Flexibility and brand go hand in hand

Rebecca Sullivan at Inc. and Fast Company shares how she uses Swoogo to run vastly different events for entirely different brands. Learn tips like:

  • Branding = knowing your audience
  • How to fight the dropping virtual show-up rate 
  • Use templates for correct, consistent brand use
  • Rebecca’s success using InGo
  • Texting is the new RSVP

Our favorite quote: “If you told me before COVID that ninety percent of the events I worked on going forward would be virtual events, I probably would have laughed in your face. We now do, I would say, two to three a week, sometimes more. We have one tomorrow. We had one yesterday.”

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BW Events Tech


Next up, we'd like to bring up Rebecca Sullivan. Big round of applause. Rebecca everybody.


Rebecca, can you introduce yourself to everybody?

Sure. So I'm Rebecca Sullivan. I work for Fast Company, and Inc. magazine, Mansueto Ventures, and I've been there ... it's actually gonna be my tenth year, come August, which seems a little crazy to me. To be at one company for so long.

And so the consumer marketing team, we pretty much are the audience people. We are there any time a consumer's making a transaction with our brand, it hits our team. So, that's all of our events, our recognition programs, you know, Inc. 5000 is probably one of the most well-known recognition programs.

Swoogo is a previous honoree of the Inc. 5000.

Our circulation, you know, our paywall. But yeah, pretty much any time a consumer is making a transaction, our team is involved in some way, shape, or form.

So cool. So cool.

So one thing I think is really interesting about Inc. and Fast Company, is that they have such a, like, diverse audience.

Like, you have C-Suite folks and the Big Wigs that devour your content. And then there are people like me, who read your content.

So, I'm curious, how do you go about, like, marketing to and interacting with those different audiences?

It really just starts with, what are we marketing? I know we're here talking about events, but what type of event are we marketing? Who is the event for?

So we do, you know, we do a range of events from one-hour virtual webinars, to multi-session virtual webinars, to multi-day virtual webinars, to private dinners for C-suite executives, to four-day, five-day innovation festivals.

And so, once we kinda understand what the event is, and who it's for, that kinda leans itself to, okay, what is our marketing strategy to get the right audience there?

So, something like the C-suite, you know, those are more of your intimate dinners, invite-only type of moments.

And so, those are really high-touch, hand outreach. We use the Swoogo invite list feature all the time for that. And sometimes we do ... being two media brands ... we do have in magazines, we've Editor-in-Chiefs on both brands, and so sometimes those invites will really come from them, from their rolodex.

And then for the bigger, you know, more festival, like of these images here, you can see the one.

My left is, I'm looking at here, you're looking at there.

You can see the one picture of the image there is with the table, so that's, like a ... We did an event in New York a couple weeks ago called Stability in a Storm, and that was for C-suite executives of companies of ten thousand or more employees, and that was done with Mckenzie and Company.

And so that was very, very high level, very invite-only, and everything was personal outreach.

Whereas the other image is an image from our Innovation Festival from the past year, and we're doing our ninth one this year in September in the city. And that is where we're, you know, using more of your mass marketing channels. You know, paid marketing from paid social: LinkedIn, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Google. You know, we are fortunate that we are two media brands, that we do have our own audience we can go out to. And so we have our own ads and magazines.

We have, we've also lean into partnerships with ... Mmmm ... different sponsors of events.

So, something like the festival, you know, in previous years we had one of the founders of the SKIMM come speak and so we, you know, lean into that and work with them to reach out to their audience. And it really has, you know, tapping into those partnerships and different sponsorships for those bigger events, has been really beneficial for getting the word out.

For sure.

For sure. And so, I'm curious.

So you've had hundreds of events, right, with all these diverse groups? Have you noticed any trends in audience behavior, or like, I don't know. What have you noticed folks change doing in the past few years?

There's been a lot of change, especially since COVID. I think one of the biggest ones, I think everyone can agree, virtual events. It became a whole new line of business for us.

So, if you told me before COVID that ninety percent of the events I worked on, going forward, would be virtual events, I probably would have laughed in your face.

So it's that's we now do, I would say, two to three a week, sometimes more.

We have one tomorrow.

We had one yesterday.

And so, that has ... it's just a whole new line of business for us, and so that's been really great. Just the willingness and want for people to go to these virtual events. On the downside, we've seen show-up rate drop drastically. Very much so for the virtual events. You know, we're seeing, I would say a thirty-percent show-up rate for virtual events. Not as much downside in the in-person events. And I think, you know, people, after years of being inside, they're so eager to sign up and do everything, but then life happens and, you know, they can't do everything right away.

And so, for the virtual events, we've been doing a lot of things to try to combat that, and so we've leaned into, you know, doing video-on-demand, which has been really great with Swoogo, where we, you know, maybe they don't make the event when it's airing live at 2:00 PM or 3:00 PM, or whatever time it is. But we make the video available for them for the next thirty days. And even when they click that link in Swoogo, it still updates their status to attended. And so, in our, you know, for a custom-sponsored event, you know, we're still getting what the goal of the event was, to get the audience engaged with the content. And maybe they didn't do it at two o'clock on a Tuesday, but, you know, if they did it at two o'clock on a Wednesday, on their own time, and they're still engaging with the content, you know, I think we did our jobs.

For sure. For sure. What about for in-person events? Have you noticed what kind of changes are going on there?

There's kind of the same of the, not more drop off, not as heavy as virtual events.


But for those we're being a little more, probably a lot more, aggressive with our reminder emails. And we're really starting that conversation with attendees a lot earlier. Instead of, you know, previously, we would, you know, send a reminder email, maybe a week before, two days before. But now we're starting three weeks before. And we're starting conversations and really talking, especially if it's a smaller event of a hundred people or less.

We're getting them to reconfirm with us where ... we've tested out text messaging. That's been, you know, very helpful. One person actually came up to me and said that it was the most reminders, but the best reminders, they have ever gotten at at an event, and I've never been so pleased that my multiple emails made their way to them.

And so, you know, that's been really helpful, and it's been really helpful for people who've actually, you know, said, oh, sorry I can't come anymore.

And so we instantly know, okay, let's adjust this, and it helps us just kinda figure out, so we're not surprised on the day of.

For sure. Yeah. I was thinking as an attendee, if I can't attend, I would love to be able quickly say, like, no, I can't. It's like a win-win. You have the chance to get the next person in, especially for these in-person events.

I'm curious, have you noticed anything about sponsors as well, like different sponsor behaviors?

Yeah. I mean, sponsors, we've been doing all the custom events, the virtual, like, single session, a lot of them that are just straight sponsor events.

So, the interest and, granted, we're a media brand, so there's been such an interest in events over what used to be their advertising of print and digital, you know, that everybody wants these experiences. They want these events.

And there's been, you know, it's been interesting just to kinda see that shift. And so, that's one of the reasons we're doing more events than we've ever done before, is because sponsors, they want experiences, they wanna connect with their audiences in real time. And they don't wanna just, you know, have an ad on the site, or an ad in a print magazine.

For sure. For sure. One of the things that you shared with me before that was really cool was, since a lot of your stuff is templated, right, or the website and stuff like that, you can quickly be able to show like, okay, this is where the logo goes, this is where everything goes, so it makes it really easy for the pitch.


We've created those kinda same templates where we have, you know, we have a virtual event template that we have like a single-session, a multi-session, a multi-day session, and, you know, with a couple assets, we can have it up in two hours.


Thanks to Swoogo. Thanks to these templates that we can create, and it's been great.

And it allows us to kinda do more than we could before.

For sure. For sure. Does anybody have any questions here for Rebecca? Alright. Oops. Sorry, right here in the corner.

No, it's hard to see if you're ...

Yeah. It's hard to see.

For these emails, do you use the the Swoogo email features, and and how does that work? Do you count or any - as opposed to run like setting in a thing on your own internal camp email client, and then directing them to Swoogo, and then they're going to email.

Yeah. So these emails are both. One of them is actually from Swoogo, the other is a mail merge. But we do pretty much all of our notifications of reminding people for the upcoming event information, are all through Swoogo. We used the notification emails for that. It's great, because we can see when people have opened them. We can even see, looking at somebody's registration record, we can see the history of all the emails they've gotten. So that's always been really helpful for us. We can see if they've opened it, if they haven't. And so a lot of times, you know, if they haven't opened it, but it's been delivered, we may then send them a second email as the mail merge from an Outlook, just to make sure they're getting the important information they need, to be able to attend the event.

For sure. For sure. One thing I really like about these too, is that you can tell, and we're thinking, we thought about this a lot. So, when we're doing events that are a lot more intimate, right?

Then we'll send the mail merge looking one, you know, versus the large one that has the beautiful text and stuff like that. And then we'll switch it around, you know? So if the first one doesn't work, then we'll try the other one, because people interact with different email types as well.

Any other questions for Rebecca? In the back there.

Race race. Who's gonna get them? Who's gonna get them? Oh, Aaron wins.

Hi. I noticed you all use InGo for registration, on top of Swoogo. I was just wondering if you could speak to your experience with that, the effectiveness, how many people choose to register that way, versus their traditional way. And then also, if you have challenges with people using personal emails to register through that tool, versus collecting the business address through the traditional way?

Yeah. We've used InGo, I wanna say for three years now, maybe even longer.

It's been a great tool for us. It really helps, especially for those bigger events. So, you know, that image before, where you saw the big stadium audience at the festival? We would use it for something like that. It just adds a lot of impressions, and it's really effective just to kinda get the word out, and get that brand awareness about the events.

For some of the smaller events, we wouldn't use it. So that intimate dinner? We wouldn't use it for that.

You know, people do tend to ... we get a mix of people using their personal emails versus their company emails, and we are, our brands are interesting, in that it's kind of B2B and B2C for people who read both Fast Company and Inc.

And we've, you know, we just kinda have to consolidate with the emails we have. But InGo has been very effective. We've also started using it for speakers, to promote that they're attending. So, the same way that attendees can kinda register and promote out an image, we're able to then create a separate link, and it has a social card that would overlay the speaker's headshot from LinkedIn, that they can then post out, and it saves our creative team a lot of time. Instead of designing or putting together fifty or sixty different assets that all look the same, with just a different headshot. So that's been a big time saver for us.

And for the most part, people are happy to use InGo too, I think. You know, there's been one complaint, actually, that Your Next Move event right there.

That was the one complaint we got about that, them using that, because that was specific to that event, where the title is ... it was Quitting Your Day Job: Your Next Passion. And so there was one complaint where somebody did, you know, the social card that went out on their LinkedIn, that said, Quitting Your Day Job.

They weren't planning to quit their day job. So they weren't, they weren't too pleased that that happened, which was a very great feedback. And, you know, something that we needed think about for future events, and what is going on those cards when people push it out to their networks when they register.

That's really funny about their boss.

Was like, Excuse me?


Awesome. And can you talk quickly about text messages?

You mentioned that texting was a really great reminder tool for folks.

How did you come to that? And what results have you seen?

So, we used it most recently with the same Your Next Move event, and it's been really great.

You know, we've been able to send reminders, like, link reminders, that link to the important information. This event, we did an Uber code, and we were able to include everything in that, and people can apply directly. They can immediately unsubscribe from that. But it's just kind of another nice touch point where, you know, people are getting so many emails, and they can opt out instantly.

And it has been very, very effective and I would we're gonna continue doing it, pretty much for every event going forward.

For the festival that's coming up in September in New York City. We still have to figure out how we're gonna use text messages for that one, because that's an event for three- to four-thousand people. So we'll have to get a little more buttoned up on who we're texting exactly for that, but it's definitely something that has proven effective to making sure people show up, or just being in that kinda constant communication, so you know what your attendees are expecting from you, and what you're expecting from them.

For sure. That's really cool. And I think it talks a good bit to like the optionality, the ability to like mix and match different pieces of technology.

We'll take one last question.


Choose Aaron.

What is the texting platform you're using? Is it within Swoogo?

It's not within Swoogo, I have to get it from my colleague, because she is the one who used it last.

I will find it and, if you can find me after this, I will give you the name of it.

Okay. Cool. That was a very concise answer. I think we can do the second question.

Oh, okay.

I was gonna ask the same question. I've used one called Text Magic that's worked really, really well, but I was just wondering if you were using the same platform.

Alright. Well, if we can give Rebecca a big round of applause, thank you so much.