Amanda Ma of Innovate Marketing Group: “Be kind to one another”

Be kind to one another. There has been a lot of injustice going on in the marginal community. As event industry leaders and business leaders we can help move the needle for a more diverse and inclusive community. I believe we play a big part when it comes to race, inclusion, and community. As a […]

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Be kind to one another. There has been a lot of injustice going on in the marginal community. As event industry leaders and business leaders we can help move the needle for a more diverse and inclusive community. I believe we play a big part when it comes to race, inclusion, and community.


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 Amanda Ma.

Amanda Ma is the Founder and Chief Experience Officer of Innovate Marketing Group (IMG) an award-winning event and experiential marketing agency based in Los Angeles. Innovate Marketing Group is known for producing remarkable corporate events by providing fresh ideas, infrastructure and logistics. Clients include TikTok, East West Bank and more.


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”?

Born in Taiwan and raised in Arcadia, CA, Amanda studied business at Boston University in Boston, MA and studied abroad in London, UK. Her entrepreneurial journey began in 2006 as the Co-Founder of Fresh Events Company, Inc. and Co-Founder of Pamper Me Fabulous in 2008. She then founded Innovate Marketing Group in 2014, which through her leadership has flourished into one of the most distinguished event management and design agencies both locally and nationally, with a team of dedicated event professionals that are ready to help bring client events to the next level.

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

Ihave always enjoyed organizing events and gathering people. Although I did not know this can be an official career back in the days. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur one day and strive towards that goal. And over time with various experiences, the events business is what I was most passionate about and good at.

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?

We were doing set up for a private event in the backyard one time and the homeowner left without leaving the lights on for us. So literally all the vendors had to set up in the dark. And when the homeowners returned, they felt so bad that they left us in the dark.

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 book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My first encounter with the book was in college and the second time was when I got my first job. I wanted to be a person that adds value no matter where I go. And this book does just that to help guide you towards that. I love it so much that I even incorporate some of the habits as our company’s values. Now I love giving this book as a gift to someone that is just starting in their career.

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

“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”– Thomas Jefferson

Every accomplishment that I have now it’s because of the hard work that was dedicated to making that happen. In some efforts, you see the results instantly, while in others it takes time. it is about continuously working hard and working smart.

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

Our agency has produced more than 90+ virtual events since the pandemic. The events industry was completely disrupted, and we pivoted very early on in order to provide a solution for our clients.

According to Marketing Research Media, virtual events will grow from $14 billion in 2018 to $18 billion in 2023, with a steady increase of five percent annually. Virtual events are now the new normal and are an excellent way to further monetize an event. From conferences, educational, walk/run, galas, all can be transitioned to virtual.

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?

There were quite a few that was doing it well from large to small. One of the ones that stood out was Microsoft and of course the virtual events we created for our clients. And the ones we have seen that are done well start with understanding their true goals and objectives, what’s the attendee journey they want their attendees to have, very strong content and great execution.

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?

Not having a professional moderator and events agency to help execute. There were quite a few events with strong content but poor delivery which affected the overall event satisfaction. A professional moderator ensure sessions are impactful with dynamic dialogue and smooth transitions. And more skillful in terms of contingency plan as well. Some virtual events you can tell (even on Zoom) the team they have are not familiar with the virtual platform to execute a seamless event. Having professional help also can make or break your event. There are virtual events you have attended where you can tell its not professionally done (considerations were not thought of because they are inexperience or just not technical).

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

Because we do a variety of events, we use various platform for our clients. From Zoom to Vfairs, Airmeet, AcceelEvents, to many others. It’s not one size fits all. We understand what the event goal and purpose is then from there recommend a platform. And with that we have delivered high client satisfaction and attendee experience.

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

Zoom is a great platform. Even with some of the more sophisticated platform certain component we still use Zoom for the social interaction and easiest to use. Keep up with their updates since they are constantly updating. Which is the case for many platforms. E.g. Zoom recently just added the closed caption function which is wonderful because one of our goals is to be more inclusive as well so that helps with that initiative. Versus on another more sophisticated platform we use, we have to hire a third party closed caption company to have that function.

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.)

First, is the process. What is the process of creating and running an engaging and exciting virtual event? The top 3 aspects to look for are:

  • Strategy — Learn how to hold an authentic and engaging virtual space.
  • Facilitation — The need for dynamic dialogue and smooth transitions.
  • Design & Implementation — Explore platforms and tools to develop and design the new digital experience.

The next step is figuring out what you should consider when planning a virtual event. The top four aspects to look for are:

Priorities –

  • What is the focus or goal?
  • Is it beneficial to go virtual?
  • Consider contingency plans and changes.

Planning –

  • What is the guest’s journey?
  • Content is king!
  • Engagement will keep your viewers.
  • Test, test, test

People –

  • Who is the target audience?
  • Adding a recognizable face can increase engagement.
  • Moderator needed to help transition ground rules.

Program –

  • Duration of the program.
  • Free/social platform vs. Fully customized.
  • Most critical or beneficial topics.

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?

A lot of people want to jump right into the details but its important they take the time to consider the priorities. If you spend the time to do this part right, your virtual event success will be enhanced.

  • Priorities –
  • What is the focus or goal?
  • Is it beneficial to go virtual?
  • Consider contingency plans and changes.

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.

Be kind to one another. There has been a lot of injustice going on in the marginal community. As event industry leaders and business leaders we can help move the needle for a more diverse and inclusive community. I believe we play a big part when it comes to race, inclusion, and community.

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.

Oprah. She is an inspiration on so many levels. It would be a dream come true to have a private meal with her. Although I would probably be too nervous to eat. One of my favorite quotes that she said, “Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment”― Oprah Winfrey

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

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