Jeff Sinclair, CEO at Eventbase, and Rexson Serrao, Sr. Director, Marketing Technology (Brand and Events) at Salesforce, took the SXSW stage to dish about the future of events in a post-covid world. Eventbase created the SXSW GO app, which added some cool new features this year including a real time alert about the capacity of the venue, so that you didn’t have to trudge miles to find out you were shut out of a talk. Eventbase continues to focus on hyperlocal, personalized apps. I’d get a “good morning Robin” every day with sessions I might be interested in.
Caption: CES Circa 1973, CES Archives
inclair began his talk with some slides of 1973’s CES, reminding us that physical events have not changed much since the days of miles of aisles of numbered booths. Serrao asked us to remember the definition of an event — a point in time or space where we connect with each other. He stressed Marc Benioff’s (Salesforce’s CEO) almost obsessional drive to create events that provide an emotional connection, especially at their annual Dreamforce event.
Serrao’s lessons learned from the pandemic? Don’t reimagine digital events as digital representations of analog events. Keep ‘em short because screen attention span is limited. Don’t overdue the virtual. Serrao says Salesforce produced 25,000 individualized Dreamforces during the pandemic. That was too many, with too great a toll on the Salesforce staff. He’s also not a big fan of the forced networking between digital and virtual participants. “They attend for different reasons,” he says.
Serrao is bullish on using Slack for continuing the conversation after an event is over. (Salesforce acquired Slack.) But most importantly, he believes that underlying attending a live event is a commitment to “pay attention” because you’ve invested in being there. He likens it to sports where a fan will pay to be engaged at the live event, while a virtual spectator will have a different experience. “They really don’t want to engage with each other,” he says.
Moving forward, Serrao believes, virtual experiences will augment the live experience, providing great pre-show and post-show interactions, behavioral nudges to remain involved, and a reminder that the brand is with you on a journey, not a one time event.