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Ask the Experts: Nick Borelli Shares His Advice for Planners


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For our  Q&A series, Ask the Experts, we asked our event planner clients to share their priorities, areas of interest and biggest questions. To find the answers, we're talking to the top minds in the industry, including bloggers, planners, editors, marketers, consultants and event industry influencers.

Nick Borelli is a leading event marketing and social media expert. He offers strategies to increase your attendance through digital marketing, including practical ways to engage influencer marketing, and so much more. He is the real deal, and you can check him out on a variety of industry podcasts where you can hear some of his ideas and tips firsthand.

Tell me about a recent event you attended that was really unique. What was it and what made it special?

There’s an event I’ve attended over the past few years that I’m getting ready to attend called e4, which is produced by Maritz Global Events and Experient. What makes this event so special Event Innovationis the bravery. This event is mostly invite only and balances attendance with team members and clients. With that much at stake, I generally see designers playing it safe, but there is consistently a spirit of experimentation in format and options for attendees. Innovation requires you to take some leaps. As long as you have done your due diligence, stretching in new ways is always more rewarding because you learn more.

How do you see the industry changing, and what are the top 3 factors that will continue to change it, outside of economy and technology?

Top 3 big changes coming to live events are, in my opinion:
1. A more pervasive embrace of data collection centered around capturing attendee signals that result in verifiable business outcomes such as CRM input and positive brand equity.
2. A shift in focus from words such as experiential and experiences as end goals to behavioral change as our new way to talk about raising the bar.
3. For design to embrace diversity in all ways by taking multiple varieties of experiences into account when plotting the strategy of events through all phases.

How do you see traditional format tradeshows evolving?

Booths need to embrace the same evolutionary steps that event designers have taken in the past 10 years. That means an embrace of creating more engaging experiences, human-centered design, and data collection that results in improved iterations. Traditional B2B might then start looking more like some of the more successful B2C shows, which focus on activating attendees and building trust vs. hard sales.

Have you seen any "wow" moments pertaining to the logistics of a conference?

Parallel ConferenceA show called CodeMash which takes place in Northeast Ohio has a parallel conference for the children of the developers who make up the attendance. The kids’ sessions are age-appropriate STEM learning and not just daycare activities. It’s impressive to see such a holistic approach taken in design, as being away from your children is one of the worst pain points of conference attendance.

For event professionals who have been in the industry over 20 years, how do you keep on top of the latest trends?

I set Google Alerts for a host of different phrases relating to the areas I’m interested in keeping my thumb on the pulse of. I also read industry publications daily, including Event Manager Blog, MeetingsNet Convene and many more. More than that, I stay active on social media in groups dedicated to progressive experience design.

Have you seen any trends on menu selections that incorporate health and wellness recommendations?

I’ve seen the adoption of a “Culinary Concierge” who stayed in a central and visible area and was available to answer any question about the menu options of a service station event. This included questions related to dietary concerns, menu item sourcing, and even complimentary flavor combinations. This is an elevated service offering that is truly human-centered.

What do you think is more important to attendees – content, connection or creativity?

Event ContentRarely does an experience or facet of an experience have to make the choice between only being valuable content, meaningful connections, or creativity that inspires because attendees crave all three in tandem as often as possible. That said, when it comes to face to face experiences, connections are the top of that list because of the increased opportunities that are available through digital platforms to gather content and see creativity. While you can connect through portals such as social media, the deficit between that experience and meeting with someone in a live setting has the biggest gap.

How do see organizations qualifying the ROI of their events/conferences to attendees, exhibitors, sponsors?

Event ROIMore and more, I see the positive movement in diversifying the return on investment for stakeholder as well as augmenting goals with returns on objectives. What was simply the metric of quality and quantity has become more nuanced but trackable through increased data point collection such as RFID beacons, biometric data, and the capturing of buying signals, which help improve year-round marketing and lead closing. Events give so many different stakeholders the opportunity to listen to a target group, which should have the result of better decision-making for everyone.

About Nick: Nick Borelli, event industry expert Nick Borelli's consultancy, Borelli Strategies, focuses on marketing solutions for events and event companies. He is an international speaker and has been a member of and volunteer with numerous event industry associations. He is also the marketing chair of the event industry non-profit, The Search Foundation.

Nick has been named a Changemaker by MeetingsNet, awarded International Volunteer of the Year by International Live Events Association, and has won numerous marketing awards. He has served as an adviser and ambassador for associations, conferences, technology companies and numerous event suppliers. Nick is obsessed with telling stories that change behaviors.

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