Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!
We recently interviewed Jonathan Kazarian for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Jonathan and here’s what we discussed –
How Accelevents competes with the established players in the virtual events field
Renaissance for the physical events industry and the future of virtual events
A successful marketing campaign launched by Accelevents
The rise and fall of social audio platform
An impending backlash against digital events?
Live events vs pre-produced events
About our host:
Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at Outgrow.co He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by the means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.
About our guest:
Jonathan Kazarian:Jon Kazarian is the CEO and Founder of Accelevents, a leading virtual & hybrid events platform. He started in the fundraising space, expanding into the ticketing business before finally moving into the virtual events industry when the pandemic hit. Since then, Accelevents has grown exponentially. In this interview, we talk to Jon about the secret sauce behind growing his virtual events business and his future plans for Accelevents
The Podcast: Rebooting the Post-Pandemic Events Industry with Jon Kazarian
Thanks for joining us, Jon.
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, thanks for having me on.
The Rapid Fire!
Saksham Sharda: So we’re going to start with a rapid-fire round just to break the ice. You get three passes in case you don’t want to answer the question. You can just say pass, but try to keep your answers to one word or one sentence only.
Jonathan Kazarian: All right let’s do it.
Saksham Sharda: Okay. So the first question, how long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
Jonathan Kazarian: Three minutes
Saksham Sharda: The most embarrassing moment of your life?
Jonathan Kazarian: That’s a tricky one. We’ll pass on that.
Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on
Johnathan Kazarian: Five and a half.
Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank – An upcoming marketing trend is______.
Jonathan Kazarian: Virtual events
Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened
Johnathan Kazarian: You’re going to get me in trouble with this one, Boston
Saksham Sharda: Pick one, Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey.
Jonathan Kazarian: Zuckerberg
Saksham Sharda: The first movie that comes to your mind when I say the word ambition.
Jonathan Kazarian: Jaws
Saksham Sharda: When did you last cry and why?
Jonathan Kazarian:Two years ago, death in the family
Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career?
Jonathan Kazarian: Thinking I wanted to go into Finance.
Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?
Jonathan Kazarian: Getting on the water, anything on the water
Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink per day?
Jonathan Kazarian: Two
Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate?
Jonathan Kazarian: Trying to go too long without sleeping.
Saksham Sharda: Okay. The most valuable skill you’ve learned in life?
Jonathan Kazarian: Learning how to learn.
Saksham Sharda: Finally, the last question is, your favorite Netflix show.
Jonathan Kazarian: I don’t even know if this is on Netflix or not, but, Billions.
Saksham Sharda: Okay. Everyone says that, like they just go for their favorite show and they’re like, I don’t even know that that’s a Netflix, but this is what comes to my mind.
Saksham Sharda: Okay. Well, that’s the end of the rapid-fire round and you scored nine on 10 because you had one pass. So you just win a car, just kidding you don’t, but all right, let’s go on to bigger questions.
The Big Questions!
The first one is, how do you compete with platforms like Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams that are entering your field or trying to enter your field or have been in some part of your field before?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, definitely. So those types of platforms, they’re much more designed for the type of interaction you and I are having right now. Small group settings, often internal meetings or more one-on-one settings.
It could be like a sales conversation, or something like that. Where platforms like ours really strive is when you’re talking about larger format events, where there’s multiple concurrent activities going on.
So different opportunities for networking while having content distribution opportunities for sponsors and exhibitors to interact and really bringing the entire audience together to engage one another beyond just chatting.
Saksham Sharda: So, could you tell us more about Accelevents in general? Like how did you get around to building it in the first place?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, so we were actually, we started in the fundraising space and after a couple of years of that, we moved into more of the, the ticketing space really out of demand from our customers.
They wanted an all-in-one solution for all of their fundraising and ticketing needs. As we started to build the ticketing solution and that became more robust and more competitive, we then started to focus on more for-profit organizations and businesses, concerts, festivals, trade shows, and the like.
Then, well, in March of 2020 the world shut down. At that point, our option was either to buckle down on the fundraising side of the business or to pivot. So we decided to pivot pretty quickly, it turned out to be the right decision. And since then we have, we’ve grown immensely.
Saksham Sharda: So, and what do you see will happen to the do, do you think in some way at all, it was good that the pandemic, well, that’s a terrible thing to say, but for the events industry, do you think there’s going to be a Renaissance in the events industry after, you know, physical events come back? Do you feel there were too many conferences before the pandemic happened?
Jonathan Kazarian:I won’t make the claim that there were too many, that said, I think there are some conferences that aren’t ever going to come back. But the bigger opportunity here is that events are a tremendous way to, to, to access your audience, to build a sense of community, to establish yourself as a thought leader in the industry and to build partnerships.
But actually facilitating in-person events is incredibly expensive and time-consuming, you’ve got to convince your audience to often travel halfway around the country, if not halfway around the world where virtual events step in, is there a mechanism for you to reengage that community and that audience at a much higher frequency?
So what we see is that there’s going to be, and we’re already seeing this today, a meshing of those in-person experiences and the virtual experiences in putting together that event program throughout the course of the year.
As to the beginning of your question, do I think that the industry was ready for a shakeup?
Yeah. I mean, if it wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t see the continued success of the virtual events that we’re seeing.
Saksham Sharda: Hmm. So what’s one other thing that’s going to stay because of what the pandemic did to the events industry. What’s the one other new thing that you expect to stay on, or to be born in events 2.0, that’d we’re going to see after the pandemic.
Jonathan Kazarian: In events 2.0, there’s been this sort of meshing between event professionals and marketing professionals and growth marketers over the past year and a half in that growth marketers who are very data-centric and event professionals who are, are, are very good at creating experiences, they’ve come together.
And all of a sudden, there’s all of this data available to really show the value in the world. All of these events that are being put on. There is an opportunity for events to not just be looked at as a cost center within an organization, but to be really looked at as a mechanism of growth and acceleration for business. The data is there to back that up and to prove that.
So, on a go-forward basis, what we’re already seeing, and this is going to continue to evolve and improve, is that events are going to have that data to prove their value.
Even with the return to in-person experiences, that level of data and access is going to be much more relevant and necessary.
Saksham Sharda: And could you tell us more about any, maybe data-driven decisions that you’ve had to take during the past year? Or the ones that you’re going to take in the future years?
Jonathan Kazarian: Are you asking more from the perspective of us as a business, or customer, like…
Saksham Sharda: From you as a business and also like, well, the customers’ thing that you were talking about earlier. Yeah. So for us as a business this industry is just, it’s moving so fast and evolving so quickly that we’re constantly looking at data and making decisions around that.
Jonathan Kazarian: It’s a different pieces of information that we’re always looking at are, you know, one, one obvious example is the number of people who registered for an event versus the number of people who actually show up for that event and what we can do to help our event organizers, to improve that number, to increase the number of people actually register that, that then end up showing up.
And at the same time, helping them to increase the number of people that actually registered for their events in the first place.
On the front of the organizers, I mean, the type of information that the organizers are seeing is that the number of people who are registering or attending these events in the first place is significantly larger.
And one and you know, that’s right off the bat, that’s because of the access, the accessibility that these virtual events provide. One thing that I’m very interested to see is the opportunity for virtual events to initiate the building of that community for an event. Then, the number of people who got brought into that ecosystem because of the virtual event that ultimately attended the in-person experience.
Saksham Sharda: Yeah. Speaking of which, could you tell us about one marketing campaign for Accelevents that you’ve really liked, that you’ve done in the past?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah. So one campaign that we’re particularly proud of is our event Talk Live series. This is a monthly event series that we host actually on our own platform.
And we invite leaders from the industry and partners, different companies that we integrate with, or that we work within one fashion or another to come in and promote themselves within this event. And it’s really there just for the community itself. We’re not promoting our product in any way, other than the fact that our product is used to host the event.
But it’s really that learning opportunity to bring the community together. And, you know, again, this is an industry that has really shaken up over the past year.
So anything that we can do to help out that industry is something that we’re, that we’re proud of. And you know, all that is as hard as it’s been in the past year and a half for this industry, there’s a whole new way of hard that’s come now because these event professionals, who’ve had half their team get cut in the past year.
And then they went and they filled in with virtual events and proved the value of virtual events. Now they’re expected to return with in-person events yet keep the virtual event programming. So their workload is essentially doubled. Oh, and at the same time, now they have all of this data that they’ve shown to their CMO, their CFO. Now they’re expected to provide all that information for every event they host.
So the level of work on the plate of an event organizer has certainly grown.
Saksham Sharda: Hmm. And do you feel there’s going to be some sort of a backlash against digital events because of the digital fatigue everyone is probably going through during the pandemic, like, you know, just being glued to their screens? Do you think there’s going to be a push towards more physical events in the future?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah. I mean, we see a lot of that in the industry. People speaking of that and certainly, I mean, look, I started this company because I liked hosting events. I like participating in events and those were in-person events.
There’s room for both. And there’s a need for both. And yes, I love going in person and chatting with people face to face, but I also love the fact that I can participate in four virtual events in one week and access the sessions that are of most interest to me, and really learn from those opportunities without having to travel halfway across the county.
Burn, you know, a day or a day on either side for travel. So I think the benefits outweigh the costs.
Saksham Sharda: Hmm. And definitely like when people say that one can network more in physical events, but I think they’re seeing platforms like yours that also allow probably a stronger level of networking. So could you probably talk a little bit more about networking in both virtual and physical events?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, definitely. So for certain people, in-person networking comes really easy to them, but not everybody. And the people who it comes really easy to are the ones who often are the most outspoken about the return to in-person events. But there’s a very large conglomerate of people who just don’t feel comfortable in those settings.
They don’t even want to go to the event because trying to figure out which table they’re going to sit at during lunch is uncomfortable and that’s completely understandable. And there’s a whole bunch of people who have learned through digitization over the past 20 years, how to interact with people online and that’s natural and that’s comfortable to them.
And even having a conversation like you and I are doing right now like this is easy because the ice was broken. It’s not like you have to sit at the table and start the conversation. And technology can make it easier to do so, frankly, we can thank the dating apps for that. I mean, they really, really made it clear that it’s easy to meet somebody online and they have prompts to make it easier to do so.
Once the conversation has started, it’s easier to run with it. So you know, it’s, it’s a different avenue for different people and it’s an, it’s an accessibility play.
Saksham Sharda: Sure. I mean, speaking of dating apps, I think Tinder also introduced video chatting during the pandemic and they’re planning to keep it now that the pandemic is over.
Oh, wait. So what do you think of, speaking of apps, what do you think of social audio platforms and their rise and maybe their fall? What do you think of Clubhouse?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, I got on the clubhouse train, around New Year. I probably got off of it by the end of January, so I never really got behind it. We did try using it as a mechanism for building community and certainly, we did get some benefit out of it.
We met some people, some people that we then invited to speak at our own event. But for me personally, it just, it just doesn’t do it.
Saksham Sharda: For sure. I think it didn’t work quite well for me as well, but there was quite a craze about that, like in the beginning. And I wonder whether that was just a marketing campaign.
I mean, it still exists. So there’s that, but it doesn’t have the fire that we expected it to have. Yeah.
Jonathan Kazarian: Wow. January, we were all also just itching for any sort of human social activity that we could get. And it was good for that.
Saksham Sharda: And, and you wouldn’t say it was an attempt to make a new social network? Because social networks are so profitable because I think we’ve seen a lot of new social networks pop up as well, like BitCloud.
I don’t know whether you’ve heard of Bitcloud.
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah. I’ve got a profile on there.
Saksham Sharda: Oh yeah. Same.
Jonathan Kazarian: I think that, well, I, I guess I think about how I interact with those, those different tools. And if I’m scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I mean, I’m usually doing it like a passive setting I’m waiting for, you know, Uber or something like that.
And it’s, I almost always have my audio off. So for me, it just wasn’t really a mechanism that worked well in a scenario where I can have my audio on, I’m probably at my computer. And in that case, you know, it’s not really something I can do passively.
Saksham Sharda: Hmm. So what do you think about live events as opposed to events that are pre-produced?
What kind of events do you usually see when you’re working with these people?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah. So it’s a mix. One thing that virtual events are really good at is content-heavy events, where there is a lot of simultaneous content, a number of different tracks, and sessions going on. And it’s also a great way to archive all of that content and continue to make it available.
As for the mix between produced in, in live, I don’t have a concrete number on what the breakdown is, but we are seeing that well with further adoption of virtual events and having to create better and better content, we are seeing a little bit more growth in the number of sessions that are pre-produced, because it allows you to ensure you have that level of production quality that really creates that great experience and keeps people engaged.
I mean, you asked me about Netflix before and look at Netflix. I mean, it’s a wildly vast platform with tons and tons of great content on there. And there’s no content overload.
There’s continuing to be more content because people want to access that. And, there’s the differentiation there, but it has to be high quality. And with virtual events, you need to put the effort and energy in to ensure that you are creating something that’s worth people’s time.
Saksham Sharda: So you’re saying you were seeing more and more people move to making non-live events at this point?
Jonathan Kazarian: Well, it’s often even within one event, it would be a mixed bag. So they may have some sessions that are prerecorded and they may even have a, and we’re seeing more and more of this, but some sessions where it’s prerecorded for the presentation and then the speakers come on to do Q&A after the session.
Saksham Sharda: Yeah, I think I’ve seen those events as well. So could you actually talk about one or two clients of yours that you are excited to work with?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah. So in terms of the customers that we work with sort of runs, it runs a gamut here. There’s a number of universities we work with. But some of the other organizations we work with I’ll mention one particular, Tom Ferry.
So it’s an organization that puts on a number of educational real estate events.
And they just do a great job with the production. These are live events entirely live, and they have decent, decent size audiences. You know I probably shouldn’t disclose any numbers but in the high thousands.
And it’s just so interactive and the audience gets so excited, engaged. They’re posting on social media in real-time. And wherever that is, they are in the world. But they’re also providing opportunities. Not just for people to absorb that content, but also to interact with each other. And to interact with the different sponsors.
And it just, it, you know, it’s an opportunity that they didn’t have when everything was in person and they’re on a go-forward basis. They’re doing a mix of both in-person and virtual because it is so accessible.
Saksham Sharda: Could you talk a little bit more about the different tools that Accelevents offer, to make this interaction possible?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, definitely. So, one piece in particular that people tend to really appreciate is the gamification aspect. Being able to take this event in turn into a competition, when you’re in there, you get points for doing things like participating in those different networking sessions or interacting with exhibitors. Which then benefits those exhibitors who are often paying for those events by providing them leads.
And, and frankly, they’re very contextual leads. Because, as opposed to somebody walking up to your table in person and just grabbing a pamphlet and that rubber ducky, you can actually see what pamphlet they took. You can see which pages or products they viewed, and you can follow up in a much more, you know, again, contextual fashion. Or, have that conversation in real-time, knowing exactly what it is that they looked at.
As for other aspects, of some of the pieces around networking are if you’ve used like chat roulette, for example, the speed dating aspects of being able to get matched with somebody and chatting with them for a couple of minutes and having those matching algorithms use data like your interests, which sessions you’ve attended, or other aspects of your registration process as mechanisms for that networking activity.
And other areas are lounges. So giving attendees the ability to create their own topical forums and have conversations on whatever it is that they might want to, might want to chat about.
And that’s the same thing that you would see with an in-person event where people might huddle around the bar and have a conversation around, you know, who knows what, but that’s an organic and natural conversation.
You’re giving people the opportunity to create that is really what builds that sense of community. And from a, let’s say I’ll use the example of a business, a SAAS business that might be selling a software product. The best person to promote that is going to be one of your other customers. So you’re if you’ve got your customers in this event and they’re interacting with prospects and leads, and they’re talking about how they use your product, there’s nothing more powerful than that.
And this is just such an accessible format for people to do just that.
Saksham Sharda: So how does one go about building something on your platform? Like if I was to host if I wanted to host an event, what would be the first thing I’d do on Accelevents?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, it’s pretty easy.
So you can head over to our website and you can set everything up on your own. We’d also be happy to walk you through the process, but I mean, we have, we have tons of people that come to the website and launch their own events every day. You go in there, you build out your agenda. You obviously have to determine the content and who you’re going to have to speak at that event.
But for people who might be hosting an event for the first time or are worried or scared of the lift there, it’s actually much easier than it ever was in the past.
The other part of it is the access you have as an event organizer to content is much greater than it was in the past because you don’t need a massive budget to fly that particular speaker out to your event and to host them.
These people want to build a brand, their own brand. They want to get a bigger following. If it just means, you know, an hour or 2 hours of their time to speak at your event to get in front of 500 people, well, that’s well worth it to them.
So, don’t hesitate to take that chance and reach out to anybody who you think would be a great resource for your audience. Then, build the program around it.
Saksham Sharda: And do you think, like with the entire events market actually moving online during the pandemic and expected to also kind of remain online after the pandemic in a hybrid way? Like you said, do you think there’s going to be an overlap with course creators? Like people who are making their courses online? And do you think Accelevents is kind of like going to mesh into that territory at some point?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yeah, it’s a that’s a conversation that we have often. So there’s a lot of content that’s created during these events and ends up getting purposed for those courses. There’s a lot of great platforms out there for courses. And you know, we’re seeing, we’re seeing data that, or content created in our platform that’s used in those.
We are seeing a lot of continuing education events that take place. And more often than not, those require people to participate with. And then they get continuing education credits for that participation.
Saksham Sharda: Again, how are the payments handled, like the tickets and everything. Is there an integration or is it native?
Jonathan Kazarian: Yep. So we have native ticketing functionality. We use Stripe and Square for payment processors. But since we started with the in-person ticketing space, that area of our platform is quite strong.
That also allows you, as an event organizer, to create an event where you might have some people participating in person. Some of those people might be interacting with the virtual audience, or some people are only participating virtually and setting up ticket types that are designed for those different segments. This happens all within the same time.
Saksham Sharda: All right. Well, okay. So the last question is actually for you, it’s a trick question. It is basically, what would you be doing if not Accelevents?
Jonathan Kazarian: Something in tech,
Saksham Sharda: Not finance, like you said
Jonathan Kazarian: Not finance, building things. I just, I love the software. And this is just such a great opportunity to bring people together.
You know, I started an event technology business, cause I like bringing people together. And now we can bring even more people together because it makes the world so much more accessible.
Saksham Sharda: All right. And since you mentioned that, what are your favorite conferences to attend well, what used to be before the pandemic?
Jonathan Kazarian: HubSpot Inbound was one I would go to just about every year. That said I also lived about a half-mile from where they hosted it. So it was an easy one for me. Yeah.
Saksham Sharda: Okay, well, that was the last question.
And thanks to everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrows’ Marketer of the Month.
That was John Kazarian, Founder and CEO at Accelevents, which is an all-in-one virtual & hybrid events platform. Thanks for joining us, John.
Jonathan Kazarian: Thanks for having me
Saksham Sharda: Check out the website for more details and we’ll see you once again next month with another Marketer of the Month.