Pivoting on the fly and learning as you go may not sound like much of a plan, but it’s the best way forward as companies shift from in-person events to a new hybrid model in the COVID era. Being nimble is key because your prior event templates are just not going to work the same way.
Quartz Network Executive Correspondent Britt Erler sat down with Desiree Khoury, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Tokio Marine HCC to discuss optimal ways to transition into hybrid event landscapes.
Desiree shares insight into:
- The best path forward for event experiences
- How to ensure white glove service in a contactless environment
- Considerations for moving forward with hybrid models for virtual and in-person experiences
Quartz Network: Can you share some background about yourself and your current role with Tokio Marine?
Desiree Khoury: I’m the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Tokio Marine HCC, Cyber and Professional Lines Group. We’re the fifth largest division within Tokio Marine HCC that, as of 2019, was worth $3 billion in total premium. So quite substantial, to say the least. Our division specifically focuses on cyber and professional lines products within the insurance companies.
My job and role is to ensure that we have the brand presence, the marketing efforts, and biz dev when it comes to expanding our product offering and what we do. Our products are distributed mainly through B2B. So, we’re business to business, our clientele are brokers.
This will be an interesting interview because in our prior life, and what we did prior to the pandemic, our business was mainly focused on boots on the ground, in-person meetings, and conferences. So this past year has been nothing but interesting.
Quartz Network: How do you envision event experiences going forward?
Desiree Khoury: With the marketing plan that we had in place for the past 10 years, that template effectively had to get thrown out the door. As I’ve mentioned, most of our business was boots on the ground, in-person events, sponsoring events, marketing, conferences, and things of that nature. Traveling, meeting with brokers. So we had to pivot on a dime and figure out how to move from the in-person interaction to a virtual experience. That wasn’t easy.
For so many years, a lot of the staff internally had been used to meeting tête-à-tête. Then suddenly, they had to come across a screen and present in front of a camera. A lot of it, for many, was extremely nerve wracking. It was challenging, to say the least.
So part of my efforts were to acclimate a lot of those folks who were so used to being in front of somebody, and get them used to talking or engaging across the screen, which may seem like common place for some, but for many, it’s definitely something new.
Quartz Network: How do we move forward with event experiences in this new virtual environment?
Desiree Khoury: Once we got our staff used to engaging across the screen internally, we then took that outwardly. It felt like everyone was off to the races at that point, and our clients had picked it up as quickly as we had to pick it up. So we were able to engage in meetings across the screen.
One of the things that we asked ourselves was, “How do we move away from the death by PowerPoint and death by webinar and move into something that is more engaging and exciting?”
Typically, when our staff or our underwriters would meet with brokers, to be relatable and ensure that they’re able to move from a vendor or friend relationship model into a more strategic one, we had to learn how to create something that was fun and entertaining at the same time. Something that was relatable, but across a screen.
There were situations where we would invite someone to a happy hour. We would send cocktails ahead of time so that they could mix on screen, have fun with our underwriters, and have a good time that way. If there were opportunities for us to have a meal, we would send something from a nationwide company that could deliver, like a Chicago-style pizza, which we would have otherwise had in person. Things of that nature.
Now, we’re looking at how we can innovate the space more. Now that other companies have started picking up on the virtual space, there are more things available and accessible to keep those meetings entertaining, like have a magician, a DJ, or something like that. That makes it fun. Not necessarily to take up the meeting, but more to have something relatable and exciting to talk about beyond just the business aspect of what we do.
Quartz Network: How do you ensure white glove service in a contactless environment?
Desiree Khoury: It really boils down to technology, because at the end of the day, there’s no way to be in touch with someone unless you have the technology invested or integrated for you to do it.
One of the things we had to do was ensure everybody that was normally attached to their office line had access to telephone software. That could be an app on their phone that they could turn on to serve the same purpose as their office line. Things like that. So that was external. Providing our clients with a way to get in touch with us when we were not in an environment together was and is key.
The second was internal. We used to be in an office and could tap one of our colleagues on the shoulder and say, “Hey, pick up line one,” or “Hey, you’re late for this meeting.” We don’t have that ability right now to do that. So our company and many others have invested in software like Zoom, and we set up Microsoft Teams. It’s a way for us to get in touch with one another and there’s an indicator that says when you’re in a meeting.
What’s interesting about using software like Microsoft Teams or being in this virtual environment is you actually can ask somebody a question while they’re physically in a meeting and still get an answer while they’re in that meeting. Whereas before, if they were in a boardroom meeting, you wouldn’t be able to bother them unless it was completely urgent. Now we still have that accessibility.
Going back to the white glove service, investing in the proper technology is absolute. There’s no question about it.
The other thing is knowing who you can be in touch with. Part of our efforts was to get to know your underwriter. We had a campaign where we videoed each underwriter for a few minutes so that our clients would get to know who those underwriters were, because whereas they used to be in-person at events, they were unable to do that.
In order to get to know who they are and to see them more often, we created these quick tutorials on that person with little fun facts about them. Then, created other ways through our website and social media to get in touch with people.
If anything, part of that white glove service is also being in touch with someone more and more. We increased our social media presence by being more active, sending more blasts about what we’re doing, and making someone feel like they’re always in contact with us even though we could not physically be there.
Quartz Network: What are some of the key areas to ensure this hybrid event option is going to be a success in the long run?
Desiree Khoury: Asking the right questions and ensuring that you’re aware of an understanding that you have to be flexible. I go back to what I said at the start, taking that template that we had for the past several years and throwing it out the door. Pivoting on the fly. Learning as you go.
We’re not going to have the data or understand the audience for the past year right away. It’s going to take some time.
I do think that the hybrid model should stay for the long term. I think that should be the new normal. Why? Because, why not? If the technology exists, and the impossible is now possible, why not stick to what we know? Why not stick to the things that we were never able to do before?
I think that in order to be successful, we have to not be stuck in our ways. Be nimble. Learn and try to attain the type of technology that can work towards both types of models so you can reach out to more people. Then, learning to ensure that your campaign is not targeted to one specific audience, but the broader audience and knowing that you’re able to have the opportunity to capitalize on that.
For more industry best practices and insights from leading marketing executives like Desiree, join Quartz Network.