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Event Planning & Community Building Secrets: Insights from Gerilynn Marburger, Director of Global Events at HP

"Innovation is key, and offering the unexpected can pleasantly surprise your audience" - Gerilynn Marburger quote

Have you ever wondered how giants like Hewlett-Packard Enterprise excel in pulling off unforgettable events? In the competitive world of entrepreneurship, creating impactful events is both an art and a science. 

Gerilynn Marburger, an experienced event planner, reveals her top strategies for mastering event planning. From understanding audience needs and embracing innovation to smart budgeting and community building, Gerilynn provides actionable insights that can transform your events. As the industry evolves, these innovative approaches are crucial for creating memorable and impactful experiences.

Gerilynn's expertise, drawn from years of experience, offers the guidance needed to elevate event strategies and achieve outstanding results.

Expert Insights

Understanding Your Audience

A successful event involves deeply understanding the attendees’ needs and motivations. Gerilynn emphasizes the importance of donning multiple hats, including that of a detective and sociologist, to grasp the impulses driving your audience honestly. 

"You can't just be an event marketer. You have to be all these things,"  - Gerilynn Marburger says, highlighting marketers' multifaceted role.

Event planners can craft deeply resonated experiences by meticulously researching and empathizing with the audience's needs, desires, and journeys. This empathetic approach is crucial for both B2B and B2C events and is the first step toward making an event successful and truly memorable.

Action steps to understand your audience:

  • Research your target audience’s background, including demographics, professional roles, and industry challenges.

  • Conduct surveys or interviews to uncover the motivations and expectations of potential attendees.

  • Design the event experience around these insights, keeping the customer journey at the forefront.

Innovation and Risk-Taking

Gerilynn encourages stepping out of the comfort zone and taking calculated risks to create memorable events. 

“Innovation is key, and offering the unexpected can pleasantly surprise your audience. It's not just about what you do; it's about doing it differently and with a touch of whimsy to make your event stand out.” - Gerilynn Marburger

Marburger also notes, 

"Is your offering compelling enough that people will want to attend?" 

This question drives the content and activities at any event. Entrepreneurs should focus on providing unique value through insightful speakers, engaging workshops, or networking opportunities that align with the audience's interests and needs. This value proposition will ultimately convince someone to invest their time and money.

Important steps to keep in mind are: 

  • Ideate unique elements or themes that haven’t been seen at similar events.

  • Experiment with new formats or technologies that enhance engagement.

  • Create a feedback loop to measure the reception of new ideas.

Budgeting Wisely

Event marketing requires striking a balance between creativity and budget constraints. Gerilynn highlights the need for financial savvy, advising a focus on elements that significantly impact the attendee experience but may not necessarily require substantial investment. Every event marketer faces the common dilemma of managing a tight budget while striving to deliver a novel experience. Marburger shares her strategy:

"You have to make tradeoffs. Do you offer a full meal, or do you do a buffet?" - Gerilynn Marburger

It's about prioritizing elements that enhance the attendee experience without overspending. Event planners should always seek innovative, cost-effective alternatives that do not compromise the event's quality or integrity.

Here are some actionable steps to manage your budget wisely:

  • Prioritize spending on high-impact areas that align with your goals.

  • Identify cost-saving alternatives that do not compromise the quality.

  • Continuously monitor the budget and adjust allocations as needed.

Building and Maintaining Community

 A strong community is a powerful tool for event success, offering a foundation for engaged, repeat attendees. Gerilynn recognizes the value of nurturing a community that can be mobilized for future audience acquisitions. When asked about maintaining high engagement before, during, and after events, Marburger cites the relentless nature of audience acquisition as the "most difficult part of your job." She advocates for constant communication through various channels and empowering the sales team with the right tools and collateral to drive registrations. Creating a strong community around the event or brand can significantly amplify engagement levels and ensure long-term success.

Action Steps to build and maintain your community active:

  • Foster connections amongst attendees with networking opportunities.

  • Engage with the community consistently, not just during event promotions.

  • Leverage social media and digital platforms to maintain an active community presence.

Measuring Event Success

Gerilynn discusses the challenge of defining and measuring an event's success. She mentions various data points, such as boot scans, customer engagement in meeting centers, and historical data, which serve as KPIs. These metrics are indicators of event performance, guide future improvements, and help secure funding for subsequent events.

Important steps to keep in mind are:

  • Define specific metrics like booth scans, engagement levels, and attendee feedback.

  • Collect and analyze data.

  • Review post-event, create reports, and identify areas for improvement for future events.

Mastering the art and science of event planning can transform your approach to creating unforgettable experiences. 

These expert insights from Gerilynn Marburger can help you navigate the complex terrain of event marketing. With the right approach, a keen understanding of your audience, and a balance between budgetary constraints and creativity, your next event can leave a lasting impression. Measuring success with clear metrics ensures continuous improvement and future success.

Take these lessons from an expert and apply them to your events. With the right strategies, you can stand out in the competitive landscape, driving growth and engagement through meticulously planned and well-executed events.

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