Skift Take

Offline Summit is interesting in the events industry vertical because it has a very specific mission focused on examining business outcomes versus experiential-meeting design bells and whistles.

The inaugural Offline Summit convened in Brooklyn earlier this month to explore the future of event and experiential marketing.

As it’s used in this case, “offline” refers to live events and face-to-face interaction as opposed to virtual online engagement. It’s not meant to imply unplugging.

The mission of the one-day conference was basically a call-to-arms for event marketers to establish themselves as a stronger force in the marketing industry overall. As we covered last week, CMOs Are Investing More in Live Events to Engage Distracted Audiences.

“I don’t believe as a group of event and experiential marketers that we’re getting enough attention,” said Ryan Costello, CEO of the event tech company Event Farm, and founder of Offline Summit. “I don’t feel that companies as a whole are paying enough attention to what we do, what we create, and the value we create.”

The sessions focused exclusively on how physical events are an integral and growing part of business development for many large companies. Representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, American Express, Pepsi, and others gave presentations about how their organizations use live events, event technology, and event data capture to magnify and codify the effectiveness of experiential marketing. About 250 event industry and brand agency people showed up at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Ballet in Brooklyn’s DUMBO District

“Offline is the first and only conference 100% dedicated to the business of offline experiences,” Costello explained. “We didn’t want to just talk about fun little things that make people smile. We were talking about driving business.”

By focusing exclusively on business outcomes, and the role that event marketers have in achieving them, Offline’s purpose was front and center throughout the day. With many other events industry conferences focused on buyer/supplier transactions, Offline was refreshing in its singular focus on how events can drive bottom-line strategy in the digital era.

Buzzwords and Tech

Make that the “digical” era.

Dritan Nesho, director of tech and civic engagement at Microsoft, and head of Microsoft Pulse, opened his Offline session about event data analytics by highlighting the Bain Consulting report: Leading a ‘Digical’ Transformation. The report’s theme is: “The big change taking place in business today is the combination of digital and physical elements to create wholly new sources of value.”

“Today it’s all about the necessity of being both digital and physical,” said Nesho. “You can’t get to sustainable growth with either/or. You have to have both.”

He then discussed how event marketers are using Microsoft Pulse for audience polling and real-time attendee response analytics for both live presentations and video streaming at events. Costello used the Pulse platform to poll the audience several times during his keynote, which isn’t particularly new. The most innovative aspect of Pulse is how audiences can provide feedback while watching videos at events in real time.

All of that data can then be collected in Pulse’s integrated analytics package. Microsoft, for the record, was one of the main sponsors supporting the conference.

Summing up the importance of event data in experiential marketing today, Nasho said, “Marketing is going from Mad Men to Math Men.”

Event Farm also collected data with a video content wall set up in the central living room. Attendees reviewed the seven different event design and event marketing themes, and then they swiped their RFID badges in front of the content on the video screen to deliver personalized information automatically to their email.

“Because that’s technology you’re wearing versus holding in your hand, we like to call it ‘Heads Up Engagement,'” Costello said. “Plus, our thinking is, let’s not track you everywhere like some people are doing. Instead, let’s let you pick your own path through the day. If you don’t like what you see, don’t tap it.”

Following the event, we asked Costello if he felt he had achieved his top-line goals.

“My top-line goals were mainly inspirational, in the sense that I wanted to inspire this group of people to be charged up about this industry,” he said. “I wanted to ignite a conversation and propel it forward. I also wanted to open up the event and experiential marketing conversation for CMOs, so they’re saying not only do I trust my gut that we should be doing events, but look how this is really driving business.”


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Photo credit: Offline Summit founder Ryan Costello evangelizing on event and experiential marketing during his keynote. Skift

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