Leaders will need to compete against multitasking with creative incentives to facilitate engagement in an environment rife with distractions. For example, digital and in-person events do not have the same parameters of success due to the pandemic. Events will no longer consist of one large moment in time, but a series of high-quality virtual experiences.
As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Rose, Pure Storage.
Jason joins Pure Storage from SAP, the world’s business software market leader. While there, Jason was a member of SAP’s Marketing Leadership team and held various positions, including Chief Marketing Officer for Customer Experience and SVP of Digital Experience and Social Channels. He led the Global Programs team, supporting 84 market units with campaign content across all of SAP’s lines of business.
Prior to SAP, Jason was the Chief Marketing Officer at Gigya, where he helped create the Customer Identity Management category and place Gigya in the #1 position. Prior to Gigya, Jason led marketing at DataSift and oversaw business intelligence and advanced analytics marketing efforts at SAP via the BusinessObjects acquisition in 2008.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up in a small town called Lively in Northern Ontario, Canada. The town was anything but lively, but it did have a nice ski hill there, so I managed to ski four days a week, which was a great way to grow up.
Both of my parents were ministers in the United Church of Canada, so I always had great exposure to public speaking. Every Sunday, my dad would deliver the morning sermon, which, looking back on it, really gave me the confidence to do public speaking and to eventually move my career down the path of consulting, sales, and marketing.
Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?
I actually went to school for finance and accounting. If you were to pull me aside during undergrad and tell me that I’d be a marketeer when I was older, I’d probably laugh in your face.
Early on in my career I definitely went down that traditional, financial path. In one of my first jobs at a startup, I worked as a consultant for a financial services company. Shortly into my time there, I had the opportunity to help them open up an office in New York and I ended up pivoting to pre-sales, versus traditional consulting. A few months later, that company was acquired by Business Objects. As it turns out, Business Objects had a phenomenal product marketing team, so I decided to move over to that team and try my hand at marketing the company’s financial planning tool.
And then, as often happens with a career, I naturally progressed along this newfound marketing path. I was soon marketing multi-product solutions, rather than individual products and jumping from project to project. One day I realized I was a full-blown marketeer, and decided it was time for me to go out and try my hand at running marketing teams on my own, and here I am.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There’s definitely one memory that still comes to mind. My handwriting and drawing skills have always left something to be desired, and within the first few months as a junior consultant, I had to give a whiteboard presentation to the firm’s partners. So during this presentation, it was just me, another junior consultant and the partners. As you can imagine, I was pretty nervous going into that meeting. What didn’t help, is that the other consultant presenting with me kept pointing out my mistakes and spelling errors on the whiteboard. There I was, only a few months into my first job, already knowing my handwriting wasn’t the best, and this other consultant keeps pointing out every spelling mistake I make on the board.
At the time, I definitely went from normal self-conscious to ultra-self-conscious, and I gotta say, I still have a fear of whiteboards to this day.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Interesting question — you know, immediately a few movies come to mind, but the first would definitely have to be The Matrix. I love the concept of having the ability to paint the world around you, and when it comes to marketing, that’s really what we’re tasked with doing. It’s our job to connect people with products, by weaving a story and demonstrating how we stand out of the crowd.
The other movie that comes to mind, and this is maybe less relevant when speaking to my career, is Pulp Fiction. It’s just always been a personal favorite of mine.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If you’re going through hell keep going.
I can’t think of a more relevant quote for 2020, but that has always been a quote I’ve kept in mind throughout life.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
As a finance person it’s always amazed me at how low conversion rates are for marketing teams. I’ve also had the good fortune to spend time in the Data Privacy world and realize that while shrinking an addressable database based on opt-ins and consent was really hard for Marketing teams…it also leads to higher quality and less “spam.” The movement I would love to spark is the death of spam and enabling customers to discover and opt-in to those topics they are currently interested in learning about and hopefully vastly increase people’s satisfaction with marketing and end surveillance marketing and spam. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
After 2020 and the lockdowns and social distancing, I’d say my leadership team. Joining a new company during the pandemic meant all remote interviews and remote work 100% of the time. I would love to have a great dinner with the leadership team and grab some social drinks afterward. I miss the simple pleasure of the social elements of being part of a strong leadership team.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?
Regardless of the event scenario, whether it’s in-person or virtual, the most important thing is the content. The content truly is key when it comes to drawing people in.
What’s great about virtual events is that you don’t have the same cost and time constraints as you do with physical ones. So, in theory, you could host three events a day, something that was never really possible for physical events. It really opens up a lot of possibilities, but it’s also easy to get carried away.
Some advice I would share is to be as disciplined as possible when it comes to planning events. If you want to do one once a month, make the investment (both time and money) to do that one event per month, but do it right. Make it the best event it can be, rather than doing as many as possible. Quality over quantity will win in digital live events.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
One of the most interesting virtual events that stuck out to me recently has to be the Zoomtopia event. An element that I loved was that the vast majority of the content was live — what makes in-person events perfect is the imperfection of the live situations. One thing I’ve noticed this year is that most virtual events are completely pre-recorded. While this definitely allows companies to hit all of their key messages and provide a polished product and presentation, it also kills some of the spirit as well.
I really liked how Zoom incorporated live content with sprinkles of pre-recorded content. The event also did a great job at audience engagement, by shipping out physical awards and goods to people tuning in and had a great live chat feature — it really went a long way to boost engagement.
What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?
I touched on this earlier, but the setup really is the most important part. I cannot stress how important it is to invest in the event early on. It’s better to make the event the best experience possible, rather than rushing to the finish line.
Mistakes I would caution against would be not incorporating chat functionality, not having polling capabilities, and only featuring a small handful of speakers. As I noted in my previous response, audience engagement is the most important aspect of any event, especially virtual ones. Getting the audience to participate is incredibly important. Having a multitude of speakers can go a long way to help with that as well, it helps to avoid monotone presentations, breaks up the perspective, and typically makes people more engaged.
Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?
I’ve used a lot of different platforms for virtual events — services like Zoom, On24, WebEx, and GoToMeeting. What’s most important to me is how the practitioner uses the tool. When you look at them on paper, they all essentially do the same thing, so if you’re well prepared you shouldn’t have any issues regardless of the platform. My advice is to pick a platform, understand it well, and use all its features to the best of your ability.
If I had to choose one, it might be On24. I loved its integration with Marketo and loved being able to track who was attending, and who wasn’t, in real-time.
Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?
From a design and collaboration perspective, I would say the Figma collaborative design tool is a must. It’s great for building out marketing visuals and really helps speed up the collaboration process. Think of it as a living Google doc, but for design.
An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
The common webinar format can really hinder the energy of an event. Not getting to see other participants can make it feel like a boring lecture. When I host internal virtual events at Pure Storage, I want to see the team, I want to see the other participants. Making these small changes can go a long way to creating a more energetic virtual event.
If you refrain from too many PowerPoint slides and get creative when it comes to participant engagement, you’ll find your virtual event feeling much more energetic than before.
Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Put it down on paper. Write down the outline. Don’t be afraid to share it. Collaborate with others to make it a reality.
- Digital processes will continue to accelerate and lead consumer decision making. From events and content, to customer service and demos, brands across industries will prioritize adopting and perfecting an all-digital approach that can withstand lockdowns, social distancing and unforeseen disruptions.
- Leaders will need to compete against multitasking with creative incentives to facilitate engagement in an environment rife with distractions. For example, digital and in-person events do not have the same parameters of success due to the pandemic. Events will no longer consist of one large moment in time, but a series of high-quality virtual experiences.
- Personalization and customization of digital event experiences will drive event marketing. Marketers must utilize data and insights to determine who will effectively deliver content to a virtual audience, and identify what successful engagement looks like i.e. allowing audiences to customize their agenda, opt-in to various offerings and explore content in their own time versus live.
- Content investment will be critical for customer engagement. Companies will need to create accessible, long-term and interactive resources that effectively replace in-person demos and brand visibility. For example, hosting virtual content booths that potential customers can explore and engage directly with your products in their own time.