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Maor Ezer of WalkMe: “Know your audience”

Know your audience. It’s really that simple. Get out into the market, do the research, ask the questions and talk to your target audience. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed from physical to virtual. You have to do the audience insight work, and nothing beats the personal research call from your content team. They know […]

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Know your audience. It’s really that simple. Get out into the market, do the research, ask the questions and talk to your target audience. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed from physical to virtual. You have to do the audience insight work, and nothing beats the personal research call from your content team. They know how to connect with their audience and ask the right questions to curate an impactful agenda. In fact, the conference producer’s role is really on the frontline — they’re plugged into everyone, from speakers and sponsors to delegates and media. Start with research, and the rest will fall into place.


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 Maor Ezer.

Maor Ezer leads global marketing at WalkMe, focused on positioning and strategy, and helping organizations overcome their digital transformation gaps. Maor joined WalkMe through the acquisition of Abbi.io, a mobile AI company and ensured its success. He served as Chief of Staff to the President of WalkMe for two years, where he worked on company strategy and strategic drivers, including pricing and packaging. Maor is a seasoned entrepreneur, has served as founder and CEO to several ventures, and been an advisor to others.


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’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve always been interested and intrigued by the notion of commerce. In school, I bought Nintendo games and I rented them out to the whole school (which built a business that funded buying new Nintendo games!)

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

My entire life’s work led me to this point. As an entrepreneur I’ve built startups and had my ups and downs, of course, like any entrepreneur would. The thing that I yearn for the most while working in startups is finding the scale that comes from product market fit and growing your business. So when I met WalkMe’s President and Co-founder, Rafael Sweary I realized they had the perfect product market fit.

We were lucky enough to get acquired and join this amazing company that has just nailed it. We grew as entrepreneurs; we grew as executives — and we grew as people. We’re still here three years later and enjoying the ride!

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?

Thinking about this from the events angle: the first time I went to a music industry event was Popkomm in Berlin. Me and my brother went all out on our suits only to arrive and realize everyone else was in a T-Shirt!

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?

The film ‘Dead Man’ by Jim Jarmusch made a real impact on me. It’s all about one man and his journey — and that’s how I try to view my life, as one continuous journey. I want to enjoy the journey, not the destination.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve always been a dreamer. A Neil Young lyric, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust” has always had an impact on me. That’s what I try to do in life. If you’re doing something well, something right, you can feel it in everything you do. You have to always challenge yourself to grow to the next level. Take that leap of faith, make that bold move, because comfort is our biggest enemy.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?

I’ve always been involved in events, coming from the music industry into corporate marketing has really helped me see how to create an experience. I love events, I think they’re bigger than life. Events are the essence of marketing, understanding your audience. You can create an experience that is out of the ordinary. Whether it’s a gig or an industry event, you give people an experience that takes them out of their day to day. You’re creating a moment in time where your audience can enjoy something that is bigger than a day to day activity — and that’s when they have an experience.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?

The WalkMe team began work on our first-ever large-scale Digital Adoption event, Realize in December 2019, with the vision of it being a 500 person physical event, spanning 2 days of content, networking, announcements, and awards. Our team worked with clients, thought leaders, analysts, partners and sponsors to build an agenda that addressed the critical issues for digital adoption professionals. The end goal was to give back to our customers and educate the market on the state of DAP; leaving attendees inspired with a new set of tools to tackle their digital transformation challenges.

By March 3rd, with 30 speakers, over 35 sessions and the first iteration of our ‘Realizer’ awards, the stage was set for Realize to take place in San Francisco…

We knew that coronavirus was a serious threat and starting to spread across the globe. Our team was monitoring the situation and had taken necessary precautions in-line with other major industry events such as a no-handshake policy, regularly scheduled sanitation, and mandatory temperature checks. But like other conferences we were still hopeful that the situation would improve so we kept planning for the physical event.

On the 5th of March, after weeks of carefully monitoring the COVID-19 crisis, we came to the disheartening realization that the health and safety of our customers, partners, and employees would be in jeopardy if we continued with the event in person. At this time major industry events were either still taking place or postponed indefinitely.

We owed a duty to our community and to the industry at large to meet their expectations, irrespective of circumstance. This means everything we’d promised Realize would deliver had to be reimagined, not discarded. This included sponsorship branding and visibility throughout the event, networking opportunities for delegates and digital transformation leaders, and a suite of industry-leading speakers.

The only thing was, we had just five days to pivot the event to a completely online format. Putting together an online event in under a week is no simple feat — but we managed it!

Spanning across 8 time zones, over 1,400 digital adoption enthusiasts from around the globe watched Realize. We also broadcast on LinkedIn post event and created a content library, all in all over 3,000 people watched the event content, which was a huge uplift from our original plans. We couldn’t have done it without our sponsors, speakers, customers, partners and attendees who embraced agility and made Realize a reality.

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?

I think Web Summit has done one of the best jobs out there at recreating the live event experience with their technology. It’s amazing to see that they have rolled out their own proprietary software and really put a focus on the networking, as well as create the multi-screen experience augmented by their app.

Event organizers really need to up their focus now on interactivity and networking — there are few tools out there that have truly nailed the serendipity of a physical conference. Breakout rooms, AMAs, Q&As and other formats are good back stops, but the innovation we’re seeing coming out of big technology conferences with the core expertise and understanding of delegate needs (and how those have changed in the online sphere) are the ones I’m watching.

I also want to give a shout out to Drift, Janna and her team have really created some stellar experiences — including a virtual event about virtual events, with a DJ and some celebrity guests! They quickly understood that virtual events needed to be fun and memorable, and they really delivered.

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?

Many event organizers have tried to create a virtual conference that feels the same as a physical event, that’s a fixed point in time where the audience is expected to set aside their whole day to attend the event, to interact, network and watch the content like you would if you were onsite at an event.

Right now we can see that this is not the right way to address the challenge of remote events — organizers should be thinking about how to design specific content, networking and experiences for their target personas, and structuring the event in such a way that these personas have only a short amount of time each day to dedicate to specific instances that appeal to them.

If they want to stick around and learn more, great, if not, there should be an on-demand content library and supplementary networking groups to allow them to continue the conversation and consume the content at their own pace, when it suits them.

Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?

It’s tough! There are a lot of good options out there. I’m personally a big fan of Eran and his team over at Bizzabo who did a great job pivoting to digital and creating memorable experiences. HopIn is also a great platform and have managed to navigate the ‘chat roulette’ function and the breakout rooms well, as well as being first-to-market to host some of the most innovative events. They did well to move quickly, get funding and expand R&D — I think there’s big things ahead for Johnny and his team!

There is still no one platform that’s really got everything right. HopIn was built digital first, Bizzabo was able to pivot. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

I have also used Zoom for smaller customer meetings as it has the breakout room functionality and allows for multiple participants to talk at the same time. It really depends what you’re trying to achieve with your event as to what platform you should choose.

I’m waiting to see which platform wins the race to encompass all of the features and functionality that suits any type of virtual event.

Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?

I’ve always been a huge advocate of Slido, and since their acquisition by Cisco I am sure they’ll have more features and functionality in their product roadmap to suit all sizes of event.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. 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?

I mentioned earlier that we pivoted our conference to digital in just five days. Although the market has moved a lot since March in terms of learnings, I still think a lot of what we learned back in March holds true.

  1. Speaker Training. We supported our speakers in presenting virtually, providing them with briefs of how to engage the audience through adapting their tone of voice, being mindful of busy backgrounds and other potential distracting factors. The team worked with speakers to help them prepare for their session, ensuring that their shortened time slots were incisive and delivered value in every sentence — this kind of speaker training has since become the industry standard for online conferences.
  2. Continuing the conversation. Not all delegates are going to be able to make your event at any given time. It’s important to make space so global attendees can still enjoy the experience. WalkMe used technology as a bridge to film and broadcast the first online digital adoption event. The following week, Realize screened on LinkedIn Live. In order to accommodate our digital adoption enthusiasts across the globe, we shared two screenings of Realize for the EMEA and APAC regions respectively, engaging two different time zones totalling 4,061 unique views across the two broadcasts.
  3. Attention span. Long before industry conferences put out press releases about the changing nature of attendee engagement, we understood that in order to capture attention and deliver in this format we had to radically reimagine what the line-up would look like and how to tailor online content. We worked with our speakers to cut their presentations down from 20 minute keynotes into 5–7 minute segments distilling the key insights from their content and ensured that we built “wow” moments into the programme to break up the day; weaving product announcements and awards into the show flow.
  4. On-Demand Content. To keep viewers engaged and to provide value for attendees after the event had wrapped, we set up an on-demand library. Customers, analysts and partners were very engaged and willing to record themselves via Zoom. In planning our content we were careful to ensure to not leave anyone’s L&D need unfilled. At a time when knowledge-gathering felt like one of the only ways to arm ourselves against outside forces, we built a vast repository of content tailored for anyone who entered the event. As we had had to cut down the content, including our developer-targeted breakout sessions, we wanted to ensure that each of our customer personas were able to easily navigate the pre-recorded content so that they could still find any of the sessions they were looking for to ensure that we democratized access to knowledge at at critical time for our community and the world at large.
  5. Make it Fun! We recently hosted a sales meetup and brought along freestyle rapper Harry Mack to take audience suggestions and weave them into his bars, resulting in “the real rap on sales.’’ More and more online events are looking at how to create a sense of fun and spontaneity. We also applied this to our company All Hands by sending all of our employees a cocktail kit and bringing a mixologist onto the Zoom. It was a simple but effective way to bring everyone together under a shared purpose and make us feel more connected despite being remote.

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?

Know your audience. It’s really that simple. Get out into the market, do the research, ask the questions and talk to your target audience. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed from physical to virtual. You have to do the audience insight work, and nothing beats the personal research call from your content team. They know how to connect with their audience and ask the right questions to curate an impactful agenda. In fact, the conference producer’s role is really on the frontline — they’re plugged into everyone, from speakers and sponsors to delegates and media. Start with research, and the rest will fall into place.

Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. 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.

I’m very passionate about education. I have kids and I think the entire way that they’re doing it now — having children sit in front of Zoom with their cameras off — is flawed. Children need to engage and interact to learn. Especially because kids have different digital aptitudes. I’d love to inspire a movement that is truly inclusive of kids of all abilities and aptitudes to engage in online learning to provide equal opportunities to learn in a way that suits them.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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.

Satya Nadella. What he’s done with Microsoft as a technology, business, and most importantly from the human perspective, is nothing short of amazing.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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