Will Curran is no stranger to the world of events.
As the founder of Endless Events, creator of the #EventProfs Community, and host of event industry podcasts, #EventIcons, Event Brew, and Event Tech Podcast, he has a diverse background in growing events and companies alike.
Will has been named one of the most influential people in the meeting & events industry, including being named one of the 40 under 40 event industry leaders, and one of 35 entrepreneurs under the age of 35,
iVvy had the pleasure to chat with Will about what events look like in the future, increasing online engagement, and what he wished he learnt earlier about the industry.Keeping virtual attendees engaged
Q: One of the biggest challenges event managers are facing is online engagement for virtual events. What solutions would you recommend?
A: First recommendation I have is to get better content. Let’s be honest, most of the reason people don’t enjoy virtual events is that the content sucks - maybe not even content itself, but the speakers and the presenters suck. What you need is high end energy people - they need to be coming out of the gate, extremely energised and excited. I think they have to be native using the tools - they have to be really comfortable with watching the chat while simultaneously giving a presentation. They need to be mastering at answering questions and comments as they are coming in because the last thing you want to do as a virtual event attendee is just sit there and feel like you’re watching a webinar that could be recorded. You want to feel like you’re live, and that you’re in the moment.
The second thing is - you’ve got to stop utilising technology to solve all of your engagement issues. Throwing a poll system or a chat system at your virtual event, or trying to switch platforms to increase engagement isn’t going to do it for you. I think that’s the baseline of where you start, but I think it’s a lot about other intentional designs when it comes to the event.
I think the other thing too is to really think creatively about how you’re going to make this not feel like a boring Zoom webinar. People are really over the idea of sitting and watching content and hearing someone speak, especially when they feel like it can be pre-recorded.
These are my first two tips. They aren’t technology related. They are all about design and thinking really intentionally about how you’re going to end up creating your event in the first place.
Utilising technology as an event manager
Q: What would you say is the most valuable technological asset an event manager can capitalise on
A: I really believe that technology is the way you can plan smarter, better events so I think utilitsing all technology is really smart.
If I had to pick one, I would say a really rock-solid sales and marketing system, like a CRM. I am a huge fan of Hubspot and feel an asset like that can be so incredible because it can be the single point of truth when it comes to all your information about your attendees. It can track everything like what they were doing at the event onto the timeline of the customer. It really allows you to track the ROI of the actions and the event that you’re creating. If you have a really good CRM system that integrates perfectly with your platform and can track an attendee’s lifecycle step-by-step, I think that’s the most powerful asset you can utilise.
Bonus recommendation: great project management software, such as Asana or Basecamp. The ability to pull all tasks off a physical, written notebook or off someone’s individual to-do list and putting them in a collaborative space can be really powerful, and that’s what we do at endless.
Using big data to create better experiences
Q: What role do you think big data plays in creating and delivering events?
A: I think the most exciting thing about data when it comes to events is it allows you to track the ROI and the very specific points of information that we need in order to know how successful our event is going to be, and how successful the actions are that we are going to take.
I think far too often when it comes to planning events, we’re too much about how “this is going to feel good, and the attendees are going to love it”, when no, [the reality is] we actually have the data to prove this is actually happening.
Data in general is really, really important. Definitely in the future an event manager is going to have to be really good at managing data. However when it comes to big data, I’d say the biggest thing you can get is understanding larger consumer trends, understanding where your attendees are. I think a lot of our attendees have changed over the last three years, and they may be completely new attendees. Big data allows you to understand those things.
The next big trends in events
Q: What do you believe are the next biggest trends for the events industry?
A: I don’t like to think more than a year out. So much stuff can change. However, in the next year I think we need to be prepared for a potential economic downturn. I can see slashing budgets is going to be a big trend, so doing more with less. Also figuring out how we can create more intimate, smaller events potentially that happen across the world or across the geography of wherever you’re hosting your event versus trying to do a big annual conference in one single spot.
Obviously hybrid is going to continue to push forward. I really do believe that if you don’t have a virtual component of your event, you’re really leaving not only money on the table, but leaving the opportunity of including a bunch of attendees who may not have been able to attend earlier.
If I had to pick other big trends as they come in, I think community is a big one. I created the event profs. community (eventprofscommunity.com) because I believe that we need to move beyond this idea of thinking about our events in this three-day period. All of this energy and focus goes into this three-day period, versus trying to figure out a way to extend it into a 365 day opportunity for attendees.
Also with social media becoming harder and harder for people to want to be on, people are looking for that community, craving to be around like-minded people and they want to do it off social media. I think that’s a huge opportunity for the events industry to capitalise on. If you’re not planning on turning your three-day event into a year-round community, you’re going to be left behind in a lot of ways.
I think we really need to be thinking creatively over the next year, particularly with budget cuts and potential staff shortages. We need to not only think outside the box, but to crush the box and come up with something completely new. We need to be thinking about a whole new model for our events and not just copying and pasting what we’ve done pre-pandemic. We need to be constantly thinking about what’s going to be new and fresh because if we do the same thing over and over, it’s going to lead to our events slowly dying.
Changes impacting the future of events
Q: How do you see the events industry changing over the next 5-10 years?
A: I think there’s a new generation of planners that are now emerging from the pandemic and are more technologically savvy than ever. I would love to see technology really continue to get infused into events and that’s where I see it changing. At the moment, I think a lot of the industry is afraid of technology because of Murphy’s Law and the potential that things could go wrong.
I also see in the future that our events are going to become about having a really deep experience - generic experiences aren’t going to fly anymore. People are going to say “why should I go to this when I have this opportunity to go to this really high quality, rich, amazing experience that’s designed down to the detail.”
As technology continues to improve, it’s going to become easier and easier to communicate virtually. Whether that’s augmented reality or virtual reality, or just the constant improvement of cameras and audio quality, I think that’s a big future for us. There’s going to be a common place for more and more people to want to meet online potentially before they meet in person. Maybe even the ability to attend events virtually with a deeper experience like virtual reality, for example.
Life lessons for event managers
Q: What are three things you wish you’d learnt earlier about the industry?
A: #1: The industry is very, very small. It’s all about the relationships you have and the people you meet. The more you can force yourself to meet new people and expose yourself so people know your name and know where you are in the industry, the more beneficial it will be.
#2: Too many people get into the industry to get into the events and they blow up in terms of being busy or being energised, and then they get burnt out. The industry is really intense, and you need to think about yourself as this is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s one thing I wish I’d learned earlier on. I never thought I would be doing this for 15 years, or get my company to the point of where it is today.
#3: We are in an industry that’s very easy to enter. It’s not hard to become an events-industry person. So, the thing I wish I asked myself earlier is “how can I differentiate myself as much as possible?”
Continue getting inspired with insight from International Event Designer, Tahira Endean in our exclusive Q&A - click here.