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Show Notes:



Kate Romano (00:04):

Hello, brand marketers, agencies, vendors, Mom and Dad. Welcome to the latest episode of Catalyst, the podcast that brings you the latest trends in experiential marketing. I’m Kate Romano, director of marketing at Cramer.

Joe Lovett (00:17):

And I’m Joe Lovett, director of strategic planning.

Kate Romano (00:20):

In each episode, Joe and I discuss one emerging trend that will make your brand experience memorable. Are you ready, Trendy Joe?

Joe Lovett (00:27):

I am indeed. Let’s go!

Kate Romano (00:30):

All right, Joe, tell me about this week’s emerging trend in brand experiences. What is it?

Joe Lovett (00:36):

I absolutely will tell you this, Kate, as you’re-

Kate Romano (00:38):

I know you will.

Joe Lovett (00:39):

-as you’re sitting there looking at me at an awkward angle from this very long table here. You know the table we’re sitting at, it’s one of those things that you see really, really wealthy people living in their mansion, the [crosstalk 00:00:52]-

Kate Romano (00:51):

Oh, the long dining room table that seats 30?

Joe Lovett (00:55):

That’s right. But there’s only two people at the table and they’re way far away from each other. “Pass the salt!” Yes.

Kate Romano (01:03):

We are awkwardly far away from one another.

Joe Lovett (01:04):

We are very awkwardly far apart here. But I guess my question to you is, before I begin is, you’ve been to a lot of conferences, helped produce a lot of events, things like that.

Kate Romano (01:14):

I have.

Joe Lovett (01:14):

Do you have a least-favorite format, conference format? Like, breakout type format?

Kate Romano (01:23):

Breakout or general session?

Joe Lovett (01:26):

I guess we could ask either, go for it. Least-favorite format.

Kate Romano (01:30):

My least-favorite format … I have two.

Joe Lovett (01:33):

Okay. Oh, wow, geez.

Kate Romano (01:36):

I do not like the long keynote, where one person is speaking at many people. It gets really dry.

Joe Lovett (01:45):


Kate Romano (01:46):

The second thing I don’t like …

Joe Lovett (01:49):

Now what’s a long keynote, out of curiosity? Longer than …

Kate Romano (01:52):

Longer than even, honestly, 15 minutes.

Joe Lovett (01:55):

15? Okay, all right.

Kate Romano (01:58):

The second thing, which I sometimes like, but they’re really hard to master, is the panel. So the panel, for me, it can be really interesting, but I think that the panel host and then the people that are sort of just engaging in the discussion, it has to be really well-rehearsed.

Joe Lovett (02:20):

Right. Which is never is.

Kate Romano (02:21):

And I don’t mean scripted, but the person hosting needs to say, here are the questions we’re going to ask ahead of time, and let the people think about the answers, because I’ve been to a couple recently where I just felt bad for the people trying to answer the questions. Awkward pauses, sort of not prepared to answer the question. The audience feels that it’s super-uncomfortable, right? So while some panels are phenomenal and have great engagement, others just can fall flat.

Joe Lovett (02:52):

I got it.

Kate Romano (02:52):

It’s really uncomfortable.

Joe Lovett (02:54):

All right, so long keynotes and panels is what you don’t like. Well, it’s very interesting you say that, because I think that a lot of people would actually agree with you. I think, on the aspect of the keynotes, I think we’re entering an era, and we’ve long talked about millennials and kind of their influence and things like that-

Kate Romano (03:12):

And their attention spans.

Joe Lovett (03:13):

Their attention spans, even. But millennials are not like the Boomers and the Gen Xers, who are more willing to sit still for a while, sort of consume information. They want to be part of it. They want to be active participants in that.

Kate Romano (03:27):

Right, because it’s all about them?

Joe Lovett (03:29):
There you go.

Kate Romano (03:29):

Just kidding.

Joe Lovett (03:31):

Yes, they’re all special little flowers.

Kate Romano (03:32):

Joe Lovett (03:33):

I think the other part of it is that it’s getting harder and harder to create custom content for an event-

Kate Romano (03:41):

Yeah, that’s unique.

Joe Lovett (03:43):

-that’s unique, because it’s out there. There’s amazing TED Talks, consultants like PWC are putting out amazing thought leadership pieces.

Kate Romano (03:53):

There’s amazing podcasts on experiential marketing.

Joe Lovett (03:55):

Amazing podcasts. We’ve seen it all, so it’s-

Kate Romano (03:59):

And heard it all.

Joe Lovett (04:00):

Exactly. So what are you going to go out there and say that’s really unique and interesting and relevant and mind-blowing to your audience that they haven’t heard before? That’s becoming a real challenge. So the point here is about content; it’s just getting harder and harder for meeting planners to come up with this great information. So that’s part of the input of the trend, is this influence on not wanting to just sit back and just listen to content, but wanting to create content.

Joe Lovett (04:33):

The other part is, as we just discussed, is the availability of content everywhere. I think the third thing is that, and I’ve looked at a lot of data from conferences, the attendee feedback and things like that. And always, one of the top three things of why people attend conferences is to connect and meet other people.

Kate Romano (04:52):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joe Lovett (04:52):

So I think that’s kind of a third trend, or sorry, a third input, rather, that’s affecting this trend is that people really want to … meeting planners aren’t just leaving this to chance anymore, they’re actually taking an active interest in helping people connect and helping people meet others.

Kate Romano (05:08):

So what is this trend? I’m curious.

Joe Lovett (05:11):

So the trend is that we’re shaking up that traditional content kind of format, right? The standard GS, and then kind of going into the breakouts and things like that. We’re rethinking how can we do a better job of doing that? So an example: you mentioned that you’re not a big fan of panels, right?

Kate Romano (05:34):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joe Lovett (05:35):

I think part of the issue of panels is the setup of that straight line of seats, you know?

Kate Romano (05:41):


Joe Lovett (05:42):

When you’re talking to each other-

Kate Romano (05:43):

You’re looking sideways.

Joe Lovett (05:45):

Right, you’re looking sideways, you’re having to crane … at the end of the day, you’re looking-

Kate Romano (05:48):

As a panelist, you don’t whether to look to the person next to you, the host, the audience.

Joe Lovett (05:52):

That’s right.

Kate Romano (05:53):

It’s awkward.

Joe Lovett (05:54):

It is, and it doesn’t facilitate fluid conversations, really, right?

Kate Romano (05:59):


Joe Lovett (05:59):

It’s sort of, oh, let me wait for this person to stop talking, because I’m three seats away from them-

Kate Romano (06:04):

And how do I jump in?

Joe Lovett (06:06):

Right, yeah, where do I jump in? And then you’re actually looking at the audience. So what they’re doing now is they’re taking a page out of the morning shows and having a more circular table where you’re actually having a conference and engaging with it. And it just creates more fluid conversation, people can look each other in the eye, it helps spark debates. And what’s interesting, and I know this is sort of counter to what I was saying about the more audience participation, but it’s more of a feeling of eavesdropping.

Kate Romano (06:40):


Joe Lovett (06:41):

That you’re kind of eavesdropping into the conversation, rather than they’re staring at you kind of awkwardly-

Kate Romano (06:46):

While you kind of present in this awkward, quasi-conversation.

Joe Lovett (06:51):

That’s right.

Kate Romano (06:52):

That’s really cool. All right, Joe, you’re talking very dramatically with your hands, I know people can’t really see that, but can you just tell me, with all this buildup-

Joe Lovett (07:00):

I know, I’m that Italian.

Kate Romano (07:00):

What is the trend?

Joe Lovett (07:03):

Okay. You’re right. The trend is, drum roll, it’s called panel 2.0.

Kate Romano (07:07):

What is a panel 2.0?

Joe Lovett (07:11):

You mentioned that you weren’t a big fan of that whole panel thing, and I think part of the reason is it’s awkward, right? You’re looking at the audience, you’re in a row-

Kate Romano (07:22):

But you’re looking at the audience, but you’re engaging with conversation with people next to you.

Joe Lovett (07:27):


Kate Romano (07:27):

So you’re turned sideways.

Joe Lovett (07:29):


Kate Romano (07:30):

It’s weird.

Joe Lovett (07:30):

A lot of these panels, it is a little weird, and a lot of these panels have actually taken a page out of morning shows and done more of a circular format.

Kate Romano (07:38):

A round table.

Joe Lovett (07:40):

You’re actually sitting across from each other, and yeah, it just helps facilitate more organic conversation; you know who’s going to jump in next and you know people are nodding or they’re leaning in and they’re going to be the next speaker. It just helps facilitate a more natural panel discussion.

Kate Romano (08:00):

I imagine the attendees appreciate this, because they’re feeling like they’re eavesdropping on this group of people’s conversation, as opposed to listening to this very structured-

Joe Lovett (08:10):

That’s right, exactly.

Kate Romano (08:10):

-awkward, scripted conversation.

Joe Lovett (08:13):

That’s right, as you’re kind of going down the line of chairs or something like that. And another example, an evolution of this is what they’re calling fishbowl, or what I call musical chairs.

Kate Romano (08:24):


Joe Lovett (08:25):

The evolution here is that you actually keep a chair open at all times, and any audience member can come up, instead of just sort of asking a question from the back of the room, their job is to actually go up and have a point of view based on that discussion.

Kate Romano (08:42):


Joe Lovett (08:42):

You can do some interesting, cool things, like you can have, okay, because there always has to be an empty chair, when that person comes up, maybe the first person who is on the panel has to now leave the stage.

Kate Romano (08:54):


Joe Lovett (08:54):

It’s always this evolving panel that isn’t just the five people that started, but all of a sudden, at the end of, say, the half-hour session, it’s a completely different panel and some interesting points of view that happened right from the audience. And I also think that that keeps people a lot more alert-

Kate Romano (09:12):

And engaged, right?

Joe Lovett (09:15):

And engaged.

Kate Romano (09:15):

Because if you had a chance to get up there and participate-

Joe Lovett (09:16):

That’s exactly right. They could be on the hot seat at any particular time. And there’s a lot of different variations of that, but instead of that whole question-answer format, just bringing the audience more into the participation of it all.

Kate Romano (09:30):

Cool. And then, are there any great examples of events that have done that recently, that have sort of taken on this panel 2.0-

Joe Lovett (09:40):

Well, I think the probably best example is the aquarium at C2 Montreal.

Kate Romano (09:45):

Yeah. They’ve done this for a couple years now, right?

Joe Lovett (09:48):

They at least did it in … let’s see, I was there in 2017 and they did it then.

Kate Romano (09:53):

Okay, cool.

Joe Lovett (09:54):

And I think they have done it. It was such a success. The great thing about this is they’re actually, they have this circular table inside a clear box in the middle of the floor-

Kate Romano (10:06):

Or clear box translate to glass studio.

Joe Lovett (10:10):

Glass studio, yes, thank you. Glass studio, aquarium, if you will, and it’s a spectacle unto itself, because it’s beautifully lit, it’s got animation, I think there’s blue hue, kind of really looked like this newsroom that was going on.

Kate Romano (10:29):

Right in the middle of the show floor, right?

Joe Lovett (10:30):

Right in the middle.

Kate Romano (10:31):

It’s kind of like a brand activation in itself.

Joe Lovett (10:32):

Unto itself, exactly. So you go up there and you listen in person, and people are having a great conversation, and then what we found as we talked about … because content is so hard to create, now that conversation that’s happening custom, bespoke for this particular event, now can live on as brand content or event content long after the event.

Kate Romano (10:59):

Right, so C2 had this sort of spectacle in the middle of the show floor with all these people talking, and attendees could come … could attendees join this one or no?

Joe Lovett (11:08):

I don’t believe attendees could join.

Kate Romano (11:10):


Joe Lovett (11:10):

It was a structured topic-

Kate Romano (11:11):

But they’re watching and listening.

Joe Lovett (11:13):

-speakers and everything, yep.

Kate Romano (11:15):

And they’re broadcasting Facebook Live, and then again, post-event, they have all this great content for podcasts. It’s good to see, because these authentic conversations are happening live at the event, and then you have all these ways to extend the content well beyond the event to continue to engage your audience. So, really cool.

Joe Lovett (11:37):

I think, yeah, the point is that, how can we do a better job of bringing in the audience, an audience that doesn’t want to sit there and just consume content? Yes, there’s a place for that still.

Kate Romano (11:48):


Joe Lovett (11:48):

But how can we get them more involved, more interactive, more participative so that they meet other people, they have an opportunity to voice their point of view, ask questions in a more charged format that’s not safe, like asking it from the back of the room, but actually having you get up onstage? Which just kind of amps up the pressure and the emotions for everything. Those are the thing that they’re going to remember when they leave the event.

Kate Romano (12:16):

Right, right.

Kate Romano (12:18):

Well, Joe, thank you for sharing another inspirational trend.

Joe Lovett (12:22):

You’re welcome.

Kate Romano (12:23):

Listeners, if you have a question, feedback or a trend you want to share, we’d love to hear from you. Email theteam, that’s one word, C-R-A-M-E-R, or find us on Twitter with the handle @WeAreCramer. That’s a wrap

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