Episode 15

Should You Host A Live Virtual Event?

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  • Can virtual events be as engaging as in-person demonstrations?
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  • Are remote events worth the time and energy?
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  • What opportunities can a virtual event offer our sales team?

Get tips from our guest training expert, who successfully turned in-person demonstrations into live virtual events.

Make A Virtual Event Worth The Investment

As B2B marketers, our quest is to provide the sales team with new opportunities to meaningfully engage with prospects and customers. But is hosting your own live virtual event the best way to do that?

Our guest, Fred Andersky, will share how his company transformed traditional in-person demos into virtual events. The remote experiences attracted two years-worth of attendees and engaged both customers and prospects through live, interactive demonstrations.

Bendix Virtual Trucking Demo – Sept. 24, 2020 from Knorr-Bremse North America on Vimeo.

Bendix Virtual School Bus Demo – September 24, 2020 from Knorr-Bremse North America on Vimeo.

Highlights From This Episode:

  • Identifying the right content, location and timing for a live virtual event
  • Getting customers and prospects to sign up and attend
  • Keeping attendees engaged throughout your virtual event or demonstration
  • Making your live event run as smoothly as possible
  • Capturing content and turning it into emails, webinars, training and more
  • Turning a virtual event into a "win" for the sales team

Watch the Live Recording

Full Episode Transcript

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    Tessa Burg: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Leader Generation. Our guest today is Fred Andersky. Fred is the director of demos, sales and service training at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. We’ve been hearing a lot about what marketers should be doing with their trade show budgets. The success or lack of success in hosting virtual events or sponsoring virtual trade shows. And Fred is here today to give us an example and a case study of success of a virtual event that Bendix recently hosted. So we are so excited to have you today, Fred, thank you so much for being our guest.

    Fred Andersky: It’s great to be here, and if folks are looking for stuff to do with their budget, please send it to me. Catering for your needs. I can find all sorts of uses for it. Thank you.

    Tessa Burg: Yes. I’ll go ahead and say the same thing. We will gladly gladly take it. So this has been, you know, one of the biggest shifts since the pandemic started is the cancellation of trade shows. And I read a study from one of our, I guess, partner companies SalesRoads that over 51% of B2B companies have said that the lack of trade shows has hurt their business. Have you experienced that?

    Fred Andersky: Well, you know, in terms of trade shows, I’m not as big of a part of our marketing mix, but demos that we do. We do these live regional demos with trucks to show folks the technologies we have. And obviously just like a trade show, you’ve got state limits on how many people can attend. We do these all over the country, so you have travel issues. And basically it just gets down to the fact that we have, four or five people in a truck experiencing the demo. And that’s not exactly social distancing. So this type of live event when you talk about it from that standpoint, yeah. It has impacted our ability to get our message across to our customers as well as to show them how the technologies work.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah. So tell us a little bit about what Bendix does and what’s usually in these demos.

    Fred Andersky: So Bendix is part of the Knorr-Bremse Corporation and our area of expertise. You’ve probably heard the Bendix name before on the automotive side, we used to be one company we’re actually two separate companies now. We don’t do anything in automotive. Everything that we work on has to do with class six, seven and eight air braked vehicles. In other words, big trucks okay. Semi trucks, school buses, and motor coaches. And we develop technologies like collusion, mitigation, technology, stability control. We’ll end products like air disc, brake charging products and now steering as part of your group.

    Fred Andersky: But when you put all these things together they’re really designed to help drivers and fleets avoid crash situations. So a lot of folks have seen on cars these automated technologies, and in some cases folks talk about autonomous technologies. We’re not quite there in trucks yet but the automated technologies that you see on cars these are the types of technologies that we are at the forefront of in the commercial vehicle industry.

    Tessa Burg: Wow. That is fascinating. So I can imagine that doing demos to actually show these safety features is incredibly important.

    Fred Andersky: Well, when you think about it when you go buy a new car you like to go out and test drive it usually. I mean, I know a lot of new car things are happening where you can just buy it online, but I’m kind of old school. I’d like to get behind the wheel. Before I spend that kind of money. You can imagine the same type of thing with folks who are buying large trucks. They want to see how these technologies and also school buses and motor coaches. They want to see how these technologies work in the real world without having to find out the hard way out on the road. So by doing these live demos and we’re talking, large classic trucks or school buses weighing in at 65,000 pounds and doing maneuvers to show how these technologies can help fleet, help their drivers and even do some things with technician training as well. So we like to do these live. Obviously COVID’s made that a little bit difficult for us.

    Tessa Burg: Yes, it has. So in our first call, you told me a little bit about the concept being inspired by sports. Tell me how the idea for this virtual events where did it come from?

    Fred Andersky: Well, basically, we were taking a look at our demo schedule which we had to cancel. And I was thinking to myself how can we bring the excitement of a demo to folks without having concerns around all the safety with the COVID situation. I started thinking about actually football games which I guess is appropriate with the Super Bowl this weekend. But this was actually back in May. So I should have been thinking of baseball, but the analogy is the same, but I was thinking football games you know how you’ve got all this action going on. You got play by play and color commentators. You’ve got cameras that are covering all sorts of angles on the field. You’ve got live remote. You’ve got commercial breaks.

    Fred Andersky: And I started thinking, what if we did a demo, but did it like we would do a football game with the multiple cameras with the multiple talking points, multiple views and things like that. And so I put together the concept and ran it by our management. And, obviously like a lot of folks, we had money in our demo budget because we weren’t doing demos and said, why don’t we give this a shot? And everybody liked it. And so that’s what we did. We did a virtual demo.

    Fred Andersky: In fact, we actually did two virtual demos because we did one of our traditional truck demos. But since we had all this, high priced camera folks and drones and everything from that standpoint out there. Thought maybe we should do a second demo as well. And so we decided because school buses are now getting giving these technologies like stability control and collision mitigation put on them let’s do a school bus demo as well. And that’s what we did.

    Tessa Burg: That is great. I’ve really liked the use of two demos. And this just popped in my head a little concerning that school buses are just now getting those types of safety, stability features. I was like, what?

    Fred Andersky: Oh don’t worry Tessa, school buses are still the safest mode of transportation. In fact, one of the safety source says that taking… It’s safer to put your kids on a school bus going to school than it is actually driving them to the school. So school buses are safe already. We’re just helping them make them a little safer.

    Tessa Burg: Oh, that is good to know. So what were some of the fears and concerns that you got from your leadership team?

    Fred Andersky: Well, I think the fears and concerns got to, first of all while we’ve never done anything like this before, how are we going to do it? But when you really get down to it I think there were four basic concerns, safety, first of all, because we’re doing these live demos with trucks, and now we’re going to have all sorts of other resources camera people, producers, MCs. We’re going to have all sorts of more action happening is how do we make sure we do this safely? Budget of course is a concern because this is not a cheap endeavor. This probably cost probably about 10 times what a typical demo would cost us. Attendance. You’re going to put all these resources together. You’re going to spend all this money. What if nobody shows up. We feared that–

    Tessa Burg: That would the number one concern. Yes.

    Fred Andersky: That’s right. What if we had a party and nobody came to it and then quality. Okay. Because I’m sure everybody has gone to some type of webinars that just didn’t work that well the old handy cam or the GoPro just wasn’t quite delivering it. And so there was a concern of, are we good? Can we do this in a quality professional manner? So safety, budget, attendance and quality were really the big concerns that came down.

    Tessa Burg: So let’s talk about each of those one at a time starting with what I think a lot of people, a lot of marketers would be most concerned with making sure that your party looks popular. So what were some of the things that you did to get attendees there?

    Fred Andersky: So in terms of driving attendance I think this was really one of the big successes that we had. We worked with our communications department and we dedicated about a fifth of our budget to the idea of driving attendance. And our communication department did a couple of things that really worked out well.

    Fred Andersky: First of all we made invites, custom invite for our sales people. So we could use our salespeople to go out as we do with regular demos and invite folks to this demo. We also then did a lot of promotional type of work the obvious press releases, but we also worked with some of the major publications and did banner ads on different websites and things along those lines.

    Fred Andersky: We also have a good presence in terms of our social media. We have a Twitter feed, and we have a Facebook page and also a LinkedIn. We use those tools quite a bit too, to help make folks aware of the demo.

    Fred Andersky: And then one of the things that really helped out especially for the school bus demo is one of the publications that we working with STN was actually having the virtual demo going or not virtual demo, sorry. They were having the virtual convention going on the same time we were going to do our virtual demos. So they actually offered us to be part of their convention.

    Fred Andersky: And I think those things combined really do a great job of driving attendance or driving registrations. And then I think all that paid off on the day of the demos because we ended up blowing our estimates away. We were going to be quite frankly happy if we got 800 to a thousand for both. And we actually ended up having just about 3000 folks attend for both those demos.

    Tessa Burg: That is really impressive. And I will say when I watched the demo for the first time I was really blown away by the quality. And it looked like you did a great job of keeping everyone involved, safe. So tell me a little bit about how you address those two challenges.

    Fred Andersky: So, quality I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our video production house, Seanna Craft who we’ve used for years, a lot of our videos and production from that standpoint, their chairman Neil actually took this as his own project kind of, and between he and I we were able to develop a really strong plan and he brought in a good outside resource that handled, a lot of the things that we weren’t going to be capable of. They actually created a great registration site for us which I think also helped with our attendance as well because people could get the information they needed from the attendance site.

    Fred Andersky: And then Neil and his team along with the resource delivered a great camera positions, camera setups. And then we built a really strong plan and really had a good team within Bendix, from our marketing and sales VPs right down to the marketing managers, the communications department everybody working together, marketing directors all working together to be able to deliver that. And we, of course, to help ensure quality a couple of key things blocking out the entire demo. So we knew by the minute we had a good, a tight schedule of what was going to happen when for each of the demos.

    Fred Andersky: And then we also added as you saw things that make the demo a little bit different is that we actually, we brought in a great MC who hosted the event. And then we were able to bring subject matter experts on. Like the different directors and VPs that we had. And then for the demo itself to kind of make it exciting. We had a variety of camera angles as well as doing a pre-maneuver overview. So I would go to the whiteboard and draw out and you’ll forgive my artwork, but it was kind of fun. Draw out the maneuver, we then go do the maneuver. And then we would do an instant replay of the maneuver.

    Fred Andersky: So again, you see that football analogy kind of coming into play and it just as it all came together it just really came together quite well. And we got a lot of positive feedback from folks who attended at how professional this came across. So good team effort all the way around and a good planning effort all the way around.

    Tessa Burg: And that isn’t easy. I feel like one of the biggest reasons any live initiative fails is lack of planning or lack of coordination. So congratulations on pulling that off. That’s huge.

    Fred Andersky: Well in all full disclosure, Tessa there were some things that we probably could have done better. And one of them was scripting. I made the presumption and you know what happens when you make an assumption or presumption always bites you. So, but I had just presumed aye, this is going to be easy we’ll ask questions, people will answer.

    Fred Andersky: And so the weekend before we did kind of a dry run just like we’re doing virtually without the maneuvers just talking through on that Friday before the demo and realized that nobody knew what to say. And so over the weekend, as I mentioned I spent a fun-filled weekend, which my wife still feels. I owe her writing the script that we needed for both the demos. And that is something within us.

    Fred Andersky: Tessa to be honest, I wish we would have done weeks before. It was the right thing to do, because then it gave everybody including the MC, Hey these are what I’m going to say. And then everybody had time to take a look at it make some changes to it, but they have done before we even did our first practice session.

    Tessa Burg: Well, that is a really good learning to have and to share. And you’ve said a couple of other things that I think a lot of people may not have expected. One that really jumps out is you said the cost of the event was 10 times your normal demo budget.

    Fred Andersky: Yeah. What we would typically… Now, when I say that when you think of a demo, not the whole budget but when we do a regional demo, we rent a track we got to get the equipment out there. We do invites obviously. We put on this production, there’s rental things, there’s food, everything like that. So when I sit back and I look at doing a single demo. This single virtual demo was 10 times that cost.

    Tessa Burg: I think that is really important for people to hear that when you’re looking at how do we reallocate our trade show budget it may not be apples to apples. I might not just be able to say, well I’m going to take what I spent here and do it at a high quality high attended virtual events. That, I mean you really took a big risk with that level of investment and then taking a whole fifth of that budget and saying we’re going to dedicate that just to promotion. Was there any pushback on that level of investment and how did you respond to that pushback?

    Fred Andersky: Yeah, that’s it, you know, it’s a good point. And so folks kind of get a good context around this. Another way of looking at this is that this demo was about, about half of what my entire annual demo budget was. So for just one event, when we typically do eight to 10 plus a lot of smaller types of events, this one event was going to take a pretty big chunk of that budget.

    Fred Andersky: So first of all, and when you think of it in comparison to a trade show budget, it’s probably similar. This event was probably similar to what some folks may spend for a trade show. It’s a couple hundred thousand dollars right there and I know some folks have spend a lot more than that. Some may spend less, but, in a ballpark for what we were doing that’s about where it came into play.

    Fred Andersky: Now, the important thing in terms of that concern was we really kind of made a deal with management. We looked out and we didn’t think we were going to be able to do any more live demos in 2020. And so we did this demo in September. So we were, about three quarters of the way through the year. And so we had the money to be able to do that because we knew we weren’t going to spend it on any more demos or highly doubted it. And so management looked at it as well. We’re not doing, we’re not doing B so let’s do A, and we did it. And the value on that from doing that. And I think this is one of the key things, that one virtual demo delivered as much in attendance as we would see in a year and a half to two years of live demos.

    Fred Andersky: So when we talk about a return on investment for that money yeah. That you don’t get much better than, taking two years of budget. If you take those two years of demo attendees , figure two years of budget, this actually really paid for itself quickly.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah. And what a big Hail Mary pass to throw at the end of the year. Like I can’t believe you did it in September. That is…

    Fred Andersky: But if it was a flop, we may not be having this conversation.

    Tessa Burg: Yeah right. It was kind of pretty close.

    Fred Andersky: But I do give our management our senior management credit. They knew this was a risk and that it was a… That it could be a pretty good size risk for us but they also realized that this would be a great way to be able to get Bendix out there when we couldn’t be out there physically. And so my boss our VP of sales, his boss, our CEO, they were all on board in terms of supporting this. And you know we knew we were going to learn some lessons. Some of them may be harsh lessons, but everybody was on board and everybody did their part to really help deliver a stellar event.

    Tessa Burg: It was a stellar event. And I’m interested to hear a little bit about the attendee experience. So I sat back and watched the demo and was really impressed. But what about the people who watched it live? What was the experience like for them?

    Fred Andersky: It was terrific. We’ve heard a lot of very positive feedback because while you look at that, the recording of it it was done live, so the good, the great, the bad and the really ugly, were all part of that. So we sometimes we run pretty risky maneuvers, as you can see. And there was always that potential, like an auto race there was always that potential for, something maybe not working as well as it should have then you know, having a little fender bender or something. So we took some risk from that standpoint but I think that really helped folks really embrace the technology because they knew it was live.

    Fred Andersky: And some of the things we did with the experience was that we added in chat rooms. And so folks could ask questions live and we would spend time during as we were setting up for different maneuvers, going over those questions with folks. And I think that helped bring the audience into engage the audience even more. So they had a stake in it as well. And so if something looked a little odd somebody could ask the question and either one of our subject matter experts or they would send it out to me. I think also too we did stuff, we were talking in the truck, we were talking in the tent, talking about the subject matter experts were we kept a good flow going.

    Fred Andersky: And so, because the demo the truck demo was actually an hour and a half which was one of the areas. When you talk about concerns and productions that’s a pretty long time to keep the audience engaged. The school bus one was only an hour, but, because of the flow, because of the action, because of the stuff we were doing, I think it kept everybody engaged in the process.

    Tessa Burg: I would have never have guessed that an event that was an hour and a half would have that much interaction. That is again, very impressive. This has been a really interesting conversation. We’re going to take a quick break for our sponsors and we’ll be right back for more with Fred. All right. Well, we’re back and we’re talking with Fred Andersky. From Bendix.

    Fred Andersky: My mother-in-law doesn’t even call me Fran. Fred yes but not Fran.

    Tessa Burg: I don’t know why I thought Fran, he’s my neighbor. But Fred, one of the things that I find just most interesting is how long the event was and how you were able to kind of keep the conversation going with the attendees throughout that event. What was the followup like, did people come back to you with more questions or what are your plans for the content that you produce during that hour hour and a half?

    Fred Andersky: Well, Tessa, this is one of the real beauties of the event is that, it’s kind of the gift that keeps on giving. If you will, we’ve got all sorts of things planned in terms of additional use of the content. And we’ve actually made some use of that content.

    Fred Andersky: One of our OEMs does a virtual podcast similar to this and we actually used some of the maneuvers that we did on that podcast with them. And we’re able to talk through different things obviously showing their trucks, which is one of the things too I should touch on. We have multiple original equipment manufacturers OEMs we work with we made sure we had everybody’s truck shown in some type of new maneuver. So not everybody’s truck was through the whole thing, but everybody did get shown. And so then we’ve also been able to take that video and we’ve been also been able to split it up. So our sales reps have tools that they can use when they’re out doing sales, either showing the maneuver or showing the entire breadth of the maneuver from the preview to the maneuver itself to the post replay of it. So we’ve created some video content.

    Fred Andersky: Now we talked about the questions and quite frankly, we got so many questions in we were not able to answer them. So we’ve got plans to do follow up webinars if you will using, again, the footage from the maneuvers along with our subject matter experts in kind of a live meeting type of thing, where folks can, we can address the questions that they sent in and folks can ask new questions. And then we’ve got plans for using the content other ways. So like I said, the gift that keeps on giving that was the virtual demo for us.

    Tessa Burg: I really love that the questions kind of fueled a lot of the future uses because you’re getting direct insight around what your customers are actually curious about and it’s live. And then it’s follow-ups and it gives the sales teams reasons to contact them. They must love that.

    Fred Andersky: Yeah. And we did. For everybody that attended we sent them, thank you. A thank you email along with the link. So if they wanted to go back and see it, and there were, obviously some folks who maybe didn’t stay the entire time but wanted to be able to then check out some of the maneuvers they missed. So they had that opportunity to be able to do that. And we’ve actually got links to it. We’ve had links up on our bendix.com website as well as out on our Bendix commercial vehicles, YouTube sites. So folks can go out and see this and things.

    Fred Andersky: And so, like I said, the feedback had been really positive in terms of things now. So, but I think my favorite compliment was one of our teams happened to be talking with one of our competitors and the competitor actually sat back and said, your demo is great. Wish we would’ve thought of doing that. So when your competition gives you compliments you know it must’ve been a good thing.

    Tessa Burg: Yes. What awesome validation. So for everyone who wants to go check this demo out for themselves, it’s at bendix.com, or you can go on YouTube and search for Bendix if they just search Bendix or should it be like Bendix commercial lines

    Fred Andersky: Bendix commercial vehicles. We’ll get you get you to the site, the best place though. I think to find it is at bendix@www.bendix.com, because there’s a a box you can click right on either the truck or the school bus demo and get right to that. YouTube can sometimes be a little tricky to get through but you know, if you’re a YouTuber, go for it.

    Tessa Burg: Yes. I am not a YouTuber. I’m barely anything. Or I will just go to bendix.com myself as well. And if people have questions for you how can they reach you? Where can they find you?

    Fred Andersky: If anybody’s got any questions on anything, feel free to email me directly at frederick.andersky@bendix.com. Nobody calls me Frederick. So it’s one of those company things but it’s F-R-E-D-E-R-I-C-K dot A-N-D-E-R-S-K-Y@bendix.com.

    Tessa Burg: Excellent. And we’ll make sure that we include that both the link to the demo, and your contact information on our website, which is tenlow.com. Thank you so much again, Fred for taking time to talk to us about your virtual events. This, I think there’s a lot of good tools in here for other marketers to use for budgeting to the type of promotion and how to creatively engage the audience. We’re very excited to see what you guys do next.

    Fred Andersky: Thanks, Tessa. It was great to be here.

Fred Andersky

Director of Demos, Sales & Service Training at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC

Fred Andersky is a visionary leader with diverse hands-on experience in all facets of marketing.

Fred is a regular presenter, comfortable with all levels of management and media in global business settings. He’s a test and demonstration driver with an Ohio Class A Commercial Driver’s License, delivering technology demos and training sessions across North America.

Fred has also published numerous articles and white papers. Plus, he’s a regular contributor to the “Truck Talk with Bendix” podcast series.

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