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20 | Devin Cleary, PTC: Growing Events, Retaining Top Talent, and Making a Positive Impact

  • October 23, 2019
  • 57:01

Devin Cleary, VP of Experiential Marketing at PTC, discusses how to use data and personas to grow an event, how to retain and hire top talent, how to use technology to design attendee-centric digital experiences, why events need to try harder when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

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Top Takeaways

1

GROWING AN EVENT WITH DATA AND PERSONAS: PTC's flagship event, LiveWorx, grew exponentially from 1,900 attendees to 7,000 in the last few years. For Devin, leveraging data and prioritizing attendee personas helped the PTC team map their event offerings to each type of participant. Armed with data the PTC team could, “feel competent going into our show that we were offering the right content and the right offerings to meet and exceed the expectations of every single attendee coming into that building.”

2

RETAINING AND HIRING TOP TALENT: As a manager, Devin's priority is making sure his team feels supported and that they have the right resources to be successful. One initiative he's put in place is awarding team members a grant for additional career development every year. “There is no better opportunity than putting the power into the employee and making sure that I’m here as a support system, that I'm protective of my team, and making sure that I’m also identifying countless opportunities within the organization to graduate just beyond what they're already doing, and allowing them to really blossom into the incredible experts that they are.”

3

DESIGNING ATTENDEE-CENTRIC DIGITAL EXPERIENCES: An engaging digital experience for attendees begins well before they physically walk to the conference venue. Devin’s team using digital marketing best practices to create an on-brand digital experience with improved page and content layouts. “That has been a huge help and we've actually seen a 20% drop in concierge inbox inquiries from our general registration inbox, making sure that people felt more navigable and they actually found the information they needed versus relying on our team to provide that data or that answer.”

ABOUT Devin Cleary

By the time Devin joined PTC in 2016, he had already spearheaded the growth of HubSpot’s INBOUND event, overhauled the event program at the American Red Cross, and spent nearly 6 years orchestrating conferences and trade shows at his own events company. Under Devin's direction, PTC’s annual flagship event LiveWorx has undergone a dramatic shift in both brand and scope—going from a user conference with around 2,000 attendees to an industry platform that brings in around 7,000 attendees.

Episode Transcript

DEVIN:

I remember in 6th grade, I had my first concert. And I actually saw the band No Doubt. Hopefully not aging myself right now on this podcast. And it was their Magic Kingdom Tour or their Tragic Kingdom Tour, I should say.

BRANDON:

Oh, no.

DEVIN:

And I remember how... Well, that was the name of their album-

BRANDON:

Oh, okay.

DEVIN:

But I remember they flew in all these orange trees, the set design. It was my first time really coming into contact with a really big amazing group setting where different artists were coming on stage, and they were using the lights and the excitement. You could feel the energy from the crowd. And it was kind of that first moment where I thought about creating an experience, having an emotional reaction. Invoking an emotional reaction from someone in an audience and seeing a like-minded group of people get together for a common interest and share something that was super positive.

BRANDON:

From an early age, you had an appreciation of experiences and what it takes to put together a big experience and unite people under it. Is that something that you knew at an early age? Like this is what I want to do professionally or was it just, this is something that's kind of cool, but really I'm going to do this?

DEVIN:

Great question. I would say I did not know that I wanted to invest my career in event marketing or events overall until probably college.

BRANDON:

Okay.

DEVIN:

So I went to a business school in actually Boston where we're based and headquartered. And I was at that sort of pinnacle moment of my junior year where you had to select a major. And I was really trying to figure out what do I want to do? Now, Bentley University was really founded on more traditional business acumen and careers in accounting and finance. And, again, a huge respect for individuals who would like to do that. But I really sort of had an artistic and creative expression side of myself that I wanted to make sure it could come through and translate into my career.

So it's a funny story. As I remember one night it was right before Christmas break, my roommate and I had sat down, and I was seeking counsel from him. I was asking him, "I would really love some guidance or maybe some advice you can bestow upon me based on knowing me for the time we've been together. What does that look like?" And he said to me, "Why don't we make a pro and cons list of the things that you're good at and the things that you want to improve or that you don't really care for in terms of how you want your work style or the types of daily interactions you want to incur. So are you more of a in the office, have a desk, have a home base? Do you like to be social and really get to know people and expand your plethora of network?"

So for me, we kind of made that list, completed that exercise, and it almost like a light bulb went off in my mind. And he looked at me as well, we both looked and said, "What about events?"

BRANDON:

Wow.

DEVIN:

And it was kind of that moment where everything kind of fell into place, and I've always felt extremely blessed to identify that passion early on and be able to go after that.

So a week later I met with my career advisor and the rest is history. And I would also say maybe some advice on this show today is I've really benefited from the fact that I've always wanted to experiment in events as well on different types. So that is one piece of advice I would give even emerging generations who have a passion and interest for this field is making sure you really expose yourself to every type of event format, whether it's a trade show, whether it's a private dinner, destination management, nonprofits, large gala's social events, corporate meetups, et cetera. And really kind of understand and navigate what feels right for you and then pursue that niche and really be a specialist in that field.

BRANDON:

At Bentley. Did you find that there were courses available that really allowed you to specialize in event marketing or is it something that you're more so doing on the side? Maybe with a focus in marketing?

DEVIN:

They have a great program that's called IDCC, which stands for information design and corporate communication. It's an amazing major at Bentley, and it's really a cluster that incorporates marketing, advertising, web design, management, PR. So really the business side of the house. And I do think that's helped me extensively in the growth of my career to not only be someone who can sort of select linens and work on large-scale planning but really have an understanding for how the event needs to run, like a business; balancing, budgeting, strategic vision, understanding how to manage and attract and recruit the right talent to work and execute a program to the scale that we do.

That has been a huge benefit for me. And again, I definitely think a milestone in setting me up for success and kind of pushing me out of the nest, if you will, into the career that I built today.

BRANDON:

Definitely. And we were talking about earlier, it really sounds like you're very much in the weeds when it comes to the technology it takes to make an event happen. Everything from the design to the attendee experience, you have a pretty holistic view of it. And it sounds like this program in many ways sets you up for success. After you studied and did this IDCC program, you went on to work for an event agency right across at one point, HubSpot, and then you landed here at PTC.

So could you tell us a little bit about that journey from graduating university and then eventually making your way to becoming the vice president of experiential marketing here at PTC?

DEVIN:

My career has always been first and foremost founded on a passion and excitement for connecting with mentors in my field. So I think one of the things that have really helped me from my early days as an event sort of enthusiast and wanting to pursue a career like that has been meeting the right individuals and connecting with the right, I would say thought leaders in my field, guiding me and teaching me the ways in which they would bestow wisdom and really helped me identify sort of the next step in my career.

A pinnacle moment was I was able to receive a very coveted internship with a design agency, a full production scale design agency called Rafanelli Events and they are based in Boston. They're a top echelon in the sort of events field. They've done things like Chelsea Clinton's wedding. They've done massive fashion shows, launches for major product brands.

They've worked with celebrities on various fronts and that was sort of the cornerstone of the foundation that I needed to teach me about how to be successful in the events field. And I've definitely found people in life either love events or they don't care for them. I have always loved them no matter what time I'm working, no matter how many hours I put in. It's always been a rewarding satisfactory experience that I've always cherished from day one.

So with working at Rafanelli, then an opportunity opened up where I actually was able to meet my future business partner and we actually started a design agency in Connecticut.

BRANDON:

Very cool.

DEVIN:

Yeah, I loved it. It was unbelievable. And again, nothing like being your own business owner. And at the same time growing and scaling a massive events company, where we were really focused in the recession, developing some of the largest trade shows that were really helping small and midsize businesses during this recession that we had in the early 2000s, and we were really trying to give back. And I think that's also something that I've also really held dear to my heart, is how can I use this career, use it as a platform, use it as an opportunity to do something that has a meaningful purpose, that is making an impact on the world.

So in that point in my career, I really wanted something that I knew was going to help keep people in business and help them put food on the table, keep their employees salaried, and really try to rebuild the economy one person at a time. And I think it was a lesson in one individual can make a difference, and there's a lot of inspiration that I always take from that. And I was just very grateful for how things pieced together and everything kind of worked out in the end.

BRANDON:

I guess that sort of events in a microcosm in some ways you have a small team often facing some pretty challenging odds, but you're able to pull off a huge experience where people come together and connect.

DEVIN:

I would also say too, like looking back at my career, every step that I've taken has had a meaningful or some kind of ominous moment in time that has happened that has led me to that experience. So as I mentioned, I was very content running my own business and sort of this event agency. And I will never forget we were celebrating my father's 45th birthday party at my parents' home.

And I have a brother who was recently engaged at that time to my future now sister-in-law, and we actually were sitting down for dinner. It was, I will never forget the meal we had. It was a steak night and really great, and I could remember in my fax seeing my sister-in-law actually having a health and medical complication that evening. She actually had a condition where she was unable to consume certain large portions of food.

She had an enclosed esophagus, and the long and short of it, she started choking at this family dinner.

BRANDON:

Oh no.

DEVIN:

Now, again, it was very scary in the moment, and obviously, I'm very grateful that it came out on top, and we had a positive outcome. My mother, who was a school teacher, she was actually kind of whipped right into fashion, and she was able to provide the abdominal thrust motion and actually save her life and allow her to continue breathing before the paramedics got there.

BRANDON:

Wow.

DEVIN:

But the reason why I'm sharing that story today is because not later than 24 hours, I received a phone call from the Red Cross and a recruiter at the Red Cross. And they were looking for someone to kind of overhaul their North America events program and really kind of put a fresh perspective, more of a millennial perspective on how they want to approach fundraising, how they want to engage donors and so on and so forth.

The connection point was my mother was literally trained a week before this happened, through the Red Cross in this moment. So I thought it was too serendipitous for how this all came together, and this was a sign I needed to make a change. I was ready to make a change and kind of take on a new challenge. So I was able to work and then later hired by the Red Cross to lead their six major markets. It was again, one of the most amazing and thrilling experiences of my life. Being able to give back, having a philanthropic component to the event side was something that I will always cherish.

BRANDON:

I want to talk about that more, but I know we have some limited time. So let's move on to the next company that you worked at for some time, which was HubSpot.

DEVIN:

Yep. I was working for the Red Cross for over two and a half years and previously when I was in my startup sort of hat and running my business, I had worked a lot with HubSpot, which is a very successful startup and obviously has a very robust events programs, specifically INBOUND in the marketing sense. And this company I had worked with their CMO previously and some speaking engagements, so we had always kept in touch. We were sort of on the pulse of what was happening in the events spectrum.

And Mike Volpe, who is no longer their CMO, and he now runs another company in Boston, Lola, he actually had reached out to me saying, "We have an opening for an events lead for this company. And would you be interested?" And I was sort of wanting to make a move. I always had a passion for Boston since I went to college there, and I thought it was sort of a serendipitous moment and knowing the company and all the incredible things they were doing and with INBOUND growing to the extent that it is, I was just thoroughly impressed and very honored that they would think of me as a candidate for that role.

So interviewed, met a slew of different people, fell in love with the company and decided to make that move and joined the inbound movement as well as lead event program, which was incredibly exciting and definitely another milestone in my career.

BRANDON:

Looking back at HubSpot, in particular, is there one or two lessons that you think as a professional, going back to how every step of the way there's been some sort of meaningful takeaway, what's one or two lessons that you learned during your time there?

DEVIN:

I think lesson number one is you have to experiment and you need to make sure that you're pushing the boundaries. I think a lot of times in the events world, we're so focused on precision and kind of nailing an event every single time there's something said for pushing the envelope and taking a risk and trying something new. And I think INBOUND has really done that since its fruition and has always tried to push the envelope and do something different than every other event out there.

And that has a life lesson and a piece of feedback I would extend to anyone listening today is really feeling comfortable to feel uncomfortable. And try to reach for the stars and even if it doesn't work out successfully, you learned what not to do going forward, but you need that trial by error process if you're going to continue to expand the success and engage with the audience and the attendees for any event that you're going to be producing.

BRANDON:

That's huge.

DEVIN:

The second lesson I would say is agility. So a lot of times we are dealt with constrained budgets. We have a limited amount of bandwidth or support that we're able to call upon to be successful. Events can be a stressful environment to handle. For us, and I think for anyone that I've worked with, whether it's mentors, whether it's other individuals or other colleagues I've been blessed to work with in my past, it's always been about how do we try to figure out the alignment of agile work teams and kind of a scrum ad hoc kind of purpose to really make us successful?

And I think the lesson I've also learned is it's better to have a smaller mightier group who are very passionate and dedicated and hardworking versus 20, 30, 40 team members who are kind of ad hoc and mediocre in that sense. And both of those lessons, I've always taken with me as I've grown my career, and I will continue to use those as inspiration as I build future opportunities.

BRANDON:

And today you now are the vice president of experiential marketing here at PTC. Could you tell us about why you were brought onto this role and what sort of missions you've been taking on?

DEVIN:

PTC is a software company based in Boston, Massachusetts. And what I loved about working and the offer to work for this company is it is at the precipice of the most disruptive and innovative technology that has transcended our world today. I've always prided myself on wanting to work for a brand and an organization that really has a future-focused mindset, and that really takes technology to the next level, especially how events are impacted by technology just like the rest of the world, no matter what industry we're focused on. So when PTC had presented the opportunity to overhaul and kind of run their global events program, I jumped at that opportunity.

Now, I would take a step back to say, why did I leave HubSpot? Why did I not continue producing INBOUND and keeping those train on the tracks for a very successful event that got a lot of notoriety? And I would actually answer with just that, which is PTC handed me an opportunity to build something from scratch and to create a program. Taking all the lessons I have learned from all the different aspects of events and culminate that into one brand new program that was fresh and lively and different and frankly something the B2B tech world, especially in the software, and I would say more industrial vibe or the industrial industries, had never experienced before.

And for me that was such a value proposition and such a draw to come work for this company, I could absolutely not say no. So the CMO who I currently report to, Eric Snow, and shout out to Eric, he had reached out to me on LinkedIn saying, "If you can produce that for HubSpot, I want you to build us an empire at PTC."

So it was a no brainer, and I have never looked back. I have never been more grateful, and this has probably been the most incredible experience of my entire career when I even look at every other opportunity that's lead up to this point. PTC has given me the autonomy, the ingenuity, the support, the financial backing to really transform what they've done into who they become.

BRANDON:

That's huge.

DEVIN:

Yeah. Yeah. And no small task, I might add you.

BRANDON:

No small task at all and I know that there are a ton of events that you run here at PTC. For our conversation, we really like to focus on one, which I understand you had a large role in shifting pretty dramatically, and this is LiveWorx. I understand LiveWorx is a four-day-long event. Maybe longer in the future, a four-day-long event with thousands of attendees that is centered around digital transformation. In your own words, how would you describe LiveWorx?

DEVIN:

LiveWorx to me is an act of discovery. It's an event that transcends anything you've probably experienced before at other programs. In a nutshell, we are branded and want to be known in the marketplace as the definitive event for digital transformation. We're technologists, engineers, influencers, decision-makers. Top leadership of major enterprise companies can come and really curate a community of individuals that can have a dialogue around how companies are leveraging disruptive technology and the impact that they're making.

So for us, this is really a chance to create an environment where spontaneous moments happen. And this is from networking connections to different content and curations. But it's really important that for the team here at PTC that this is something that transcends the corporate brand of PTC. We sought out very early on. And that was actually one of my, I would say, criteria for accepting the position at this company was really moving this event and moving this needle and seeing a greater purpose.

There's obviously impact and benefits that PTC receives as a result of hosting our programs. But I think from a philanthropic... Again, always having kind of that give back mindset deep down inside in the back of my mind, I wanted to leverage this platform, and it is a platform to really identify Boston specifically as sort of a macrocosm and an influx of where companies should be doing business. And I thought, what better way to use LiveWorx than to draw 7,000 of the most influential technologists worldwide to get a chance in our backyard and really experienced what Boston has to offer.

BRANDON:

So you sort of mentioned that there's this shift of LiveWorx becoming an industry platform as opposed to a user conference. From an organizer's perspective, could you tell us a little bit more about that process of managing that change?

DEVIN:

PTC, just like it's technology, just like the themes that we're seeing right now in the technology community, digital transformation and cultural transformation really go hand in hand. So, so many companies right now worldwide are trying to figure out how they organize their workforce, how they can better streamline efficiencies as well as create better customer experiences and the events program was really a pilot for PTC. They had sought out to really go through a transformation, a three to four year transformation where they were focused on retaining and attracting the best talent, looking at the new customer experiences we wanted to increase, diversifying our technology portfolio by investing in other types of tech that would happen at the event but really at the precipice of all of this was our event LiveWorx. This was the face of the company, the brand of the company.

So for many people within PTC, they saw this as sort of the beacon of light that had to be a success and I would say in the beginning stages it was a challenge. Any time you are bringing change within an organization, there is going to be pushback. There is going to be a hesitation, if you will. My mindset from day one was really creating and cultivating an internal campaign throughout the entire business. Every department, every leader and frankly every employee that would allow us to speak with them, learn more about them, what they do here and their future goals and passions and really for an eight to nine month, I would say, trajectory, we really focus on the events team to make sure that we can kind of articulate what our strategy was and where we think the event can go.

For us, we were very adamant and very passionate about this idea of transitioning from a 25 year legacy of user conference into what we deem as an industry inclusive program. This means that we are not alienating our core users or customers, but we want to share the love with more people and we want to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table to make sure that when we're walking out of that event, the best and greatest ideas are being curated.

The connections that are happening and the people that are walking in, you're rubbing shoulders with, are going to have a chance to make an impact on your career or maybe even be a future business deal for your company, but the only way that's possible is if we extend the plethora of the funnel, of the pipeline of people coming to this program.

BRANDON:

You talked about this huge transformation of LiveWorx and I know that part of that is the fact that you've been able to grow the attendee size of LiveWorx by 20% on an annual basis, with this most recent event bringing in 7,000 attendees, as you mentioned. Putting on your growth marketing hat, could you tell us a little bit more about the decision to grow the event, to bring in more attendees as opposed to maybe keeping it at the size it was, some of the factors that have gone into making this growth and how you think about that?

DEVIN:

Event growth for us was always from the get-go an important component of our strategy. So we really look at three major playbooks when we're tied to LiveWorx. That is content, that is delight and that is really growth and impact, not only from a PTC side but overall again, as I mentioned, kind of this macrocosm of collective growth and really having a shine in shining a light on Boston and all the offerings that it has to afford. For us, we really wanted to make sure that we could scale LiveWorx significantly and really become a tech conference that had domination. We were realizing so many events were losing their authenticity. They were not creating personalized journeys, they were trying to just welcome everyone and everything and we thought, "Why don't we take a step back? Why don't we recreate the environments in which people are working in and experiencing every time they come to an event," to really make sure it was catered to them.

As we say at LiveWorx or PTC, we have over 7,000 attendees at this year, but the first year we even started, we never saw more than 1,900 come to this event and within the first year of my team putting it on, we were able to grow that event over 4,200 individuals. That had everything to do from strategic planning, to the right technology inclusion and to making sure that the onsite experience achieved what the audience was hoping to get out of it. Every single person nowadays has an expectation for what they want from a content, from a networking perspective. They want everything done faster, quicker, better. They want to make it more intuitive and whether you're leveraging technology for that or again, just common best practices in the events industry, it is so critical to not lose that essence. So for us, we really wanted to focus on our core audience, which was really engineers who are designing and curating the products of the future.

We really wanted to make sure we started with that broad bucket and then break it down by different levels of leadership. Whether it was an end user, whether it was a middle manager, whether it was a CXO or a top executive, and really do a mapping exercise to make sure that what we currently offered in the program mapped and actually justified someone's existence and participation at the conference.

So one thing we actually uncovered was from a developer perspective, we were not offering enough content or certification to really have a conscious to promote and actively go after them to come to LiveWorx. But we did realize that we had a huge opportunity to really pump and put focus more marketing efforts and recruitment around a top level CXO, or a VP or a manager level and above and more thought leadership was being infused into the programming overall, which really spoke to that level of an audience and the type of content they were looking for especially around digital transformation, which can be a very daunting topic overall.

BRANDON:

What sort of data where you're looking at to come to this conclusion?

DEVIN:

We tried to categorize things. So we wanted to understand on a scale of one to five, five being it is perfect, it is everything we can possibly think of, or there's a likelihood that it is there and is going to be received from that persona, if you will. We did it from content. We did it from the likelihood of showing up. There are certain personas that we know about that actually do not go to multiple events a year, or they actually prefer virtual learning versus an in-person experience. So why would we waste time and budget and money to try to source that group if they're never able to get out of the office? That, for example, was like a plant manager for us.

Plant managers cannot leave the physical domain or dominion that they're in because they're physically managing a staff and a technology infrastructure. They have to physically be there every single day. So to us, it was looking and readjusting the strategy to really target them. Really live streaming was a perfect insertion point or offer that we could replace with the traditional in-person, come for four days, experience all the amazing things LiveWorx has to offer, but leveraging it through a different platform and a different type of educational medium.

We looked at those three to four criteria category. We did an assessment, we did a numeric data assessment and then based on that, we would remove probably 10 to 12 different personas and really try to narrow that list down to our top eight. That was not to say that we would not get organic traffic, or that we would welcome those individuals, but any paid efforts, anytime that my team would be prioritized around their marketing efforts and where they're spending their time and our money, they would definitely make sure that they were keeping within the guardrails of those eight personas. That has helped us significantly because it influences every aspect of the event, not just from the pre-marketing component but really feeling competent going into our show that we were offering the right content and the right offerings, that are going to meet and I would say exceed the expectations of every single attendee coming into that building.

BRANDON:

The last thing I want to touch on around pre-event is how you are, as you said in your own words, creating this wonderful eCommerce experience for your attendees. Could you tell us a little bit more about the thought that goes into that and maybe some of the tools that you're investing in in order to gather more insights and also provide that experience?

DEVIN:

Your website is your brand. A website is probably the most important visual identity you're going to have for the conference and we wanted to make sure, my team included, we were very focused on what technologies and tools were available to really understand the user journey before they physically show up for the conference. We had a lot of assumptions and I would say a lesson learned is the subjectiveness of things really has to be removed from the equation.

So for us, it was really important that we did a massive research poll of a lot of different startups and different companies who offer tools and integrations with our existing infrastructures that allow us to better understand what our attendees are doing and how they're thinking and how they're interacting with our content.

I'll give you one specific example. I'm an absolute fan of something called heat mapping, which allows you to create different pages on your website and track how much someone is actually spending on that page and how far they scroll actually. So what content are they absorbing? One big miss that we were seeing from earlier years of planning LiveWorx was we were putting a lot of critical, important content from the middle to the end of the page thinking they would have to scroll all the way through to get to ... it's the analogy of you put the milk in the back of the grocery store and as they walk through the grocery they pick up things they really didn't need. Or maybe that's a hashtag target run, which I think we can all attribute to or empathize with, but I would say this was a key technology that allowed us to see we were missing the users and they were not seeing the content that was critical to planning their experiences at the conference or to give them real time updates that were going to impact their registration abilities and so on and so forth.

So it allowed us to really reevaluate and re-layout our website, changing different types of pages or moving content up higher. That has been a huge significant help and we've actually seen a 20% drop in concierge inbox inquiries from our general registration inbox, making sure that people felt more navigable and they actually found the information they needed versus relying on our team to provide that data or that answer.

BRANDON:

That's fascinating. I think it's just is so ... perhaps helpful for our listeners, definitely interesting for me to hear how you're taking all of these digital marketing best practices and applying them to your events experience. Earlier you mentioned something that you're passionate about is giving back. Could you tell us a little bit about how LiveWorx is giving back?

DEVIN:

Giving back to us is a key component to our event strategy. We have an opportunity, we are a platform, we are a voice, we have a lot of attention from key individuals who are also consumers and human beings at the end of the day that we're all connected to and I feel very passionate in the fact that an event like LiveWorx needs to incorporate some philanthropic or some giveback opportunity. There are so many different issues that we face constantly in this world through inequity and pay, through climate change. There is just a slew of lists that go on and on and on and every single individual has a different passion project or viewpoint on that. At LiveWorx, we want to really make sure that people understand that the actions that they take can actually do good and reinforce what that impact can look like.

For example, we try to mix charity with action and I'll be specific. We offer a slew of different activities that people can actually embark on. So when you come into our show floor, which we call Xtropolis and this is the farthest thing from an exhibit hall, you are transported into a technology playground for adults.

Every square foot, every corner, every twist and turn, there is an experiential element that really is interactive, that invokes an emotional response, that lets you feel connected, that helps you meet the right people. As part of that, we create different gamification, we have different opportunities for our audience to better connect. The majority of these individuals are introverts, and I'm not going to go down a dark hole right now, but what I will say is it's really important that we create safeguards and allow them to network in a comfortable and relaxed and professional environment.

So one thing that we do, is we ... Again, leveraging gamification or what we call a passport to prizes. We allow individuals the scope throughout the show floor and based on their needs. So we're going back to personalization we'll actually help curate a custom walkway or journey throughout the exhibit hall and they're able to meet the right partners, the right founders. As a result of that, for every single exhibit that they go to and have an interaction or have a moment with and then they turn in those cards or vice versa, we will actually have a partnership with charities of their choice and we'll make donations on their behalf.

So we're incentivizing people to really get out and feel comfortable and have that face to face connection to guarantee they meet the right suppliers, or potential hires, or whatever that may look like depending on the purpose and the mission of why you're coming. For example, last year we partnered with a great organization called Smile Train. They do a lot of complimentary surgeries worldwide for different countries that are suffering from medical resources and not really having the amounts and the means necessary to provide medical care for children and elderly. Smile Train specifically focused on cleft palate surgery, so giving children an opportunity to really have a stronger and better, faster future and allowing them through our partnership with PTC. Now, PTC is also a leader in augmented reality and Smile Train uses augmented technology to actually help surgeons perform acts of surgery and actually create and better complete these surgeries.

BRANDON:

Wow.

DEVIN:

Which is again, amazing. It's such a feel good story and it really shows the power of technology. So not only are we reinforcing the impact of technology in a good perspective, but we're able to give back and at the same time also capture the attention of 7,000 individuals who have huge influence worldwide, who are making some of the most incredible products of our time, who have families, who have loved ones, and they can all relate to that. So now we're creating a common bond amongst every attendee walking our show floor and participating in LiveWorx. Again, I cannot tell you the impact we've seen as a result of that inclusion.

BRANDON:

I think that's really inspiring to hear. I think especially taking gamification and giving a little bit more value to it beyond just the typical trying to get points or something to incentivize somebody to do something, but someone's actions can have a real impact on this charity or other great causes that are out there. I think it's also a great example of having a two-way partnership with another organization. It's very cool to hear.

DEVIN:

Yeah, I would also just add too, we started the events industry and I've seen this trend, it's maybe been overplayed, if you will, this idea of rewards or prizes on site. You get a $50 gift card to Starbucks, you're entered to win a $5,000 drawing. People love a feel-good story and if they can make a difference in someone's life, that is much more meaningful than walking away with a $10 gift card.

BRANDON:

It's really great to hear about how you are investing in all these to effect a positive change beyond the event itself. I know one of the ways that you're doing that is by being extremely sensitive about diversity and inclusion. I know this is something that you've organized some initiatives around. Could you tell us more about some of the initiatives you've organized to create a more holistic conversation at LiveWorx?

DEVIN:

I want to first talk about the fact that I think we have an issue within our industry, especially in B2B tech events. The majority of events that I've participated in, that I've witnessed, that I've experienced, or even seen profiled online through different blogs or influencers, is we are constantly seeing an influx of the white Caucasian male, mid 30s, 40s and 50s. That does not represent the customer base or technologists worldwide for any company. We welcome all walks of life. We want every type of individual, regardless of education, regardless of where you live in the world, whatever your background is, that does not matter. What matters is there is a common connection point and that is for someone's willingness to come, to better themselves, to knowledge exchange, to learn something new, whether it's a new skillset, whether make a new network or a connection, whether it's sourcing a new product or a resource that's going to better help them in their daily lives or create better experiences for customers or employees back at the office.

So for LiveWorx, we recognized that we were part of that problem three years ago. For us, it was really important to kickstart an internal, as well as external initiative, where we wanted to hold ourselves accountable to do a better job of recruiting a diverse first and foremost presenter community. So for us, we welcome over five to 600 thought leaders worldwide every single year at LiveWorx. We have a huge, very robust content program at this organization and at the conference and we wanted to make sure that we were doing more active sourcing, we were talking to more organizations. One big step was creating more partnerships worldwide with third party organizations, with nonprofits. This is everything from the National Association of Engineers, of Women in STEM, of Lesbians in Tech. There are so many different organizations out there that are giving a voice to incredible technologists and people who are making a difference every single day.

So we wanted to make sure we could tap into that and better populate, not only on the presenter stage, but making sure that we start to now recruit other people to walk the hallways and participate as an attendee. I will never forget, three years ago talking to an incredible woman at an aerospace company who was extremely successful, a high level executive, and she said to me, "When I go to an event I want to walk in and I want to see someone on a stage that I can connect to, not only their story, not only the content that they are sharing or the tips and tricks, whatever it may be, I want to connect with them on a personal level, whether it was a story they share, the background in which they were reared, the education, whatever that may be and if I go to an event where every single person walking on that stage is male, if I go to an event where every single person walking on that stage is Caucasian, I'm going to have a problem with that and that is not an event I'm going to invest in."

So from a business perspective, which is not the driving force behind that, it is really important that events right now keep up with this trend and really take a stance to avoid being part of the problem, but making a difference. There are plenty of opportunities and ways in which we can do that. Again, with digital really breaking down barriers, it is so much easier nowadays to get into someone's mind, to enter into their inbox, to forge a connection, to introduce our event and our program and what we have to offer. So I urge everyone listening, please think about ways in which you can better do that even before the event even takes place. Once you're on site, it's everything from creating gender neutral bathrooms, to lounges that have a conversation and dialogue around different topics. We actually curated an entire pop-up last year all around different topics facing inclusion and diversity within a workforce. How ...

Topics facing inclusion and diversity within a workforce, how it impacts teams, how it impacts product design, how people feel when that doesn't exist in an organization. We had resources and different organizations come out talking about different programs in place to help companies, so not only does LiveWorx want to make a change, but we're giving tools to individuals who can go back to their offices, and actually project, and recommend different programs, or workshops, or initiatives that will actually make a ripple effect throughout the entire technology landscape worldwide, and the B2B markets, and enterprise, and anyone else that you can think of that comes to our show.

BRANDON:

You're doing some really incredible work there, and I'd love to shift the conversation to you, and to your team, that making this possible. What sort of skillsets are you looking for when you are bringing on people to be a part of your team?

DEVIN:

I feel very blessed to work with an incredible team here at PTC. I made it my mission, and I think anyone who's leading an events program, one of your core disciplines, or core assignments is always making sure you're retaining, and hiring top talent. At PTC we call it really brains and passion, making sure you have both of those components successfully. I first and foremost look for someone who has a die hard events love, they eat, breathe and sleep events, they love the marketing, the complexity, they love solving complex problems, being creative.

But, with that being said, I also think again going back to your earlier questioning, and point around diversity and inclusion, I also want to make sure that we have different viewpoints coming to a table as an events team. Having a strong team helps with problem solving, but it also helps because each person brings a unique perspective to the event that can appeal to more guests, or help you find more creative solutions, and for us this also helps kind of making work a little bit lighter for us, a little bit less stressful, and I like constructive conflict. I like the fact that we will be in a room sometimes, and have a conversation, and not everyone agrees with each other, and we have to really bring and insert data into that conversation to come up with a resolution.

But, I think to your first point of the question is what do I look for in terms of skillsets? The future of work is a constant theme that I think we are hearing and echoing hallways of companies, of the streets of cities. Everyone is focused on what is the world going to look like, and how are we going to work as a team two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now. What I would say is I want to make sure that everyone coming on my team has an identity. I think it is very easy for people to kind of get looped in to say I'm on an events team, and anyone externally looking in appears, or assumes that we're all doing the same type of work. We're all logistics, we're all operations, we're all ordering food, or anything to that sort of trite task or assignment.

I think as many of your former guests on this show have validated it is anything but that. There are creative strategists, there's influencers, there's problem solvers, there's critical thinkers, there's developers, there's engineers, there's so many different types of people who make up an event team, and for us at PTC I've always found it to be true, again, going back to my first life lesson, which is, I have a very small but mighty team, so we have nine individuals that sit on the LiveWorx team. Each of them have their own true identity, so one person owns a discipline of operations, one owns creative thinking and solution marketing. The others work on sales enablement, attendee experience, which is a huge component, and obviously one of the biggest trends that everyone is focused on.

But, with all that being said, I don't want to be a hypocrite in the sense that it's not just about the individual identity, it's also about us organizing scrum teams and agile. For us, we look at the big components of an event. For example, evening receptions, or the general session, the main stage with all the exciting keynotes, and what we do is we actually map what skill sets we need to pull off a project to that scale, so it's not by name, but we actually say we need a content writer, we need a web developer, we need a PR communications lead, we would need a sales enablement individual, whatever that looks like, and we will cluster major projects, and we will assign different people.

As much as people own their discipline, because again, they're experts in their own right, they also allow themselves to work in these different groups, and work on multiple facets of the event to ensure transparency, to ensure exposure to different types of components of the event, to make sure they're growing in their career, and they're obviously expanding their plethora of experience. A lot of that is really important for me personally, but I also think a trend going forward, and what I'm looking for in the future for additional hires is this notion of soft skills. That's a big component of the future of work which is we are going to be going away from task based orientation, and really high level agile projects where everyone's meeting daily, we're going to be making quick decisions, and complex decisions in a very short period of time is the expectation.

Things that I would look for, being very specific, and I would say maybe my top five if that works for you is, teamwork is number one, number two is analytical reasoning, critical thinking, number three would be really complex problem solving, four adaptability, and probably the fifth, and most important is someone who can make a decision. I think so many times I've seen in my career peers, and other colleagues who are very indecisive. That is suicide for me at an event. We have to keep making progression, we have to keep moving, and keeping the train on the tracks, and keeping to our timelines, but at the same time I don't want to avoid, or alienate the opportunity for brainstorming and collaboration.

BRANDON:

LiveWorx is huge. It's a huge event. It's really incredible to hear about all the different aspects of it that go together to make it happen, but when it comes to working with your team, what sort of processes are you putting in place to make this mammoth event more manageable?

DEVIN:

We've sort of break that down to three categories. Category one is face to face meetings and engagement. We are very sensitive to the amount and volume of meetings that we accept on the events team. As you can imagine working with multiple departments internally, working with a series of external partners, sponsors, presenters, et cetera, our calendars can be booked very quickly, and it sort of alienates any time for actual work to be completed. We have a rule where if we do not accept any meetings on Fridays, we also accept a rule where we only do a biweekly one-on-one with your manager, or the individual employee, and then, we also work collectively to do a weekly team meeting though, so sort of that scrum meeting, and that was a huge help in terms of just making sure everyone was on the same page.

The second category I want to talk about is technology, so this is where I talk about collaboration platforms. We use three softwares right now that sort of orchestrate and house all of our information. We keep all of our files, and sort of our top secret ideas inbox. We use Microsoft Teams as a new channel. That really on a technology perspective has helped us exponentially be just more efficient, faster, stronger, better, and then, I think the final component is really development, and much more feedback. We actually do quarterly reviews on our team as well as with the rest of the business. We check in with partners, with the vendors.

We actually created templatized feedback forms that allow us to digitally collect information, and make sure that we're not just doing one big feedback loop after our conference, but doing multiple touchpoints by a quarterly basis, and that has helped us actually steer in different directions, and make sure we don't go down a dark hole that is not going to render the greatest success at the conclusion of an event season.

BRANDON:

I think we started to talk about it a little bit there, but how would you describe your approach to training and managing your team?

DEVIN:

There is nothing more important as a manager than making sure you are supportive and investing in team members. I think that is probably my priority every single day working in the field that I'm in, making sure my team feels supported, and frankly they're given the tools, and the resources necessary to produce the best work possible, which in turn is going to execute the best event possible. Now, specifically, I would say one initiative that I have executed since 2018 is I actually at the beginning of every fiscal year, I award each team member a $5, 000 grant to use that funds to actually help them develop their careers.

And, that is everything from learning a new skillset to investing in a new software, approaching or attending a third party event that's in their field, or that they're just curious about in the industry to see how other individuals execute or perform that function or task. I cannot tell you how excited, and how much the team appreciates that from an autonomy perspective, and at the same time they're actually tangibly documenting that they're learning, and that they're growing. The beauty of that is when anyone actually goes through on the team one of those experiences, they are expected to come back, and actually present to their peers what they learned, so now there's a knowledge exchange, and now we're sort of magnifying what that investment has done.

BRANDON:

It's pretty much a university grant.

DEVIN:

Exactly, so I have members of my team who, these are core marketers, and they're going to learn how to code or develop. I have other individuals who are taking a course at MIT, and learning about the next generation of digital marketing, and what tools are going to be available three years from now that we should start planning for and testing.

For me, there is no better opportunity than putting the power into the employee, but also, making sure that I'm there as a support system, that I'm protective of my team, and making sure that I am also identifying countless opportunities within the organization to graduate just beyond what they're already doing, and allowing them to really blossom into the incredible experts that they are, and I promise you I would not be here today without all the incredible individuals I work with on a daily basis at PTC. It is everyone behind me that allows me to do what I do, and for that I am forever grateful.

BRANDON:

Among the other elements of the event that you orchestrate is design. You've described the main stage at this year's LiveWorx works as being a combination of Donkey Kong tech conference and Broadway. How did you come up with this idea in particular and, in general, could you tell us a little bit about your process for ideation and executing on those ideas?

DEVIN:

As an event professional, one thing I try to do every single year is really this idea of a pilgrimage of creativity, so at the start of every new event cycle I really encourage my team and myself to get out there, and really step away from the industry in which we operate in. We look for inspiration in every aspect of life, whether it is pop culture, whether it is fashion, whether it is art, whether it is design, and so many more different outlets, and we really try to figure out how in a consumer mindset we can translate that into a business, and technology conference practice.

Now, with that being said, our general session is something that we pride ourselves in. We make a very heavy investment in that, and is a staple component of LiveWorx annually. People come all over, and sometimes even just register to see what we will do for the stage design. Before I even comment on the one that you were just referencing, I would say one of my favorite moments at LiveWorx was actually in 2018 where we actually created a hundred foot runway, very similar to a fashion show, and as a result of that we had a partnership, and was able to source the robots that Lady Gaga was using on her tour.

BRANDON:

What?

DEVIN:

And, we were able to work with her stage hand and their manager, and they gave us, and granted access for the week of LiveWorx in 2018, and we strapped a series of robots on the exterior of our stage, and created one of the most incredible light shows you have ever seen in your life, and these are self automated robots. We had an entire replica of a factory floor, which is very indicative of what we offer, and talk about, and who we target coming to LiveWorx, so it was just a design unlike any other, even quoting the convention center who hosts events every single day in that space saying, "We have never seen anything like that."

We've really set the bar high, which I love, because I always want to outdo ourselves. I never want to compare ourselves to others, but I definitely want to challenge ourselves to better and improve every single year whether it's through the aesthetic, whether it's through the technology, whether it's through the opening experience, and the way we engage with our audience, and make them feel an emotional reaction. All of that is a key player, so back to your original question around general session being a combination of these various things, one of our staple brand guidelines is we have this sort of shard, futuristic 3D model shape that is a real impetus to LiveWorx.

And, it is a color, and it is a light, and it is energy, and it's really sort of a representation of all of the adjectives that we use to describe the conference. I wanted to make sure that from a heritage perspective we were not losing that in the design, and I really felt like by looking at all the different things of inspiration, video games are kind of making a comeback. Gaming is a really big component of life right now. I think that one way to really capture the audience's attention and emotion is by really connecting with their childhood, and resonating with what they used to do back in the day, so Donkey Kong is a very sort of classic '80s, '90s video game that many of us have played. I'm guessing you have played as well.

BRANDON:

Oh yeah.

DEVIN:

One of my favorites, and I love sort of the multi-layering of the platform, and the actual interface of the game. I said, why don't we actually take your boring 2D stage, and what if we multifaceted that by layering it up, and actually making it feel more like a set, and shout out to my general session producer. He actually comes from Broadway background, so he was even saying, "This feels a lot like Rent." And, I'm like, "Wow, let's actually have a Broadway component added to this."

We really focused on different spotlights, and different shift cams, and ways in which we could actually capture the audience, and even film that for the digital viewer online who was going to live stream, and try to experience what LiveWorx has to offer through our great keynotes and content. Last but not least, is with going back to this sort of heritage of shards, I said, I want to almost look at like this idea of exploding glass, and there was one moment in time where I remember holding up a piece of glass on a conference room table in our office, and I thought my team was going to, they were looking at me very puzzled, and very confused what we were doing, and we just dropped it on the table, and it shattered into a million pieces, and that was actually on purpose.

It was part of the creative process to say kind of how we work through our design aesthetic. I showed them what if we actually looked like the stage was designed only multilayer, but we had more than one or two or three screens. We had various screens in different shapes and sizes, and I'm telling you when we rolled that out, and unveiled that this year it was a reaction that I've never seen before from our attendees. They were blown away. The amount of social sharing, the amount of implications on the brand, and the awareness, and the global drive that we received as a result of that, that's invaluable. You cannot pay for that amount of exposure.

I think pushing ourselves to that level of creativity is going to continue setting us apart from competition, and as well as from other events out there in the marketplace.

BRANDON:

Talk about experience. I think that's about time for us today. If any of our listeners want to either get in touch with you to learn more about your approach to events, and how you're thinking about them, or to learn more about the cool stuff that PTC is up to, how could they contact you?

DEVIN:

Definitely follow me on Twitter. Give me a shout out on Twitter, and connect with me digitally. So DevCleary is my handle. Also, Dev Cleary on LinkedIn as well. I have a huge and very avid network. I love to share, and curate, and post content, so any enthusiasts out there connect with me. Let's have a conversation, let's grab a coffee if you're local. I love and really embrace meeting new and fresh faces every single day. I welcome the opportunity, and hope to connect with you soon.

BRANDON:

Awesome. Thank you so much, Dev.

DEVIN:

Thank you, Brandon. Really appreciate it. It was awesome.