Sales Enablement PRO Awards 2022: Innovating Event Processes in a Changing World

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Congratulations to Sales Enablement PRO Award winner Kim Johnson and the Fastly team. Learn more about the Virtual Enablement award winning initiatives below.

Sydney Lee: I’m excited to announce the winner of the 2022 Sales Enablement PRO Member Award for Innovation on Virtual Enablement. Congratulations to Kimberly Johnson and the Fastly team. I’m excited to be here with Kim today as she shares how she led her team to be agile, innovate and execute flawless virtual and hybrid events in a changing world. Kim, I’d love for you to introduce yourself, your role and your organization.

Kimberly Johnson: Great. Thank you for having me Sydney, I’m happy to be here. My name is Kim Johnson and I work at Fastly. Fastly’s mission is to build a more secure, reliable and faster internet experience, and I am currently responsible for our revenue events, in-house events on our revenue side revenue organization.

SL: Again, thank you so much for being here today. I’d love to get started on the topic of the impact of your team’s efforts at your organization. And so to start off, how do you structure the events and experiences function of the enablement team to constantly innovate and change the world of events in the midst of uncertainty?

KJ: Yes. So when the world pivoted to virtual, like everyone, we didn’t know the impact that this would have on event space. We didn’t know if this was going to be a temporary situation or if events as a whole would be on hold until further notice. So we were really what we found initially was that the opportunity to engage with peers, like-minded professionals or even socialize in a really positive environment. This all had a huge impact on the way people felt engaged and connected and relay that sense of belonging within a company. So virtual events really took off and it gave people that same sense of belonging that they were looking for in the in-person event space.

SL: Absolutely. I love that. And next, what initiative was most impactful to the success of your virtual events this year? And what was the response to this initiative? And how has it changed the way events will be running moving forward?

KJ: Yes. So I’m actually a big believer in tying events to experiences, so sales tied to experiences. I also really believe that we’re not designing an event for everyone. When you’re designing an event for everyone, you’re designing an event for no one, kind of similar to products, right? You have a target audience in mind and that is the same as events. So one initiative that we did was we pre-recorded certain virtual events. This was a way to ensure that everything went smoothly. Of course, we were in a new virtual world and there’s all kinds of hiccups that can happen with technology. So what we really wanted to do was make sure that everyone globally received the same content and we had a chat going on whenever the sessions were streamed so that everyone had a shared experience. The feedback that we got was that people were really happy to engage and felt like they were attending next to someone else, a peer within their region. We also made all the presenters available live so that when you were streaming their content, you did have the opportunity to ask them questions, to engage with them. And this is a really unique way, whereas in person you may be seeing someone on stage, you can’t ask them questions in real time. You don’t always have time for that. So this was a really great way to have the presenters actually seeing the impact of their sessions in a waterfall chat feature in real time, and it had a really positive impact on how we streamed our virtual events in the past couple of years.

SL: Absolutely, that’s fantastic. And what was the biggest challenge your team faced and how did you overcome it?

KJ: So I should say the first the biggest challenge for me right now is that I am currently a team of one. I actually started out in the Sales Enablement space, leading our Sales Enablement Team at Fastly and then events was actually a component of this role. As you probably have seen with many other organizations, events really took off and it became a dedicated resource, and I become responsible for all events as part of our revenue organization. So that is definitely a challenge, just resources. But I don’t in any way do this alone. I rely heavily on our Enablement Team. We have a really incredible team of people. We have vendors, consultants that we use to help us put on really incredible events. So, I’m definitely not doing this alone. I would say another really big challenge is the uncertainty. When are we able to get together? What will the future events hold? And for us, we’ve seen that the hybrid event space, we weren’t sure if this was going to be something that would be temporary. Would this all change when normal life resumed? But this is something that we’ve actually had a lot of positive feedback on. People like the flexibility. Some people like the virtual component. It gives them freedom to drop in and have their same, keep their customer calls the same day. They don’t need to take time away to travel. Some people miss that, for sure. But what we’re finding is the hybrid event space is really something we want to continue to offer in the future, and it does resonate with a lot of different types of individuals. How different people like to experience events, it’s something that we can make this really inclusive for a lot of different types of people.

SL: That’s great. And to get into this next part of how enablement drives virtual programs in your organization for success, how do you measure the effectiveness and success of your team at Fastly?

KJ: So for us, we rely heavily on feedback. To start out we ask for feedback from every individual who attends our events after every event. We look through every single comment on my team that helps me, Enablement Team, our vendors. We take all of that very seriously, and we actually use that when we start planning our next series of events, our future events, we take all of that feedback and comb through it and really make sure that we’re understanding what people are saying and how do we apply that to just continue to improve each event? Another thing we look at is attendance. So, the events because they’re internal, we do ask for participation and attendance, but we like to see if there are other folks who want to join. We get a lot of requests to join an event that may be intended for one specific audience, and we get other folks that ask to be a part of that. So that is always a really positive moment experience for us when we have people that are asking to join our event. Another area is really just engagement. Do we see people asking questions? What are the comments? There’s always going to be an interactive component to our events, whether it’s virtual through a chat feature or if it’s in-person, you’re constantly networking and able to ask questions and talk to individuals. So, we really look at that engagement aspect to use that as a metric on how we’re performing and if this event is a success.

SL: I’d also love to know how do you align with enablement leaders and cross-functional teams to continue to innovate and evolve events in the hybrid world?

KJ: So, as I mentioned, I rely very heavily on our Enablement Team to work closely with. They are really unique in that they service all of the companies. So, we’re part of the revenue organization. But as you know, enablement touches every component of a company. So, we work really closely with other departments to engage with trainings, to understand the initiatives, the needs, the requests that come through from a lot of our teams that make up an organization. And so, I really rely on them to share what resonates. What are people asking about? What do you hear in the field? What topics do we want to cover? All of that helps us build and drive content and makes sure that we know what’s going to resonate and what’s really going to hit home to all of our attendees so that they’re engaging in the experience of the event and understanding that this event is made for me. This is made for my role. I’m supposed to be here.

SL: Absolutely. I love that. And how have you seen successful virtual positively impact organizational objectives?

KJ: I think the best way that virtual events have had a positive impact on organizational objectives, is really giving people the sense of belonging and not feeling like they’re forgotten. I think a lot of us found that when we switched to a virtual world, you lost that sense of engagement, and that sense of belonging within your company. And I know personally, I really missed out on just hearing what was going on in other departments, getting to connect with colleagues just in passing. I really felt that that had a huge impact on how I viewed my success at a company, how morale is spread out across the organization. So, for us, we have been able to secure guest speakers, motivational speakers who are inspiring to us and really help you think through how do I want to progress in my career? How can I have the biggest impact on my team? What motivates me? We’ve been able to secure really wonderful, incredible speakers who we normally wouldn’t have been able to have get in touch with us or who we normally wouldn’t have been able to have connected with Fastly just because we’re a global company and the outreach is not necessarily there when we have people spread out. So, a virtual environment has had a positive impact for us. We’ve been able to host an event that can reach a global audience.

SL: And so, as again, to this last part of key considerations for innovation in 2022, I’d first like to know what was your team’s biggest learning in the past year and how will this impact the team in 2022?

KJ: Yes, our biggest learning, I would say, was that we have to just continue to be flexible in this ever-changing environment. I’m sure you’ve seen this within your own organization and with some of your peers that things are changing. At some stages they were changing daily. So we wanted to just watch, be mindful of what is happening out in the world. We want to constantly be receptive to a global audience. So maybe what’s happening in the U.S. is entirely different than what’s happening in another part of the world, and we really want to be mindful of that. So, we’re constantly being flexible and monitoring, where can we see events going? And the goal is really to get people together to resume some sense of normalcy, whether that’s in-person or a hybrid event. We will always offer a virtual component for our events in the future, as I mentioned, but it’s really just being flexible in an ever-changing environment. And I think we have to share that with our attendees and audience so that they know that flexibility is also a component to being part of that journey for us. So, we’ve been really lucky. We have an incredible group of people that we get to work with and create events for, experiences for.

SL: Absolutely. I love that and to close off now that 2022 is in full swing. How are you planning for the upcoming year as we continue to face a mixture of virtual, in-person and hybrid work environments?

KJ: So we plan events so far in the future. This is one of the things that I think people don’t realize in the event space. We are talking about events as far as 2024. We’re always thinking forward, which I really love because it constantly gets my wheels spinning and thinking through unique ideas and how we can impress and engage our attendees in the future. So, I really like planning out and planning ahead for us. As I mentioned, we are going to have a hybrid component so that it’s accessible to everyone, no matter where you are in the world. We’re going to continue to have an opportunity to hopefully the in-person is our goal but have accessibility. So, that means potentially having a virtual streaming component where there might be closed captions for anyone who isn’t a native English speaker and is able to view the content the same way that someone else would. So that’s really important to us. We want to continue to be inclusive. So, if you have accessibility issues and need assistance when you’re on site, we want to make sure that you have everything that you need so that you can participate and be comfortable, and it’s an event that’s designed for you. So, hybrid is the future for us, and I think that is going to be the way that a lot of professionals manage and execute in the event space. I’ve even noticed myself just getting included in different conferences and different engagements. That’s been really helpful to be able to attend a lot of different types of events with a virtual component. But I will say that nothing beats being able to go somewhere in person and really connect with people in person. So that is always our goal in delivering and executing a really positive event.

SL: Absolutely. And that’s all the questions we have for today. Thank you so much, Kim for joining us and for sharing your expertise and congratulations again for being our 2022 Sales Enablement PRO Member Award winner.

KJ: Thank you, Sydney. Thank you so much for having me.

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