Eva Talk

Keeping Up With Event Industry Trends Jen Salerno

There has been a remarkable transformation in the events industry in recent years, which has shaped and evolved the entire events landscape. In 2020, virtual events led the way and in 2021, hybrid events took the lead. 

With the growing popularity of hybrid formats, new technologies are making it easier to seamlessly combine virtual and in-person events than ever before. To reap the benefits of both in-person and virtual offerings, organizers must find a balance between one and the other. 

The ability to host both an in-person and a virtual conference allows for maximizing revenues, increasing audiences, and sustainability. With hybrid venues, companies that have cut travel budgets can still attend in-person events while saving money on travel expenses. As a result, the majority of marketers are reporting dramatic increases in attendance and revenue.

According to Harvard Business Review, 58% of corporate sponsors support hybrid events, and 64% support virtual events. The events industry is evolving as organizers learn new strategies and use them. An industry-wide shift from the event-centric model to the attendee-centric model is underway.

As part of the event experts series, 10times asked Jen Salerno, CMP, DES to spill the beans on the trends shaping the events industry right now. 

We reached out to her and asked her to share her viewpoints about the industry trends and the issues that event planners face with hybrid events.

About Jen Salerno, CMP, DES

Jen Salerno, CMP, DES is the owner of JTS Connect, LLC, which provides emcee, moderation, and facilitation services for live, virtual, and hybrid events. She is also the host of The Room Block, the podcast where hospitality and event professionals meet. Jen is passionate about the way meetings and events can positively impact the world, and is ready to connect your team or audience with ideas that inspire action.

Jen spent over 20 years in various facets of the hospitality & events industry and has worked with and consulted for several major hotel brands, meeting professionals, and event organizers. Through this experience, Jen has the ability to understand the different priorities of her customers and brings extensive knowledge of the industry to help achieve them. 

Jen’s hospitable background enables her to engage with any guest or audience in a genuine, authentic way, building a sense of community within your organization or event. 

Jen continues to partner with key event industry organizations such as the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and is an active volunteer with the Greater Midwest Chapter. She is also a proud associate of conferenceemcees.com and a founding member of Event Minds Matter.

* Could you please walk us through your professional journey? What attracted you to the events and the hospitality industry in the first place?

I fell into the industry by taking a “summer job” at Chicago’s famed Palmer House Hilton as a concierge right after I graduated from college. It was meant to be temporary while I figured out my next steps, which at the time had nothing to do with events and the hospitality industry.

However, I soon realized the infinite career possibilities that the industry could offer and worked my way through a variety of positions in hotels and events over the course of the next 2 decades. 

Working in several different roles allowed me to see the industry from different perspectives, understand a wide range of goals and challenges, and learn how to seek effective solutions. This experience has led me to the work I do today as an event emcee, moderator, and podcast host.

By eliciting and sharing the stories of individuals or organizations, identifying main ideas, and connecting the dots, my goal is to help create more engaging and empathetic workplaces, events, and partnerships, one conversation at a time. 

* How do you see events and venues changing post-covid?

I think it’s safe to say that our priorities have shifted and our behaviors have changed over the last few years. There are new sets of expectations to meet when asking people to step away from their day-to-day life and tap into valued resources such as time and money to attend events.

On the surface, this sounds daunting, but in actuality, this opens the door to creativity like never before – and there is NO shortage of creativity out there! The post-covid landscape is giving us carte blanche to try new things and see what fits – different event sizes, new locations, and unique activations. 

In marketing we talk about our “customer persona”, but why assume there’s just one of those per organization? Why not have events or experiences that cater to the many different segments of people, needs, and desires that make up your audience? If we want to grow our attendance, we need to meet our audiences where they are. 

* What are some of the issues that you think venue operators face with hybrid events?

I’m currently part of a hybrid event team and the biggest question to answer is, how do we make our virtual audience feel as important and included as our in-person audience, without “losing” our in-person audience to virtual? 

It’s a fine balance but a necessary one to strike, and it requires buy-in from all stakeholders, including venue operators. This is a tall order given all the budgetary and logistical considerations of putting on an event!

However, we need to play the long game. While there may be a few years of wins in one area and losses in another, the right vision, strategy, and partners will help build a solid foundation now that your customers and audiences will feel, and keep them coming back.

* Any advice you would like to give to our event professionals community?

Level up yourself and those around you by prioritizing personal and professional development. Learning and expanding what you’re capable of not only enhances your day to day life at home and in the workplace; it also opens new doors – some you never thought you’d open at all.

Together we can move our industry forward by embracing curiosity and avoiding complacency.

For more in the Events Industry Experts series, check out our interview with Janice Cardinale, Courtney Stanley, Helen Moon, Danica Tormohlen, Ashley Brown, Jason Allan Scott, Brandt Krueger, Corbin Ball, Will Curran, and Stephan Murtagh today!

Are you interested in sharing your insights or viewpoints with the events industry? Join the Eva Talk.

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