ES. Let’s kick off this interview with some words about Explori. How does Explori distinguish itself from other companies?
Chloe Richardson. Explori is just exceptional at what it does and has a fantastic reputation. I was completely blown away by its customer experience-centric philosophy, which is what really made the thought of joining the team so exciting. Everyone in our industry knows the buzz of events; how it makes you feel as you walk across the show floor; learning, sharing stories, networking and engaging with your peers and target audience. But actually, capturing and tangibly demonstrating the impact of those behaviours and perceptions has been an ongoing challenge. And once you do figure out how to track everything, how do you turn that into something actionable, insightful and impactful? Explori has cracked measuring event value through deliberately defined metrics. As a world-leading event research, analytics and measurement tool, we are able to marry human sentiment and data to create something really meaningful… which I think is what the industry is all about, and why I fell in love with Explori in the first place.
ES. How did you get here, and what are your most remarkable professional achievements?
Chloe Richardson. “How did I get here?” is a question I often ask myself! My first foray in the events world was at 19, as I was president of the largest university halls in Europe and given a huge budget to put on two weeks of events for the thousands of students I represented. After a manic fortnight of no sleep, operational fire-fighting and last-minute venue problems, I caught the bug and would never look back. Fast forward to graduation and I was onsite at the Toy Fair at Olympia, interpreting for French-speaking exhibitors. Then followed years of event management, commercial development, strategy creation for exhibition organisers, founding businesses and presenting thought-leading content both virtually and in-person.
It has certainly been quite the journey. It’s hard to define the most remarkable professional achievement (most days I think we are all remarkable for making it through the last 24 months somehow!), but one of my proudest moments was probably back in 2017, when I ran my own small exhibition from start to finish, managing everything from the marketing to the onsite operations, just so that I could make sure I had experienced every single challenge that my partners and then-clients may have to face. I only gave myself around 7 weeks to pull it off, but it was a profitable success(!) and I had such great feedback from exhibitors, sponsors and attendees. Not sure I would do it again (another occasion of huge sleep deprivation!) but it taught me so much that I continue to use every day.
ES. Having more than a decade of experience in the events industry, how do you feel that your past experience will drive Explori’s success in the corporate space?
Chloe Richardson. Great question! I hope to support Explori’s phenomenal growth by bringing a unique relationship-building and content-driven commercial approach to the corporate arm of the business. I’ve been working with corporates throughout my entire event career, either as partners, exhibitors or clients, and have a deep understanding of their challenges – and also some of the possible opportunities – in this space.
ES. The future of events is something that is of paramount importance today. How has Explori been instrumental to the success of the industry, especially in light of COVID-19?
Chloe Richardson. I’ve seen Explori do so much to support the industry over the last couple of years, from education and sharing industry findings, to more in-depth work on specific events, portfolios and projects with organizers. Watching Explori deliver insights at so many industry events was a huge benefit to me personally, and many of my event peers. We’ve all no doubt witnessed the fantastic Sophie Holt, Explori MD, presenting thought-provoking stuff virtually or in-person over the last 24 months, and this gave such phenomenal value against the turbulent backdrop of everything else that was going on in the world. Explori also launched not-for-profit VSef, an agreed-upon data format for virtual event platforms and organizers, which is run for the benefit of the industry. Developed collaboratively, VSef helps data move more freely between platforms, BI tools, CRM tools and marketing systems. It sets out detailed standards for a range of event metrics and engagement KPIS, and how those data points should be formatted for easy transfer between systems. All in the name of eliminating siloed data that creates barriers to learning, progress and a better event experience!
ES. Could you share some of the recent findings of Explori, which you believe is an important document reflecting industry trends since COVID-19?
Chloe Richardson. Some of the most interesting Explori findings over the last few months have been around pre/post-pandemic event trends, and there are three that I think are worth highlighting today. First of all, our research team spent time in 2021 looking at the relationship between getting strong attendee feedback scores and the future growth of a show or event in terms of attendee numbers. Interestingly, but not a huge surprise to us, there is definitely a relationship on a macro level between Explori KPI event data, and the average YoY changes in event participation. Put simply, those events that were above Explori benchmarks in terms of success metrics, see, on average, higher attendance the following year; in comparison, those events that fall short of our benchmarks see attendee numbers that are typically flat, or even slightly lower, in the next edition The second trend, and one we have recently communicated to the market, is what we have seen with the customer experience scores from events that have returned in-person since the pandemic. We are starting to see that scores are higher than they were pre-pandemic, as despite the number of attendees falling, the ratings for the quality of attendees have increased. In short, there is a general trend that whilst noting that attendances are lower, events are attracting a more focused, relevant group of visitors.
Finally, in 2022 we expect to see more feedback collection of all stages of a customer journey from event organizers. As the landscape changes, and stakeholder expectations develop, event leaders are wanting to understand the pain points in the journey, and where they are susceptible to losing attendees and exhibitors along the way. This trend is also reflective of brands increasingly rolling out aa 365 relationship with their customers – and as such, a single point-in-time feedback measure, at the end of an event, becoming insufficient.
ES. Corporate market-facing events offer organizations an unbeatable opportunity to retain their best customers. In your definition, what are the characteristics of a successful event?
Chloe Richardson. Personally, I would generally define successful events as customer-centric, purposeful, measured, impactful and value-giving… but, those are pretty vague success metrics. It’s really important to emphasise that successful events, by definition, depend on having pre-defined objectives. Whether it be ROI, ROE (return on engagement), a certain number of follow-ups booked or an NPS target, an event can never be successful if you haven’t pre-defined what success looks like. For example, an organization might be running an internal training session for their marketing department, of which the target success metrics would look very different to those of a large, annual customer-facing flagship event.
Going back to the things I love about Explori, one is its ability to help event organizers contextualize their success against industry benchmarks based on common success metrics, which have evolved from how external stakeholders (customers, attendees, etc) define success. This is where customer-centric success really comes in; it’s one thing to say, “we scheduled so many meetings, so this was a successful event”, but it’s quite another to be able to say, “our attendees really value their interactions, and our event is in a robust position for withstanding an increasingly competitive market”. That is what corporate market-facing events should be all about.
ES. You were in the news for in the exhibition industry’s 30Under30 list in 2020, as well as featuring on Glisser’s Most Influential Women in the Events Industry and Most Influential People in Virtual Events lists in 2021, among many other accolades. In an effort to inspire young women who want to succeed in the industry, please let us know what message you would like to convey to them?
Chloe Richardson. This is actually something we talked about in depth last week during a roundtable on women in events at the PCMA Convening Leaders event in Las Vegas. There are so many things that we need to do as an industry to further support the empowerment of women, particularly those with ambitions to climb the organizational ladder and become the next CEO or Global Head of Events. The message I would like to share with young women in our industry is simple: Have confidence. We shouldn’t still be experiencing it, but you are going to come across others that might deem your passion and efficiency to be aggression or emotion. Try not to let it deter you. Ask for that raise. Discuss that promotion. Articulate that idea. Back yourself, because you’re incredibly capable, and they’ll get it eventually.
ES. What according to you are learnings from this pandemic? How are you preparing to function in the new normal?
Chloe Richardson. There are probably too many learnings for us to cover in this interview today, so I’ll pick one that’s less obvious and more personal, to avoid repeating what most of us in the industry already know! I’ve learnt that being too proud, and having pride, are two completely different things. You should always have pride in your achievements and determination, but you should never be too proud to change direction. That change in direction is often where the most exciting journeys take you and being too proud can hold you back from really achieving your full potential.
ES. What message would you like to share with the industry?
Chloe Richardson. I am really excited about the future of our industry and 2022 is going to be the year that we can utilize all our pandemic learnings effectively; making sure we leverage the right tools, processes and resources to put the customer experience back at the heart of everything we do. If we remember all we’ve learnt about the ever-changing landscape of expectation, as we define objectives, measure engagement, understand our audience behaviours and perceptions, and do this in a sustainable way, I can’t wait to see our business influence grow within our respective organizations, and society as a whole.