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Ojas Rege is passionate about redefining what customers experience and receive in a conference setting. We sat down with the Event Marketer B-to-B Dream Team honoree to understand more about his approach to turning the event model on its head.
Q Hi Ojas! You’ve been known to really transform a live event. Where do you find inspiration when you’re building these brand experiences?
Ojas Rege: For me, it’s never one place. I always think of every event as a story. It has a beginning and an end, and all the action takes place in the middle. The question is, what’s the theme of the story? Then you build around that. Usually, the inspiration comes from the story, and the theme always comes from your customers.
Q Your previous role at MobileIron included the MobileIron Live conference. Tell us about that event and the big change in format that came about.
OR: It was so exciting. We said, “You know, we've been doing something the same way for a couple of years, it's been working great, but let's do something really different." Which led to us completely changing the model of the conference. Let’s actually make it personal. Let’s have it in a house, let’s make it a home — and use the physical space in a way that works effectively for the audiences.
Aside from creating a completely different experience, it let us take the conference closer to our customers. We went to three cities in the U.S. where we had a great concentration of customers.
Q What sort of response did the event receive? Did audience engagement change or evolve due to the format?
OR: It was definitely a full house! The conversation of personal space came up, but it ultimately led to members connecting more.
For me, it’s all about the connection. There are two forms of connection at an event. You want a connection with whoever’s presenting. But the most important form of connection is customer to customer.
And it's also more fun that way, too, right? Anything you can do in a conference to modify the flow and think about how people move so that they walk by more people in a given day and have more natural ways to interact with them works really well. For us, a house was the perfect way to do that.
Q So, tell us — What’s the next big risk?
OR: Any risk I take with an event needs to be in service of the goals for the event. For example, a lot of times people will say, "Well, how are you going to use technology? Are you going to use augmented reality, or this, or that?" And I think one of the traps that event folks fall into is becoming enamored with some hot new thing. But they don’t utilize the innovation in a way that works toward the final goal they’re trying to achieve. It just becomes another sexy thing they’ve thrown in.
So, we’ll look at what worked last year. What kind of connection did we accomplish with the community of customers? Did they absorb the information? Then, whatever the gaps were, we’ll think about what we can do to change that, whether it be different formats, interactions, or delivery of information.
Q What is the most interesting thing you’ve done or seen at brand events?
OR: In 2015, our team created one of the first silent disco conferences. We actually won an Experiential Marketing Gold Ex award for that. We went all Bluetooth, all wireless headsets.
What was awesome was you could be sitting in a session and look all the way across the room and see another session that looks interesting, turn the channel and listen to what that guy’s doing, and then you could get up and go there. It allowed every moment of a customer’s experience to be valuable.
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