Selling Events the Smart Way with Founder of Endless Events
Podcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh (Purplepass Marketing Director) and Will Curran (founder of Endless Events). Jump to the show notes below.
The EventBuzz podcast: Will Curran
presented by Purplepass
06:52 - A decrease in virtual events
09:58 - What option is better: Virtual live or pre-recorded?
13:38 - Smart ways to present marketing content
15:03 - Replacing in person networking events with virtual ones
23:26 - Building your equation for a successful event
How to create attendee personas
Event trends in 2022 (Endless Events)
Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + Will Curran
We are back with another episode of The EventBuzz podcast, a show for connecting event planners and industry experts around the world. Sharing planning, advice, tips, hacks and more. Today's guest is the founder of Endless Events Will Curran, who is also an expert in marketing events and structuring a simplified planning process that works.
Now producing events across the country for clients like Emerald City Comicon, Warner Brothers and Uber to name a few, has been named one of the most influential people in the meeting and event industry, one of the 40 under 40 event industry leaders 35 entrepreneurs under the age of 35, and the highest customer satisfaction of any event company in the industry.
Obviously, we are very excited to have him on the show and talk to him today. So let's get started. Hey, well, thanks for coming onto the show. We are super excited to have you as you have a great background experience in events. And so we have lots to talk about. How are you doing today?
Will Curran (Endless):
Thanks so much, Savannah. I'm so such a pleasure to be here and get to hang out with you and everybody out there in the audience. And yeah, I'm doing great today. Today's a good day.
Oh, awesome. So I think I just want to start out I know a lot about you. But I wanted to just kind of introduce how you started working in the event space, or how you got your start?
There's so there's probably an Event Icons episode, which is our like podcast where we interview the icons this year, I think that I tell like the entire story from start to finish. So like if you ever want to hear the start to finish story, go check that episode out. It's pretty dope. But for me, just so everyone had the the Cliff Notes version of his actually started being really a nerdy kid in high school, I love computers and websites and electronic music and I became a DJ. And eventually when you become a DJ, people start asking a DJ backyard parties. And before I knew I had a little DJ company going while I was in high school.
Then I graduated to college and grew that company from being a DJ company to a production company, and really focused on the technology events, audio visual, that sort of stuff, graduated college and just kind of like put had full time energy to put into it and really start scaling up the company, we started going nationwide and doing events literally all over the country and get firmly focused on the production. So like the show flows and the AV and the production aspects and kind of stay in our lane for a while.
And then you know, slowly, we started doing more and more event technology stuff over the course of the years. Because naturally when you do production, you're kind of like on the edge of event technology. And from there, you know, like, you know, pandemic ensues. And everybody came to us because we were writing so much content online, a lot of people know endless events from you know, just how much content we put out onto the interwebs or podcasts and all that stuff.
So everyone kind of came to us was like help us. So pandemic was actually pretty good for us. We got very busy, lots of clients coming on in and, you know, the big thing with it was that we we realized that there, we were really good at production. And we were advising people on lots of different things through our content. But, you know, everybody was kind of looking to us not for just the production they were looking for, like how do you create a great event experience? How do I create audience engagement? How do I, you know, create a meaningful community, all these things like that. And so, you know, over the course of the last, you know, probably two, three years since the start of the pandemic, we've basically been adding more and more services to the point where now we do full scale event management.
So we're doing basically every aspect of a client's events from soup to nuts, and just, you know, taking everything that we've done from writing all of our awesome content and all of our thought leadership and saying, you know, we can we can help make events better into this new world that we are now living in?
Awesome. Is there something you guys specialize in? Or is like, you know, you're an expert in when it comes to your services? Because I know, you said you're growing them?
Yeah, yeah. So like, what the big thing that we try to do, the kind of spin that we have on event management is that we try to use technology to solve problems that can make your event better, right. So for example, you in theory can do traditional signage, right? Yeah, you can print signs, you can do banners or things like that. But like in reality, like, is that really the best solution available to first of all, it's usually a big waste because you're putting the year and all those things like that on your signage. So like, let's talk from a sustainability aspect, that's probably a bad idea.
But like, also to like now digital signage has gotten so much cheaper, that you can actually do digital signage, and not only show more messages and more images and things like that, but also using your event technologies. Now we can dynamically show, you know, different things, for example, outside of every breakout room, rather than calling it you know, the, you know, the Sonoran room and every you know, go to the seminar room and a list, you know, some sessions for the day, you know, you can look at the show it capacity, how many people are there, you know, when the next session is what the title is of it.
And, you know, I think that's usually that's a very simple example, but using technology to make the process better and we and I think we've, in a similar way very much integrated that into how we plan our events to, you know, we're very technological forward. You know, like we're early users of Slack, we use Basecamp, for all of our project management with our clients, so they get insight into exactly everything that we're doing in our tasks. So we're just using technology, I think, to just enhance events to make them better, but also enhancing the planning process to so I think that's really where our speciality is, is kind of that forward thinking, futuristic way of doing things.
So you guys deal with a lot of not like, tech savvy clients, but at least people that are familiar with it? Or do you ever deal with people that are kind of resistant to incorporating all this technology more traditional?
You'd be surprised it's a mix. So what's cool is that the people who are really technologically savvy come to us because they're like, you can keep up with me. And you're like, you know, I love that. But then we believe or not, actually, majority of our clients come to us and they're like, Look, I need you to do this for me. And that's really where we pride ourselves in the excitement about what endless can do is just the fact that we're, we're just kind of coming at it as, like, let's make your life easier. Like that's a big like, theme you'll see all across our website across all of our messaging is like, our goal is to make your life easier, we call it creating the equation taking like a complex equation and making it as simple as a plus b plus c, you know.
And you know, just yeah, making people's lives easier, so that kind of ends up hitting a lot of like, our buyer personas are a lot of like, Hey, maybe I don't know exactly what I'm doing, which is totally cool, because we're gonna walk you through it and show you all the detail, we're gonna help educate you along the way. And that's kind of the fun part of it.
Yeah. And so now we are coming out of this pandemic. We're seeing more in person events. Do you think events will lean more towards favoring in person events, at least for a while versus virtual? Or what do you think?
That's such a great question, you know, like, so we're, you know, recording this, like the beginning half of 2022. And, you know, I remember in 2020 I go, this is going to change everything. Finally, everyone's going to realize that you don't have to do in person events, and it's gonna break through the way for hybrid and, you know, coming into 2021, we're like, yeah, hybrids, the thing you need to do hybrid. And what's funny is, like, I'm tracking every single person who downloads our content to know like, what types of events are planning, and the pie that if I do a pie chart of hybrid in person, virtual. The virtual side is getting smaller, and smaller and smaller.
So I, I don't know if necessarily purely only virtual events is going to be the mainstay. But what we did see was a huge jump in hybrid events, you know, what used to be, you know, one person events or hybrid, and like, you know, less than 1% was virtual, like, now, it's like, probably 50% of events, or at least hybrid in some ways.
So I think, while virtual events themselves might be getting smaller, less and less popular, the desire to be virtual, though, needs to not not only is going to stay, it needs to stay. So even if I'm wrong, and like that hybrid disappears, virtually disappears. I think it would be a shame to our industry and put us so far back behind them where we really need to be.
Oh, yeah, hybrid events are there's a lot of benefits that come with it. Even at event types, you don't really consider events. We have a lot of school systems actually started using our registration platform. I know with the pandemic, yeah, we shifted to like helping educational events, which is something we were not doing at all, prior to the pandemic, which is pretty cool. But they use us in a hybrid way as well, like just selling the tickets and stuff. Because, you know, that way relatives and people out of state, or that can't make the games or even like scouts for scouting, they can view it online.
It's really interesting. But hybrid events are, they should definitely stay.
Oh, absolutely. I mean, there's no like you know, and in the world, and in the industry, we're talking about like diversity and inclusion. When it comes to events, it's like the adding a virtual component to your to your in person event to make it hybrid like is the true way that you can truly reach the biggest part of the audience and truly make your events accessible, because there are people who you don't know if you're doing a purely only in person event that you're excluding people who to only the people who can make it to their in person.
But the one thing you'll learn as if you do a virtual event is how many more people out there would a not only just, you know, prefer virtual but when you actually need it.
Yeah, and the one thing I see with virtual events, too, is that I'll see people that do live virtual events, and then I'll see people that do pre recorded, you know, kind of like webinars or whatnot that they could that people can join. So I wanted to ask you on that because I figured you have an opinion on that. How event planners can kind of figure out which option would be best for them. Or if you even suggest doing pre recorded or you say stick to live?
Yeah, I think it all depends on on means, right? Like you really do need to understand and know your audience in and out really well, right like so, you know, consider building out your audience personas, which if anyone ever wants to learn how to build an audience persona, you can google how to build an audience persona.
And I think one of our Whiteboard Wednesday videos will pop up on there or just search, audience personas endless, and I'm sure something will pop up on Google for you. But build out your audience personas, you know them in and out, because that's gonna really answer that question for you.
However, like, I think when people are thinking about their content, there's a bigger strategy, not just only deciding whether it's pre recorded, or it's going to be live, or whether you're gonna be virtual, you're gonna be in person is like, the bigger trend is this move towards the community model.
And so what I want people to start thinking about when it comes to their content is not thinking about my content is just living within my conference, or my event, or whatever it is. And that's the only place that lives but instead, it becomes a part of this like larger ecosystem. So I'll share an example of how we kind of do that Endless.
So for example, if Endless were to do a webinar tomorrow, in fact, we're doing like, I think, a week or so we're going to record it. And not only are we going to not like have it available for people to attend, but it's going to be on our website, then what we're going to do is we're gonna repurpose it into blog posts, we're going to republish it into social media graphics, and we're gonna put all that in, we're turning into short little clips that we post. And so a repurposing that content to more than just what it is. But then the true game is, why don't you take it where if you did your event in having, you know, for example, a rebroadcast of it, and sure it could be sent me live, but having it available for the community, so those who couldn't attend the event, but are paying 10 bucks a month to be in your platform year round, because all these platforms are trying to move towards that model. So it's important to know, and I think we did podcasts on podcasts about like, why this shift is going to happen, but the community model is here and people want it.
They're gonna pay 10 bucks a month and take that content that the semi live content, whatever you did live, whatever it wasn't, put it back on the platform and give it access to people to let it continue on and live on. On there. I think that can be so so powerful for your event.
But yeah, when I guess to be original question, I definitely know your attendees is the most important thing. But no matter what you do, whether you do semi-live or in person is like, just make the content good, too. Like, like, we're all sick of PowerPoint, PowerPoint, oh, my gosh, we're all so done with that, right?
And I think that if you can create exciting, awesome content, and sometimes it means shortening, right, making a 15 minute, you know, presentation or 30 minute presentation. Sometimes that means, you know, telling the presenter, hey, you don't get PowerPoint, make it more engaging. And sometimes it means just telling some presenters, hey, unfortunately, we're not going to have you present this year. Right?
And you know, who those presenters are. It's the one that you like, or like, oh, my gosh, it's going to be our lowest attended, it doesn't get highest remarks. But you know, like, I got up, please a sponsor, you know, don't do that, like make it make it really good. And make it just incredible, right? Make it like, it's like Netflix, right?
Make it's so good that you literally get lost in how much good content there is, there's more choice than there is in good content than there is in crappy content.
Yeah, I definitely agree. We don't need another PowerPoint or like an hour video presentation. Yeah, there are definitely ways to make it super compelling. We just got to change up how we did it before and get a little bit more creative and stuff because I think people's attention spans are getting shorter and shorter.
100%, right, like, just like, we went from YouTube, to like, you know, a store, like to shorter videos, and now we're like on tic TikToks in 50 seconds since I run really close now. Right? Like, yeah, people want quick stuff, and they want to get to the point. And, you know, I figured if we were talking, I was talking about it to someone recently, but like, it's almost like the way content gets presented is almost more important than the content itself now, right?
Like, like I would use myself as an example. I don't think I'm necessarily revolution like coming up with revolutionary ideas and blowing people like I'm, maybe I'm blowing people's minds, but like, I don't feel like I'm saying anything that's like absolutely incredible. But I think what people love about my content and about me personally is just the way I present them high energy come out quick, and I get right to the material. And I engaged to like I'm reading the chat and engaging with people. People want that sort of thing. But like you said, they don't want to be know, if you want to watch someone get talked to them. They'll just watch it on YouTube, or they'll listen to a podcast and watch it on two times speed. Right?
Yeah, I know. Everything seems so fast. Like, I feel like TikTok is even getting shorter. And we're just Yeah, I don't know I cannot keep up with it. And it's getting challenged, more challenging for marketing, because you gotta catch them really fast. Do it fast. And you have to present your what you want to present in a smart way.
Yeah, totally. You got to be really intentional about it, you know?
Yeah. And the other thing I wanted to ask you because I'm sure you have experience with this as well. And it's, I see this a lot with people that are using our platform that are putting on these type of events. So it might benefit them. Are virtual networking events, which to me, seems a lot harder than it would be networking in person. I could be completely wrong. But do you have any tips or engagement tips when it comes to replacing in person networking events with virtual ones?
Yeah, you like you said, it's really hard. So I think one thing that we like became very apparent as we started coming, kind of like, peeking our heads out of like the proverbial, like, Doomsday bunker after the, you know, and obviously, the pandemic is still going on. But, you know, it's, it's recovering still, right. And so when we started doing that, everyone's like, Oh, man, I attended in person event, and it became very obvious that virtual was really hard to do the networking piece.
So like, I like to think about in this way, like, in person is really good for building connections and people meeting with each other. But you know, what, it sucks at? Content, right? Like, no one wants to sit in a chair in a ballroom and watch someone present the ballroom, yeah, watch the TED talk at home, right on their own time, or, again, podcast it up, whatever it may be. And again, this isn't always 100% True. There's some speakers and presented content that such incredible in person, right, like, you know, sometimes even like concerts, too, right?
Like, there's so many virtual concerts, you know, as great as some of these digital concerts were, and I was attending many of them like, on I went back to my in person home concerts. I was like, oh, yeah, this is a pretty this is kind of how they experienced needs to be.
So one thing I think you need to think about is a you're at a disadvantage coming into virtual because it's really hard for people. But I think one of the things to think about when it comes to your networking is that it seems less like networking, when you are part of something bigger than just the event. And again, this is kind of like, supports my argument for community model. But like, there's so many online communities where we constantly are networking, and no one ever just calls it like, I guess some people call it networking, but like, it doesn't get like the same stigma, right?
Like, like, for example, like LinkedIn, let's use that everyone's everybody's on LinkedIn, the constantly, we're getting connection requests, messages, we're seeing posts where, you know, oh, hey, let's catch up and grab coffee and things like that. It's a very similar interaction that you have at an event. But the thing is, like, no one has problems with doing that on LinkedIn. But then you put them on like a platform, and you say, I want you to do all this networking in two days. And you have to do it very fast. And you're like, Whoa, I'm trying to get this content, there's just so much stuff flying in. And you know, you're just kind of like, oh, well, you know, these people don't have their profiles set up on them. So I'm, you know, who's here, you know, some people are spamming me, you know, it's no, I'm just kind of being a mmeeehh experience overall.
So I think what I challenge people to do is like, but this is where the community welcomes, as if you do a community, it doesn't become networking, because it becomes more, so people are just engaging with the community engaging with each other. And then networking just naturally happens that way. And, you know, to add a little bit to this argument is like, you know, if you're going to a two day event, are you really gonna go fill out your profile with all your information, all your social media links, right? Like, every little piece of your headshot? Are you gonna, like, you know, tag all your interests?
Are you going to be like, I'm gonna get in, get my content get out. But I think what happens a lot is people will just, they want to do something really quick, you can like, make that decision and do that. But if you say, hey, come and join, you know, this community that you can be part of for a year, they're like, okay, I feel invested, I'm gonna be here for a year, they really build up my profile. And a lot about networking is being able to identify people that you want to meet. And if those profiles are half filled out, you know, that can make it really, again, difficult to experience when it comes to it. So online networking can be really, really hard. It's possible. There's again, look at social media, and, you know, I'm a part of a community online that literally, I don't see any most of these people in person, almost ever and I'm really, really engaged with it.
And there's so many people I've met online and then met in person, and then it got solidified even further. So. And I guess that's like another point to bring with it is, like, the great thing about building a great online community that builds this networking is that you build these relationships online, and they primarily been online via zoom calls. And then what happens is you then host a hybrid event, and they come in person. And those relationships are like, thought like you're taking out like a little small ember fire, you're throwing gasoline on it, then at that point, and it accelerates things so much.
Like there's so many times where I show up at conferences, never met somebody in person, but knew them through online tweets and chatting and messaging, and things like that. Then you meet in person, like glued to their side. Like what's the last time you went to a conference and you're like, oh, my God, I'm glued to this person aside from a random person I networked with, unless you're like, the only person in that conference that you don't know anybody at all. Chances are no you're gonna like be like, I'll be alone most of the time. Right? So yeah, just things to think about.
No, that's a really good point. I mean, think about I mean, we are we already are networking. So I wonder if like the actual term like networking events or whatever are just going to become irrelevant because we already have communities that are networking all the time constantly. We don't even realize it. And then you go back and do those community events, like you're saying.
otally like, Okay, I'll say something I don't think I've ever said on a podcast before but like, so I consider myself very engaged online, you know, I try to meet as many people as possible. And I, you know, I kind of like straddle, I'm a little bit as weird creature where I'm initially introverted, like, you put me in a party, and I don't know anybody I like, grasp my partner's hand and be like, don't leave me please. But then you introduce me to one person, I start a conversation, boom, I can easily like then float around the room utilize that relationship, things like that. But for me like it, since the early days of even the company, you know, there was all these opportunities to go to these networking events. And I was just like, no one enjoys them. They're never good, right?
Like you meet the people who want to talk to you are usually trying to sell you thinks, now granted, like everyone wants to do that. But also, like, you end up getting, like the conversations you have usually are very surface level met, and what most of my conversations are, like, I want to get like a nugget in and then I want to get your business card. And let's like, go have lunch later, I want to get that one on one experience. And, you know, networking instead, it's it's like, basically saying, like, let me get out of this event as soon as possible, because it's not facilitating what it needs to be.
And I think that's one reason why like the the right, like the concept of online networking, I've always just been a fan of like, I really just try to connect with as many people on LinkedIn as possible and share my calendar link into a video call. And you know, you come to Phoenix, I will happily buy you lunch and a burrito and some tea, you know, and I make that offer to people all the time.
But like, I feel like some of these networking events just feel so antiquated and old, you know, and just, you're an old? And awkward and you know, all those things. So yeah, I think that's not the kind of experience anyone wants to make, right? Like, you know, and there are ways that you can design the content, like, you know, do team building exercise, and ways to brute move, pass it. But let's all be honest, no one's putting the energy and everyone just does an open bar. It has been too high tops and expects it to work itself out. And the thing is, you've been every time you walk in that room, people are all talking to each other, they all look happy. And they all say how they like really appreciate the open bar. And maybe they'll even get angry if they do have an open bar. But the problem is, if you really looked at the data of like, who's interacting with who's spending time with you, the people who are talking to each other at networking events, are just talking to people they already knew.
Yeah, I feel the same way. Like about meeting sometimes not for us. Our team's pretty cool. But I know like, I have a few friends that work remote, and they do like mandatory meetings and whatnot that are just really forced, and no one wants to be there. And, or, like team meetings where it's like, let's all do something fun. But it's like weird, you know what I mean?
Yeah, yeah, you definitely like you have to be really, really intentional. The experience? Yes. It's not just that, that easy as just like throwing everybody into a room.
Let's all go on the screen and look at each other, and then it's gonna go great. And then everyone's, I don't want to be here.
Yeah. Okay. Awesome. And before I let you go, I wanted to just bring up I know, You've mentioned a few times about the equation for events, perfect solutions, kind of like what you guys do. What are some things that with event an event is trying to put together their perfect solution? What are some things that they should consider in their equation?
Yeah, well, I think the first thing is no, like, start with your audience, right? That's like the baseline of that equation. You got to know them really well to know what they want, right? And like, this idea of planning events based on what you think is best is doesn't work anymore, right? Like we, everyone, everyone has changed so much over the last three years that like, whatever you thought your attendees wanted, you know, three years ago, is totally changed, right?
They might have said, oh, yeah, I can't wait for the happy hour. I can't wait to meet up with everybody. But now they're like, I can't wait to like watch the new episode Moon Night on Disney plus, right
And be isolated by myself.
Yeah, exactly. So start with that personas piece because it'll help you make better decision making. I think the next thing is that like, it's like a dash of like, creativity is necessary, right? So we call this concept crushing the box that unless the idea that everyone says think outside the box, really what you need to do is take the box and crush it, and I toss it away and build something new. And I think that like a lot of times we're sitting here rehashing the same things over and over again. And what I've seen so so sadly, over the last two years is that I thought everyone's gonna come out of the pandemic and be like, oh, my gosh, we are doing Ben's wrong we need to engage our virtual audience and everyone retreated back to their same playbooks they used all day long.
And it's scary because it's like, wait, not only are you saying that people have changed. You're doing your event exactly the same. I think what we'll see probably over the course of the next two, three years is so many events just wither away and die.
Right, they struggled to come back out of the pandemic to get people to come. But then now, with this whole everything that's changing, right, like people like so events are just gonna really, really suffer, right?
So I think that's one thing to think about when it comes to the solution. And then I'm gonna try to give one last little tip that maybe no one else is thinking about. The last little bit, I think, is that, think about your event strategy, not as the days that everything is happening at the event. But think about how you could create an experience that can live 365 days a year, times 10 years that lives on forever and ever. And if you can build that strong community now moving forward, you will be able to sell as many tickets as you want to your next event, you'll be able to, you know, get the right feedback to have the right content. Everything will become so much easier when you're not trying to sell the single day experience and trimas Shell tickets every single time. But instead, you build a community that just happens to have an event inside of it. And you'll just see so many wonders, and you'll, you'll you'll you'll you'll job will be a lot easier as an event organizer.
Yeah, I think community is definitely a key word and all the successful events that we see, you know, the the major ones, of course, that people will look forward to that everyone knows Coachella, Burning Man has a really strong community. They all work because of that, because people, it brings people together and then they're talking about it year round. They're like, I can't wait to come up again. And I'm sure they barely, I mean, they have the market, but it's not as hard as these other events. You know what I mean?
Totally, totally. And I have to run Facebook ads. Next year tickets so like, yeah, like, Burning Man tickets were on sale. Like last week. Yeah. Like I was literally people were like, I'm going to be on this call. But just you know, I'm gonna be trying by my Burning Man ticket. You know, they describe themselves as burners all year long, right. Like, it's not it's not about the event. It's about being associated identity with creating something that community.
Yeah, that's a really solid point, creating this identity, and then your events just like part of it, but it's not the main focus. Weird. It's a weird thing to think about, because the event is event. But yes, I understand completely.
Totally. Yeah, again, I'll give you like one final tip to think about, I kind of teased that this idea, like your event is just a part of the community. But like if you design a community first, and then it happens have a yearly event or, you know, a monthly event or something like that, it's so much easier for you to put that on one single platform, and then just have everyone already signed up, they already have their login.
And you know, they that part of it is maybe even they join this community and pay a monthly fee to be part of it. And then you know, they get a discounted ticket on a ticket, or maybe their conference tickets included as part of it. Like, oh, my gosh, like, how exciting is that? Like, and you know, it gives you this opportunity to take those like pre recorded content, like webinars and things like that, sprinkle it in as part of the community. And now it's not just about one day of the event, but you can almost turn it into there. The event is constantly going on. And I think that's an exciting future for us.
Yeah, and it's building a whole sense of loyalty too because you like you said, if you offered like a discounted ticket and whatnot, now you're acknowledging them and giving back to them, you know, for being part of that. So, just something to think about. Well, thank you so much for coming onto the show and giving all this wonderful advice. It's gonna help everyone.
I appreciate that very kind of you. Thank you.