Each month we interview an events professional who is breaking the mold. This month we spoke with Elina Jutelyté—the senior events manager at Showpad—about accelerating event growth, scaling a global events strategy, and identifying and building events that bring the best ROI.
The Belgium-based tech company, Showpad, is leading sales excellence with a powerful sales enablement solution. Across Europe and the US, Showpad is creating impactful events with content curated for their specific audiences. Recently, Showpad rebranded its user conference Showtime to TRANSFORM with the goal of building an industry-leading event for sales and marketing professionals.
Elina Jutelyté is the senior events manager at Showpad. She has 17 years of professional event experience and has launched events across the globe in the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. With an international relations and affairs academic background, Elina provides a uniquely global perspective on scaling a successful events brand.
Topics discussed in this Event Heroes interview include:
- Growing a career in events
- Achieve business outcomes with events
- Measuring event ROI
- Scaling a global events brand
- Separating signals from the noise with content
- Building rapport with social media
Note: This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.
BRANDON: You are currently Senior Events Manager at Showpad. Before that you worked in a number of event related positions—and before that you earned a degree in International Relations and Affairs from The London School of Economics. What led you to where you are today in your career?
ELINA: My career was an evolution of event management positions in various sides of event industry: I worked for a venue, an event agency, a PCO, associations and corporate organizations. I started with events 17 years ago, working for an association that dealt with globalization issues in the software development industry where I was doing global conferences and exhibitions in different parts of the world—China, Middle East, Europe, US, and Russia.
Back then, it was a very immature industry, but despite that, we had an in-house event management system that handled online registrations, online payments processing, hotel reservations and speaker proposal collections. We worked closely with in-house developers to create it.
Having a degree in state and public affairs, and being busy with an international job, I felt that I needed to learn more about international relations because when you deal with international cultures and markets, you need to have a good understanding of what's happening in the world.
BRANDON: Could you tell us a little about Showpad?
ELINA: Showpad empowers modern sales teams to scale sales excellence and optimize marketing impact. With a flexible and complete sales enablement solution, Showpad powers better sales content management, onboarding, training, and coaching to empower sellers, engage buyers, and win more deals.
More than 1,200 global enterprise and mid-market customers, including Johnson & Johnson, GE Healthcare, Bridgestone, Honeywell, and Merck, rely on Showpad to drive faster sales cycles, increase win rates, and close bigger deals by providing a better buyer experience.
Showpad is the sales enablement platform for sales and marketing professionals. Sales Enablement is an emerging industry and to explain it in a few words, I would say that it is the ability of an organization to empower sales with the right content, context and coaching when it is needed. It provides content personalization for sales people when they approach a customer prospect and helps to create unique buying experiences.
At the same time it provides very powerful insights into how an organization’s marketing content is actually being used and how it influences a customer’s buying journey.
BRANDON: How do events help Showpad achieve business outcomes?
ELINA: Events play a significant role in driving lead generation. We run many events across Europe and the US where our customers share sales enablement best practices. We also participate in a small number of trade shows and collaborate with partners on producing co-hosted programs.
With our own events, we also carry an important mission of educating sales and marketing industry. Just as marketing automation about 5 years ago was not so familiar to many organizations, so is sales enablement at the moment.
Right now, almost every organization is busy working on marketing automation processes to stay competitive. The most progressive companies however are talking about sales enablement. This is an overarching approach that ties together both marketing and sales processes, which is paramount to achieving sales and marketing efficiency.
BRANDON: How does your team measure the success of these events?
ELINA: We have very deliberate system for measuring ROI on events because if we don't measure, we won't repeat a specific event or even pursue events at all. Of course, the final denominator is always how much business an event brought to us.
We've run an enormous analysis of the trade shows that we’ve participated in the past and came to the conclusion that, actually, some trade shows do not work for us. They may be good for awareness, but awareness would need to have a specific measurements in place. We primarily focus on measuring dollars that are generated.
We decided to diminish our investment in trade shows and produce more of our own events, focusing not only on the top of the funnel, but also on the middle and bottom of the marketing funnel. Now, we do lots of smaller event series that highlight our customers and provide insights on sales enablement.
Regardless of the type of an event, each event attendee—whether they are sourced by marketing or by sales—passes through our marketing technology stack, which assigns specific scoring to the lead.
At the end of the day, we’re able to see how an event has influenced that particular person in closing a deal. We can say, for instance, that an event has sourced 50% of the revenue for a deal. We then run an analysis on a quarterly, monthly and—sometimes annual—basis to compare event expenses and revenue.
BRANDON: As mentioned, Showpad is based out of Belgium, but has a global presence when it comes to both customers and events. For instance, Showpad’s flagship conference, TRANSFORM, is staged both in London and Chicago. What challenges has scaling globally presented, and how has the Showpad team met them?
ELINA: While Showpad got its start in Belgium, we’ve expanded throughout Europe and have developed a very strong US presence as well.
We’re still working on scaling the process.TRANSFORM is soon to become the flagship sales enablement industry event like INBOUND, DREAMFORCE or ADOBE SUMMIT for sales and marketing communities. While it’s an event that’s very valuable to our customers, we really put it on for the industry. With TRANSFORM, we’re fulfilling a larger mission of consolidating sales and marketing, and educating the industry on what sales enablement is and why it is so important. In turn, it strengthens our position as an industry thought leader, drives change and provides the opportunity to demonstrate best practices.
As with any event, but specific for TRANSFORM, we’re challenged with how to bring the right message though the content that we build, yet stay relevant with the audience’s needs, especially because there are two editions of TRANSFORM happening within a month – in London and Chicago.
Scaling globally also means that you need to build a strong and dedicated team who is on the project 365 days a year and not only a few months when it gets closer to the event. The event cycle is so much longer, taking sometimes a year or more and your event marketing and communications do not stop typically.
BRANDON: What factors have been instrumental to the growth of TRANSFORM?
ELINA: Event growth is accelerated when you know who your audience is - and TRANSFORM is no exception. Audience profiling is so important, but it is so rarely used to grow events. You can go as deep as you want in terms of segmentation and personalization of your audience, and producing specific content for each cohort. Once you become relevant and speak the language and address that particular group of professionals pains, the reaction will follow.
For TRANSFORM, we know that there are many different types of sales and marketing professionals based on industry, role, seniority, organization type and region. When you start segmenting those audiences and creating specific content for those personas, that's when you start growing your conference.
Brand recognition is something that I would like to mention here as well. TRANSFORM is a new name in the event industry - in past years, this event was known as Showtime. Showtime has its own character and specifics, which we are hoping to replicate and build upon its success with TRANSFORM this year.
BRANDON: Outside of Showpad, you are the President of the MPI Belgium Chapter. How did you get involved with MPI and how has the experience proved invaluable to your career?
ELINA: I believe that many things happen if you really want it. I was following MPI for a long time and one day I had the pleasure to meet the previous president of MPI. This meeting inspired me to later submit application to the board. To my delight, it was accepted.
I'm on my second term right now. I have to say it's been a great pleasure and a great challenge. MPI is the largest meeting professionals organization with 60,000 community members. It has an enormous amount of resources: be it information or people. It has opened many new doors for me and for many members that I know. It is a great community of professionals, and everyone is willing to help and provide input. However, its challenge consists of actually running an organization of volunteers. All six of the board members, including myself, are not paid.
Leading the volunteers and motivating them to take on a project takes a lot. It’s also really rewarding when you see the results of your work. Whatever you put in, you get back. It's not living by itself. You need to put in energy.
BRANDON: If you could give an earlier version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
ELINA: Dare to do things. Because nothing is impossible. I still have to keep reminding myself about it everyday.
BRANDON: I understand that in your free-time, you enjoy photography. In fact, you have an on-going series on cemeteries across the world. Spooky. What inspired you to start this project and what have been some of the most rewarding moments?
ELINA: Yeah, that sounds very creepy. When I started sharing this project, my friends were like, "What? Are you totally mad?" If you think about it, cemeteries are such a concentration of everything: history, culture, traditions, emotions - love and tragedy, all in one place.
Every time I visit a different country, I go and check the cemetery because they are just so different. And so beautiful. That peaceful moment when you stroll along the graves...you focus on what’s important in life and get all of the nonsense away.
BRANDON: What was the first cemetery that you photographed?
ELINA: Interesting question. I don't remember right now, frankly.
However, I think I first started thinking about it when I was 15, or something like that. My father is Lithuanian and my mom is Russian. I was born in Russia. We have our own very dramatic way of going through burial ceremony. Then when my grandfather died, who was Lithuanian, we had the Lithuanian burial ceremony. Everything was white. I was thinking, "Why white?" Because white for us, Russians, is a happy color, for weddings, for example. So since then, I started thinking: Where do theses traditions come from and why are they so different?
BRANDON: What do you think doesn’t get talked about enough when it comes to events and event marketing?
ELINA: For events, professionalism. There’s still a lack of formal, high-quality education for event professionals. I, myself, trained in political sciences, but always do my best to stay up-to date on event management matters and learn from the network. And every day is a discovery.
Another topic, which is rarely discussed, but very damaging for the business, is the lack of transparency in vendor relations. That's one of the things that we're actually trying to focus on at MPI in Belgium. The global impact of event industry counts 1.7 trillion USD in direct spending (based on MPI research), but there are lots of hidden costs and ‘gray’ business practices of back-payments that are still practiced by some vendors today.
For event marketing, there is a lots of buzz about creating content, but what frustrates me is when the content turns into noise of unnecessary information that nobody cares about. I believe event marketers should be serious about understanding their audience profiles and their interests in order to be very specific with personalized content.
Social media use is perhaps another topic that’s worth additional attention. Everyone understands that it is a valuable marketing channel. Nowadays, everyone is on social channels—but not everyone is successful in creating a dialog and building relationships. The corporate style of communication is outdated and has to change. It’s time to spotlight the interests of the audience versus talking about what a company does.
That's all for this Event Heroes spotlight, but you may be interested in checking out these other Event Heroes:
- Maddie Vesey (InsightSquared)
- Aleksandra Panyukhina (SEMrush)
- Mike Butcher (The Europas)
- Britta Schellenberg (Brightcove)
- Dayna Rothman (SaaStr)