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Allie Magyar of Hubb: “You have to put yourself in your audience’s shoes when planning your event”

The first thing I would say is don’t look at virtual as a negative, as a stop-gap measure until we return to in-person events. The virtual events that are falling flat right now are the ones hosted by the people just trying to rush back to in-person events. Virtual events are here to stay and […]

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The first thing I would say is don’t look at virtual as a negative, as a stop-gap measure until we return to in-person events. The virtual events that are falling flat right now are the ones hosted by the people just trying to rush back to in-person events. Virtual events are here to stay and have proven that they are a valuable format capable of expanding a businesses reach and able to easily collect lots of important and useful data to partners and sponsors. Simply viewing virtual events as an exciting opportunity, rather than a negative, no-alternative option will make your virtual event significantly better.


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 Allie Magyar.

Allie Magyar is the CEO and founder of Hubb, a leading provider of event management technology.

She is a serial entrepreneur and technology maven with over 15 years’ experience driving technology enabled service companies. Allie combines her real-world experience in marketing, sales, partner relationship building, and show production with a strong vision for the technology-enabled future of event management.


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 had the type of personality who looks at bringing people together and creating experiences in the process. So my childhood was rooted in that principle. In high school, I ran for class president and was sharply focused on execution of my campaign. In my career, my love for cars and car racing was a way for me to work on

bringing people together. In my family life as a child, I observed my parents marriage and learned about the value and importance of quality time from them.

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

It’s funny how life prepares you, sometimes unknowingly, for what you tackle in the future. I fell into my career after graduating highschool, because I had a passion for bringing people together for shared experiences. I have now spent over 20 years in the meetings and events industry. and now, as Founder and CEO of Hubb, I feel my entire career has been training and preparation for the current covid-19 crisis. The meeting and events industry is falling apart and in need of disruption in light of the pandemic. I have the battle scars and expertise that help lead our industry as a key player during this crucial time of change and uncertainty. I also have a renewed passion for Hubb and all of the great work our team is doing right now to bring virtual and hybrid events alive for organizations big and small.

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?

I don’t think there is such a thing as a funny mistake because I don’t really like the word mistake. I believe that everything is a learning opportunity and a chance to do things differently next time. But one “mistake” from my years running car shows was being too hard on myself, even though it was a successful business. I was only 20 years old, filling planes with people and friends, and didn’t enjoy it because I was focused on growing the business. So I wish that I had stopped to enjoy those years more instead. Second, but related, I’ve learned the hard way a few times, about the value and importance of moving slowly and with a sense of focus when it comes to business, not doing too much and taking on too much business. I learned that I would rather be great and efficient at what I am focused on, than say yes to everything and underperform.

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?

Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance, is a practical step towards self- realization that helped me shift my mindset and purpose for life on a daily basis. As an entrepreneur, your life is all about execution and it’s hard to feel your self worth in the process. But execution isn’t who you are as a person. This book helped teach me about the importance of shifting my perspective in life and being still and being grounded and balanced.

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

One quote that I love is “Life is a journey,” and it means that you can’t feel the good without the bad and the need to overcome adversity sometimes, which is what we are living in today. This quote says that I have to remember that life won’t forever be or feel this way. I can focus on gratitude and intention to make the most of my journey and remember that everything that has happened to me was a positive stepping stone in my life for something else. I often ask myself — “Will this pass the rocking chair test at the end of my life?” Meaning, is this what I want my story to be, reflecting the course and changes in my life as I write my own eulogy with the choices that I make each day.

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 been in the events industry for my entire career, over 20 years. As I said before, I started out hosting import car shows right out of high school. Back then we were using fax machines and flip phones and printing out thousands of flyers to organize and promote our events. Over the years, I’ve witnessed a big change in terms of how events happen, the value of them, how we connect people. This past year we’ve entered a completely new digital age, and we’re transforming events yet again.

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

I’ve been an in-person events professional my whole career. To me, it’s all about bringing people together to achieve something that wouldn’t be possible as an individual. And in our new digital world, we’ve had to completely pivot in the way that we think about events, even though the core functionality is still the same. We still have to create an experience and an emotional response that will bring people together. My experience with creating and producing our first virtual event last May, Untethered, was a journey to bring together and inspire our own meeting planning community. For example, we had each speaker write their word inspiration on a card and share it with the audience, and it was so raw and authentic at this time when the industry was really hurting. We used inspiration to help bring their visions to life and to help them think differently. Because when we’re panicked, stressed and triggered, as everyone is in 2020, it’s very hard to think differently and Untethered gave us the ability to learn that new skill set this year. We’ve now hosted hundreds of really incredible events that are pushing the bounds on what is possible in the digital world.

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 really admire what PluralSight accomplished with PluralSight Live because they brought their culture, their design thinking, and their experience to a new digital medium which connected people in a unique and different way. It also helped to globalize their brand and allowed their team to lean in and take advantage of a new opportunity. They didn’t view virtual events as a stop-gap measure but really as a new space to shape and grow their business. So don’t view virtual events as a temporary format that you won’t need to learn, but take this chance to think about how you can innovate in your own event with this new medium.

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?

The main thing that people are doing wrong when producing virtual events is that they’re not putting themselves in their audience’s shoes. A virtual event should not be and is not a non-stop webinar for eight hours. You need to think about engagement and how to delight your audience to keep them interested and present. You can’t expect to replace in-person events with webinars, otherwise in-person events would have never happened because we’ve been doing webinars for years. So it’s key to think about how you can take the aspects of an in-person event and bring them virtual in a way that is new, dynamic, and interesting to your audience.

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

That depends on the specifications of your event. For example, if you’re having 20 people for an open discussion, Zoom and WebEx can be great. But if you’re trying to replicate a multi-thousand person event with human engagement and experience design, then you need a full scale platform like Hubb. You should always define your business requirements and your goals and then align them with the platform that will best deliver those goals.

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

Look for virtual event platforms that will help you through the planning process and all the way to the actual event, so that you have one single source of truth to bring an event to life. Most of the tools out there only offer a single part of that process, which means that you’re having to go out and get a variety of different tools to work together which is a lot more effort and work. It’s best to find one platform like Hubb that allows you to be able to do everything in one.

If you’re already on Zoom or Webex, check out their new releases and updates. Use your established tools and figure out how they’re innovating so that you can utilize those as a part of your experience design.

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? (Please share a story or example for each.)

The first thing I would say is don’t look at virtual as a negative, as a stop-gap measure until we return to in-person events. The virtual events that are falling flat right now are the ones hosted by the people just trying to rush back to in-person events. Virtual events are here to stay and have proven that they are a valuable format capable of expanding a businesses reach and able to easily collect lots of important and useful data to partners and sponsors. Simply viewing virtual events as an exciting opportunity, rather than a negative, no-alternative option will make your virtual event significantly better.

The second thing I encounter is that people think it’s really easy to plan and host a virtual event, that it all can be done in a month. Yes, there are some things about virtual events that can be done a lot faster than in-person events. But it is still a relatively new medium and there is a lot to learn. In my experience, virtual events are just as much work if not harder than in-person ones. Give them the time and effort they require and you will get a fantastic event.

I talked about this before, but experiential design is incredibly important for virtual events. You have to put yourself in your audience’s shoes when planning your event. A talking head boring experience won’t get you what you’re used to from in-person events. You have to think of new and exciting ways to engage your audience. The good news is that’s a lot easier to do at virtual events. I’ve seen some really cool examples like a battle of the bands competition, a lip sync battle, collaborative idea jams where attendees all could contribute to a final creation.

The fourth thing I have to say would be that human engagement is still number one. The events industry is about bringing people together, because we know that we can do things together that we couldn’t do alone. So the ability to connect your audience in a meaningful way should always be one of your top considerations. There are a lot of ways to achieve that connection at virtual events, whether it’s social sessions like a happy hour or a talent show, or even just scheduling a one on one coffee chat with another attendee.

Finally, my last tip is less specific to virtual events, but is still very important to run a successful virtual event. And that is to understand the importance of events in the sales cycle and to get the data to help drive that. Events are incredible revenue drives that push the sales cycle forward. You need to know what you want your virtual event to accomplish and figure out what data will measure success. For example, if you want to increase your brand’s perception as a leader in your industry, ask your audience at the beginning how they perceive you, and then ask them again after the event. If you see that it improved by the amount you wanted, then you can say your event was a success. And think about your exhibitors and sponsors as well. If you can provide them with actionable data on leads that stop by their booth, they can accelerate their sales cycle. Understanding how your virtual event can affect this cycle, will help you pick the right data to collect and how to take action on that data.

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?

I would take it back to the basics by asking yourself what are your goals and objectives. What type of experience design are you wanting to create? In a perfect world, what are the end results and how would you achieve them? That is meeting planning 101 — putting together a strategy document that understands who your audience is, why they should attend the event, and what you are trying to influence or teach them. Then you can decide what are the experiences that define those business goals and objectives.

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 have a passion for anyone in the meetings and events industry, especially with over 70% of meetings and events professionals out of work now. So the movement for me would be one that would enable us to explore new skill sets and new ways of doing things, even when we’re battered by things we cannot control like COVID, the state of our industry, and the lack of any normalcy or stability. I would want to support people to be their best selves and have the capacity to push themselves to do and try new things and be successful.

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.

I would choose brunch and I love taking pictures of food. If I had my choice of meeting with anyone, it would be author Glennon Doyle because I want to be a cheetah!

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

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