Welcome to Make it Kickass, where we help leaders of growing communities bring their people together with purpose and lasting impact. Join us as we explore how to make events engaging, exciting, energizing and profitable so that you can build a healthy, sustainable community. I'm Isaac Watson, founder and lead strategist at Kickass Conferences.::
And I'm Nessa Jimenez, operations Manager, at Kickass Conferences.::
Now let's make it kickass together. Hello event friends, welcome back to another episode. This is our response episode to the interview that we just had with Jeddd Chang. If you have not listened to that yet, I would recommend walking it back and listening to that first, because Nessa and I are going to dig in a little deeper to some of the things we talked about with Jeddd, which was it was a great conversation I absolutely loved. I adore Jedd. I've worked with him on a number of events over the years and I love his personality and the perspective that that he brings to it. So I think some context first might be helpful about some of the stuff we talked about. So we referenced Jedd and I first met each other through an event called the World Domination Summit WDS for short, but we didn't really talk about what that is, and usually when people hear the word World Domination Summit, they're like excuse me, so let me just add some notes there.years, started in: I think we had: ::
Yeah, I think that, like everyone, first of all, everyone that has attended WDS, I feel like they tend to cite it as being very formative.
Like either in the backstage, like the people that worked on it and also the people that attended it, like I don't know. I think it's very few people that went and didn't feel like it really did something for them. So it's a super formative event and, like you and Jedd and you just mentioned that like how it how how influential it was in your approach to event production, and so I kind of wanted to get into that because I feel like that is why you, from the very beginning, have been so attendee first. So do you want to go into that a little bit?::
Sure, the. What was great about that team is like WDS was was a conference, that its primary purpose was to bring like-minded people together and to give them ways to support each other essentially. And so, as Chris would lead the team, I was on the team for five or six years. Everything we did always started from the, the perspective of how the attendees are going to experience the event. The experience was like a phrase we used all the time. That was just how we approached the planning process the strategy behind the speakers that Chris was inviting, how we were programming things, the more exciting and non boring activities that we were planning.
All of that stuff played into it, and to me, that was part of like. I attended the event before I joined the team of my own accord, and the event itself was very formative for me. Like you said, nessa, like I, it kind of changed my perspective and my life. I felt this really strong sense of community with these people, and so being able to have benefited from that community and then become a part, became a part of creating that experience, for that community was really important to me.::
Yeah, and that leads nicely into what I think was like a big aha moment for the three of us during our conversation. It was this idea of, essentially people want to be seen and they want to be seen in events, and the events where they do feel seen are the ones that they have the biggest impact. So I'm curious about what your thoughts, as we kind of like got into that aha moment.::
I mean, the aha moment was yours. You articulated that so succinctly, like people just want to be seen, which I thought was fantastic. I to me, that's what community is all about. We are there for the benefit of the group and that group is made up of individuals. We all have different needs. We're all coming from different experiences and perspectives. We all have different limitations and blocks and all kinds of stuff right? So if we can create experiences where everyone feels like they are a valued member of that community, that comes from respect, understanding, empathy, that comes through a bit of service, that comes through kind of this holistic leadership model where we can actually create an experience for everyone to be as inclusive as possible.::
Yeah, and I think it also we could kind of connect it to the conversation we had with Brianne where it came up. She mentioned how community is experienced on an individual level first and then that feeds into, like the community aspect. So I think that WDS and like your experiences with that, as well as Sheds it, really I think it was lucky that that was your big first experience. Do you know what I mean? Because, like, like, you skipped a lot of the learning and you got to the good stuff, like immediately.::
I think back, like, had I started into my career and events, like knowing that that was what I wanted to do, I would have gone to, like you know, either private parties or planning, or into a corporate meeting planning and, honestly, like I don't know who I would be today if that were the case, because that's not the kind of environment that I would want to create and there would be so much learning process and the trial and error involved with figuring out what attendee experience means and like how to actually cultivate community through an event.::
Yeah, and taking it a step further. So part of attendee experience is this thing that we love to do is like surprising and delighting people. I don't know who came up with that phrase. I think it might have been you, maybe you got it from somewhere else, I don't know.::
The point is it's not original to me, but that is that's another phrase we used a lot on the WDS team which comes that it has a history before that, I'm sure.::
Oh, there you go, so this idea of surprising and delighting people.
So I think in the episode we touched on like how Jedd has been a part of that and he's very good at that, Like I really love how he sees attendees as people and I think that's why he's so good at what he does. Right, he always approaches it from that attendee first perspective and like looking to go beyond just what is like on the checklist and actually creating experience for people. So I thought it'd be interesting. Why don't we talk about surprise and delight, not just how we work on it, but like experiences that we've had as attendees and like how we have been surprised and delighted at events?::
So well. First I want to say, like a lot of people, when they think of surprise and delight, they think like wow, fireworks, like flair over the top, high production kind of stuff that can surprise and delight. But I think it's important to understand that, like you don't have to go there to surprise and delight other people. It's about you know, empathy and recognition and acknowledging that there are other humans in the room. And then, like the phrase I mean it's plastered up here on my wall behind me, the phrase that stuck with me ever since I was in college, which is a quote from a designer, is pay attention and give a sh**. This is like one of my little event pet peeves that I think plays into the surprise and delight thing. I don't know at what point this started, but I had this moment a while back where I was like why, why are we always defaulting the sorting of our registration list by last name Interesting and I was like we don't like. Gone are the days of. Oh, mr Watson, yes, it's lovely to have you here.::
Thank you for joining us right.::
We all go by our first names, right? Or our chosen names, you know, whatever. And so to to to like, walk up to registration and to be asked what your family name is or your, your last name, is just kind of awkward to me, and so I started. I was just like no, we're not doing that anymore. We're sorting my first name. And it catches people by surprise because a lot of people, especially in a professional setting, expect to provide their last name to be looked up for a thing.
But honestly, like, I find that first names are so much more interesting and it provides such a personal experience during the registration process to say oh, you know, welcome, so glad to see you. What's your, what's your first name? Oh, it's Nessa, hi, nessa. It's like you don't have to. You're removing a step because, like, as registration staff, if you're given a last name, then you have to look at their first name. You like, oh, are you Nessa, right? So like, and in some cases, if you have a more uncommon first name, then it's easier to find you as opposed to a common. Like you have a fairly common last name.
I have a fairly common last name, and so that's just been something that we've put into practice and this kind of it didn't quite bite me in the butt, but last year I worked on site for a small event focused on like clinical trials industry and like trying to figure out how to make that process better, and so we had maybe 40 or 50 people come to this thing and I did this again, I was in charge of registration. I was like I'm sorting my list by a first name and so many people were like why aren't you asking me my last name? And I was like really, would you rather me call you your last name to start with? And they're like well, no, I said great, all I want is your first. Like we're now on a first name basis.
My name's Isaac, your name is Nessa great, how nice to meet you. How are you? And it changes, it flips the script a little bit and it changes the way we engage and it makes it more human oriented, which I think is really important because, especially from a registration standpoint, that's the oftentimes the most important, oftentimes the first interactive experience that they have with your event when they come on site. And so to to just share a little bit more of a human connection in that way, I think is really important.::
I love that you brought this up because I read a LinkedIn post last week that annoyed me and I love that you brought this up because now we can talk about it. So it was specifically about registration. So this this is a person that's like in the events industry and in the post was like a hot take about stop wasting people's time at registration, stop having somebody sit there at a table and talk to these people. We have machines, we have scanning. Qr codes and stop wasting people's time, and I'm like.
This is where we fundamentally disagree and it annoyed me because it's like the first experience that people have at your event is walking through that door and I, as a human being that is welcoming people and like if I'm going to a party, I'm inviting somebody to my house, I'm inviting somebody to any space, it is my joy to be at the door and be able to welcome people on an individual you know element and say like hi, it's nice to meet you, thanks for coming. You know what I mean. Like, and I understand from their perspective, because they're thinking about like a hundred thousand people, events like insanely large scale, but even even even that, though, like going back to the BTS concert, we had to scan in our tickets at these like kiosk things, but at every one of those kiosk there was a person standing there saying hello and thanking us for being there. Wow.::
So there you go, like it's important yeah, you're like do you want people to feel like cattle process through a machine when they get to your event?::
no, you're already setting up that expectation of not being seen, not being cared about, not being a person right out of the gate because there's just a you know a skin here machine at the door and there's nobody there, like that is so bizarre to me and it annoyed me because it this person was basically seeing it as like a safe money. Put a machine, stop wasting people's time, quote-unquote and get on with it and like no, like that is your first chance to set an expectation with people, to make a connection with people, to have them feel seen and feel welcome, you know. So I'm so glad you brought that up because I think I think they'll process a registration and, oh, because they also criticize like having badges, like badges are a waste of time.
That's another thing I disagree with, because I think, badges is just another little way for everybody to feel seen because they have their name on a thing like everybody likes seeing their name on stuff, right.::
Well, that's just a functional purpose, which is to help other people remember who you're talking to. Like how many times do you go to event you're like oh, I met you, your face is familiar, but I don't remember what your name is.::
That's the purpose of the badge right or you're like me and I you could tell me your name ten times and I'm always gonna forget it because I'm trying to pay attention to what you're saying, right, and I always forget names. But even even if we take that part away, people like seeing their names on things. Yeah, people like badges, like I don't care, like the investment or the people attendees like having badges. I've never had an attendee say they didn't like the badge that we created for them. I've never heard that. I've never heard people complain about that. So why are you trying to take away something, looking at it at dollars and cents, but you're taking away another little opportunity to do something Q and make somebody's day you know.::
So two things on registration that I will add to that one. Um, we had a client in the past who abhorred lines. They insisted no line, no lines for meals, no lines at registration. Now I get that nobody wants to stand in line for 20 minutes to get a plate of food Right. Reducing lines, keeping things flowing, is important, but lines are where people meet each other.::
And they have a shared experience. Where it's it's downtime, some people are on their phones. They can interact in different ways. You have little groups that can form, but lines are a fantastic way in an event to meet other people. What else are you doing If you are inclined to strike up a conversation? I am not, that's not me, um but if someone were inclined to strike up a conversation with me, that's a great place to do it, right? Yes, um, and so the, I think the lines are important.
I think that, if anything, you should over staff your registration simply to give time for those human connections. So I was thinking about you, nessa. Uh, so we had a client for three years. We did two years of virtual events and you were essentially the attendee concierge, virtually digitally, and then, uh, last year it was a hybrid event and you were on site and handling registration, and so you had the opportunity, the unique opportunity, to have interacted with a lot of these repeat attendees before and then to finally meet them in person. Yes, and I remember you telling me. I think you should tell them all kind of how you experienced that moment, because I don't think you were expecting it.::
I was not so obviously as we're working towards getting the event done. Like I'm worried about, like getting all the eyes dotted in the T's crossed Right. Like I knew like I'm going to be a registration but I can't. I know what I needed to get done. Like I wasn't worried about that, but at no point did I actually think about like the interaction element. And it was so insane to me that, like, as people were coming in and I was checking them in, they were like oh my God, you're Nessa, oh my God, I'm so happy to finally meet you. And like blah, blah, blah, they were like treating me like a sort of like celebrity because, like for the past two years, like I have always been the first person that they see at the events because I was doing like the introduction videos and I was participating in the emails, exactly.
Answering the emails. I was in the live chat. If anybody needed help, I was usually the first person they were going to and at no point did it process like through my mind that people would remember that. So it was so surreal to be there and people were like so excited to meet me and it was like they were so happy and like they weren't even in the door yet you know what I mean and like we got to have like a nice little connection, a nice little moment, and they felt like they felt good because I was the first person that they were seeing in the in person one and you felt seen, but also they felt they saw you because you saw them previously, right Like you have these personal connections with them, and they were able to then see you.::
In return and I think that's part of what we're talking about here is this opportunity for people to engage with each other on a human level and actually make and share connections with each other.::
Yeah, and it's a really beautiful thing because, even even if I didn't remember them their faces, because obviously online mostly were via chat, via text but like they would tell me their name and I'd be like, oh that's right, I do that and we had this wonderful little moment of like I remember you from last year, you know stuff like that.
Yeah, and it was an incredible experience for me, which I was not expecting, because, again, I'm not thinking about my experience, I'm thinking about the attendee experience. But I think at the end it was good that I was there, because people felt good walking in, because they felt like they already knew me and they were coming into something that was already familiar to them.
They weren't walking into like a place with strangers. You know, I had a couple of people Actually say that to me, like they felt it's so nice to see me, because they felt like they were back at the online events with, like you know, everybody and like it didn't feel Awkward and scary, right, um, so yeah, that was that was fantastic. It worked out really well and I got to feel like a celebrity for a little while, which has never happened. So that was great. But but again, if we had decided to do a machine scanning Right codes like, we wouldn't have had those experiences with the attendees, you know, yeah, I think another thing that we did at that event that I really appreciated is With the attendee badges.::
We left them fairly plain, yes, and we encourage people to decorate them. We have like markers out and sticker sheets and all kinds of stuff as a way to give them an opportunity to Add some self expression to their badge, whether that was, you know, affinities with a particular niche within that industry or, uh, some nerdy thing that they identified with, or whatever it was. Um it, it gave them an opportunity to be a little more seen on a personal level, um, as opposed to just having first name, last name, company right and then also communicated with them.::
Um, the vibe of the event, like we are not here to be formal, corporate, boring, like this is supposed to be fun, celebratory. This is about you and like, representing who you are and and you know, living that out loud. And again, I think that also works, happening right at the entrance as people were arriving.::
Yeah, Okay, so I want to shift a little bit to something else that we talked about with jet a bit, which is attendee communications, which I think is another key element in Uh helping people feel seen and heard and and making sure that we are Uh getting them the information that they need. Um, this is something we've become quite a bit of sticklers on uh with our clients, and we've gone so far as to develop templates and cadences and things like that. Um, in your mind, what are the like kind of big biggest reasons for thorough attendee communications? Like, what goals do they serve?::
Yeah, well, first of all, attendee communications is something that too many people overlook and that bites them in the butt, and I think the biggest reason For attendee communications is that it will make everybody's lives easier. At the actual event, um, people arrive already understanding like the big, important concepts, they know where to go, like what they're supposed to do to get there, all those things. But let me step back. I don't want to get into too many details. But, yeah, um, the first thing it's going to do is because make your staff's life is much easier, because people are are prepared, they're not asking questions that you already answered a million times.
There's always going to be questions, but it reduces that so you're not having to have like a million staff members Just to address questions. Um, it makes people feel comfortable as well. The the audience feels seen. Talking. Going back to that again they feel seen because they're not having to ask the staff Questions, they're not having to constantly follow up with the staff. It sends the message that we know what we're doing and we're going to take care of you so you can come here and and feel comfortable, feel taken care of, knowing that we already did the work right.::
We've already taken care of all this stuff and that we've we've thought about you, the attendee, and your experience, and and enough to know that you're going to need to know this information or you're going to have these types of questions right.::
It shows forethought, it shows intentionality and also establishing trust, because there's nothing more terrifying than investing like $700 in a conference and not hearing anything like buying the ticket and never hearing from those people again.
So you're like, okay, is there even a conference? Is this happening? You know, like, what are we doing here? So establishing trust with that person as well, that we are still here, because If it's an event, for example I mean it doesn't matter if it's online or in person, but they've bought a ticket you don't exist unless you are communicating to that attendee regularly, because there is not a place to go, a store you know to go to. It's the communications that you're having via email, on social media that keeps reminding them like, yeah, we're there, we're doing this thing, we want you to come, it's going to be great. If you're not communicating, you stop existing and that scares people.::
Yeah, and I think that a lot of people miss that in that when they're thinking about their event marketing the public side of that, which is the information about the event, which is the sales process, like convincing them to attend is great, it's very important. You have to sell tickets. Once somebody makes that decision to then attend, there's a whole that unlocks a whole lot of more information that you're going to want to provide them because they've committed and they don't need to continuously hear the sales message because they've already decided to buy. If that's all they hear, then they're just going to think oh, you're just trying to make money, Like why?::
am I even here? Right, right, exactly. And that goes to that, that, that scary feeling of, okay, before you had my money you were communicating plenty, but now that you have it, like all of a sudden, you have nothing to say to me. That's really an icky feeling for that yeah.::
I think that's especially true of in-person events, when people are, when you're expecting people to travel, right, you need to keep in mind when people are likely to book their flights and their hotels and things like that, to make sure they have the information they need about, like, what day should I arrive if you haven't published the schedule yet? Is there a hotel block? You know what? What should I expect as far as meals? Right, Like. All of that is useful information. That's very logistical in a lot of ways, but it goes so far to help them feel like they're part of the event and they're prepared and they know what to expect once they arrive.::
Yeah, and the communication is part of the attendee experience and we're mostly. What we're mostly talking about right now is like communication leading up to the event. So that's part of the attendee experience because you're already taking care of them. You're already saying, hey, this is how you get to the hotel, this is how you get to the event. Right, this is suggestions, like what we've done is suggesting places to eat in the city that they're going to.
We've also gone as far as to say the weather. This is what the weather is going to be like, so maybe you want to pack a jacket, right? You're already taking care of that person before they've even arrived and that informs the attendee experience and they get there already feeling like they've been seen and they've been taken care of. Now, attendee comms during the event is also important, because things change during an event and we want people to get the information as soon as possible in the easiest forms possible. Because they are part of the event, they need to be informed. That attendee communication does not stop because they are there. You know we have to keep them up to date with things, especially when changes happen right.::
And just to remind them of things, events are overwhelming. You go to a conference, you've got a schedule you've got to keep in mind. You've got people you've got to meet up with. You're trying to like navigate whatever work you're missing while you're there. Like there's a lot going on in your attendees' brains, and keeping in consistent communication with them helps make sure that they're paying attention to what they need to when they need to, because you can't expect them to just memorize the schedule up front and remember all that stuff.::
It is a lot and that's a form of care. And we also have to remember not everybody is the same. There are people that are extroverts and they've got all the energy in the world and they're doing great, but there's other people that are introverted or they get tired more easily. And giving them that information, that communication, keeping that connection going helps those people to still participate in the event as much as they can Because, again, you're helping them not have to do that extra energy of going up to the help desk to ask a question or to get on an email and type out an email. We're taking care of people through comms and then, after the event is over, attending communication shouldn't end Right. Attendee communication needs to continue after that because first of all, you're thanking them for being a part of your event. I don't think enough events thank people afterwards. They kind of go and then that's it.
But I think you should be thanking them. You should be giving them follow-up information. There are instances where we've had a sponsor offer a free thing, so we sent an email reminding people like, hey, you know, claiming a free grift or whatever, or things come up and we want to follow up and make sure that they know that the event photos. The photographer takes a little bit of while to process the photos. We want to make sure that the attendees get access to those photos and they get to see themselves at the events, because that's another thing. A lot of people forget to take pictures and the pictures that the photographer took for the event, that's it. Those are the photos they got.::
And, as the resident Leo in the room, I love scouring the event photos for photos of myself and I'm the opposite.::
I'm like, oh God, I hope I'm not in there.::
But it's that, it's also. You know, if you have talk videos coming out, you've got to let people know you can't just expect them to revert back to following you on social media, especially when social media is algorithmically influenced. Your your attendee comms are your way of, you know, getting in front of your attendees after the event is done. Post event surveys content.
Maybe you know your speakers had had some big news to share or something right Like these are opportunities to continue maintaining and and and deepening that relationship with your attendees, which ultimately, is going to serve future events, because it shows demonstrates that you care, it demonstrates that you have, that you're keeping your attendees in mind, and it's just. It's a great way to keep people touch. Another thing I see a lot of people do, especially for events that are attended by people who like to share their own recaps and stuff. People do blog posts, roundups, right, like you know. Hey, did you write about going to this event? We're going to do a roundup article on our website and share all of that stuff so that you can see what each other's things were. Or we're going to help connect you with each other, whatever that is Like. There's all kinds of different ways you can do this, our point being that you can't just let it drop as soon as the events over and not communicate with them again until you're ready to sell the next tickets.::
Yeah, attendee communications after the event is still a thing. There's plenty to be communicated. I mean, we went through a list right now and I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff we missed. But yeah, overall, attending communications is a much more important aspect and much bigger thing than I think a lot of people think when they're planning an event. Right, they're so focused on the actual event, that they forget that attending communications is an entire process that has to happen throughout that entire planning process as well, and even after the event.::
So I mean, it's honestly something that takes a lot of labor to. You're talking about copywriting, you're talking about, you know, fact checking and verifying make sure all your links work, all your information is accurate. That's. It's a significant effort. So it's important to plan ahead, to have your team's capacity at a place where you can actually support that.::
Yes and yeah, thanks to Jedd for bringing that to the conversation. I think he is so good at that as well, like being that attendee concierge and being part of that communication plan, that he brought up a lot of great points as well.::
So I think if there's one tip that I can pull out of what, what he was talking about with attendee communication is just taking about any time you make a decision or change something. Just think have we told the attendees about that, Right? Have we told them? Do they know this? Do they know where to go? Because that I think that's a great frame of mind where it's just like you know, let's, let's just check that, Did we? Are we good on that? Do we have time to tell them things like that?::
Thanks for listening to this episode of Make it Kickass. We hope you found it entertaining and helpful. If hosting a community event is on your radar, visit GetEventLab.com to take our free 30 minute training called Community Event Mastery. That's GetEventLab.com, or use the link in the show notes. Make it Kickass is hosted by Isaac Watson and Nessa Jimenez. Post production audio by Chris Nelson at Mittens Media. Our theme song is Feel it by Dojo for Crooks. Make it Kickass is a production of Kickass Conferences, an event strategy and design agency serving leaders of growing communities.