years. Half of that time has been spent in events. And then the rest of my career has been focused very much on channel and Alliance marketing on product and solution marketing and things like sales engagement and education. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve had a great career spanning lots of disciplines, but what I’ve really enjoyed over the last 10 years is focusing on event marketing.

Jane: And I’ve worked both at UK level and at European level and most recently at a global level. And I think what’s great about doing all of those is that events work really well when they have a clear strategy, but the execution is really personal and local. So having that kind of country experience, regional experience and global experience means that hopefully, when I’m looking at these as a discipline, I’m really thinking about all of those things and how to make it really work.

Jane: So I think the other thing about working in the tech industry is it’s so fast moving as you know. The only thing that’s certain is that everything will change and that period of change just gets more and more rapid. It’s really important in events to be thinking about what is it that this event is going to bring now? There is a tendency in events marketing to go to events because we’ve always gone to them. And probably-

Fiona Jensen: The legacy.

Jane: Exactly, the legacy. And one of the phrases that I really, Oh I hate to hear is, we’ve always done it like that. I think, Oh no, that’s a disaster. Because if we’re doing things in event marketing, because we’ve always done them, they’re probably not the right thing because our expectations when we go to events are getting higher every single time because we go to an event as a person, we don’t go to an event because we’re an IT director or because we’re a CMO. We go to event because we’re interested and we want to engage. And we want to network.

Jane: And that’s how I always think of it when I’m looking at the event experience and planning the event, start with that attendee audience. What is it that they are going to want to think, feel, and do and not just as their work role, but as an individual. What is the answer to that? So those are the critical things. The three critical questions always ask when I’m planning an event experience.

How to decide what events to attend as a business

Fiona Jensen: Perfect. So let’s go for the really big question around how do you decide what events you should attend as a business and how do you make those difficult decisions around those events as you say, which are legacy and maybe shouldn’t be attended any longer.

Jane: That’s exactly the heart of it, Fiona, because I think when companies are looking at their marketing spend, on average companies are suspending between 30 and 40% of their marketing spend on events.

Fiona Jensen: That’s a big chunk.

Jane: It’s a really big chunk. It’s usually the biggest chunk of their spend, bigger than above the line, bigger than below the line, bigger than demand generation from other mediums. Digital marketing is starting to catch up, but for B2B events is generally still the biggest chunk and I think it’s exactly the right question that businesses need to be asking. What return are we getting for that 30, 40%?

Jane: And as you say, you don’t want to be asking that question when the events are gone. The time to be having those conversations is in the marketing planning. When you are putting together your … Hopefully your five years strategic marketing plan or rolling three year plan. What part are events going to play in that? Now what I found is that in a lot of cases the marketing plan is actually not done with the event plan. Quite often events are separate. Sometimes they’re a separate function-

Fiona Jensen: Yeah, separate team.

Jane: Separate team. Exactly. Separate reporting line. Quite often events are owned by multiple people. So sales will own them or product lines will own them. And the reasons then why you’re going to events and making that investment, they become diluted because those conversations aren’t all happening together. The first thing I would say is, your ideal status, that the event strategy is developed alongside the marketing strategy with the stakeholders across different product lines, across different businesses.

Jane: Now, I know that that [Nirvana’s 00:09:09] really difficult to get to. I think there were probably a handful of companies who really approach event planning in that way. But even if within a division or within a P and L you can do it, it still should be integrated into the marketing strategy.

Jane: Now, you say quite rightly there are lots of events that are legacy. I’ve found this so many times. When I came into my last role and I was setting up the event function, we actually had to deliver a lot of legacy events at the same time that I was trying to develop the future of that strategy. So it was one of those things where you have to execute, you have to get things done. At the same time, you’re trying to have those conversations around, right, what is our go to market as a company? What should we be doing?

Jane: I did a couple of things to help with that. One is, and this is something I would say to anybody starting off an events function. Put together your 30 day, your 60 day or 90 day plan, because no doubt there will already be things that are committed to that you need to execute.

Fiona Jensen: Always?

Jane: Always. But that will give you the chance to plan the execution, but also start to plan in, like what’s the strategic planning game to be. And then the second thing that I found really helpful was to develop an assessment tool for how to actually assess what events should be done either in house, or proprietary events or attended as third party. And that all really started from audiences.

Jane: So talking to senior leadership about who are our key audiences, are they customers, are they channel partners, are they influencers, press, shareholders. Who were those key audiences and how do we prioritise them? Because that honestly that’s the start of your event strategy. Who do you want to talk to? And then what do you want to say in that conversation with them?

Jane: But you have to start on the audiences. And that’s a really fundamental thing. And I find this with a lot of events that maybe sales have signed up to that they like the idea of the event. They haven’t really thought about who they’re going to engage with and what they’re expecting the result to be. So start with the audiences. And then the second thing is think about where that audience is on their customer journey.

Jane: So is this an awareness building activity? Is this something where you have a pilot and you want to develop sales relationships to actually progress a sales funnel? Is it a relationship, the mentoring thing? Is this your top channel partners? And you just want them to feel great and increase their share of your business. Is it a reward? Is it something that you’re giving your achievers because they’ve done really well. So always thinking about who your audience, where are they on their customer buying cycle or their journey, and then what is it that you’re looking to get out of this.

Jane: So if it’s awareness, what sort of coverage and how are you going to measure that? Is that about the social media presence? Is that about traditional press coverage? Is that about brand presence and visibility, for example. If it’s a relationship building, okay, what level of people do you want to meet with? Which companies are you targeting? How many meetings and what are the outcomes that are going to work? If it’s demand generation, great, how many contacts?

Jane: Again, what level, what conversion rates are you looking for from those? You apply the usual marketing metrics, but it’s really important to identify them and to be really clear about those. Because if you’re going to an event and it’s a bit of a catchall, it’s going to be very difficult to actually get great results because you’re trying to be all things to all attendees and that doesn’t work very well. You really need to work out who you’re going to talk to.

Key events metrics to focus on

Fiona Jensen: Yeah, really good advice there. So when you’re talking about measuring the events, what would you say is realistic with regards to return on investment or like you say, you’ve talked about quite a variety of audiences and journeys that are, but if we were to maybe focus around demand generation, which a lot of tech and software businesses are really focused on. If you are committing 30 to 40% of your budget, what sort of realistic return on investment or results should they be able to expect from event marketing?

Jane: Well, a good benchmark is a return off 15 to one and that is business closed. That’s not opportunities, that’s business closed. And I think for demand generation events, that is completely realistic. In my experience, if you execute your event strategy well, you will achieve at least a return, a 15 to one-one event. That’s a good return. That is very good compared to other marketing disciplines.

Jane: When they’re effective they can be fantastic. The critical pieces approaching those events and the overall strategy in the right way to achieve those results. Because as I said, that result is absolute achievable if it’s a true demand generation event and you’ve really thought about who it is that you want to target, but let me give you a couple of examples about why that doesn’t always happen because I’m sure a lot of people will have the experience thinking, well, we went to that event and we only got like three leads and it was terrible.

Jane: Why is that happening? Well, generally it’s because you’re either at the wrong event or you haven’t got the right value proposition for the audience. A lot of companies will look at events and think, Oh, should we be going to this third party event should we have our own event. And I would say the starting point for looking at that decision is do you have those relationships? Do you really have strong relationships with the target audience? So if you want to have an event that delivers business opportunity at a C level, for example, C level, notoriously difficult to engage with.

Fiona Jensen: Very difficult, and everybody wants them.

Jane: Everybody wants them.

Fiona Jensen: Everybody wants them.

Jane: Everybody wants them, they’re really, really difficult to engage with. They’re especially difficult if you’re looking to break through on accounts. And you’ve got to be really realistic. If you don’t know that account, trying to hold a C level event and invite 30 CEOs or CIOs or CMOs that you don’t know isn’t going to work.

Jane: So you need to have a longterm strategy for whoever it is that you’re trying to attract. So if you’re really trying to get new business, think about that account plan, think about the sea level, think about the senior management decision makers. Think about, say the IT manager level, procurement. Bake that into your event plan in a way that’s realistic because it’s no good to say, “Oh, I would suggest this.” Then you could say, “Oh, well I know, let’s do two day event and invite these 30 CMOs and that’ll be fantastic.” Because those CMOs incredibly busy like we all are. They’re certainly not going to go and spend two days with a company they don’t know.

Jane: However, if those CMOs are going to Carline for example, and you working with that organization, you have a value proposition. It’s really interesting. It’s entirely realistic to think, okay, well we could co-host a lunch at that third party event and start the conversation and really take that opportunity to listen to what those CMOs are looking for because then we can take that back and further craft our value proposition.

Jane: So that’s something that can work really well in the early stages of that customer buying cycle because you’re in listening mode, you’re really trying to get intelligence and you’re using that event to provide you with good quality input to do that.

Starting an events strategy as a solo marketer

Fiona Jensen: Yeah, really interesting. So say folks on [inaudible 00:18:03], if you are a business who maybe doesn’t have much of a marketing function and you think that event marketing is worse, that 30, 40% investment but you don’t currently have that set up, how would you approach coming up with or identifying what events and how to implement an event marketing strategy from scratch?

Jane: Well, what I would say is if you if you’re in a situation where your startup or ramp-up or you’re in growth but you’re in early stages, you don’t necessarily have your wide established customer base or an event strategy in place. Then what I would say is, look across your marketing plan. Try and really focus on a few key events that are going to work in the way that I was talking about. They’re going to provide you with real value or whatever stage of the customer journey it is.

Jane: I have found this event assessment tool really helpful because it’s a way to have a conversation across marketing and sales and product lines that is neutral if you like. It isn’t for one type of event or against one type of event, it can provide a framework to actually quite objectively look at those events and say, “Okay, well let’s score them against what we’ve agreed our criteria to be and then we can actually make the right decisions about whether to attend them.”

Jane: Now, that in my experience is the most difficult conversation to have, because generally those events have already been signed for. This is one of the issues that many organizations face. Decision makers in every part of the organization have individually signed up to certain events. It’s not a cohesive strategy and then you have to work out, okay, how do I make this work? Because these investments have been made and very often once the contracts have been signed, yeah, those costs are sunk.

Jane: So it’s not that you can just cancel the activity because you’ve already made the financial commitments. So then it’s really a case of, okay, let’s still ask the same questions, have the same conversations about our audience, about what it is that we want them to think, feel, and do, about what we expect the outputs to be and then work together to try and focus on those things that you’ve agreed.

Jane: I think it’s easier said than done. I think it’s very tempting when any event is signed up for to think, Oh this is great, it’s going to be marvelous. And then everybody goes into executing the tactics. So great, what food are we going to have and what graphics are we going to show on our booth? And Oh, I’ve got this really cool idea for a party, without having those conversations about who, the think, feel, do, and the outcomes. But they are absolutely critical. I feel where I’ve been successful is in helping teams across all the functions to get together and have those conversations.

Fiona Jensen: What’s the best salvage story you’ve got them from an event where you’ve inherited something where you think, Oh dear. We’re not naming names [crosstalk 00:21:40].

Jane: I’m trying to think how to make this in personal. I think I have, when I set up the global function I did four years ago. There are already a number of exhibitions that have been committed to and everything was focusing around what products are we be going to show?

Jane: As I’m sure lots of people familiar with, everybody feels that their product is super important and needs to be there. I had a couple of instances where you had a sort of 20×20 exhibition booth with maybe 50 products that people want to show, and no stories. Like, okay, so this is slightly like a garage sale.

Jane: So in those sorts of instances, and it is tough, it’s hard work, but I have had to … And mostly successfully just go in and talk to the businesses about, right, let’s talk about who you’re talking to and what you want to achieve from this. And then you build the event narrative. So that’s the story. So who do we want to talk to? What’s our story? Looking at all the different products or the offerings and saying, “Okay, do they actually fit with that story or are they a bit of a subplot?” Honestly, we could lose.

Jane: When people come together and buy into that event narrative, the conversation about why you would show certain product or not. It does become easier. It certainly does. Otherwise it’s very difficult. Now, I won’t pretend these are easy conversations because they’re really not. And I have had instances where, and I do remember one particular product that the product director was adamant, had to be on this booze and it had nothing to do with the audience or the story.

Jane: And that was really tough. We had to have a really, really honest conversation about it. And there are times when I’ve … That instance, just okay, it’s not going to go on the booze. That’s it. It’s not going to happen. But how about we look at X, Y, Z. So it’s always coming up with an alternative and no is a horrible word and obviously event marketers really, really always want to please everybody, but you can’t and you need to learn to say how about we approach them different way.

How to manage stakeholders as an events marketer

Fiona Jensen: So tips then around managing stakeholders and difficult conversations from your experience. You’ve just given a great example there around how to maybe overcome that though. What other questions or approaches would you recommend people take? Both with sales and product and senior management as well. Because often I think event marketers kind of kept stuff coming down sideways or not.

Jane: Absolutely they do.

Fiona Jensen: And they are like, fine, I’m going to facilitate this, but actually I’ve got no idea why I’m doing it. And as you say, often that’s maybe where the problem arises. Then you’re making maybe a bit of a rod for your own back. So if you were an event marketer who was receiving a lot of incoming requests and events from stakeholders who can be challenging, what sort of advice or questions would you recommend they start asking?

Jane: That is such a good question, Fiona, because this is so common because event marketers tend to be two things. One control freaks and two they want to make people happy, they really do. That’s really tough for them. So be coaching my team, what I found works really well is helping them to have executive level conversations.

Jane: So I’ve actually done training with my team about how to go in and have that conversation, how to communicate with senior executives. And it is all about understanding what their position is. If you’re a senior business executive, your time to achieve a business objective, understanding that as an event marketing is so, so important.

Jane: So it’s all about having conversations that are brief, are to the point that demonstrate you understand what their business challenges, what their business objective, and that you have the expertise to deliver a solution to that. Having those kinds of frameworks has really helped my team to have these conversations. So I’d say that’s one really important thing. If you’re an event marketer, make sure that you get yourself some training or you understand how to have executive communications and how to do that well. Really, really, really important because otherwise you’re always going to be on the receiving end. You’re always going to be given a fete to complete or a challenge or something to sort out.

Jane: I think that the second tip, if you like, that I would give is keep coming back to the business objectives. Be stubborn about it. If somebody hasn’t defined who they’re trying to talk to or what their business outcome is, keep going back. You have got the right to have that conversation because you’re trying to deliver ultimately a business objective for them and if you want to be seen as bringing something to the business beyond execution, you need to be okay with having those conversations. So keep having them is what I would say, keep at it. It is really important.

Jane: And then the third thing is make sure that you understand how you’re going to measure what you’re doing. As an event marketer, you’re the expert there and bringing that understanding and helping your business stakeholders understand how you’re going to measure things is really, really important. And measurements, it is quantitative, so if you’re in a demand generation event, the measurements should be largely quantitative, but there’s a huge qualitative measure as well, and that can be based on things like net promoter scores or sentiment measuring or foot for measuring and all of those or social media presence.

Jane: And those things are all becoming really, really critical and that understanding of how to measure event experience is increasing. I said at the beginning of our conversation, it’s really important to have an emotional connection with your audience at events and measuring that emotional connection is becoming very, very critical. So event marketers need to understand how they do that and how they’re measuring the numbers on the demand generation as well.

Fiona Jensen: Makes me think of that Maya Angelou quote, people forget what you say, but they never forget how you made them feel.

Jane: Exactly. Oh my goodness, that’s the essence of events. That really is it. It is absolutely about how you make them feel. And that’s why I always come back to when I’m building individual event experiences is how is this going to make them feel? What do we want them to feel? And does every element of that experience help to do that or is it going to detract?

Fiona Jensen: So it’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because a lot of what you talked about is around hard delivering results, business commercial. When it comes to the event itself, then you’re talking about feelings, which actually for an awful lot of the audience that an awful lot of us are after the C-suite. That’s probably as far away from their agenda or from what we openly talk about. Well, you just don’t find C-suite people talking about their feelings, do you? It’s just really important that-

Jane: It’s so interesting, yes. It really is. Really is all about bringing enterprise marketing together with experiential marketing because the experiential is all about how we make people feel. And the enterprise marketing is all about the results. But the C-suite, it’s interesting because there’s some research been done on, on what makes a C-suite event successful. And C-suite … They’re just people, but they what they want, there are a couple of things that they really looking for.

Jane: Whether they would articulate this openly or not. But these factors have really helped events be successful. One of them is being peer to peer. Because when you’re C-suite, when you’re at that level-

Fiona Jensen: It’s lonely at the top.

Jane: It’s lonely at the top and maintaining your status and your position within your organisation within the street is very important. So that’s why when you’re working with your C-suite stakeholders, you need to make sure that whatever you’re going to deliver is going to help them do that, and also not be risky. Because anything that puts them at risk puts their position at risk too.

Jane: Anyway, when you’re talking about them as an attendee, that’s why they want to go to events that are truly peer to peer. They do not want to turn up to an event that they’ve been invited to as C-suite and find out 60% of the other attendees are middle management. And I’m sure lots of people have had the experience where they are putting on a C-level event. That’s what their stakeholders have asked them to do and then that changes and people say, “Oh, let’s invite these people.” And before you know it, you’ve got an event where you’ve got a range of audiences being invited from C-suite down to middle management and it won’t work.

Fiona Jensen: Trying to feel-

Jane: You’re trying to be all things to all people much better to have a smaller focused event for the audience you really want. So peer to peer is very important. The other thing that’s really important is the feeling that they have something that’s sort of exclusive. That money can’t buy experience.

Jane: It doesn’t have to be something that’s ultra luxurious, but it’s something that’s really unique that they wouldn’t be able to get on their own or they wouldn’t think how they would have on their own. So whether that’s a kind of, I’ve done it behind the scenes at the tower of London, something like that with the crown jewels, for example. Keep coming back to the crown jewels. Or something where they get a small group meeting with someone who’s really interesting, like someone who works on the NASA project or somebody who’s been an Explorer. Just something that’s really interesting but that you wouldn’t normally get exposure to.

Jane: So anything that gives them that feeling of a truly unique experience and also an experience that creates an emotional connection, because that’s the third thing. You need to make the event feel exclusive. It needs to be peer to peer and it needs to connect with them in a meaningful way. Something that they care about. Those are the ingredients that really make good relationship building C-suite events.

Forging a career in events marketing

Fiona Jensen: Not playing well, I’d sign up for any of that. So we’ve talked a lot around the events and the strategy and questions to ask and obviously how important that audience and the experiences, what we haven’t necessarily talked about so far is event marketing as a career. So as you say, you’ve had a lot of experience in it. You’ve mentored and developed team. You’ve built a function from scratch. So with all of that, why event marketing or experiential marketing in the B2B tech space? What is it about it that keeps you coming back for more?

Jane: Well, I think it’s a number of things. It’s project work that I love. As you know, working across matrix organisations, bringing together a shared vision and delivering on that, there is something fantastic about that. I think that’s why people generally work in events.

Jane: But I think for me, building a career as an executive in that function, it’s because it enables me, I should say, to draw on all of my marketing experience, but to create something that’s really memorable, and does connect emotionally. I found that to be one of the most satisfying parts of my career and I really love it and I think the other pieces, because it’s enabled me to mentor and develop teams, which again, something really, really important to me. There is a real basic human need to meet and connect and I’m sure you’ll remember when virtual events first started.

Jane: There was lots of talk about how this would completely take over from live events, live events would be dead, everybody would be attending events virtually. Of course that hasn’t happened at all. And now digital marketing has developed in a way that we see this fantastic enhancement of live events and amplification of live events through digital, but we’re not all sitting at our laptops looking at a virtual exhibition.

Jane: So there’s something really unique about event marketing. It really has that ability to connect and to make relationships and to change how people think through experience. And I find that really exciting and it’s the marketing discipline that I find the most interesting and rewarding because of that.

Jane: However, there are challenges to building your career in this. It is not a nine to five. The hours are long. You have to be very, very, very comfortable with fast moving and ever changing requirements and really comfortable with ambiguity because events, one thing I will say about B2B events, you put your event plan together, the one thing I know is they will change a hundred times before you actually execute it and that has to be something that you’re really comfortable with.

Jane: I do like all of those things. I think it’s brought me a career that is really interesting and has such a variety of different projects to work on and that it’s really made a difference. There are lots of areas in event marketing that I have become more involved with over the years. One of them for example, is sustainability.

Jane: Event marketing is a tricky one for sustainability because often your flying people in for an event, you’re building things, you’re using resources and on the surface of it, it’s really hard to see how that can be sustainable. However, I really believe that the power of bringing people to get together to discuss and find solutions and ways of looking at things far outweighs the negative. And the negative, we’ve really worked on to mitigate.

Jane: In my last job with HP, one of the things that we did over the last year, which I’m really proud of, is build a sustainable events framework. So using the UN’s sustainability goals for people, planet, process, we put together a framework to help event marketers be more sustainable in their event planning and work with their venues, their hotels, their carriers, their agencies, to look at how they can use resources wisely, how they can work with the communities, where they’re holding the events, how they can reuse and recycle. And that’s something that I’m really passionate about. I think there’s a lot of good that can come out of using events to further those kinds of goals.

Fiona Jensen: Oh, lovely. Yeah. Well, sustainability is there a key thing, isn’t it? Now moving forward to the side.

Jane: It’s non-negotiable, isn’t it?

Fiona Jensen: Yeah.

Jane: We have to be thinking about it. And I think one of the things that I found is that because sustainability is quite rightly so high on the agenda for so many organizations, I mean for most organisations now it is in their corporate strategy of their top three most important things.

Jane: Actually being sustainable and using sustainability events can really help to build those relationships as well because it shows a really shared understanding of what’s important to relationships and organisations.

How to stop becoming stale as an events marketer

Fiona Jensen: So we’ve covered off event marketing and why you do it. One of the things that I hear a lot talking to event marketers is that they kind of get a bit stuck. I want to ask you a question around event marketers getting unstuck, which is maybe holding a mirror up and maybe getting people to think about things that they don’t really want to think about. But what sort of advice do you have for event marketers who have reached that sort of mid level, who are finding things a bit repetitive, who may be finding that they’re getting a bit frustrated because either it’s getting very samey or they’re thinking about moving company versus changing their approach? What sort of advice would you give to people who are maybe in that boat at the moment?

Jane: It’s a really, really good point, Fiona, because I meet with a lot of event marketers who tell me that. What’s often the case is that somebody will be at a mid level, but they feel they are really execution focused and they’re not maybe able to have a seat at the table where they feel the decisions are being made.

Jane: So this is a conversation I’ve had with quite a few people, Oh, decisions don’t involve me and I’m not asked and then I have to execute the plan. But then I’m not getting the chance to input into it. So I do think there is an element of looking at yourself and thinking, right, well, how can I bring business value then? Am I making the effort to understand what my business state comps are looking for? Am I listening to them? Am I then going away and coming back with things that will meet those business requirements?

Jane: I think the first thing is to really think about that. What kind of conversations are you having with your stakeholders because they’re not going to start thinking about it differently unless you start changing that conversation with them. And it’s not an easy win and it’s not something that will happen overnight, but keep doing it. You need to keep having those conversations. If you’re in a company that you want to stay at, but you really want your function, what you bring to change, you need to first demonstrate that you understand what the value is that that can bring.

Jane: So that’s the first thing I’d say. I would say if you are somebody who is in an operational role and you really want to be strategic, you’re going to have to shift your focus. Because I do actually also meet people who say they want to be strategic but actually are wholly focused on the operational piece and being control freaks as we all are in the event world, letting go of some of that operational so that you can spend more time on strategy is really important and you have to be prepared to do it.

Jane: If you’re not, you know what? You need to really think about whether you really do want to be strategic event marketer or whether you’re actually quite happy being operational and that’s where you want to be. I’m not saying it is, it is a holier either or, but it has to be both. You can’t be seen as more strategic unless you are really bringing strategic value. That’s important.

Jane: However, I would also say that you need to look at your company. How is marketing regarded in your company overall? Is it part of the main board structure? Is your CMO on the board? Does the CMO value event marketing? It is extremely difficult to be a strategic event marketer in an organization where, A, marketing is not a key decision maker and B, the CMO does not value event marketing. Brutally honest about that, but that is the way it is. It is very difficult to change both of those things.

Fiona Jensen: Yeah. Yeah. So if you’re starting a company where that is the situation, then try not to beat yourself up too much.

Jane: Exactly. Maybe it is the time to look for another role. If you’ve tried this, if you’ve tried to bring this just strategy and you’ve tried to engage in these conversations and you’re not getting anywhere, probably it’s time to look for another role. But I would also say to the situation where the board or the CMO have that like … Think again. You’re spending 30 to 40% of your marketing spend on events if not more.

Jane: So do you know what, think about why you’re doing that. Think about valuing that strategic approach to it, because otherwise … You could be spending that 30 or 40% on something else that you know what you’re getting for. So I think it’s a two way street, I really do think the really great CMOs are the ones who understand the value of all of that marketing mix.

Fiona Jensen: Absolutely. If you were someone who was maybe recruiting for an event marketer now, so lots different hats for you to take.

Jane: Absolutely.

Interview questions to ask an events marketer to assess their skills and capabilities

Fiona Jensen: If you were recruiting for an event marketer, either your first one or you’re recruiting your first one into your own team, what sort of questions would you ask? How do you assess a good event marketer versus someone who, as you say, doesn’t necessarily appreciate the value that event marketing can bring?

Jane: I would say first of all it’s all about attitude. So you do need to have a positive can do attitude. You need to be very open minded and you need to be someone who’s comfortable with risk and will change. So the questions I would ask, it would be around assessing, what is the level of those kinds of characteristics in the person.

Jane: There is a need to have some level of operational expertise of course. But I would say, that’s probably not the primary thing that I look for because you can learn those things. That’s why you have agencies as well. If it’s pure operational expertise you can kind of buy that in. Number one is attitude.

Jane: And then the second thing is, can they demonstrate that they work closely with the business and that they really understand how to have those business conversations and they understand how to have those stakeholder and influencing conversations. Because it’s very difficult if you come in as a very operational event marketeer to change that. Very difficult as we’ve just discussed.

Jane: So really looking for what similar struggle experience have people had of having those business conversations around events and understanding the value of those. And then I think there’s always that question of is this person going to be a great fit? Have they got that kind of flexibility? Are they culturally the right sort of person? Because event marketing is a discipline that works across the whole organisation. They’re not on their own. But the person often is on their own. Often you’re the only-

Fiona Jensen: Trying to deliver again.

Jane: Exactly. So you’ve got to be that kind of person that really loves working across a matrix sort of organisation and is really comfortable doing that. And it’s going to fit in well with the senior management style as well. So those are the kinds of things that I would be looking for.

Fiona Jensen: Very good. Okay. And then if we flip it again and we’re an event marketer who is about to start a new position within a business, you’ve already sort of drops in about you have a 30, 60, 90 day plan, what sort of advice would you give them if they are walking into their start date in January? What sort of things would you suggest they do or think about? Or what sort of approach would you take?

Jane: I would say there’s kind of two things that you need to do. The first thing is you need to deliver. You absolutely need to deliver. So always good to get a really good win under your belt. Generally when you’re walking into that new role, there’s probably a project coming up very, very soon, probably students than you would liken on the horizon. You’re always going to deliver. So the focus on excellent delivery, the first thing.

Jane: And the second thing is really listen and take that opportunity to get to know the business. The brilliant thing about coming into a new role is that you can ask as many questions as you want to. You have that permission, you’re new. Sometimes you can ask those … I’m not going to call them the stupid questions, but they’re the questions that actually start bringing a lot of things out.

Jane: So the question about why, so why do we do this then? And how does that work? And that’s when you find out the things like, Oh, because we’ve always done it like this or Oh because so and so has always been in charge of that. And you can get a good feel then for actually how the dynamics are and how the decision making and responsibility for events is happening.

Jane: So it gives you a chance to really assess that. I think that’s really important. So I would say deliver, deliver your first projects brilliantly because you want to get a good reputation as someone who absolutely knows their stuff. And two listen and ask questions because that will help you then. When you do get into your second quarter, whatever, start formulating a way to approach the events that can really build a great event role or a great event function.

Fiona Jensen: Perfect. Thank you. So you talked a little bit already about this, but that work life balance, Jane.

Jane: Same as work, life balance.

Fiona Jensen: You are a mom of two, you’re a global experiential marketer. How on earth have you managed to do all of that?

Jane: Well, I love that phrase, the work life balance because, I don’t know about you, but I have never managed to balance it. Never. It’s more like a Seesaw. I think the thing I’ve learned is you just can’t have it all, all the time at least. So those priorities, they shift and change.

Jane: The first thing is my partner is incredibly amazingly supportive and I just don’t think women, working moms can get to a senior position unless their partner’s contributing at least half to the family life. I don’t mean money contribution. I mean in terms of time and effort and all of that, that goes into the family. So having a really supportive partner.

Jane: I think the second thing is letting things go. I have to say hoovering has been pretty much let go by me. That’s it. You can’t be everything to everybody. You have to prioritize. I think when my kids were small, I pretty much worked and I was with the family and I didn’t have much of a social life.

Jane: But that was okay, that was all right, because it wasn’t forever. I think you have to be prepared to make some choices and accept that you can’t do everything all of the time and that there will be swings and roundabouts to it. And there are times when your career is going to have to be prioritized if that’s what you want. That makes it difficult. But I’ve prioritized my family and my career and other things have kind of slotted in around them. It’s kind of like the big rocks approach. You put rocks in a jar and you get the big ones sorted and then the little ones you just kind of fill in around them.

Fiona Jensen: Yeah. And I really liked that one. I’ve seen that bit, it’s lovely. Well thank you ever so much for your time and for talking us through all of your experience, Jane. And I’m excited to say that you’re going to be sharing a framework with us around your event marketing assessment and all.

Jane: I am. I’m going to share a tool that will help you, as I said, decide what are the right kinds of events for your audiences and for your business goals. I find that really helpful. I’ve had lots of marketing teams who found it really helpful. So yeah, I’m excited to share that.

Fiona Jensen: Really, really grateful for that. So thank you. We’ll make that readily available for all. So thank you ever so much. And using your pirate spyglass, what sort of future trends do you see for event marketing? What do you think the future holds for your specialism and skills?

Jane: Really exciting. So coming back to a couple of things I talked about, that focus on making emotional connections, it was going to get more and more important and meaning, events that have meaning, they need to have purpose. So things like when I talk about sustainability in events or corporate social responsibility, that’s going to become more and more important. So those are the trends I think we’re going to see really developing over the next two or three years.

Fiona Jensen: That’s fantastic. And now that we’ve got this great episode with all of your help and advice out there, I’m expecting to see an awful lot more strategic event marketers coming through and pushing for that senior level position.

Jane: I really hope so. Absolutely.

Fiona Jensen: Thanks ever so much your time, Jane. It’s been really insightful. So there you have it, career advice from a real marketing expert and leader in the field. Thanks for listening. If you’re enjoying this podcast, then please leave us a review in iTunes. We’d love to hear your feedback.

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