When the Globe and Mail moved offices three years ago, the new space was custom designed to incorporate an events and conference center. The Globe and Mail Centre, which has become one of the hottest event venues in Toronto, is known for panoramic views of the city and Lake Ontario. It also eased our entry into branded events.
Branded events — sponsored by clients but run by a special events team within The Globe and Mail — have become a significant revenue stream. With a branded event, The Globe team first sits with a potential client to discuss how an event might amplify a brand or advertising campaign. The team is responsible for creating, organising, marketing, and running the event. Globe journalists are usually involved as speakers, moderators, or panelists. And, although clients provide feedback and ideas, final decisions concerning the panels and agenda are by The Globe team.
Although The Globe has always held events, we’ve amped up our presence and offerings, with 28 events held last year and more to come for 2020. I spoke with Lisa Wichmann, The Globe and Mail’s head of event content, about what makes a successful branded event and what to avoid.
Timeliness and relevance of your topics are key, but what lifts an event is the quality of the speakers, Wichmann says. Although it can be tempting to take a speaker on a recommendation or because of how good their resume is, it’s important to vet all speakers. Get them on the phone and try to find video of them speaking. “A poor or unprepared speaker can alienate an audience,” she says.
The unsung hero of an event, good AV is invisible and makes for a professional experience while poor AV can ruin it. Microphones must be tested. Presentations must be tested in the environment to check for font issues, slide transitions, video, and auto-advances. “This seems so common sense,” Wichmann says, “but it’s the easiest to overlook because it’s behind the scenes.”
Quality of your brand
The events business is a very crowded space. What makes The Globe stand out is that we are a well-known brand that can bring the value of our journalists and our journalism to our events and subject matter expertise from our newsroom. We bring a level of trust to the audience and an expectation that they will be challenged and informed.
“A good deal of our success in this area is driven by our newsroom,” Wichmann says. “While our goal is to make our clients happy, we work with our journalists to ensure panels are balanced and diverse, that our speakers are respected, and that The Globe’s brand, which is founded on integrity, is enhanced by every event. We never compromise in situations that put The Globe brand at risk. It’s not good for us, and, in the end, isn’t good for the client.”
She points out The Globe’s convening power as a brand provides access to audiences other event companies might not have but are valued by clients: people who are inquisitive, politically aware, engaged, and intelligent. “By being in the audience, asking the right questions, and challenging our speakers, our audience becomes part of the event rather than mere spectators.”
Allow time to become established
Wichmann is adamant that a quality event is the result of teamwork that can take time to grow. “As we create our line of diverse branded events and we cover topics from small business to pharmacare, we are constantly learning.” There’s an abundance of institutional knowledge that now informs the team’s decisions, including price points, size of audience, most suitable events, timing, and timelines — all of which have been debated and tested. “We now have a very good handle on how to build and market successful events for our clients,” she says.
Wichmann is now looking at how to amplify other Globe products and services at Globe-branded events, such as promoting paid subscriptions. “In many cases, the audience is looking for more ways to interact with us, so it’s an excellent opportunity.”