How online events have changed after COVID-19

How COVID-19 has changed Event Marketing forever

Zoom, COVID-19, travel bans, and local ordinances in 2020 created chaos in the world of event marketing. Field sales reps are wondering how they are going to meet new prospects without being able to go to a trade show and network.  Not all is lost for sales and marketing teams as industries have been forced to pivot.  Online meetings, virtual tradeshows, and remote networking have replaced destination events for the time being.

How do you get the most out of your event?  That’s exactly what Aubri Nowoweijski and Kyle Hamer sit down to discuss.  In the wild wild west of online events, how do you unlock the good, avoid the bad, and steer clear of the ugly?

Inside this episode, Aubri and Kyle share insights on:

  • How to reach your market with innovative events
  • Holding events your customers are prospects want to attend
  • What are the keys to holding a successful online event
  • Picking the right solution for your event
  • Incorporating production value without breaking the bank



Kyle Hamer: (00:00)
Welcome to the summit, a podcast focused on bringing you the knowledge and insight for industry leaders. I’m your host, Kyle Hemer and I’m on a mission to help you exceed your potential. As a sales guy, turned marketer, I am passionate about building sustainable businesses, and there’s one thing I’ve learned. You won’t find an overnight growth scheme, shortcut to success, or a way to hack yourself to the top. Nope. Success is the by-product of great relationships and we’re here to help you unlock that success. One conversation at a time.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (00:29)
I mean the worst thing that you can do is do nothing at all. I think there are so many people who fell into that camp that thinking, Oh, surely things are going to be backed by Q3 Q4 of this year. And the reality is that is not the case. You absolutely have to go virtual at this time.

Kyle Hamer: (00:46)
Hi, I’m here with my good friend Aubri, Nowoiejski. What a great last name, Aubri. Welcome to the show.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (00:55)
Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Kyle Hamer: (00:58)
Um, so Aubrey is a, production manager would like tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, what you do and in, you know, how you make the world go round for you.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (01:08)
Oh my gosh. Yes. Uh, title is executive producer. I work for coterie spark. We’re a global meeting and event management firm. That’s based in Houston, Texas, but again, we do events all over the world and we specialize in in-person virtual and hybrid experiences specifically.

Kyle Hamer: (01:31)
I would imagine

Aubri Nowowiejski: (01:32)
Holy smokes. Yeah. A lot of the industry is definitely evolving, but if there’s any industry that can, you know, think on their feet, I would say event professionals and event industry in general. Uh, we’re, we’re tackling it as best we can.

Kyle Hamer: (01:48)
Awesome. Well, today you and I are going to talk a little bit about, uh, the, the world of events, the world of changing world of events. You can just kind of like, I mean, I would assume it’s the day in the life of, of, of Henri because have there been two same days in the last six months,

Aubri Nowowiejski: (02:04)
You know what, this is why I chose this career path, because I don’t like any days that are the same. And quite frankly, it’s no different than pre COVID to now, like with, there’s always a new challenge, which my motto in life has challenges are opportunities and disguise, and that’s actually how we’re approaching this whole situation with COVID from the very start from the first contract cancellation with one of our clients to present day and looking out to 2021 and 2022 events. What does that looking like? Um, and, and yeah, I’m, I’m excited about the challenge.

Kyle Hamer: (02:37)
Well, and I don’t want to spend too much time going backwards because I think everybody’s kind of lived it, but there are a couple of things that I think are really, um, are unique and interesting about where the events space is at. You know, you have different sized organizations trying to figure out how to be agile and nimble, right. Um, organizations like inbound, they just completed their first fully virtual event. And, and for them, that was probably a little bit easier because maybe they had the resources versus a, um, a small association who historically might have only ever done things in person. You know, they have smaller groups of folks and trying to figure out how to continue to deliver and provide that value of that membership value that now all of a sudden they can’t do what, what have you seen as kind of been the, the, you know, one or two takeaways, like big aha moments for organizations of various sizes over the last six months where it’s like, Oh, this is how we can address it and still provide value.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (03:35)
Right? I mean, the worst thing that you can do is do nothing at all. I think there are so many people who fell into that camp that thinking, Oh, surely things are going to be backed by Q3 Q4 of this year. And the reality is that is not the case. You absolutely have to go virtual at this time. A lot of, uh, hotel properties, especially if you had larger gatherings are limited to between 50 to 250 people max and that’s with strict social guidelines as far as social distancing guidelines. Um, and so that really in many ways inhibits the program that you probably previously envisioned. So keeping that in mind, you, you really do, especially for larger events need to take those virtual or even for your smaller then. So, you know, there there’s some people who do not feel comfortable getting out in person.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (04:18)
And quite frankly, you do want to look out for the best interests of your membership, your leadership, who, whoever is attending your events. So, um, that is the biggest takeaway is to do something and not nothing. And I think people need to embrace this new, it’s not a new tech age has we’re already in the tech age, but these tools have been available and haven’t been utilized for their full capabilities before because you know, nothing compares to in-person and I’m not making the argument that, you know, virtual is the same as in-person or as, even on the same level, it’s, it’s completely different experiences, but you do need to work with what you have. And there is a really awesome and unique ways to build connections and to somewhat emulate and replicate what you would have as an in-person experience. So I guess the next takeaway is to get creative as well.

Kyle Hamer: (05:12)
Well, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting area. You talk about getting creative because I would assume that as an executive producer, like no single day is the same and your job is different depending on the client and their particular needs. But my, my summer experience with, you know, with several of these, um, courses that have earned a courses, but these events that have migrated from an in-person destination, you know, highly driven by what you’re going to experience when you get there to some sort of online engagement experience, and it’s not the same. And how do you try and replicate it? Some have been very, very successful and some have been well, frankly, pretty terrible in, in, in unimpressive. And it’s not really budget specific for, for your clients, the clients that can’t do the in-person event, what are the things that you’re helping coach them think about, tell them that to consider, as I say, okay, Hey, I can’t do the same rubbing elbows, shaking, hands going and getting a coffee after the event type of networking. And in in-person experience, how do you help them reset their expectations? Or how do you help frame it so that they can create an event that is successful virtually,

Aubri Nowowiejski: (06:23)
Right. I think the first thing that you have to understand is there is a difference between a virtual event and a webinar. I think everyone’s experience, you know, pre COVID was just with a zoom webinar. And although you can use zoom and create an event, the differentiation is the experiential enhancements is what we call it, right? So, um, you need kind of multiple components to your event. You need the event platform. Um, sometimes you need the streaming tool in addition to the event platform. So zoom is kind of one and all, but when I’m talking about, about platforms, I’m talking more about sophisticated HTML websites that are built and designed to kind of host larger events where you have integrations with these streaming platforms. Um, and then again, you need your experiential enhancements on top of that. And so experiential enhancements can run the gamut between having a Lama pop-up surprisingly in one of your zoom calls or in, you know, a virtual platform that you have.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (07:24)
You can have different wine pairing and tasting events, um, virtual entertainers, whether that’s MCs or magicians or taro card readers. I mean, there’s so many different things. If you think about an in-person event, let’s say it was a social event. What are the components you would have? You’d have a photo booth, Hey, guess what? There are virtual photo booths. You would have a, uh, you know, FNB, so food and beverage, so, Hey, can we pre mail them something? Or can we email them a gift certificate to door dash or grub hub and have them select what they want and get it delivered to their home. So there are so many different things you can do as experiential enhancements. I think another part of education is on budget. So I think a lot of people just assume that, Oh, we’re going virtual. So it’s going to be free because we can use the limited zoom account and still have X number of people on there. And the reality is that if you truly want to produce an event, you’ve got to put some money towards that. Now more than ever an audio visual production team is an essential element to any virtual events, because that is what’s bringing the show value, the production value to keep people entertained. Um, especially when there’s so much zoom burnout right now. I mean, like again, just understanding that difference between a webinar and a true event and experience and how to create that,

Kyle Hamer: (08:43)
You know, I’m going to, I’m going to echo that just from my, my experience, there was a, there was an event that I attended for a, a fairly large software company. And I was, um, I was, uh, you know, not vested interest. I was just doing some studying of what was working, what wasn’t working. And what I thought was really, really interesting is this company had taken the time and the money to invest in an emcee, right? They wanted to have this larger than life personality, open up and create an experience, which I was really excited for. And then during the opening keynote, we went from prerecorded MC to prerecorded senior leadership. And it was like, one minute we were, we were watching Tigger on the screen and the next minute it was ER, and the, the, the complete energy change that fast was that nobody had really thought about the production value of, Hey, we’re going to keep the energy up, or we’re going to maintain a level of energy. We’re going to do something so that we can transition so that it makes sense emotionally or thematically so that we can match these, these tones and timbers.

Kyle Hamer: (09:54)
How do you help companies through that thought, like, they’ve never done a production before, right? They’ve not actually produced a show. How are they, how are they, where do they begin? How do they prevent that from happening?

Aubri Nowowiejski: (10:05)
Right. And, you know, it’s evolved even as COVID has taken place. So originally it was straight locked down. So everybody was in their home. The only real option was to mail a camera, kit, a studio K with the lighting, the audio, the video to that person’s residence. And they’re going to shoot from their living room or wherever they can hardline it. Right. Um, now things have started to open up a little bit, so we can get back into actual professional studios and kind of have a PR professional set, uh, that you’re broadcasting from. And they are implementing amazing social distancing measures, where really, you just have the camera, man, you’ve got your prompter and you’ve got the person who’s being interviewed, or if there’s multiple people there they’re spread out. And everybody’s in mass, of course, uh, except for the person presenting, they’ll take it off when it’s time to present.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (10:48)
Um, that is definitely a notch up on the production. There are different platforms as well, stream yard being an example where you can, uh, really kind of animate if you will, your production and that’s transitions in and out. That’s lower third banners of people’s names and titles or bottom bars that prompt people to, you know, contribute to the poll, vote on the poll, or, you know, make a comment in the chat, those, those kinds of things, um, that can definitely add a level of enhancement to, to your production. I think linking up with an event management firm, an audio visual partner, whoever you might have used for your in-person events in the past, almost every single one of them have had to pivot during this time. And they are surely tech savvy. This is just another, uh, element or aspect of the technical capabilities that they have.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (11:36)
And they can advise you through that. Having a show flow and a show script, it was just as important as in-person for in-person events, but it’s extremely important for, uh, for virtual events as well. And making sure that you have an open line of communication. Sometimes that’s a secondary Slack channel. It could be a WhatsApp chat, different ways to communicate between the people who are backstage virtually, and those who are watching the forward facing platform. So there, there is a big learning curve I would say. And that’s probably the biggest challenge with virtual events right now is, is that learning curve, but you’ve got people out there and resources who can help you to bridge that gap.

Kyle Hamer: (12:11)
Well, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting. It’s interesting to me that some of the things that you touched on as it relates to communication and production life set, versus being at home in a we’re entering the season where a lot of companies will begin doing their, their annual sales meetings or their, the annual kickoffs. And now what are we going to do? You know, I think we were on a, we were on a panel discussing last week, how, um, one of the, one of the panelists has got a, um, uh, an economic event that’s coming up, right. And they have it say, it’s a big event for them. And they they’re used to having this, this production value in these things going on.

Kyle Hamer: (12:51)
What’s interesting to me is the consideration of, um, most organizations don’t think through, well, what if I actually had to produce that in stream, at live as though it’s a TV show or something where, where people on the other side can consume it from home and feel like they’re, they’re a part of it. Um, the NFL NBA organizations that have in-person events, they have, you know, they, they, they may not have fans right. There may not be people in the audience, but they’re still delivering that same level of production as they did last year. When there were people in the stands, what are some things that organizations can do or ways that they can get creative with platforms? Like, w what’d you say, stream online stream yard, stream yard, um, there’s stream yard, there’s live stream. Um, there there’s different ones that you can use for, for try casting type production elements. What are, what are some of the things that they can, um, think about as it relates to coordinating an event so that it feels like I’m still having some level of that experience versus, Hey, I’m watching my boss in his kitchen. Talk to me about what we’re going to do in 2021.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (13:59)
So basically the difference between being talked at, and actually having some engagement in participation in it. Yeah. And this is another aspect of virtual events that I cannot wait for the evolution to come. So a lot of the event platforms that are out there are not one size fits all, or end all be all. They don’t have all the capabilities built in, or if they offer certain capabilities of probably not the best that’s out there to offer. So there’s a lot of integration that takes place almost think about almost like widgets, right? To your HTML website, for instance. So you’re taking this event platform and you’re saying, Hey, I want to have main stage keynote time, which is someone kind of directly talking to you, but I also want to have breakouts. So a lot of platforms don’t have their own internal capability to push breakouts and segregate people.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (14:49)
And so sometimes you have to integrate with like zoom, for instance. Uh, so you’ve got that component. Then you have a mixture of your prerecorded, uh, and your live content or sending you live content, but it’s kind of a blend of the two where it’s made to appear as if it’s recorded live. So there are so many aspects to a Noma, gosh, hire an event management company. I mean, I’m not trying to like, but even if it’s not us hire somebody who has that, there’s a lot, a lot of moving parts to it. And there’s a lot, quite frankly, that could go wrong. I always send emails now. And I’m like welcome to virtual events where tech checks are absolutely mandatory. Like get excited. There’s no way to skip this. Um, and, and people are still learning too. I mean, it’s, it’s remarkable on a, you know, you have a tech call and the purpose of a tech hall is that you’re in the same location using the same computer, the same internet that you plan to use day and not some other location. And, and you’re kind of defeats the entire purpose. So, um, I, I have gone down a different path on this, this thought process. I don’t know if I’ve answered your, your initial question or not.

Kyle Hamer: (16:01)
Yeah, sorry. So I, you know, I think one of the things that you touch on there that I think is I’ve lived it, right? So, uh, think two or two years ago what the organization that I was a part of decided to do a huge brand reveal and simulcasts, and they wanted it to all be part of this, um, this EV like there were like nine different physical locations. And so every location they wanted it to have this, this level of, Oh, I’m experiencing the same thing as this, if I’m not at the live event. And so the coordination of what are we doing with the live stream and how are we cutting back and forth, and, and what’s the what’s happening on the stage and what are we, you know, how long when somebody’s on, when somebody’s off, when do we get people in the room to make sure, I mean, there was just all of these logistics that

Aubri Nowowiejski: (16:50)
Different times zones.

Kyle Hamer: (16:51)
Oh, yes. Yeah. Right. And in the, the headquarters happened to be on East coast. And one of their most recent acquisitions happened to be all the way on Pacific time. Right. And so they wanted to start the day at nine o’clock, which was like 5:00 AM. Right. It just, there’s all kinds of logistical things to think through that a lot of organizations or, or, uh, events folks haven’t had to go through yet. Right. And I think one of the biggest things that we, we learned, or, you know, biggest takeaways for us was there are a lot of organizations that have been doing this, that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, like this isn’t virtual events. Right. In, in, in some sort of production or, or thing it’s, it’s been going on for a long time, mega churches do it every week. Right. Whether it’s different versions of it, right.

Kyle Hamer: (17:42)
It might be, um, the mega church that does it on NBC. And I can’t think of the name of the pastor right now. That’s, you know, that he’s been doing it for years, or it could be just your local mega church. That’s doing some sort of live stream, right. Where can, where can, what are, what are, where are some common sense places to look for you and I, that other, you know, other folks listening in may not think it was, Oh yeah. That makes a lot of sense. This person might be doing this, or I can get some advice here or there to understand, Hey, just how complicated or challenging this, this conversion might be. If you’re really interested in, in having an experience

Aubri Nowowiejski: (18:24)
Well, like any marketing, I think you need to understand where your target demographic is, you know, are they hanging out on Facebook? And then in which case you might do a Facebook live or are they on YouTube or even know what that is? And you might do a YouTube live stream. Do you want this to be public? Do you want this to be private material that is password protected? That is all gonna dictate where you need to host your content and, or, you know, push your content to, um, so that’s number one, number two, I can’t, I can’t stress enough, like your audio visual partners, they would be the best people to, or your event manager would be the best person to kind of advise you, basing it based on your event and understanding what you’re trying to accomplish, because there are so many platforms out there, and yes, there you are valid in saying that this is not anything new virtual events have been here for a while.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (19:12)
We just haven’t had the same amount of focus on it. That being said, you’ve got your, your platforms that have been in the game for a while. Currently they are extremely inundated because the best of the best at this moment, and best I say best of the best is a relative term, because it may not be the best for XYZ event because it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t line up, but they are, they have waiting lists. Now, you know, it used to be, Oh, we can turn your event out in 90 days. And now that timeline has been stretched to three months, six months, so on and so forth. And the prices have tripled by now because there’s this supply and demand for those platforms. At the same time, I always liken it to like the space age for virtual events, everyone and their mom is coming out with an event platform right now.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (19:56)
And so another place to look, if you have done events in the past that were in person, and maybe you had a conference app, a lot of the conference apps are coming out with their own virtual platform versions and the two integrate. So that would be a great place to start too, rather than reinventing the wheel. If your attendees are already comfortable with utilizing a certain app to say, Hey, you can access it not only on your phone, but you can also access this experience on your desktop as well. Understanding there are a lot of, uh, growing pains as I would call them because these platforms, they are trying to, to meet the demand. And they’re trying to, you know, have their tech teams work overnight to get these platforms up and running and without fail, there’s going to be some kinks. There’s going to be some broken links.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (20:40)
And a lot of the event professionals and the people utilizing these platforms are the ones submitting those help desk tickets saying, Hey, this needs be fixed or that needs to be fixed. Or they might’ve promised that, you know, chat and polls were going to be available on the first release. And they then had to postpone that timeline. And if you already have, you know, a contract locked in and your event date, you just gotta roll with what you’ve got. And again, get creative with other integrations that you can kind of plug into bandaid for lack of a better word, as things start to catch up with you. So we have definitely experienced that. And, and again, just to kind of reiterate, even with our clients, we have done events, I think, on over four to five different event platforms now, because again, it really does depend on the client and the event on what we’re going to recommend to you because there is no, there no one straight answer for, for everyone.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (21:30)
And I think a budget again, is a huge component. So yeah, you can talk about these megachurches. You can talk about, you know, NFL and the sports. Realistically, most people do not have that budget and are not going to have that level of production. I think that’s another kind of education moment is, you know, it’s easy to say, Oh, we’re going to have three 60 simulcasts from 20 plus locations, but you’re working with, you know, a budget that is not the NFL. It’s just, it’s not, you gotta be realistic with your expectations, I guess what I’m saying.

Kyle Hamer: (22:03)
Well, no, and I, and so by the way, I agree with that, but I think that the thing that’s important to that, that, that people will maybe think is as well, if I have budget, then I can skip on production. And I think for, from, from, from my perspective, what I was just only trying to draw the similarity to is is that even though budgets may be impacted, that’s the one thing you actually cannot skimp on.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (22:25)
We honestly will not take a client who will not allocate funds towards, towards the production element, because, and again, going back to the whole argument, we are not in the business of webinars. Anybody can host a webinar, anyone can schedule a zoom call and share their screen. We are, we are there for the production in order to have that production value. You need that production partner, just like you would apply to that. I would never walk into a conference center and have a 500 person multi-day conference. And I am the one doing the soundboard and the, the screens. You, you would never expect that. So in the same respect, you need your audio visual partners for, for virtual events now more than ever.

Kyle Hamer: (23:05)
Well, in, in the, um, the example that I have for, for me personally, is just, like I said, I was at a, a really large, uh, software as a service company who had their event. We talked about the, you know, the disconnect in emotional and, and in, in arch, as it relates to their production in their keynote, like you got to get that one, right? However, you know, and they were using the big platform, see van, they, I mean, they had tons of vendors, they had tons of sessions. And the whole thing was, was, was, uh, was, you could tell, was an incredibly large lift for their, for their company. Flip it on its head though. There was a very small association where I’m a part of it. They might have a thousand members, right? So they’re not dealing with huge budgets. They used, they used zoom webinars, but they invested all of their money and effort into creating what I will call the Jerry Lewis telethon version of, of a zoom webinar, where there were commercial breaks.

Kyle Hamer: (24:06)
There were interludes, you move from one speaker to the next, you had a nice Q and a, they did a, um, you know, a virtual horse race where they had found somebody that had a recording of a horse race. They put it up and you had to place your bets on what horse you thought, like they took, they, they took what they had and they made it an experience. And it was something where you could immerse yourself in and actually have a good time. It wasn’t, it wasn’t the same amount of money you spent it at, at inbound or at this other conference, but they really focused on that experience. How important is it?

Aubri Nowowiejski: (24:38)
It’s so crucial. I, you and I had kind of talked about this when we met last week for that panel. And I said, one of the things that I’m most excited about is I feel like with events, we have veered so far on the other end of the spectrum of equating success for an event to the total number of attendees. And just having these mass quantity of attendees understanding though that on the other end of the spectrum, the more intimate the event is typically that’s the, that’s where memories are made. That’s where the most lasting impact is created. And that is what drives sales or whatever your ROI ends up being. And so, um, even with event platforms, there are capacities, you know, and there are optimal numbers, not just from an attendee perspective, but also for the amount of time, you cannot expect people to dedicate two full days like they would at an in-person conference.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (25:28)
Absolutely. Don’t do that. And if anything, take advantage of the fact that you don’t have those geographic limitations or that hotel contract limitation spread that content out, you know, make this something that we have all admittedly failed at doing is that whole follow-up. How do things build from one event to the next and how can you, you know, kind of put all these puzzle pieces together and connect it and really kind of make change. I’m just so excited about getting back to the intimacy of, of events. And, and I feel like where they might have fallen flat is they were just checking boxes on how can we get everyone into general session and how can we, you know, just kind of in their own way, replicate what would happen in an in-person event, but they were missing the quintessential elements of an in-person event that we too often take for granted.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (26:16)
And that’s walking through the hallways, you know, that’s the like water cooler conversations, the nights at the bar where, you know, the business deals and discussions actually happen, the connections are actually made. They were just doing the baseline framework and they weren’t thinking about those interactive entertainment type elements that people have not really experienced in a virtual sense. And so it takes them by surprise. Even the smallest little things can add so much to an event. And you’re absolutely, they don’t have to cost a ton of money, quite frankly, with virtual events now more than ever with a lot of musicians and artists, and, you know, everybody who’s in an entertainment is stuck at home. They are much more willing to work with you on your budgets. You can get speakers that you would’ve never gotten before or cameo. You can go to and get some famous celebrity from the office. You can give a shout out to your attendees, you know, so there are a lot of really fun options out there.

Kyle Hamer: (27:13)
Yes, there are a lot of fun options out there. Um, you know, one of the things I think is there’s, there’s a couple of pieces. If we keep talking about the, the event and the production for the, for the company holding the event, what are the there, and I think there are two parts of the event that typically make it, I don’t wanna say valuable for the attendee, but valuable for the vendor or valuable for the sponsor or valuable for the, for the host. And those two pieces are how do I exhibit in a virtual environment and have it really be worth anything. And then on top of that, how do, how do I get my outside sales or my field salespeople that are used to going to these shows and these events and making connections and rubbing elbows, how do we extend those components? Can we, or, I mean, can we today or those things that really need to be explored in, in, you know, fleshed out.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (28:11)
It is definitely evolving. I’ll be honest with that. But I personally having been a corporate marketing manager in my past life, having produced trade shows, that’s where I started and doing a lot of training on trade shows, even just, even with in-person trade shows, Oh God, there’s so much training that needs to be done with, with booth representatives who just assume that people are going to come to you and to your booth and engage with you and ask you questions and you’ll get a chance to do your pitch. It’s no different now in virtual, you’ve got to go out and seek them. So one of the amazing abilities with these virtual events is you pretty much have access to the entire attendee list within those event platforms most often. And so you have the capability to direct message anybody, and often they’ll have links to their social media profiles.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (28:55)
You can connect with them on there and start to build, Hey, you know, I’m so glad that we both attended XYZ event this last week. I didn’t get a chance to talk to you. Can we set up a coffee date offline, you know, and then the same thing about drawing people to your booth. You can invite them to do that within direct messages. You can have pre-marketing campaigns that are so important. You can still have giveaways and entice people that way and, or work with your conference planners. Maybe there’s a larger overall gift. So there’s a lot of luxury gift experiences where you can get like, you know, over a hundred dollar pair of sunglasses or both speakers just by going and visiting a certain number of booths. And so they can then kind of cash in to get these incentives and rewards for, for doing those things.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (29:36)
There’s also entertainment depending on the platform and capabilities, but you could have know a spin the wheel and your, and your virtual booth. You could have a virtual photo booth within your booth, you know, and have it branded for your company. There’s all kinds of activations, essentially that you can do in a virtual sense. If you get creative and you go beyond just, you know, the page essentially that’s provided for you on that event platform beyond just this text box video is King making sure that you have a professionally produced video that very quickly explains what it, what it is that you do. And again, potentially has some sort of value add if there’s some sort of incentive, whether that’s like a discount or a coupon or a free consultation, like be thinking about what you can offer these attendees. And absolutely don’t just expect them to come to your booth.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (30:25)
Think about your own actions as a marketer. I always say that like, think about what you do. Would you just, you know, like click on a link without knowing what it was for? Like, why would you take the time to do that? So knowing that you’ve got to kind of overcome those challenges and things that think outside the box, and then from a production and content standpoint, more than just having, you know, a loop of, of logos, like you would have in a general session, there are great ways to integrate, you know, promo videos into your content. You can have certain segments that are sponsored by one of the sponsors. So for instance, grub hub, and they can design the e-gift card to have this lunch is brought to you by XYZ sponsor, you know, or, I mean, just, there are so many touches within the conference.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (31:10)
You mentioned the horse racing. There’s also, can I say a swear word? Well, it’s just a word, whatever chicken, shit, bingo. Like they can have virtual chicken, shit, bingo, or Armadillo races, you know, and you can bet on and those different animals or whatever it is can be sponsored by a particular sponsor. I mean, there’s just so many things that you can do in a virtual realm. I, I would hope just people get more excited and the more that these platforms evolve, they are also enabling people to have one-on-one video conversations and scheduled time, you know, and all the analytics, Holy smokes, like most events don’t have the capability like RFID capability at in-person events to track people’s, you know, heat mapping and that kind of thing. They don’t have the budgets to do that with virtual. You got it all there. You can see all the analytics and real time who’s clicking on what page, how long have they been there? Where were they cooking from? You know, what brought them there? There’s just so much that we could get excited about for virtual guys.

Kyle Hamer: (32:11)
You know, you mentioned, you mentioned a couple of things here that you got my creative juices flowing when it comes to being an exhibitor or somebody who’s, um, you know, sponsored events in the past. And like, and most of the time when you, you sponsored event, they’re like, Hey, can you put up some, uh, PDF collateral and a basic description of your company and give us a video. And the video almost always is your boiler plate. This is our company. That’s the same thing. You, your new hire when they first show up, right? Like, and it’s not necessarily something somebody is going to be like, Oh my God, yes. I love that. Like, they might apply for a job, but not necessarily engage you for, um, buying your product or service. But, but I do think that we’re in a unique spot with the stuff where artists are stuck at home.

Kyle Hamer: (32:56)
Um, you you’ve got stuck with cameo. Uh, was it true fan now? I, I don’t know I’m saying that wrong, but you have an opportunity with creating your own spinoff webinar and inviting people that came to that to come to your special little event, you may not be able at a normal Salesforce, um, Dreamforce conference to, to afford hiring up van Halen and holding a concert. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your version of that with some small local little, you know, reggae band or whatever is your, your company’s extension of your brand invite folks to come in and start building that, you know, that relationship. And it might actually be better money spent at 25, 3,500 bucks or whatever it may be to hire the band for, for a, a live event, a handled handled over video conference, then trying to go out and figure out how to buy everybody a beer. Or if you do both, maybe that’s even better. But I mean, there’s, there’s, there’s so many ways to get creative over just status quo with the, what the platform will allow you to

Aubri Nowowiejski: (34:06)
Her son and like any conference, most of those sales guys would have taken people out to MTVs or some fancy steak dinner or whatever. How can you replicate something similar to that? I love going on. I’m probably given too much of the sauce away, but like Airbnb, as an example now has experiences. And I love going to see, you can get, you know, someone’s Italian grandmother in Italy who is like hand-making pasta in front of you and teaching you how, or like there was a girl who does lemon cello. Like you can follow along with her family’s recipe on how to make this lemon cello. Like how dope of an experience is that, that you can do from the comfort of your living room or your home or your office or whatever, you know, and there’s ways to get your, your spouses and your kids involved, like never before, you know, and, and incorporate them into events. So events that, you know, we’re keeping that in mind of the other people who are in the household and how can, how can we entertain the kids so that the parents can actually get the most out of this experience, you know? Oh gosh, I’m just genuinely so excited about virtual events. I think this is just the beginning, you know,

Kyle Hamer: (35:12)
I agree. Well, I, and I think that it’s, it’s been a long time coming. I mean, I remember when on 24 had their first virtual exp, uh, event many, many, many, many years ago. And I was like, well, this is lane. It’s like, you know, you’d send off, you’d send off a message and then you’d have to wait for like 20 or 30 minutes till somebody would respond back. And again, just the experience wasn’t there yet. And now being stuck at home, we’re, we’re forced to, uh, to accommodate and our behavior changes, right? We’re not distracted by as many other things that are happening in real life. So these virtual events are having a, having a bigger impact. Talk to talk to me a little bit about the platforms that are out there. You know, you mentioned some of the big boys are buried to me, taking on a big platform is like buying a brand new trade show booth. Like there’s a lot of things to think through, um, and build out, right? Like you’ve got produce everything who are some of the guys that are doing it really well. And then talk about maybe some of the other things that are surprising that that folks may not know about,

Aubri Nowowiejski: (36:12)
Oh gosh, everyone has different experiences too. And because of this pandemic, which is unprecedented, as we all know these same words, right. You know, on 24 in Trados, some of the leaders in, in the game, you know, again at the start, it was all the bells and whistles, all the technical support we can offer you. And now I’m not calling on them specifically, but other events platforms, you know, they, again are just so inundated that it’s now, okay, it’s on you to set up your exhibitor booth and like, you’re going to have to pay X amount, extra for technical support, or just, you know, chat into this chat box and hope within the next 24 to 72 hours, even if it’s the day of your event, that you get some sort of response. So it isn’t, it is a completely different world that we’re in.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (36:55)
Um, some of the, um, I don’t want to say, I’ll say more economical, let’s go with that word. Uh, hop in is a great tool at 10 to five, that was a conference app that we, um, had, had used for a couple of our clients that now have an event platform. Again, a lot of, um, lessons learned as well, because they are in the process of rolling out. And even your event platforms that have been around for a while, they too are doing updates and upgrades to their platform. And so some of the questions you have to ask is like, Hey, do you have an upgrade scheduled for the day of my again, event? And what could that potentially cause as far as, you know, broken links or something that was originally working two days ago when we did all the technical checks and now the zoom is not integrating into the platform, you know, like literally we’re learning by the day and just having to kind of go with it and find work arounds.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (37:43)
Um, but those are some initial platforms. Hub is a great one. Again, it really does depend on what you’re trying to accomplish, uh, and what I, or anybody would recommend that you utilize. But those are a couple of the platforms that we, um, I most recently used and, uh, and definitely word on the street, but there’s a lot of forums going on with different event planners across the country who have their own good and bad stories and experiences on, on any, again, none there’s no one size fits all or end all be all platform. We’re all kind of going through this, this growing phase together,

Kyle Hamer: (38:22)
You know, and I think you’re right. We are one of the things that I think is, was most interesting in our panel discussion, we had a couple or last week was the impact on the actual hospitality and the physical location space, honestly. But yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s disappointing for them because they’ve been such great partners for, for throwing events and helping us be successful with whatever we’re putting on. Right? As you look at creative ways to keep your partners involved, as you’re transitioning, right, this hybrid model, what are some examples or ways you can think of how you might use the space or how you might use a, a version of the space or how you might stitch this together so that the there’s a hybrid or that you’re still allowing the, the, uh, the physical event spaces and locations to be around, because if we don’t use them, we’re going to lose them in, in, in, in quickly. So what are some examples of how people could creatively leverage a space that they’ve already paid for space that they’ve already added?

Aubri Nowowiejski: (39:25)
Right? There was a couple of different options. So you could have essentially watch parties. And that could be in multiple cities across, you know, wherever United States, the world that are different properties in different locations. If you have a actual conference or event that originally would have been in one large general session room, and you have the ability to break them out into smaller rooms, and either ideally have your speakers rotate, instead of having the masses of people rotate, that’s another way that you can utilize space and still keep people kind of socially distance and separated. You can also just like you would a live event where maybe you did have that general session room, and maybe you do have the spacing apart with the classroom style seating, one per classroom now. Um, but then you have an overflow room. So the overflow room is where you have a broadcasted live stream of what’s going on in that general session room.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (40:14)
Um, I also have always been a big fan of the, you know, kind of disco, silent disco, you know, so you can have multiple speakers going on at a time and you can switch different radio frequencies to listen to whomever it is that you want to hear from, I think, you know, getting creative with your, um, event setups, as far as rental furnitures, like AFR and some of the other rental furniture companies out there, they’ve got some great, you know, 3d renderings and models of how they are now, you know, setting up kind of conversation, nooks and areas with chairs that are spaced out, or some of those rounds that you’re kind of sitting with your back kind of facing, but you’re still having conversations. Anyway, they’ve gotten really creative with, uh, with the way that they set things up, uh, FNB, there’s been a huge change to F and B.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (40:57)
Everything has to be like pre-packaged, but there’s fun ways to do that too. Um, then a lot of your venues also have their own in-house audio, visual companies or a third-party audiovisual company that they work with. And that’s a great resource to, you know, to ask them like, Hey, we originally were going to have this as an in-person event. We’re now going to have a hybrid experience where part of our, you know, attendees will be in person. The other part are going to be tuning in from elsewhere. How can you help us to, to take our in-person content and broadcast it, and they can work with you on that. Um, and also put those people to work, which is really important as well. Um, so those are just some of the, uh, initial things that I would say, you know, and I would, you have different camps, right?

Aubri Nowowiejski: (41:42)
Some people are ready to just get out there. Like they cannot stay inside one moment longer and others are hibernating underneath their bed, you know, like do not come near me. And so there are people who are willing to meet in person. I would survey them just like you would for, you know, any, any kind of event to get feedback. You know, how comfortable are people with attending the event, if they, and what protocols and measures have you put in place WEC, um, the MPI conference, they did a phenomenal job recently of releasing this video that didn’t so much focus on. It was a, it was a conference I got rescheduled and they didn’t so much focus on, like, here are all the content and stuff that we’re going to give you at this conference. They focus the majority of the video on what have we done to ensure your safety for this in-person experience.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (42:29)
And they interviewed the hotel staff, they showed like an example of a room set with the chair, spaced out. They, you know, showed how registration would be like, they’re pre mailing you your badge. So you don’t have to like go and check in at registration, like everything’s contactless. They they’re pre mailing you on mask, enhanced sanitizer and all of these things that they’re doing to ensure your safety and make you feel comfortable to attend. They’re also, um, you know, kind of offering a no risk registration, you know? So if things were to change, you know, you have the ability to get out or convert that to like an online ticket. Like there are just a lot of options wristbands. We had talked about this last week. So kind of that, you know, green, red, yellow, red being don’t come near me. I’m not comfortable. Uh, yellow is like, we can touch elbows. And then green is like, come on. Let’s, let’s basically share each other’s glass. Not really actually, but you know what I mean? Like I’m, I’m comfortable with having a conversation with someone. So all the different things that you can implement to, to give business back to these venues, which is definitely needed

Kyle Hamer: (43:30)
It’s 100% needed. Um, so for the, for those that are listening that have events coming up, or they’re, they’re, they’re struggling through it right now, do you have some quick and easy resources places for them to go look where the be helpful to, to getting additional perspective? Not that they wouldn’t be researching it, but you’re like, Hey, I found this area, this area in this hair just really, really valuable.

Aubri Nowowiejski: (43:52)
Oh gosh. You know, uh, that is a great question. Um, a lot of the resources that I have are stuff that are privy to us winning, like it’s other event, professional, private groups that, you know, we can have open forum and then dialogues on. I always am a big advocate of like event manager. Blog tends to have some of the top of the top Skift, um, and your professional associations within the events industry too. So you’re meeting professionals international, your international live events association. Uh, you got several different weddings, specific organizations at PCMA, professional convention meeting and events. I’m not exactly sure what all the acronyms are, even like your AMS American marketing association, depending on what society you’re a part of. I would plug into those groups and see what, you know, what are the best practices and lessons learned? I think, you know, getting it from a direct source, who’s like actually in it in a day to day is a lot more valuable than an article that might have a slant potentially. Uh, so, you know, check your sources, but that’s, that is where I would recommend that.

Kyle Hamer: (44:51)
So after they’ve, after they figured out that, Hey, they need additional help. How do they get ahold of you guys to get perspective on if that’s a good fit and a great relationship, uh, potentially waiting to hear,

Aubri Nowowiejski: (45:02)
Yeah. Uh, coterie and We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, all the things, uh, I’ll make sure that you have my contact information. So and we do offer free 30 minute consultation. So if you just really need to get a question answered or someone to bounce, some ideas off really quickly, we’re more than happy to help. We do realize that truly we are all in this together, and that’s not just for potential clients. That’s also for partners as well. The start of this pandemic, I reached out to a lot of our partners and I said, Hey, how are you pivoting? Have you figured out how you’re going to pivot, regardless, either way, let’s get a call scheduled because we are truly all in this together. And I want to help help you guys, you know, because we, even as event professionals, we have unique needs as well. And as this evolved, we were like, Oh my gosh, you know, we could do amazing tastings, but our tasting partners, maybe haven’t thought about this, or like our catering partners where the people that we used to get succulent arrangements from, like now we can ship it to them and do a workshop. You know, there’s just so many creative things that can, can be done. So, um, we’re here to support you in any way that we can.

Kyle Hamer: (46:06)
That’s great. And just like, just like the other day, final thoughts, what are you going to leave us with?

Aubri Nowowiejski: (46:11)
Stay inspired? I mean, I, as much as this year has sucked in some senses, there’s a lot of beauty that’s come out of it. A lot of unity, a lot of creativity, a lot of thinking outside the box, a lot of advancements that, that needed to happen, the ability to work from home and have this autonomy and prove to your corporate job that, you know, Hey, you guys can save money on overhead and, you know, our corporate Headspace or headquarters, and I can work from home and do sometimes more work than I was doing in the office. So there’s a, there’s a lot of good that is going to come out of this, but again, we are all United in this and, um, and let’s just help each other.

Kyle Hamer: (46:46)
That’s great. Thanks so much. You’ve been listening to Aubrey know whiskey and we’ve, uh, we’ve been talking about all things, events, virtual and otherwise. So I really appreciate your generosity and, um, you know, giving, giving us the inside scoop, spending a little bit more than the normal 30 minutes consultation and giving us the skinny on what’s going on. Um, and, and like you said, if people want to get ahold of you, it’s Coterie Spark, It’ll be in the description of the, uh, the podcast episode as well as posted on the blog. Um, thank you again for being here. It’s been, it’s been awesome.

Aubri Nowowiejski
Aubri NowowiejskiEvent Producer
Aubri Nowowiejski (No-Whiskey) is an award-winning event producer. She specializes in virtual, in-person, and hybrid experiences at Coterie Spark; a global meeting and event management firm based in Houston. Aubri earned her degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations from Texas State University. She began her career in corporate America as a Trade Show Coordinator and worked her way up to Marketing Manager before joining Coterie Spark as an Executive Producer. When she’s not planning events, public speaking, or supporting her family brewery, her hobbies include hot baths, collecting crystals, walks with her pup Habibi, and playing dominoes with her Nana.