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The Power Move

Jessica Blake is slammed, but there is no time to rest. Fresh off one of the data streaming industry’s most influential events—”Current 2023″—Blake is getting ready to start a deep dive into her event analysis. As Senior Director of Strategic Events for event host Confluent, combing through the feedback, attendee list, data, etc., will help her build upon the success of the gathering moving forward.

Held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, the technical conference for event-driven design, streaming technology and real-time systems is a strategic gathering that enables industry thought leaders to share their experiences with each other. And along with helping Confluent generate leads and grow revenue, “Current 2023” broadens the ecosystem of streaming platforms, enabling other companies—competitors even—to build their brands, grow and connect their communities, and drive ROI.

“The event not only brings data streaming top of mind, but it enables people in the industry to see each other, talk things out and listen to their colleagues share stories about things that can help their businesses,” Blake says. “Two years into this and I still have our salespeople come up and say, ‘I saw one of our competitors over there.’ But that’s the idea. The networking, the sessions, the food and music, everything is about building a community.”

“In today’s modern age, instant distribution of coverage from live events is critical for influencers.”

Namanh Hoang, Founder,

In the lead-up to this year’s event, Blake put out a call to the industry asking for thought leaders to share their stories. The goal behind the sessions is simple: If you’re going to talk about a product, don’t just pitch it, explain the problem it solves and the benefit it delivers.

According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), there is demand for these types of niche, personalized events, especially more regional, smaller ones. The CEIR Total Index, which measures overall exhibition performance, shows that the event sphere continues to recover, surging 21.8% from 2022. CEIR says that among completed events, 22.9% have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels, nearly double the percentage of completed events that surpassed pre-pandemic levels in Q2 2022.

So, in a time when industries everywhere are diving back into the tradeshow and conference world—albeit a little more strategically in the budgeting process, finding the perfect blend of engagements is critical. “My No. 1 priority as an event marketer is attendee experience—period,” Blake says. “Yes, there are all kinds of goals that a show or conference has, but you have to engage people and get them to engage. That means the whole experience, from the minute they log onto the site to register, the on-site registration process, to making sure that there are enough snacks and coffee. We drill down to the smallest detail, including making sure there are quiet places for people to make calls, talk or gather their thoughts.”

The other factors are the ones that occur before the first person registers. The main one is making sure your event is open to the community it serves. For example, Blake says that partnering with other industry players helps to make your event a destination. “By having representatives from all parts of the industry, you are fostering and building community.”

Another important component is to make sure your event is a learning platform. Areas like executive briefing centers, media rooms, etc., help people conduct business.

A man standing on stage in front of a red curtain with a spotlight on him

Nam Hoang is what you might call a branding and marketing evangelist. The business, startup, marketing and branding blogger has spent the past 30-plus years working closely with today’s leading brands from luxury fashion to consumer electronics.

When it comes to the world of events, Hoang says that helping attendees engage and learn should be at the top of every organizer’s to-do list. Today, that means being able to navigate an event world that includes a mix of virtual and in-person gatherings. And while CEIR projects that organizers are expected to continue to pull back from running hybrid events, giving attendees and exhibitors the option to participate in either still is important.

Above all else, your event must be able to handle multiple engagement strategies. “Using data and technology to tailor the experience to individual attendees is important,” Hoang says. “For example, attendees might receive a personalized agenda or recommendations based on their interests. Live streaming also can be an effective way to do it. Attendees who can’t make it in person can still experience the event live from their devices.”

Because the window for storytelling regarding an event disappears soon after the event ends, getting the industry stories and event buzz out to the masses in a timely manner is critical. “In today’s modern age, instant distribution of coverage from live events is critical for influencers, and by influencers, we are not limiting it only to large organizations or famous personalities, but we mean all people who have the ability to influence others through their own network,” Hoang says. “People know that not everyone has the luxury of attending an event, so it is common for them to want to share their unique experience with others to build social credit through their exclusive access.”

“My No. 1 priority as an event marketer is attendee experience—period.”

Jessica Blake, Senior Director, Strategic Events, Confluent

Hoang says that mobile apps are another key aspect when branding events. “Access to mobile apps means access to schedules, maps, networking opportunities and interactive features to enhance the event experience. You should also make sure to have dedicated networking spaces, especially at business or industry conferences. Those are all about connecting with people. Providing more opportunities and dedicated spaces for attendees to network with each other is essential in these types of events.”

In the end, the key to successfully implementing industry events and conferences comes down to a systematic approach to defining your audience, designing an agenda that aligns with their needs, and giving them the information and/or resources they came for.

Doing so provides the kind of memorable, shareable experience people will want to make a part of their ongoing agendas for years to come.

Branding events should capitalize on the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), making attendees feel part of something exclusive, driving them to share and attend future events.

To maintain interest and prevent stagnation, events must show growth either physically, in competency, or through enhanced experiences, ensuring both attendees and exhibitors continue to find value year after year.

Events should create unique, shareable experiences, allowing attendees and exhibitors to be the primary storytellers, promoting the event through word-of-mouth and online shares.

For successful branding, events need consistent elements from location to signage, creating a sense of familiarity and setting positive expectations for future experiences.

Offering memorable takeaways enhances brand recall and provides attendees with tangible proof of their attendance, further promoting the event.