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37 | Kyle Suzuki, Qualtrics: From the Gaming Industry to B2B Marketing

  • October 28, 2020
  • 43:47

Kyle Suzuki (Head of XM Events, Qualtrics) shares his journey from building passionate communities of gamers to building passionate communities of corporate professionals and what these audiences share in common. He also shares his thoughts on finding your passions and the 5-year plan, the value in turning virtual events into campaigns, and how he and his team have been adjusting to the new skills and circumstances of 2020.

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Top Takeaways

1

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION: When the 2008 recession hit Kyle lost his job at one of the largest banks in the world. His mentor helped him realize that his love for gaming as well as his skillset could translate into an experiential marketing career in the gaming industry. Kyle told himself: "This is my five-year plan to get to that dream job...I need to become more of a strategic marketer.” His five-year strategy was so successful, it only took him two and a half years to land his dream job. After finding a way to turn his own passion into a career, Kyle’s most important piece of advice is, “Don't pick a job because strategically it makes sense, or it makes the most sense on your resume. Try to find something you're passionate about."

2

REPLACING ONE-OFF EVENTS WITH VIRTUAL CAMPAIGNS: After shifting one of their largest events to a digital experience, Kyle saw an opportunity to create an entire campaign that the marketing team could build off of, rather than just one event. “Instead of trying to push out a lot of small digital events, taking the time to be strategic and impactful with one bigger event has driven great results for us. And that really means, thinking about video production, bringing in the right speakers, building a proper demand gen plan. And then having, again, not a one-off moment, but a campaign as a starting point, a rallying point.”

3

TEAMWORK, EMPTAHY, AND TAKING TIME TO RECHARGE: Because his company values work-life balance, Kyle and his team have been able to create an environment focused on support and dedication, which allows everyone to do their best work. “I think one of the things that's been helpful is our company is really focused and our leadership is really focused on this idea of empathy. It may sound kind of funny, but really understanding each individual, the personal challenges, asking the right questions, having the right conversation about the anxiety, mental health issues they might be facing in their personal life, because we're all going through a lot right now.”

ABOUT Kyle Suzuki

Kyle oversees the event team creating the flagship XM category building brand moments for Qualtrics. This includes the annual X4: Experience Management Summit and most recently a virtual event, WorkDifferent, showcasing how iconic brands are taking action to move forward.  Before joining Qualtrics, Kyle spent over 8 years in consumer entertainment product marketing for Xbox. Kyle brought his passion for creative, experiential activation and entertainment marketing, honed from years working in gaming, to the B2B space.

Episode Transcript

BRANDON:

Welcome Kyle to the show. We're so glad to have you today.

KYLE:

Thanks for having me, Brandon, really excited to be here and excited to chat.

BRANDON:

We're going to talk a lot about your experience in events and marketing and your time at X4 and Qualtrics. But before we go down that road, I wanted to talk to you about video games. Now, I know you did some. You worked in a professional capacity on Xbox over at Microsoft for some time, I own an Xbox. And I'm really curious to hear, what is one of your earliest memories of video games?

KYLE:

Yeah. I think one of my earliest memories of video games, and this is probably common for a lot of gamers who grew up kind of the '80s and '90s was Christmas morning, waking up to a present under the Christmas tree and opening it up. And it was a Nintendo, my NES and playing Duck Hunt and Super Mario brothers. And I think we're always trying to get back to that high, that energy, that excitement of Christmas morning and opening up your first video game system. And that was a clear memory for me and what kind of guided me towards continuing to play games, and one day, a career in games.

KYLE:

And now I have two kids of my own, two young daughters and my daughters all summer, have been saving money, selling lemonade, doing chores. And also my youngest has her birthday, so we bought them a Nintendo switch. And they had that moment, me and my wife have now, on video of them opening up their Nintendo freaking out, and we'll always have that memory. And that was, again, kind of the connection between my first memory of games and now being able to share that with my daughters has been a lot of fun.

BRANDON:

Oh, wow. That sounds really special. I could totally relate that feeling, on that Christmas morning, just waking up, "What is it?" On the one hand, it seems like great marketing material for a Nintendo or what have you, but it's so true. It's so true.

KYLE:

Absolutely. There's all these videos on YouTube of kids across the years opening up their Nintendo. But obviously I love Xbox, I worked for Xbox for a long time. I love Xbox and Nintendo, but for me, my first memory before Xbox existed was my NES.

BRANDON:

All right, shout out Nintendo, shout out Xbox.

KYLE:

Yeah, exactly.

BRANDON:

Let's dive into it a little bit more then. I know you have a really unique background that combines this marketing experience from the financial sector, the agency side, as you kind of alluded to you've led Xbox's product marketing initiatives at Microsoft. And of course today you're leading X4 and events at Qualtrics. As you shared with me previously, it's been a long journey with a through line of community building at its core. So could you walk us through you some of the steps of your career and how they led to where you are today?

KYLE:

I started my career, like you mentioned, working for a large national bank and, it was my first job right out of college. I was joining the marketing team, I had no idea that marketing was as broad as it was. And I joined a team that focused on experiential marketing. And I was like, "I don't know what this is." But I quickly learned, I loved it. We were creating experiential moments with customers, with communities, with the bank. And my team specifically focused on multicultural sponsorships that we ran across the country. We did Pride events, we did Chinese New Year events, community events. And I just loved the ideation and creation of these programs. But also this was in 2007 and it was the beginning of the recession. And my wife used to joke like, "Hey Kyle had the steady job at the bank." And that steady job was also the bank I worked for was the largest bank to ever fail.

KYLE:

And when I lost my job, it was also a time where I could reevaluate what are my passions, what I want to do? And that was kind of the silver lining of losing my job was I could pivot my career, even though it was very early on. Which is very similar to probably what a lot of people are going through in 2020 right now too.

BRANDON:

Yeah.

KYLE:

With everything that's going on. But at that time I had a mentor who asked me, like, "What are you passionate about? What do you want to do?" And we just kind of talked about a lot of things. She's like, "It sounds like you love gaming and maybe you should go work at Xbox." And I was like, "You can work in video games? That sounds amazing." Young kid out of college, and a little bit of experience. And at the time, as a coincidence, my manager at the bank, her husband worked in partner marketing at Xbox.

KYLE:

And all I knew was you played a lot of video games. You got to go to the Super Bowl, you got to go to the NFL Draft. It was all for work. And I was like, "That's my dream job. I have to have that job." So being a planner, I'm like, "All right, I have five years. This is my five-year plan to get to that dream job. I need Microsoft experience, and gaming experience. I need to become more of a strategic marketer." And I kind of went on that path. And what that took me down was I then joined an agency, worked for an agency and experiential marketing that agency focused on sponsorships and events and partnerships. And the client was Xbox, so sort of my foot in the door into gaming and Microsoft, but it was because of my experiential background that I was able to go do that.

KYLE:

And I loved working on the agency side, behind the scenes, going from client to agency, building programs, building product launch moments for Xbox and their games. Going in, pitching them, executing them, it was an awesome experience. And through that, there was someone who I'd built a relationship with and kind of saw, I think, similarities in my career and their career. And they say just like, "Hey, would you be interested in applying for a job at Xbox?" And I was low on the totem pole on the agency side as an account executive, I'm like, "I'm not qualified, I'm not ready yet." But that person kind of gave me the confidence to say, when a job did open, "Hey, actually it doesn't hurt. I'm interested in this job." And it ended up being in that position, they needed someone with experiential background and it worked out. I went from the agency to the client and I became the client on Xbox.

KYLE:

And the new role I was in was product marketing, it was partner marketing. And I worked specifically with EA sports, who does Madden, FIFA, but EA does a lot of different video games. But they needed someone who had that experiential lifestyle marketing background, because that's a lot of what EA did. And I remember being in the job, I got to go to the Super Bowl and I got to go to the NFL Draft. And I talked to my partners and said, "This was like my dream."

BRANDON:

You got there.

KYLE:

It was my dream. It was going to take me five years. And the only thing that was different was, and ended up taking about two and a half years. And the weird thing was my manager at the bank, her husband, who was in this dream job at Xbox, I ended up being the one to replace him. And I was in the exact same job that he was in those two years later. And it was just kind of my dream come true. And that was the beginning of my career, my stint at Xbox. I worked there for eight years in product marketing, launched a lot of games.

BRANDON:

Big titles that come to mind?

KYLE:

Yeah. We worked on some great things like Titanfall, that was the launch of Xbox one and Gears of War 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider, just a lot of really fun titles, both from partner marketing side to kind of running my own marketing campaigns. And throughout that time at Xbox, what I found was even though I was in product marketing, I really leaned in on experiential, building those activations with the gaming community at conferences, at events. Trying to do things in different ways and bringing my game to life and creating that connection. So that was kind of what I leaned into.

KYLE:

And then ultimately, where we are today was after those eight years, someone from Qualtrics reached out to me hiring manager. And I honestly hadn't really heard a lot about Qualtrics, but after that one phone call, I was convinced. Because one, he was just so passionate and excited, but also he was passionate and excited about the company, the growth of the company, the opportunity. And I remember stopping him and asking him, when we were on this phone call, "Why you're there, make sense why this company is exciting, makes sense, but why me? I don't have any B2B experience on consumer entertainment marketing. I've worked on video games."

KYLE:

And he said, "Honestly" and that's what I love about him and we still have a good relationship, he was like, "We suck at launching products, we're horrible at it. And when we launch a product, we send out a press release, we update a.com webpage, but we have aspirations to be big and to be bold. And we want someone who has that experience in gaming, doing the biggest launches, doing awesome, exciting things, to bring that over here, to Qualtrics." And thinking through like the cycle of where my career started, specifically in experiential to going to product marketing, to have the opportunity to go back to full-time experiential. They create a role, I could make an impact, I could ideate, bring things to life and everything I knew at the time about Qualtrics, was they went big, they were bold. X4 was something I'd heard of, and when I learned more about that, all the reasons why it was the right next step for me. And I've been here a little over two years now and it's been a dream come true.

BRANDON:

That's amazing. One of the things you mentioned there was that your gaming experience, your experience in the gaming industry stood out to this otherwise very B2B organization. And in my conversations with other event and marketing leaders, that's something that's come up quite a bit, especially now that we're in this virtual world. It seems like there's quite a bit of interest in looking to the gaming sector. From your perspective, why do you think that is? And I'd also love to learn a little bit more about how you sort of put this experience into action at Qualtrics?

KYLE:

Well, the gaming industry is super interesting because I think historically people thought of gamers as, live in the basement and kind of, they're nerds and everyone games, everyone games. And what people care about right now are engaged audiences and communities, people who care, who are passionate, who aren't going to engage once a month, once a year, like every day, they're going to be online and engaging with your product and with your platform. And that's what gaming provides. And that again, they've been virtually gaming, creating virtual communities and platforms for a very long time. And now that we're moving to everyone going virtual, everyone's kind of looking to gaming. And I know from friends in the industry, this has been a great time for gaming. Everyone's at home and they're looking for entertainment and they can't travel and they can't go out of the house.

KYLE:

So they're playing games. But one of the things that is unique about gaming is their audience is just so passionate. They're so passionate and you need to be authentic with them and you need to get them excited and you need to surprise them. And that was kind of the approach that I wanted to bring to Qualtrics is, we need to be authentic, we need to be strategic and we need to surprise people. We needed to try to do things differently in order to stand out, when we're showing up at an event, when we're going to try to cut through the clutter, we want people to pay attention to us. We've got to be bold, We've got to try things differently. And gaming has always done that because it's so competitive and honestly, people may not think of this, but there are world-class marketers in gaming and it's a tough industry to get into, but it's super creative and the people are very passionate. And to be able to take that over into the B2B space, I think has been an advantage to me and has helped me add value to Qualtrics as an organization.

BRANDON:

So you were hired by Qualtrics bringing this experience to the table. What did it look like when you started bringing this different approach of, working with a mostly virtual, super passionate audience and translating it to somebody who's working, who's sitting in front of a computer and using Qualtrics software?

KYLE:

I think at the end of the day, no matter what your profession is, everyone has their own passions, has the same things that excite them. So it didn't need to be like, "Oh well, I'm talking to a gamer to, I'm talking to the chief experience officer." The things that I think get them both excited, still translate. And when we were thinking about launching products, doing things differently at Qualtrics, a lot of ideas still translate over. It's like, "Oh, this is an idea that has worked before. We can bring it to a Qualtrics related event and bring it to life." So I can give any example of that. One of the first projects I worked on at Qualtrics, the product leader came to me and said, "Hey, we're going to launch a new product. And it's really specific to expert design and speed." Like, "Okay expert design and speed."

KYLE:

"And we're going to go launch it at this marketing research event. And we want to go big and bold and just take over this event." And I'm imagining, I've never been to a marketing research event, I have now, but at the time like, hey, it's probably a row of sponsors, six foot tables, tablecloths, stress ball relievers, a free pen. So we could go take over this event. So expert design speed, you want to stand out. Qualtrics goes big and bold, ideated through a few things, when we landed on were sports cars, expert design speed, and it's getting loud. And we have an awesome in-house creative team. We did Qualtrics branded vinyl, professional wrap sports cars.

KYLE:

We had two Ferraris, we had one in the booth. We had one outside, a Porsche, a Lamborghini, and basically anyone who took a product demo was able to sign up to get a free ride around Scottsdale. We had professional drivers and people just loved it because a lot of people had never been in a Lamborghini before or Ferrari, and they got a photo with the car afterwards and we just took over the event. So that was again, would you see that in gaming? Yeah, probably, but people loved it and they didn't need to be a car enthusiast. They just were surprised by it and had fun. So that was kind of an example of something that we brought to life. That was a really fun project.

BRANDON:

Really tapping into that childlike joy of getting to ride in a really freaking cool car.

KYLE:

Yes, exactly.

BRANDON:

Cool. So you were kind of in this role for some time or you're assisting with different experiential campaigns and different projects. But eventually you ended up spearheading X4, which really was the first large B2B conference that you oversaw. What was that like, hopping into this role? And what were some of your biggest takeaways from owning this flagship event?

KYLE:

Luckily, my first year at Qualtrics, I was able to work on a few big projects at X4 and own a component of it. Really get my feet wet, understand the event before the second year where they're like, "Hey, we want you to go and take on this big event." And a handful of things that I learned, but also approaches I took the first was, just sitting down and meeting with everyone on the team, because up until recently, we didn't have a dedicated X4 team, it was just me. But everyone kind of leaned in everyone pitched in to pull off X4. So I made sure to sit down, meet with everyone, learn about what's worked well, that we can build upon, what are the things that consistently people were saying, "This isn't working, we need to fix it." And then the other thing I kept in an eye out for was any time that something felt a little off, that people said the magic words, "But we always do it this way."

KYLE:

That raised a red flag for me saying, "Oh, hey, we might need to reevaluate that, because it's okay to try things different and it's okay to go take a different path." So that was one of the things that was really important to me, just sitting down learning, building allies and building partners, because we need everyone to pitch in to pull off this big event. But a couple of other things too, I think a big one was prioritizing my requests, coming in new and like, "Hey, here's a whole laundry list of things I need." But figuring out like, well, what's the most important, impactful thing that I can go and ask for? And one of the things that I really thought through was our event has evolved. We went from 500 people to what was planned for 14,000 people this last year. And one of the things I identified as like, "Hey, we need to bring in more marketing expertise and resources."

KYLE:

So again, we do a lot of in-house planning execution, and I brought in a really awesome marketing agency, event agency to partner with us and it was the right call. And it was of all the things I could do, that was kind of the primary thing that I prioritized. I think a couple last things, one is, I really focused in on the budget upfront. People want to throw out ideas and what can we do? And it's like, how much money do we have? And that means setting ticket pricing, discounting, like figuring out all of those things, because I joke, more money, more problems, but sometimes more money, less problems with events. So knowing what our budget was and what we had to work with really helped us then dream big as a starting point from there. And then, the last thing was we created this review processes like review, review, review, review, because what's awesome about Qualtrics is we have just the super creative CMO and head of creative.

KYLE:

And the two of them are awesome partners. They built this event from scratch, from when it was 500 people to where it is now, but over time, our organization's grown, their responsibilities have grown. They can't be as deep in the weeds. So I needed to prioritize what are the most impactful things that we can get in for them to react to, review. They just see experience and design just differently than anyone I've worked with before. So for me, it was really important to build this process where they could review, they could give feedback, they could improve, but then not need to be into the deep weeds of everyday planning. And the outcome from that was really good. And that was something that we identified, we really thought went well this last year. And we want to continue into the future.

BRANDON:

That's super interesting to hear, from the prioritization of requests to, meeting with all the stakeholders and hearing, but we always did it this way, whenever that comes up to hammering out that budget and getting an idea of that and to working with leadership and being aligned with them. I think that's really helpful to hear, and whether somebody's taking ownership of a giant flagship event like X4 or, if they're launching a new virtual program or as we move into 2021 experimenting with different virtual programs or hybrid programs, it could be helpful to keep in mind. Which brings us to today, like other organizations producing events around the world, you and your team were left with no choice, but to cancel X4 amid the pandemic.

BRANDON:

So within eight weeks you were able to produce an alternative virtual experience, WorkDifferent. It's a virtual series that covers how organizations in every industry are identifying emerging experiences and are responding to them. And I know you initially set a goal of 10,000 registrations and ended up driving 30,000 registrations and counting. I mean, that's huge, you're planning for this large in person experience and then having to turn on a dime to virtual and having such success. Could you briefly walk us through the launch of the WorkDifferent series from ideation to programming?

KYLE:

When this all kind of came up late spring, early summer, honestly, our team was still to a certain extent licking our wounds. We canceled and delayed the event a week before the event was going to take place. So we were still in this process of closing out contracts, trying to maintain relationships, close things out. And that's when this event idea came to life around WorkDifferent, and what was different though, was instead of me taking it on by myself for the first time, we had a dedicated kind of big company moment team. And it was something that we could all work on together because in the past a lot of the things we've never done before, we didn't have a playbook to go create. Those are kind of special projects, like, "Kyle, go figure this out." And now I have a special projects team to go do those things. And this idea of WorkDifferent around highlighting the world's leading brands and how they're taking action today to pivot their business in reaction to the pandemic and racial inequality.

KYLE:

That's something that I think a lot of customers, a lot of brands were interested in learning about, which was why making it timely and turning it around so quickly was so important. It's not, "Hey, wouldn't it be nice if we planned this event and we had six to eight months?" It's like, "No, no, we need to turn this around fast." And we've done a lot of webinars and product specific and audience specific webinars, but we had never done a truly global, all company virtual event. So with that in mind, we were sort of building the runway as we were going towards launch because we needed to just get everyone together and really focus in on pulling this together and really proud of the outcome we had an awesome event.

KYLE:

Was it perfect? No. Is there room for improvement? Yeah, absolutely. But with the time we had available, I think it was a great experience for our attendees. And it was really focused on just trying to pull together the best stories. We focused on our video production quality too, to make sure that people felt, "Wow, this is thoughtful, detailed, high quality." I think all of those things really led to the success of the event.

BRANDON:

Right. And I mean to speak briefly on some of the speakers, I mean, we're talking Tony Hawk, Omar Johnson, the business leader, folks from the NBA, the United States census. So I mean really a bunch of different leaders from different industries, like you said, and also not all in one day. It was the approach to distributing the programming was over the course of weeks?

KYLE:

Yeah. So our WorkDifferent event, it's a campaign. It wasn't a one and done event where we're like, "Hey, we're going to do this one thing, and walk away." WorkDifferent is a strategic, cohesive campaign that the August 12th event, which we've kind of started talking about was the kickoff to that campaign. Where we're going to have regular content, we have new speakers, every month kind of running through the end of the year. And I think that was a key lesson for us too. It's like, "Let's not just do one thing and walk away. Let's build something that the rest of marketing can kind of align around." Because we have a strong idea when we saw registration go to 30,000, we're like, "This is resonating. This is something people are interested in." And being able to get the whole marketing organization to align around that theme, and this concept of how companies are working differently was powerful and something that we wanted to continue.

BRANDON:

Very cool. Well, clearly you're doing something right with the success you're seeing there. I mean, what do you credit with how quickly you were able to make this adaptation trying to avoid the pivot word and with the success you've had from registrations?

KYLE:

Yeah. I think the main thing, the primary factor is having a dedicated team and just an awesome, dedicated team. Like I had mentioned, we've never really had a team focused on X4. And this was a year where we finally were able to form a team to focus on the future of X4 and to take on big company moments like, WorkDifferent. And I was really lucky because I almost felt like I kind of hand selected some of these people that have now joined my team. They all raised their hand and said, "I want to jump in. I'm excited to work on big, awesome things." And that's gone really well because then now, all of us together take this on. The other thing, probably a common theme is prioritization. WorkDifferent wasn't a replacement of X4.

KYLE:

WorkDifferent was like a timely topic and event we wanted to pull off, but do we want to make it interactive? Do we want to make it like an unexpected experience? Do we want to make it big and bold in the way of X4? Absolutely. But most importantly, we needed to get it done in eight weeks. We wanted to focus on the customer story, so we prioritize customer stories and the attendee experience. So with that, it was able to really focus in on what we needed to do to hit these dates. And again, like you mentioned, we had awesome speakers. We have Bernie Brown, we had Omar Johnson, Tony Hawk, and then the NBA was a big one having the chief diversity officer from the NBA lined up for the event, knowing that the season started end of July. So with this event, in August it was very timely. People were interested and like, "What's going on with NBA?"

KYLE:

And then a big thing I have always have to give credit, this is similar to what I faced in gaming and awesome about Qualtrics is we have a super loyal and engaged base. They come to X4 every year, they're excited about X4. They tell their friends and their coworkers about everything Qualtrics is doing. And we saw that early on. As soon as we announced it, we had all these people sign up and were really excited to see and learn about WorkDifferent.

BRANDON:

Now that you have the events and this ongoing campaign. What are some of the biggest lessons that you personally are taking away from this virtual experience?

KYLE:

I think one of the biggest lessons, and we've talked about this as a team, instead of trying to push out a lot of small digital events, taking the time to be strategic and impactful with one bigger event has driven great results for us. And that really means, thinking about video production, bringing in the right speakers, building a proper demand gen plan. And then having, again, not a one-off moment, but a campaign as a starting point, a rallying point, which was August 12th. To then lead the rest of our activities to the end of the year, was a really good lesson for us because sometimes it can be easy to be like, "Hey, this product team or this experience, they have their goals and their things that they need to do." But bringing everyone together around one thing, we saw a lot greater results from that.

BRANDON:

Yeah, that's really interesting to hear, I mean, taking that campaign that drawn out approach, but also having one big event as a focal point. I know that, something you mentioned before this interview was on some of the challenges with creating virtual communities. Where do you see the real potential being there in connecting people on a global scale, for instance?

KYLE:

Yeah. I think there's a real potential with creating virtual communities because we can engage with a much larger audience than we could with a physical event like X4. X4 is our biggest thing, but now our scale is so much greater. And honestly, I think we can also engage at a deeper level too. The barrier to entry for participation is much lower, instead of buying a pass, taking time off from work and family, getting on an airplane from the comfort of your own home. And in a lot of cases like WorkDifferent, it's free and you can log on, you can participate. However, I do want to flag, there is probably a risk too, because there's something special about the in-person event, about the experience interactivity, the surprise and delight moments that you can do at scale. It's a lot easier for me to come up with amazing moments for 10,000 people in person than it is to figure out what's that unique, special thing for 10,000 people online.

KYLE:

So those are the things that we're thinking about as an organization. I'm sure the industry in general is, how do you create those unexpected personal moments at scale virtually? Because I think in smaller groups, we can do that, but at scale that's kind of where the challenge is. And again, there's pros and cons to the approach. What we're trying to solve for right now is what makes our physical events so special. How do we translate that to a virtual event as well?

BRANDON:

All right. So considering these virtual experiences, but also that value of in-person, how are you and your team thinking about the future? Caveating that with that, there's quite a bit of uncertainty still?

KYLE:

We're thinking through a lot of ideas around interactive experiences that we can bring to a digital virtual audience. We have some things in plans. I don't want to share all the details.

BRANDON:

Sure, sure.

KYLE:

Because I still want it to be a surprise in the right moment. But one example I can share of something we've done in the past that I think is an approach we could potentially bring again, is we did this about year and a half ago when we were acquired by SAP and wanted to announce the acquisition and the partnership of Qualtrics, which represented Xstate, experience data and SAP OData, operational data. When X and O came together. And the timing was right around Valentine's day. And instead of doing a digital campaign, we went old school and created just a really beautiful custom mailer it was this awesome box. And again, we have a really strong design team when you open this box automatically played a video of our two CEOs talking about the partnership and we had custom X and O chocolates in this box, it was a chocolate box.

KYLE:

And we shipped it to arrive the week of Valentine's day. And it kind of had the details of the tasting notes and different types of chocolate and also VIP pass to X4 and to SAPPHIRE, SAP's event.

BRANDON:

Oh, awesome.

KYLE:

And I think it was just an unexpected approach. And we were able to send this out to kind of our VIP prospects around the world. And we received an awesome response and had a lot of people who we had never been able to work with before come out to X4, and go to SAPPHIRE and want to learn more about Qualtrics and XM. So I think those are the types of experiences, my team is starting to think through. Around how we can do things differently and add some interactivity to our virtual events, maybe through the physical forum, like a mailer or whatever that might be.

BRANDON:

That sounds like a very cool campaign, combining a little bit of visual, a little bit of audio and some tasty chocolates.

KYLE:

Yes. Yes, everyone likes chocolate.

BRANDON:

I'd love to shift your perspectives on leadership and management, starting with your team. I know that gearing up for this year's in person X4, you hired some additional headcount. What do you think has been helpful in helping your team members adjust their processes and skills from getting ready for a big in person event to building this very novel virtual experience?

KYLE:

I think the first thing that me and my team have spent a lot of time thinking about is our mindset, our approach. And I think it still relates to both the physical X4 to a potential, virtual event. But even more so now to virtual events is having this entrepreneurial, small business mindset and understanding, we're not just planning food and beverage we're strategic business leaders, we're owners of an X4 our biggest business and brand moment for the company. So it's less about checking off our task and to-do list and really thinking through why are we doing the things we're doing and do we need to put more investment in time and budget and resources into specific aspects of this event to make it more impactful? So that's one thing just thinking through our mindset and our approach of events in general.

KYLE:

But I think the second thing that has helped us translate from physical to virtual is just matching up our skill sets, our strengths, our experiences on the team from physical, what we did for physical events to the virtual kind of translation of that program. So an example is, I have this awesome person on the team named Anna, and she's a keynote designer. She came from Apple, she worked on all of their big moments and presentations and she's like our secret weapon. And she works on all of our product keynotes, our exact keynotes and she kind of manages it from a producer standpoint. But also all the design and presentation work as well, going from physical to virtual, a lot of that process still is in place. There's obviously some changes in there, but it was very easy for us to take Anna, from the physical X4 and apply her to our virtual, WorkDifferent event. And still continue to run that process

BRANDON:

Prior to COVID-19 Qualtrics had a somewhat restricted work from home policy. Now with the pandemic, the company has embraced a work remote culture. What have you found to be helpful in working remotely with your team members and other company stakeholders?

KYLE:

We obviously, like most organizations have gone from a lot of in-person meetings, working in the office to we're all spread out, we're all virtual. And I think one of the things that's been helpful is our company is really focused and our leadership is really focused on this idea of empathy. It may sound kind of funny, but really understanding each individual, the personal challenges, asking the right questions, having the right conversation about the anxiety, mental health issues they might be facing in their personal life, because we're all going through a lot right now. And like I talked about earlier 2007 was a moment where I shifted my focus on what's important to me. And I think 2020 is that same thing for a lot of people as well. And people are thinking about, "What I want to do now, what I want to do five years from now, what do I want to be when I grow up?"

KYLE:

And a lot of it always comes back to aligning values, values of your team, your organization, your company, but also do people feel respected and feel valued themselves? So the company has done a really good job thinking more about that and having those conversations. Because one thing that I think is important to call out is, it's hard to get into Qualtrics. If you make it in you're experienced, you're hardworking, you're proactive, anyone who's here, I trust. They're going to get the job done. So it's important for them to feel like they have this balance between work and life and they feel valued and feel respected, because if they're motivated, they're going to do the work. So that's something that's been really important. And a specific example of a benefit that I've had available to me is something that SAP offers, it's called crisis leave. And we have 10 days that we can take off as it relates to how you've been impacted by COVID.

KYLE:

And for me, it's my daughter and she's in elementary school, virtual schooling. So every Monday I'm taking Monday to be offline and to be online with her and to help her with school. And the only reason why I'm able to do that is because my team supports me and backs me and make sure that things can keep moving. And I want to do that for them in return when they need to take time off, when they need to go do the things that they need to do, we're all flexible, we all support each other. And it doesn't work if we're unable to do that. But that's been something that's been special about how Qualtrics and SAP, we've all been adjusting, maintaining the culture, caring about each other, having good conversation, but then having benefits like crisis leave to balance everything we're doing, working from home and also, virtual school and whatever that might be for everyone.

BRANDON:

What have been some highlights from those Monday sessions, so far?

KYLE:

One of the things is, pre COVID, my daughter would be really happy if maybe once a week, maybe every other week I dropped down to her school to have lunch with her. And sometimes I was able to do that, but it's really hard. It's really hard when you head in the office and finding time for that. And now we get to have lunch, all the time together, and it's really special and we can talk about school and, I can kind of take a break from work and that's been really nice.

BRANDON:

Amazing. All right. Well, who's someone you look up to in events, marketing or business in general?

KYLE:

I find inspiration, I look up ideas from a lot of different places. That's kind of, what's fun about what my team gets to do is I don't think there's one single source. We find inspiration ideas just everywhere. And for me, the gaming industry obviously is a place that I look to for just innovative, creative, really cool ideas. But also there's sports, there's fashion and a surprising area for me over the years has been my kids. What are the things that they find interesting and exciting because maybe that could translate into a really cool activation or idea.

KYLE:

And in the same way, I tell my team, "What are the things you enjoy? If you enjoy it, someone else might enjoy it too." And it doesn't need to have a perfect fit yet, but an idea or a program or something will come up where you're like, "Oh, I really liked that. Let's connect these two things and then bring them to life." And a couple examples of that were I did some card packs and the idea of the nostalgia of opening up cards and kind of remembering what that was, and the nostalgia that I did that for a video game.

BRANDON:

Yes. That's another great childhood memory.

KYLE:

Yes. A very good childhood memory. Another one was a coin operated cloud machine. I think everyone has interacted with one at some point in time, but then there's [crosstalk 00:36:12].

BRANDON:

That very frustrating childhood memory.

KYLE:

It is because you're like, "Ah, I'm not going to win something. And how much money do I want to spend?" So I brought that to an event for a video game. Everyone who played the demo, got a coin to operate it. And everyone was guaranteed a price. And we had all sorts of swag in there. We had the longest line at the event because everyone was like, "This is awesome, there's a coin operated machine here." So yeah, you can find ideas in a lot of different places, but an interesting one has been, what do my kids enjoy and thinking about like nostalgia, one of the things that I enjoyed as a kid, because adults can enjoy those things too.

BRANDON:

That's great to hear our different ways of looking outside of the typical day-to-day B2B world. My final question for you, Kyle, is if you could give an earlier version of yourself, one piece of advice, what would it be and why?

KYLE:

I think the main thing that's been helpful for me and that I would tell myself is, don't pick a job because strategically it makes sense, or it makes the most sense on your resume. Try to find something you're passionate about. But there's two things that in addition to being passionate about it, one, you need to be okay at it, have some skill in it and someone needs to want to pay you for that skill and that passion, ideally those things come together. But anytime I've picked a job because it's like, "Oh, this makes sense. I'm not really excited about the work, but strategically, this makes sense for my next step." I've hated that job, I've just hated it. And anytime I've been like, "I'm excited about doing that work." You put in the time, you put in the effort to hone that skill and to get better.

KYLE:

And that's kind of been the path that I've taken. And it's usually like, if I'm passionate about it, it's the fun job, the fun project, the next fun job. And that has been fun, that's kind of kept me excited about my career. And that's the thing that I wish I'd figured it out earlier, is just find the projects that you're passionate about. And that could be the people, it could be the work, could be the product, but whatever it is, make sure it's something you're excited about. And if you do that, you'll find success. You'll find success, whatever that might be.

BRANDON:

I love it. Kyle, it's been such a pleasure chatting with you about events, marketing, video games, Lamborghinis, nostalgia. It's been a real blast. How can our listeners keep up with Qualtrics, X4 and all the amazing work that you're doing?

KYLE:

Go check out Qualtrics.com/WorkDifferent. A lot of our content from this August event is on demand there and free and accessible for everyone. But also every month we're adding a new awesome speaker, more customers, more leaders who are talking about working differently to that site. So we're really excited to see how this evolves and the new content we have through the end of the year. And then 2021 is going to be really a big year for us as well as we have more to announce around upcoming events, the future of X4. But yeah, no, it's exciting. And a great starting point will be to check out our website for more.

BRANDON:

Thank you, Kyle.

KYLE:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

BRANDON:

That's it for this one. If you'd like to share some feedback for In-Person, or suggest a guest or topic for us to cover in future episodes, please drop us a line at in-person@bizzabo.com. If you found this episode to be helpful in any way, please leave us a five star rating on Apple Podcasts and follow us on your podcast platform of choice. Both of these actions can help other people find out about the show. You can also find full transcripts of the show along with key takeaways at in-personpodcast.com. Until next time, I'm Brandon Rafalson, this has been In-Person. And listen, did you hear that?