The Future of Event and Experiential Marketing: Robyn Duda, Growth Strategist and Experiential Marketer
She shares her experience on how events and marketing space has been distributed by the COVID 19 pandemic, and how the vents marketers are dating to the situation.
Finally, she provides her expert perspective on the future of Events and Experiential Marketing.
Podcast Highlights With Time-Stamps
In this Podcast, Robyn Duda shares valuable insights On
- [2:19] Roby’s Story & Experience
- [5:24] The Need To Provide Value
- [6:42] How Events Industry Is Adapting To COVID
- [7:27] Meaning Of Hybrid Events.
- [8:47] HIMSS 2021 & Digital Events Experience
- [10:14] The Future Expectations.
- [12:13] Healthcare Organization – Coping With COVID
- [17:28] Virtual & Physical Events Engagements
- [24:27] Events Brand Presentation – Best Approach
- [26:53] Robyn’s Piece Of Advice
Healthtech Marketing Podcast 3 Video – Robyn Duda, Events & Experiential Marketing Expert
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Healthtech Marketing Insights – Episode 3 Podcast Transcript. Guest: Robyn Duda, Expert Events & Experiential Marketer – CEO RDC. Host: Adam Turinas, CEO, healthlaunchpad
[0.17] Podcast Introduction by Adam, healthlaunchpad
[ Adam ]: Welcome to the Healthtech Marketing podcast brought to you by healthlaunchpad, and HIMS. Thank you for joining us today.
I’m Adam Turinas, the CEO and founder of healthlaunchpad. So why are we doing this thing? Well, marketing to healthcare is hard, and you know what we could all use a little bit of help.
This health tech marketing podcast is a chance for you to hear directly from superstar Health Tech marketers, people like the awesome Robyn Duba who’s going to share insights about what works in marketing, and especially what works in marketing to healthcare organizations.
The show aims to give you some practical advice, and we hope that you’ll take away some tips, some ideas, some new insights, things that you can act on immediately.
The pod is brought to you by HIMSS, a global advisor, thought leader, and leading member organization that’s transforming how the healthcare ecosystem works, and my firm, health launchpad, which is a marketing consultancy that specializes in helping healthcare technology firms grow.
So today, I am delighted to introduce the awesome Robin Duda. Robin is a growth strategist and her superpower is in event marketing and creating experiences. She’s an adviser to HIMSS and has her own firm RDC that specializes in experiential marketing, especially in b2b.
Now, I’m not doing what you do justice. Could you just tell us a little bit about yourself, and I’m interested in hearing about how it is that you’re defining, designing the future, and experiences that help companies grow? Tell us about your story?
[2:20] Robyn Duba – Her Story, Events Experience
[ Robyn Duda ]: I’ll try to make a long story short because I could go on forever. It’s great to be here. By the way, you know, I fell in love with connecting people really at an early age like as a child. I remember throwing awesome birthday parties and starting my clubs because it was the way to get people to get together.
So once I was able to choose what I got to do and get paid for it, I tried to seek that out. I’ve been in the industry for 16 years in events, and 10 of them I spent in tech, various forms of tech from healthcare to FinTech to Enterprise Tech, mostly on the b2b side.
And there are a lot of conferences, smaller men’s roadshows. A big brand would come to us, and it was an agency life where I would create experiences that would drive the type of audience that they were looking to achieve.
I moved into the tradeshow side of the house, years later where I thought, Oh man, this is gonna be so boring to do one event a year when I was doing I remember one year I think I clocked like 186 events in one year.
I remember doing five in one week and I was in, in these, in five physical cities across the country, different cities in one week.
It was a breakfast or lunch, flew to another event and then the next day flew to the next two cities it was breakfast on in separate cities.
Robyn Duda – Journey On Connecting People
Yeah, it was a lot, but I got to host stuff like launch IBM Watson. Although, you know, it taught me a lot because back then in the entertainment of like the early 2000s, event marketing, in general, was made up of generalists.
So I had to know a little bit about a lot of stuff that prepped me for moving into more niche roles throughout my career. Eventually, I wanted to trade shows and started to do strategy work like what do we do to grow in three years?
I started doing it in a very design-centric, you have to know your audience well, and it’s about people. What we do isn’t about sponsorship, it’s not about a margin, and it’s not about what we can sell. That’s the result that we’re looking for, but to design, we have to know who we’re designing for on an intimate level.
And I didn’t know at the time that was design thinking and super cool when I figured that out. Eventually, I left to start my firm doing this.
You know, I wanted to work with good people that wanted to do good things to move the world forward, but also wanted to kick-ass events, you know.
So, I’ve been blessed enough to be able to do that for the last four years and most recently have been working with HIMSS, so that’s the short story long, I could go on forever.
I get the awesome job of connecting people in ways that hopefully mean, create moments that matter and which turn events into experiences.
[Adam]: I love the notion of just, you know, being user-centric, customer-centric, and sort of attendee-centric.
[5:24] Robyn Duda Explains The Need To Provide Value
[ Robyn Duda ]: I guess, about this job, I mean everyone couldn’t understand emails aren’t working well.
If you have to do the hardest transactions, you have to get someone to go through your journey to buy a ticket, or at least through the registration process.
That makes them get off their butts and go somewhere, and a lot of times it’s their families to fly to go do things for several days.
Sometimes that’s a big ask of someone’s life so you have to provide value, and to me, that value has to sit with what problem you’re going to solve for people.
[Adam]: Right, you’ve got to motivate people, just as you know our clients, got to motivate people to buy new technology. You’ve got to motivate them to show up to an event right?
[ Robyn Duda ]: Yeah. I think we take that for granted how hard that kind of transaction is. It isn’t just like: Click to buy! We’ll ship it! You know, it’s a little bit different.
[Adam]: So, I mean let’s, let’s face it, this has been an extraordinarily tough 18 months. How has the industry been adapting? And then, what do you, how do you advise clients? What do you advise them to do?
[6:42] Robyn Duba – How Industry Is Adapting to COVID
[Robyn Duda ]: I mean the industry, I, you know, I say, although a little reluctantly I think that disruption is good for this industry. Right now, I’m not saying that COVID was good.
But I think the industry was ripe for disruption for a very long time.
I think innovation was at a minimum, across the board, both in and out of healthcare, doesn’t matter what industry. You were at the design and innovation didn’t have to move forward because there wasn’t a need to have to change.
With COVID, certainly, we’ve had and seen the millions of virtual events that have come into play, and now “hybrid”. I kind of hate that word.
[Adam]: Explain what that means because I think it means different things to different guys.
[7:27] Robyn Duba Explains Hybrid Events.
[ Robyn Duda ]: In my opinion, it is, when you’re bringing both the physical and the virtual environment together under one roof. I don’t think that means that you’re live broadcasting the event in its totality, to a virtual audience.
I think that they need to be in, what I advise my clients, are separate experiences complementary to each other. That I think is the difference.
Someone can go to the live event and still get something out of that digital event that you’re putting together in this hybrid.
There are hybrid moments that you can interact, you can see what’s happening on-site, and you can take advantage of some of the things that happen out of the live event. But then, they aren’t that there, they feel like they’re not watching, snow globe happen without them in it.
They are living a different experience that’s tailored to what their limitations are. It’s tailored to the benefits are of that medium.
So what I advise is, break everything you do down. Build it back up in a place that is the easiest and best consumable.
It doesn’t matter if the event is a physical, virtual, or hybrid experience. How do you get across? How do you solve someone’s problem? The best way possible that gets them from point A to point B with you?
[Adam]: HIMSS October 2021, I’m a little confused. Was that a hybrid event or were that two separate events?
[8:47] Robyn on HIMSS 2021 – A Digital Events Experience
[Robyn Duda ]: They did a digital experience. I think, again, hybrid is just a word someone in a board room, made up. We have a solution to COVID. Live streaming of events has been happening. I did one of the first ones back in 2007.
This is not a new technology, this is not a thing. People just packaged it and called it something different to make people feel comfortable, but honestly, it’s nothing new.
So what HIMMS put together was a digital experience that complemented the event that was going on at the Global Conference in Vegas.
So there were moments that crossed over, that someone who was maybe in another country who couldn’t make it because of a travel ban or for whatever reason, they were able to see parts of some of the major moments that were happening.
However, some moments were tailored to them where they can have discussions and they can do different things that didn’t make them feel like they were missing out.
There was a unique experience around them. There were their sessions that happened online as well it couldn’t happen at the live event.
[Adam]: So what’s going to happen over the next 18 months? I know that’s almost an impossible question given we don’t know
[10:14] Robyn Duda On The Coming 18 Months.
[ Robyn Duda ]: What’s going to happen. We get paid to figure out in the next five years and we, you know, what I focus on is trying to look at the macro and micro trends both in the world and Pacific industries, and how does that, what does that mean to the live event space?
I think the next 18 months’ travel is going to be difficult. I don’t think travel isn’t coming back the way that we hope that it would, which means that creating what I call an integrated experience model is even more important.
It is making sure that there are moments where everyone both in the physical sense and in a digital sense, continuing that journey.
But instead of just haphazardly throwing up as much, like: let’s just do this and make it virtual! Like we did for I think a lot of folks did throughout 2020 and parts of 2021.
Focus on New & Unique Content
I think they have to be very meaningful moments moving forward. This is because there’s so much out there, and everyone needs to differentiate themselves because time is super limited.
And I think, information is accessible on the internet. This is a new age that we are in right now. So you have to be saying something new and unique you have to have different speakers and what I always say is, we’re talking about content, you need to make sure it’s both unique and valuable. I can’t find this anywhere else, and it is relevant to me
And you hit that sweet spot which not everyone does, it’s always the same content that they see in lots of different places which doesn’t make it unique, they can get that anywhere.
But if it’s also valuable to them I think that’s when you start to have a winner and that’s where I think people need to focus over the next 18 months, and it’s gonna be a mixed model, I don’t think that’s ever going away.
Focus on What the Audience Want
I think we’ve, we’ve seen lots of great content on our, on our Zooms and on our screens that we don’t have to necessarily travel for, but there is a purpose for live events, but we need to make sure that we’re understanding more about what our audiences want right now.
[Adam]: Who do you think is doing it well particularly you know, it may be in healthcare. Is there anybody that stands out who is doing it well?
[12:13] Robyn Duda – Healthcare Organizations That Stands Under COVID
[Robyn Duda ]: I mean, I think the last 18 months of COVID, everyone has been figuring it out, I mean I have to say I think that HIMSS did and this isn’t a plug for him.
Sort of what I did was kind of helped design this model, not just the live event like what happens before, it’s not just the post pre, but how do you talk to your audience all year round and create stuff that gets them, I call it no-dead content.
Gets them to consume one thing and they understand them on a journey that’s gonna get them to the next piece of content that’s relevant.
So, you know, I don’t know, technically in health care who else has done it but there are some folks that I’m excited to see, who are doing it well because my friends are just starting to come back this fall.
I think I’m excited to see some outside of the industry, and how people execute the next six months, honestly.
[Adam]: So that’s helpful and understanding how the conference or conference industry is adapting.
What advice should people who are listening to this, a lot of them being technology companies marketing to healthcare, their audience, their attendees, the attendees that they’re interested in?
You know, historically, it was that position where you get to see them once or twice a year, where you get to see quite a few of your customers in one place, and some of the prospects you are dealing with in each new project.
As it is, getting salespeople in front of people is one of the main things. What do you do with the booth? I know, honestly, it’s about interaction, how do you compensate for that? How do we adjust?
[13:42] Robyn Response on Virtual Interaction – Role of Data
[ Robyn Duda ]: You know, I have the anatomy of experience and I think it pertains both to folks who are organizing for brands. I think brands are sitting on massive amounts of data, right now, in the last 18 months.
Everyone should have everything they need when it comes to virtual events. If you’re sponsoring, that information is accessible
So, I think making sure that you’re looking at the data, and who’s interacting and what types of content you’re putting out there from an email to a virtual event to anything, who’s engaging, how are they engaging?
Virtual Events Should Create Relevant Moments
I am this is a bold statement but I mean we lived in a world where it was like fill the funnel, it’s a numbers game. More leads, more sales.
I am inundated with emails I’m inundated with event invitations. I think, especially with virtual folks, we’re able to pop as much in an instant; you could create and spin up a virtual event.
I think making sure that it is both a relevant moment for them, whether that email means something to them you understand where they’re at in their journey, in the lifecycle of potentially being your client, speaking to them as individuals instead of as another number.
We’ve been talking about this in marketing for a long time, but I’m not sure a lot of people living it super- well especially on the event front. It was just filled: we scan the badge! Throw them in! Send them an email!
Building Brand Through Personalized Interactions
We’ve seen many people drop out and I just think the more personalized and relevant you can make every interaction that you have with the right people, as a brand, the more your brand is going to resonate with them
I mean, some folks messaged me and remember the things that I said in a conversation. Where it was much more meaningful and it raised my eyebrows.
So I think that we have to do a good job. Getting to know the people who want to purchase our products.
[Adam]: I can see how you translate that into digital experiences. With the buyer journey, how you can with virtual tools, sort of map to the buyer journey, engage them. It’s the first time I traveled in 18 months. Certainly, the first time I’ve been to an event after 2 years. There is just is no substitute for having a face-to-face meeting with someone.
Somebody, you talk to at Zoom, you know like 70 Zoom calls, with sitting down you get much more done. How do these guys, the healthcare marketers here, manage through this?
Can you do networking in a virtual way that works well here? Are there are tons of technologies that do this?
[17:28] Robyn Comparing Virtual & Physical Events Engagements
[ Robyn Duda ]: No, there are tons of technologies that do this, but I think it is a very difficult thing to replicate. When we talk, everyone’s end goal is engagement, right?
No matter what you’re doing, from a brand standpoint, you want to engage. We want that moment of connection that leads to engagement of where a customer’s just like: yep I want to date you! Yep, let’s move to the next stage. Yep, I want to propose!
Whatever that moment is where they start to engage, and expectations with the outcome. What success looks like in a virtual, physical, and hybrid world are all very different
I think the expectation in a virtual world that you think you’re going to date somebody right after they sign onto your virtual event is an unrealistic expectation of the person on the other end.
You can’t replace a handshake or an elbow bump or whatever we’re doing these days. It’s difficult to replicate these. Yeah.
That means live events are about connecting people, you get them to engage. I think there are other things that you can do in a virtual world that can lead to that when you get on-site, based on how warm you’re, but don’t know if it can completely replace.
Adam On The Importance of Physical Interaction In Healthtech Marketing
[Adam]: I think we just have to accept that, that’s how the situation gonna be. I think as you were talking about that, the penny dropped for me.
You know, in business-to-consumer such as financial services, packaged goods such as Coca Cola, you worked with coke for a while, and they create experiences which are about engagement and entertainment and about making you feel the brand.
And that then creates the b2c space what’s called activation right. You get signed up for a bank account, or to try a new product
I think in the b2b space and frankly, especially in the space that we’re in, it’s actually about the meeting. It’s sort of old school.
And I think what’s happing, as I saw last week is that several major marketers who would have had huge booths, didn’t have a booth. They had cabins in the back of one of the 40-foot containers just to have meetings.
It was interesting and I sort of wonder whether we’re going to move to a model where they exhibit both physically and digitally.
If it’s going to be about being more experiential which I think is what you’re describing, and then figuring out a way to have in-person as well going in parallel with that.
[20:28] Insights on Creating Connections
[ Robyn Duda ]: Yeah, I think that that’s where we’re headed in the next five to 10 years, and probably sooner than that. You know, discovery, doesn’t need to be Real Estate. Like walking around a space play like a Mall!
Discovery can happen lots of times during the year, it can happen all year long. To use the dating analogy, discovery is like: how do you connect? How do you realize that you have something that I need? What’s the connection? What’s the common point of interest between the two of us?
That can happen live and virtual, but the engagement has to come like: yeah I want to date you. Let’s take it to the next step, I want to talk more.
I think that has to happen through getting to know someone, their business, what they are really, how do I solve their problem. That’s kind of magic, and the expectations are different. That’s difficult virtually.
Again, there are tons of ways that you can create a connection on a virtual platform. You click the button, talk to a salesperson, etc, but I don’t think that completely replaces how we get to engage in life in a clinical setting.
[Adam]: So you said 5 years, what is this all in 5 years, what is HIMSS 2027 looking like?
[20:16] Robyn On The Future Of HIMSS – Personalized Experiences
[ Robyn Duda ]: Yeah, just starting to have the conversations like when people talk about the future and they’re talking about right now.
Like what’s the real future? I think the future is personalized experiences, like personalized health is coming up!
That’s the key. Everything right now comes with personalized experiences like US Netflix, Amazon, etc. They make it feel like they know who we are because of data.
We need to, as an industry, look at data as much as possible. That’s going to move us over fast and it’s going to be interesting to see where the metaverse plays into all of this.
Starting to have some conversations with folks about what those moments look like in these separate worlds? How can we create engagement in those environments? It’s interesting to me to see where we can go.
[Adam]: Such an interesting idea on personalized experiences, because you know, what drives me crazy is like you spend money on the booth, and you got to have little tchotchkes, you got to have your stress balls, your candy, or whatever it is. Why?
Because there are people who show up at the SROs, and the first thing they do is they go to whichever booth is going to give them a tote bag, and then they go from booth to booth, just taking tchotchkes and candy, it’s so like a trick.
This is kind of interesting from the last week’s event, everybody I spoke to said: yeah, you know I’ve had fewer meetings, but they were really good meetings.
[ Robyn Duda ]: Exactly
[Adam]: And I think it gets to where what we’re going to do is say: I’m personally inviting you to attend a session with us and this is what we’re going to do.
It’s almost like setting up a demo and personalized experience. But you’re only going to do this for, you know, 30 people a day. Not have 300 people coming through and taking 300 stress balls off you!
[24:27] Robyn On Events – The Paradox Of Choice – Setting Up A Journey
[ Robyn Duda ]: Well, it’s the matter of having a huge menu like a Cheesecake Factory of things, overwhelmed. There’s the paradox. The Paradox of Choice. I mean, you shut down afterward, seven choices, or nine choices
This cheesecake menu of stuff for you to go through and you’re like, Ah, I don’t know where I’m supposed to begin.
Ok, this is the problem that I’m coming with, and can your event people help me solve them? Who are the players along the way that can do that?
If you can set up a journey like that, there’s a role for being there, you know
[Adam]: I think it goes back to where you started which is all about creating experiences that are meaningful for the people that you’re inviting.
And they’ve got to be meaningful enough that they’re going to want to travel regardless of when COVID goes away or not. Hopefully, it will. But still, people are going to say: Yeah, maybe I’m not going to travel, so I’ll just do it virtually.
There’s also a reason which is: Oh, you know what, I want to meet these guys and talk about this issue because it sounds really interesting. Now, that’s more interesting than watching a webinar. I’ll get on a plane.
[25:58] How Best To Present Brands During Events
[ Robyn Duda ]: And I think that’s where brands need to step up rather than just doing the stuff that they always did which is the big booth and passing out the tchotchkes!
It should be about: What’s the problem that you’re solving for the industry? How are you part of the solution, and not just I’m one of the solutions? I built it, come find me! How do you present yourself in a way that solves people’s problems?
I think that’s part of what’s missing a lot of the time. So, you know, brands need to work hard. Hard on where their dollars go, and how best they resonate their message to folks.
[Adam]: So I’ve got a closing question for you, which is: If you could give the audience, one piece of advice. Practical advice that you wish you were told at an early stage of your career. What would that piece of advice be?
[26:53] Robyn’s Piece Of Advice
[ Robyn Duda ]: Oh, from a prior example or Events example? I guess I can do both. From Events, one thing that you take away from this conversation is that data is your key to future strategy. You have to have a strategy.
Most folks on all sides whether you’re an organizer or brand go from event to event to event. It’s a Show-cycle mentality. You keep moving on and on, and you churn and you churn. You have to be on the defensive.
I think data can make everyone to be on the offensive. So what people should do is: find and dig through as much data as possible so that they spend on the right place without wastage on time and money.
Life-wise, the best advice that I was given is: Figure out what you love to do and find someone to pay you to do it![Laughter]
[ Robyn Duda ]: Robyn, this has been just a great conversation. Just before we go, I just want to inform our listeners that you can subscribe to this podcast on:
- And all the other podcast channels.
You can also view the video through the link below on HIMSS TV. We’ve got lots of more guests coming up. I want to thank everybody for listening and viewing.
If you have a topic you would like us to cover, or somebody you think we should be interviewing, email me at: Adam@healthlaunchpad.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn as Adam Turinas.
Thank you, everybody. Thank you, Robyn. Have a great rest of your day!