The ultimate industry reunion is on the horizon. For the first time in nearly two years, event professionals will have the opportunity to raise a glass with their peers in the flesh at the 19th annual Experiential Marketing Summit. Taking place Oct. 5-7 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, the event will once again serve as the definitive destination for experiential marketing education, offering 60 sessions presented by 50 brand-side marketers (get all the conference details here).
Among EMS’s slate of A-list instructors is keynoter Alex Sapiz, vp-global events at Cisco, who takes the stage Oct. 7. This heavy hitter has plenty of industry wisdom to share, so we asked her to offer a taste of what her keynote will cover and how Cisco is approaching events in the year ahead.
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Event Marketer: What are your thoughts on the current state of the event marketing industry?
Alex Sapiz: The state of things has accelerated to a point where we are once again reviewing everything that is ahead of us, at least through the end of the year. It is unsettling but we’re trying to remain positive. We have done amazing things over the last 18 months. We’ve done difficult things. And we know now that we can do them and we can do them well, and our toolbelt is a lot more robust than it was 18 months ago. There’s a lot of peace of mind that comes with that notion. The health and safety of our customers, our employees, our teams, our partners is always going to take precedent. So we have to remain nimble, agile. We’re going to simplify whatever we can because we are going to be pivoting quickly again.
EM: Has your approach to customer engagement evolved during the pandemic?
AS: I would rather say we have expanded our customer engagement methodology because we had a completely different medium to work with. Take Cisco Live as an example. We’ve been able to reach people that we hadn’t necessarily had at our in-person events before. We had a much more global reach.
So I like the idea of an expansion of customer engagement and how we exchanged goods with them versus an evolution. There are a few things that happen in the in-person environment that are unique to that face-to-face exchange that digital will not deliver to us as marketers, and that’s just the way it is. But on the other hand, it allows us a global oversight and expansion that perhaps the in-person wouldn’t. Perhaps the magic will come when they both can happen together. I know it’s a tougher transition. I know budgetarily, it’s complicated. It’s not a simple equation, but if that’s the future, we can build to it.
EM: How is Cisco approaching its conferences in the year ahead?
AS: We have a portfolio that is in flux right now as we look into our fiscal year, which began on Aug. 1. I think this first half is going to be touch and go. We have plans for some hybrid experiences. We have some in-person events that we are moving to the spring in an attempt to protect the in-person experience—those are the events that don’t necessarily fit into a digital format. So in order to protect the integrity of the experience, we felt that we should push them out in hopes that things will be a little bit more under control. Right now, we’re looking at every single experience and evaluating health and safety protocols against it, and what’s the right thing to do on an event-by-event basis.
EM: Can you give us a taste of what your EMS keynote will cover?
AS: As experiential marketers, we’ve all lived through what may be the most significant disruption to the events industry in our careers. During my keynote, I’ll share a little more about our journey at Cisco navigating this disruption, and talk about how we collectively have the opportunity to write the next chapter of our story.