By Samantha Stallard, Director of Marketing & Business Development
In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell said that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. With hundreds of events between them and more like 100,000 hours of practice, Concierge.com event concierge services team members, Emily Gabriele, Gabby Prieto, Emily O'Reilly, Molly Burke, and Christina Richardson, understand the event world inside and out.
Concierge.com's ECS team gets to work months before each event goes live, consulting with our clients on how to produce a guest-first experience, by:
- Sourcing and managing hotels and venues for guests, staff, VIPs, and contest winners, then negotiating rates and contracts; as well as airfare, ground transportation, local staffing, and local vendors
- Procuring and organizing all tickets, credentials, and itineraries for guest pick-up
- Managing on-site check-in and customer service desks
- Providing on-demand concierge services for guests
- Assisting with arrival and departures at each event
I sat down with Concierge.com's ECS team to learn more about their backgrounds, pick their brains about the industry and guest management tactics, and hear about the coolest events they've ever worked on.
How did you get into this industry?
Emily Gabriele: I started out calling contest winners and booking their travel accommodations for the iHeartRadio Music Festival in 2013. At the time, I was a freelancer, contracted to work only the iHeartRadio project for about eight weeks. From there, I was offered a full-time position as the assistant to our at-the-time CEO and current Managing Director/Founder, Eric Murphy. After a short stint as his assistant, I moved back into the event concierge services department to manage the guest experience for iHeartMedia, Viacom, and AMC Networks
Gabby Prieto: Studying Communication Arts in college, I always knew I wanted to get into the marketing and events industry. Through my work opportunities, I was interested in promoting brands and super-serving customers. I started as a marketing intern at our sister company, Pop2Life (now CNX), writing blogs and posting on social media about client promotions. I took these content marketing skills and shifted them into executing the events on the event concierge services team
Emily O'Reilly: I think my passion and interest for the event industry started when I was studying Public Relations in college. I loved how fast and competitive that industry was and how people working in PR always seemed to make things happen regardless of the circumstances. Through my internships in the PR world, I discovered the experiential marketing industry. I started off by working with experiential marketing agencies to pull off PR stunts for the clients I was interning with, which eventually led me to my obsession with events
Molly Burke: Honestly, very much by chance! I knew I wanted to do something in the hospitality/entertainment industry after college. However, like many graduates, I wasn't totally sure what that looked like. I had started to do some networking and was floored by the work Pop2Life was doing and wanted to be a part of it! I loved the idea of creating events/meaningful experiences that made people get off their phones and actually engage
Christina Richardson: I started at Pop2Life as an intern in 2012. I immediately took interest in the guest management portion of our clients events, giving each attendee a white glove, VIP experience. I enjoy being on a team that is passionate about our technology and the success of our clients events
Why is the guest experience so important to an event’s success or failure?
Gabriele: The guest experience is what makes or breaks an event. You know the saying “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Same concept. If your event doesn’t have guests, is it really an event? In the same vein, you can have the most well-thought-out, fantastic event and if your guests don’t enjoy the experience, is it really fantastic?
Prieto: Guests and ultimately, their experiences, make or break the event. It is important to target and attract the guests before the event, to make their experience worthwhile during the event, and follow up with them after the event. This will make for continuous success
O'Reilly: If guests are unhappy or dissatisfied with your event, chances are they will not be repurchasing a ticket for next year or attending your event again. If your guest has a great experience they are more likely to tell others about the event (free marketing for your brand/company) and they’re more likely to attend future events.Social media makes it so easy for people and consumers, to spread either negative or positive reviews about their experience
Burke: The guest experience ultimately makes or breaks an event's success. People talk. At a small scale and a large scale. The feedback and energy of attendees ultimately creates the vibe for the entire event. While this obviously affects the event day, I think more importantly, it really contributes to your brand's overall reputation
Richardson: The attendees of events are the individuals who will be sharing content on their social pages, writing reviews, and spreading the word to their networks. When someone you know shares a positive (or negative) experience, it has a stronger effect than a brand marketing the same message. We want guests to share their consumer journey with our clients brands and to influence their community to engage with the brand as well
How can event marketers improve the guest experience at their next event?
Gabriele: Listen to what your guests want and observe their behavior. The answers aren’t all that cryptic. Don’t make profligate efforts in vain. We’ve all seen that happen, and we’ve all witnessed those outcomes. If you’re running a first-year event, tap into learnings from other events of similar caliber in a similar space. If you’re throwing a repeat event, extract learnings from your previous year and aim to make at least one component better than last year. It’s a wonderful practice to get into documenting learnings as the event is going on – write notes down while the event is fresh in your mind. Even if you keep a running list in your email drafts or a note in your phone. Afterwards, schedule a post-mortem meeting with your client and/or your team to talk through the event, head to tail, in an honest manner
Prieto: Make guests feel special. I believe if event marketers have executed a repetitive successful event, it is important for them to remain authentic. However, event marketers can improve their guest experience by getting to know the audience on another level and offer exclusive experiences for those guests who qualify. Analyze the data at previous events to track what makes a guest a “successful attendee,” which will then provide them with a special offer. It is important for event marketers to do their research and reward guests who participate in all of their brand's activities. This will help encourage other guests to participate and receive their VIP experience
O'Reilly: I think you can never over-inform your guests at events. The more information they have, the better. When information or details are confusing and unclear, it makes for a poor experience (and more work for your team). It’s a great idea to put together an FAQ sheet well in advance that you can send to all your guests. This should include minor things like transportation and parking, to whether food will be served or even a skeleton run of show for the event. Again, the more clear and concise information you can provide, the better the guest experience will be
Burke: Do the little things right. Treat everyone like a VIP. That is super cheesy but I think ultimately it is important to not be afraid to make exceptions. To surprise and delight attendees who are genuinely excited or sincerely kind. I think Concierge.com is so exceptional because we really get to know the attendees leading up to an event and onsite and consequently, can do these seemingly small things so exceptionally
Richardson: A first-impression is a lasting impression; event marketers need to consider all elements of onsite registration to ensure consumers can quickly enter. Are you expecting 5,000 people to show up at once? Do you want an intimate VIP registration? Do guests need to pick-up a wristband or credential? These questions will help determine the type of technology, infrastructure and staff to use at check-in. The event marketing professionals at Concierge.com can help you ask the right questions to ensure a seamless registration process. It is important to find creative ways to collect data throughout your event. Consider using RFID technology to track what activations your guests engage in throughout your event. Any data that is collected will be valuable for measuring the success of your event
What predictions do you have for the event marketing industry? Any trends you think are going to blow up in the back half of 2019?
Gabriele: I think brands are going to continue to push integrating technology into their events. AR and VR are two, relatively-new technologies, so I could see events trying to integrate engaging activations to “wow” their guests with experiences that appear futuristic and unique. I also believe brands will continue to strive to create genuine, “shareable moments” since social media is essentially our reinvented version of reality. If you look at activations like The Museum of Ice Cream and The Color Factory, those installations are created for the sole purpose of sharing content. Not taking away from all the effort that goes into them, but if you really want to see a museum of ice cream, you could probably just go to your local grocery store and stand in the frozen section. Yet, The Museum of Ice Cream creates an immersive and shareable experience for guests
Prieto: Marketing is often defined by those who experience the event: Influencers. Brands hire influencers to promote their events and I believe this will blow up in the back half of 2019. Consumers and guests are curious to find out what is the next best trend, where the next big festival is happening, and what their next move is. This often stems from their followers on Instagram or exploring their Twitter feed. This is an effortless way for event marketers to promote their brand
O'Reilly: I’ve really enjoyed the trend of brands creating a showroom experience or a temporary pop up shop to market their company or products. By creating an experience for the consumer, it makes it feel more special than just walking into a store. I love how Glossier creates these beautiful exclusive showrooms that you want to post everywhere on social media because they're that beautiful. Not to mention, their customer experience is incredible. Of course anything that is ‘Instagram-able’ is going to be a big trend in 2019
Burke: I am not one to make predictions of this magnitude :)
Richardson: With the recent release of the two Fyre Festival documentaries, the guest experience at events are under a large magnifying glass. Communication to guests, including social media posts, email blasts, and SMS messaging, need to be concise, informative and honest in their updates. Additionally, having a support team to promptly respond to consumers questions (via email, phone and social) is key and will give a lasting positive impression of the brand
What’s your most memorable/favorite event you’ve ever worked on? Why?
Gabriele: The most memorable event I’ve worked on is the 2017 Men’s Final Four program with the Capital One Corporate Experience team. This was the first event Capital One was interested in leveraging RFID technology for their guests. This was super exciting for us because we were positioned with the awesome opportunity to integrate a new, arm of technology into the guest experience. On top of that, the event took place in Phoenix, AZ, a breathtakingly gorgeous city
Prieto: My most memorable event was the first event that I worked on, the iHeartRadio Music Festival 2017. Being that it was my first event, it was so intense and exciting. We had a really hardworking and dedicated team. At the end of the event, all of the guests were happy and so were we. When all of the hard work came together at the festival, I looked around me and thought, “what a rewarding experience.”
O'Reilly: I think every event I work on with the Capital One Corporate Experience team is memorable. They go above and beyond to make sure that each of their guests feel like a VIP the entire event and deliver nothing short of an incredible experience. From VIP seating at concerts, private hospitality lounges within the hotel, and special room drops at night, they always go above and beyond to create a memorable experience. They really value the importance of guest management and always make us feel like an extension of their team
Burke: iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina. This event is always a blast - the performers and crowd alike are so enthusiastic. As my team and I play a pivotal role in actually getting everyone to Miami and in their seats, it is incredibly rewarding to look around and see all of the hard work we have put in be totally worth it when everyone is genuinely having the best time and doesn't want the show to end
Richardson: The Teen Vogue Summit which took place in December of 2018 at 72andSunny in Los Angeles, CA has been my most memorable event. The content of this event focused on empowering the young change-makers of the world. A variety of Concierge.com's capabilities were used to execute this event, including website development, ticket sales management, pre-event communication, attendee schedule personalization, travel fulfillment for talent and staff, and onsite registration