2020.3.31 Column

3 tips to design an exciting LIVE B2B event

Our CEO, Yutaka Hamaguchi, had the opportunity to speak at MarkeZine Day hosted by SHOEISHA. He wrote this column written after speaking at the webinar. 

I spoke at the MarkeZINE Day event because the theme, ‘Envisioning the un-seeable’, resonated with me. So much so, that I could have talked for hours!

I was part of a panel discussion themed, ‘How do you succeed in event marketing? Hosts of popular B2B events talk!’ with PLAID, Inc.’s Mr. Takehiko Kawakubo and moderated by Smart HR, Inc.’s Mr. Takanori Okamoto. 

In a time where people are refraining from holding live events due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus), the panel discussion planned to be held in front of a live audience was instead streamed online. Originally believing we would speak in front of an audience, instead found ourselves speaking in front of cameras. In other words, a sports match without a crowd. Compared to a live event, anxious excitement was instead replaced with a nervous cold sweat. 

The people we wanted to reach online were marketers hosting their own B2B events or possibly those who have been told to lead their company’s marketing event. 

I went into the event thinking ‘as long as I can help someone even a little I’ll be happy.’

1.    Bigbeat LIVE

Bigbeat hosts an event as a B2B marketing agency, perhaps unparalleled for  our industry in Japan. 

We call this event Bigbeat LIVE.

As a marketing agency, we do not have original products or services, so this  event is not meant to sell anything. And it was not meant for our speakers to talk about their company’s products. 

When we held the first event, we received a lot of negative responses.
Such as:

‘People will question why a marketing company is hosting this kind of event.’
‘I don’t understand who this event is supposed to be for.’
‘It’s looks suspicious! You should stop.’
*The event was not to sell anything or in other words for the purpose of lead gen.

We heard these from kind people who worried about us.

Our own employees had doubts about the event as well.

‘It is wise to use so much money in our month of settlement’ (our fiscal year is Sept to Aug)
*The event is hosted entirely by us and we do not have sponsors. 
‘It is during a really busy time of the year...’
*Much of the planning and preparation for the event is from April to June, which is the busiest time of the year for us. 

To get to the point everyone was saying ‘know your place!’

We also received the following questions:

‘Why did you decide to hold the event?’
‘What things did you have to be careful about?’
‘What were the results of the event?’ 

So, I thought I could explain the answers to these questions.

First, the reason we decided to hold the event.  

The reason goes back to the summer of 2016. 

This is a personal story, but after managing Bigbeat for over 20 years, and reaching my mid-50s, I began to wonder ‘what is the next goal I should aim for? How can a marketing agency play a role in bettering Japan’s future?’

Overseas, in particular tourist from China and South-East Asia who come to Japan apparently notice that Tokyo is very quiet and there are not many happy looking people. On the other hand, rural Japan is slowly becoming less populated and lonelier. My home prefecture of Kochi has seen a population decrease of 700,000 people. I believe that the role of an advertising company is to increase the excitement in any given area. Even if it just the bare minimum, I decided I needed to do something to make those involved with us feel excited. 

Although I decided this, I struggled over the way to do it and the decision to host a live event took over a year.

The theme was ‘marketing.’

There are many Japanese B2B companies who do not have marketing functions built into their origination’s management. While they have sales and R&D executives, they do not have marketing executives, or in other words there are very few companies who have CMOs. 

In regard to global marketing, companies whose management does not utilize marketing are at an extreme disadvantage. Most global American companies have placed marketing at the center of their business strategy. Trying to compete with these companies without a marketing structure is like trying to take down a B29 with a bamboo spear. 

The Japanese market is a part of this global market where Japanese companies must compete with other global comapnies. 

I believe that ‘marketing is the greatest function for management.’ What kind of function? It is the function to ‘be chosen, and continually be chosen.’ Being chosen through a digital platform is called digital marketing and being chosen from an event is called event marketing. These functions are of-course not used alone, but instead implemented together in a strategic way.

I thought to myself ‘marketing is the great function for management, and we can change our working style if we take advantage of it. We can also fill the air with more excitement.”

Our marketing strategy to be chosen as a B2B marketing agency is to hold a live event where managers and marketers who agree with this theme meet and connect. It was not suspicious nor was it charity. 

Furthermore, the goal of the event was not attendee numbers or lead generation, but for those who attended to leave thinking ‘Bigbeat is great, I want my company to host an event like that!’

Although my explanation is long, this is the reason we decided to host the event. To sum it all up, conveying a purpose is at the middle of hosting any event, and we wanted to design an event that connects to our passion. 

Hosting an invent is a very large investment that only the top of the company can decide. That is why it is crucial that the marketing person in charge of planning events is closely aligned with the executive management. 

2.    What are the qualities of an exciting event?

As mentioned above, it is important to clearly understand the purpose for hosting your event. 

If you design the event after making its purpose clear, the management’s intention will be reflected in the event. It will be an image of the management from the past to present and a signpost for the future to come. 

In Japanese the word for management is Keiei (経営). Kei (経) (Also the character used for Sanskrit in Buddhism) is supposed to the be the important things. Ei (営) means to run a business. In other words, Keiei means to run the important things in a business. The important things in a company are its ideals, philosophy, and mission. Events should be a reflection of whats important to its hosts. 

Are the people who you want to attended attending the event every year?
How do your partners feel about the event? 
How do those who participated felt after leaving your event? 

You can find the answers to these questions by using social media such as twitter and Facebook. You will of course not only find positive impressions but negative ones where there was a gap between your company and the attendee. But it is this fact that sets the road which you should take for the future. 

The below picture is one cut of a scene that I wanted to create at Bigbeat LIVE.

Right after the end of the last session, we gave a toast with our speakers, attendees, partners, and Bigbeat employees all holding our original craft beer. What was the energy in that place? The 20 some year management of Bigbeat was infused in this scene. And where its vision for the future is reflected. 

There is one more thing that should be equally as important for management: the engagement and awareness of its employees. 

We go out and search for the speakers of our event by ourselves. When doing so every single employee must be able answer the question ‘why are you doing this event?’ and explain the significance of the event. 
This is really difficult to accomplish. 

The employees also must be able to engage with and show themselves to the attendees of the event. 

‘What is the significance of your day to day job?’ 
‘What kind of people are you working for?’  
You will of course find negative gaps in your employees answer to these questions. 

At the end of Bigbeat LIVE, it is tradition to throw the person in charge of the event like below. 

3.    How to create an invent that has passion

As explained before, this is with the assumption that the story or in other words image of success is made clear and you can clearly answer the question ‘why are you hosting your event? Creating an exciting event is mostly up to the passion of the speakers (whether they are employees or guests). ‘My company’s total capital and sales are…’ Speakers who give long introductions to their companies like this are boring. The company introduction is of course necessary. But if I am an attendee, I want to know about the speaker who is in front of me. Their ideas and passions. That is why I went out of my way to attend an event. 

A company introduction that you can find on any company’s website is not interesting. 

It is incredibly crucial that you select speakers who can convey what the hosting organization wants to convey. They can convey that with passion. And that the organizer prepares their hosts to speak with passion. This is how a company can create an event with passion. 

If you do not have speakers like this, it does not matter if you have the most beautiful venue, spend a lot of money on the decorations and speakers, invite famous people, and have a famous and luxury sushi  resturaunt for catering during your reception party, the event will fail...

I say as if I am on my high horse, but I learned this from failing. At the beginning, we were so passionate about marketing and we believed that because of this, holding an event would just naturally make people understand us. This assumption cause trouble for many of the speakers. 

The most is most thing is to try and see. If you fail, learn from that failure. 

At our events we do not ask someone to be a speaker just because they are famous. Who can strongly and passionately convey the things we want to convey? In order to find speakers who, fit this description you, you have to constantly have your radar up and listen to a variety of people’s opinions and ideas. You have to ask those around you for information about other people and if they will introduce you to possible candidates. 

And the person in charge of the hosting organization has to speak with the speakers directly and listen to their stories and convey their thoughts. 

Lastly, you have to reserve you own seat at the event. Personally I think this may be the most important gage. In Kochi Prefecture, we call a banquet, ‘okyaku.’ When you are doing something important,  you hold an okyaku beforehand to get people excited. For our okyaku I used to order katsuo-tataki (a famous dish from Kouchi), but then I started making it myself for the special occasion and we gathered our speakers in preperation for the event.   

This time around, the theme of MarkeZINE Day, ‘Envisioning the un-seeable’ strongly resonated with me and I felt the enthusism of Mr. Fukushima who oversaw the event. So, I humbly requested to make a presentation at the event. 

A final message

The motto of Bigbeat LIVE is getting the feedback ‘I learned a lot’ are the words of defeat. In other words, we do not just want our attendees to listen, we want them to act after the event. I want to host an event that leads to concrete action. 

This was true for my panel discussion at MarkeZINE Day. Even with an online event, if you received the feedback of ‘it was a good session, I learned a lot,’ even if it is from a lot of people, I consider this a failure as the speaker. 

If it is only one person, my goal is for someone to listen to my presentation and take action based on some hint I was able to give them. 

How about you? Do you get excited thinking about the same kind of scene as I do? Do you not think that by hosting such a passionate and exciting event, that the attendees will choose your product or service? 

The person who designs this opportunity (events are only one opportunity) are marketers. The real pleasure in working at an advertising company is helping marketers realize their vision  

During this column I talked about 3 points to hosting an event with passion: 

・Host an event that conveys your philosophy and excites you more than anyone else.
・Envision the most exciting scene of your event when planning it 
・The success or failure of you event will be decide by whether your speakers are passionate and can convey that passion. 

More so, events should not be seen as short-term investments, but as middle term ones. Think of them as three-year investments. This is especially important for the leaders of an organization. 

My final proposal for hosting interesting events is...

I do not think it is necessary to have event staff stand outside of train stations or outside the venue with directions to the event. This does not give the impression of an interesting event.  

Host do so because they want to show hospitality to the attendees. And sometimes events that need this. Very rarely that is. 

Whenever I see someone standing outside an event holding those signs, my immediate reaction is to think about the huge gap in the Japan’s ‘work style reform’ that is being made across the world. It is a job that does not need to be done.  

It takes a strong will from hosting organizations in order to determine the failure or success of an event. Are the organizers excited? That is the most important question. Numbers and KPIs can be applied later. 

I do not think you can design an exciting event with the base goal, ‘how much did one business card lead cost?’

Events are of-course not charity nor are they for fun. They are done to improve business for the hosting company. 

For three years Bigbeat has been investing in our event and we have seen clear numerical improvements in our business. Our operating profit has gone up, we have lowered the rate at which we need to compete for work, and overtime hours have decrease. This is evidence that marketing is the function to be chosen. 

Lets all host exciting and passionate events!
We will help you anytime. 

Bigbeat Inc. has 25 years of experience in B2B marketing. If your company is interested iIf you are considering expanding your business in Japan, or if you need further information or assistance, do not hesitate to contact us here!

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