Getting (and keeping) attendee attention is one of the top challenges for any marketer, and Nancy Walsh, president of Reed Exhibitions North America, is no different. Her focus is on connecting exhibitors and attendees at unique events that engage these key audiences and drive value for Reed’s diverse portfolio of B2B and B2C clients. We spoke with her about the importance of personalization and how Reed uses technology to create a more customized experience.
Q: Nancy, in your opinion, how important is personalization to events?
NW: I have to say, personalization is extremely important when it comes to events. It's the way of the world now, in that I don't think that you could ever address an invitation anymore to someone as, "To whom it may concern."
At Reed, we've been using data analytics to make sure that all of our marketing is personalized to our customers — both our exhibitors and our attendees. You need to know exactly whom you're talking to, as well as a bit of data about them in terms of what's going to influence them to come to the event.
Q: So what are some specific ways that you personalize your programs at Reed?
NW: One of the ways we personalize our programs is in the registration process. We ask our attendees what it is they're looking for when they get to the event. And after they register, we send them recommendations for the type of products they indicated they're looking for, and we provide specific exhibitor names. Then we follow up with them to see if they're interested in visiting with those exhibitors.
Q: Do you think technology is important to events today? What role does it play in personalization?
NW: It is absolutely important! Technology is coming into play in every aspect of the event business, in terms of being able to provide our customers with tools that make the event much more user-friendly for them. Take the registration process, for example — technology makes things easier by identifying who it is who's registering in advance, so if they've registered with us before, the registration fields will pre-populate. And we're able to map all of our registrants' event journeys beforehand by identifying who it is they're likely to want to see and by showing them who we've matched them with. Because we're able to show our customers the various aspects of the event they're most likely to be interested in, we're able to create a more engaging, customized experience for them.
Another aspect of technology is just what we can do behind the scenes in making the event more personalized for the customer. We can analyze the data and deliver an experience that really suits his or her needs.
Q: How do you design the experience to customize it for your attendees?
NW: Great question. We design the experience for our customers based on their feedback, so we have a range of events, from our pop culture events that are very experiential in terms of activations — for example, people could get in cars that are branded and drive around New York as a sponsorship — to B2B shows where we bring in entertainment and provide concerts. We basically ask the audience what it is that's really going to activate them when they come to the show, and then we provide those experience.