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Engaging Voices: Q & A with Margaret Launzel-Pennes

Madelyn Worley
Madalyn Worley LMSW
, Content Manager, Engagez

People have been hosting events and bringing events to life for many years (Decades, even centuries right?) We love a great event. Over the years, the industry has evolved. For our first interview in our brand new video series ‘Engaging Voices’, our friend Margaret Launzel- Pennes, CEO of POP | X sits down with me (Maddie, Engagez content manager) to discuss the work she has been doing to help the events industry move forward with digital engagement and how her partnership with Engagez helps her deliver quality top-notch events with her clients!

Video Transcript

Maddie: All right. Welcome everybody to the first episode of our vlog series (Engaging Voices). I’m Maddie. I am a freelance digital content creator slash marketer. And I’m excited to be joined today by my friend Margaret. She’s been working closely with my other friends here at Engagez and we have seen a lot coming through with the event space and so I’m excited to get her to take on some things happening.

But first, let me have her introduce herself. Margaret, if you could let everybody know who you are. 

Margaret: Sure. Hi, I’m Margaret Launzel-Pennes. I’m co-founder of Pop Experiential. We are a creative and strategic experiential agency specializing in a lot of b2b doing unusual things to bring people together.

Maddie: Yes. And we love Pop X over here at Engagez. And then I love Pop X for sure, but Margaret, I know you have been within the events realm for many years and are full of great insight. So I am curious, what were some trends you were seeing within the industry since the pandemic?

Margaret: The one thing it’s funny, is I had a conversation this morning with one of our partners Red Rock Entertainment and we were talking about how busy everything is, but not only that, about how quickly everything is happening. One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is that planning time has shortened dramatically for even large projects with big budgets.

So we just see. Some of it’s serious. Some of it’s funny in terms of the way that it happens, but it’s a significant trend. So I think that what we’re seeing is that there’s a, it’s a post-pandemic world with a lack of seasoned resources within organizations. We hear about the great resignation and the quiet quitting, and there are a lot of people that were forced or decided to leave the industry and do other things. So I think that there might be a lack of understanding that on the lead time required for complex programs, everything is shortened. I think that we’re seeing that financial stakeholders are holding funds closed until they’re.

They’re forced to release them or comfortable enough with releasing them in light of what you’re hearing about recession and all of that. And then I think that it’s just a matter that someone wakes up in the morning and says, Oh, we really should get on that. And then we get the phone calls that we need stuff right away.

Maddie: Yeah. So how has all of this changed the way that you approach clients’ programs? 

Margaret: So I, I think that, for us, we are being flexible, really patient being very consultative all at the same time. , it’s incumbent upon us to communicate very realistic deliverables and walk clients through the pros and cons of what they’re thinking. Never, ever overpromise. And try to keep people focused on the end game, and what the KPIs are. We’re also and that leads into part of the other trend that we’re seeing is that there’s a this big, almost we call it a maniacal shift towards in-person events. , that. Focused by storm a few months ago, and that seems to be changing a bit. We’re spoiled, myself included. We’ve been home, we’re in front of our computers as a way for us to get information and connect, right? Like this. We’re comfortable with our work-from-home environment and the schedules that we can create of our own. And we don’t necessarily wanna go to everything. So we’re finding that the H word, we call it the hybrid. While it was like people were like, We don’t need to do that. It’s most definitely of significant consideration now, and that’s a lot of our discussions with our clients in terms of what our approach is to have a holistic approach.

Maddie: Yeah, I love that idea it is a holistic way of doing things now. What about when it comes to even just attending events, have you noticed a difference in generational priorities? 

Margaret: Oh yeah. This is, it’s very interesting. I’ve been, I spent a lot of time in the last couple of months on this.

And what’s really, what is was amazing for me to learn is that this is the first time in history that there are four generations in the workforce. So baby boomers currently comprise 75% of the workforce, but five years from now it will, it’ll be dominated by millennials. With that, every generation learns differently.

When you have my generation, let’s say baby boomers, right? We used to go into conferences and sit through keynote speeches and, go to breakouts and sit there and wrapped attention. Millennials and Gen Zs don’t do that. It’s a major paradigm shift. They’re not gonna sit in a two-hour queue. They might sit there, but they’re gonna be doing other things. So they’ll be posting. Texting, they’ll be making notes, they’ll be listening, connecting with friends all at the same time. . So when you look at those generational priorities, you have to create programs that are suitable to that, to that diversity.

Maddie: I think that is so true. I’m, in this weird stage, right? I’m a millennial, but I have been to events where it was a two-hour keynote and it was very engaging, but now I’ve, I do find that I prefer more of this, something quick, engaging, exciting. So that I want to attend, but I know other people may want to see something different. How do you think organizers are managing this wide range of generations? 

Margaret: In a broad sense. I’m not sure that they are actually. And I think it depends on the industry you talk about. So associations, for instance, they’re a bit slower to adopt, changing their ways of delivering content. As their constituents are generally a little bit older and more traditional, I think. We’re seeing tech companies starting to change it up with a lot more engagement, and a lot more immersive content delivery.

Connecting content to context is a big thing that we work on. The exhibit industry is changing, right? They’re feeling the pain for sure. People aren’t coming out for traditional trade shows. You don’t have to. It’s the Amazon effect, right? You can learn about products, and byproducts and get information and services in a number of different ways. You don’t have to go through a trade show floor. So I think that it’s hard to manage because of these different constituents and what they’re expecting. , 

Maddie: I can definitely see that. So now that we are, you even mentioned this before, we are seeing sort of an influx of people rushing back into this physical event space. . Some of it I think is We’re excited. The pandemic is over. Let’s party. Yeah. And then others, it’s you know what? We tried the virtual, but It wasn’t for us. Let’s go back to what we know. But from your perspective, when hosting those physical events, how important is it to try to find opportunities to bring in those digital components?

Margaret: I think it’s critical. I think any event that doesn’t have a digital component is gonna be obsolete very soon. The events industry is slow to adapt as a general rule. It took a pandemic to change it. And I mean that seriously me, I think it was a gift. I think it forced everybody to. Look at things differently. But when you talk about you know an event now or an experience or an engagement, that’s another thing. We’re changing the dialogue around it. You can’t narrowly define it anymore. You need to be cognizant that your audiences are in different places, in person and digital.

Maddie: So what are some creative ways that you suggest or have even seen some of those seasoned physical event planners incorporate this into their events? 

Margaret: When we’re working with clients we stress the importance of engagement and interaction. So in the beginning when you had virtual events, you had basic gamification, digital keynotes, Easter eggs that were hidden, Exhibit booths, and those are all very fun kinds of things, but now the expectation is true engagement. So we pay close attention to how we connect the two audiences in person and digitally. How do we bring the digital attendee into the physical environment and vice versa, right? So that it’s a true interaction. You’re not, there’s not an in-person event and people are watching it on the other end. Having panelists, for instance, that are in the. Space that is projecting into live, where you might have a keynote being delivered from somebody online versus on stage.

One of the things that we’ve done recently, which is cool, is we’ve worked with engages on building a digital campus for BMC software, which is like the epitome of incorporating. Digital into their events. They’re so far ahead of so many in terms of understanding and adapting to the paradigm shift and the way people learn and engage. It’s incredible. 

Maddie: Let’s talk about BMC for a little bit because you just mentioned it was this new innovative idea of a digital campus. So can you explain what that concept is?

Margaret: Somewhere around, I don’t know, maybe a year ago BMC was looking to engage us for a platform too, as everybody was looking for a platform, right? There used to be 15, then there were 300. Now it’s, backing off again. But there’s a lot to choose from when they started working with Engagez and doing digital events. They morphed that so they could engage at a greater level across many different disciplines within their organization.

So instead of just using it as a digital event space, what else could they do and how could they create a 365 24/7 experience?

In, its sixth phase, the iteration phase right now, they’re building on it, testing and trying it, and growing it. And now they’re using it for pretty much everything or planning to human resources employee training, executive briefings, and product and sales training. And then they also have their events that used to take place only in person that they’re now morphing into, where they’ll have a group of people whether it’s salespeople or customers in the in-person space and everybody else is invited to join digitally we call it a mixed reality. So we worked very closely with Engagez in the past few months on really creating this immersive experience. It emulates an in-person venue, like nothing you’ve ever seen. 

Maddie: No, it is it is an exciting venue. I’ve only seen like pieces of it but the pieces I’ve seen, I’m just like blown away by how fresh it is, how creative it is. 

Margaret: Yeah, the beauty of it. You can only be as good as your clients are, right? And with BMC and I think it’s really necessary for any organization, they’re completely aligned across their IT group, across their production group, across their sales group, across their marketing group, so they have a unified.

With very clear objectives of what they wanna achieve. You don’t have any countering or conflicting, or contradicting objectives. And it’s very easy to come up with a solution as a result. They’re really smart. They are open to ideas. They take risks calculated risks, they value creativity. We’ve just had a blast working with them. And then to have on the side of it as they’re ideating what, and allowing us to design against it and create against it. Then we have the Engagez platform that sort of makes it all viable. So all of those ideas and all of that ideation comes to life through, through the technology behind Engagez, which is incredible.

Maddie: Yeah. I just, love it. I love the work that you guys do. You guys saved my life at the beginning of 2020 when I had to do my first-ever virtual events. And you guys did help. Bring that whole thing to life. And so I am a believer in Pop X and the abilities of Margaret and her team.

Thank you for taking the time to visit with me today and chat with me some more just about the events industry for anyone who wants to make sure they are following Margaret’s team and all the exciting things that they’re doing, make sure that you are following them on social media. And then also you are following Engagez because we will be having more fantastic, exciting updates about the events industry and partnerships and how you can continue to evolve your digital engagements.

Thank you so much, Margaret. 

Margaret: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. Bye. Bye. 

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