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Former Zoom Head of Content talks trends and marketing | Rhonda Hughes, award-winning content leader

Former Zoom Head of Content talks trends and marketing | Rhonda Hughes, award-winning content leader

What do you get when a content wizard with legit cred -- like working at Zoom and GoTo -- talks trends and marketing and webinars and hybrid events?

Rhonda Hughes was recently voted one of the Top 50 Women in Content, and last year while Zoom’s Head of Content, Social Media & Customer Advocacy, she led the team that nabbed the “winner” spot for Best TikTok campaign from Digital+SocialMedia Awards – so you’re about to find out!

Besides Zoom, Hughes also spent years at GoTo, so she knows the webinar and virtual event space well. She now serves as VP of Corporate Marketing at Mural.

In this episode of Thought Leader Conversations, besides trading war stories with V2’s Head of Strategy, Roger Courville, CSP, you’ll hear nuggets about:


  • What to do to help your marketing ideas stand out from the noise

  • How to think about webinar marketing to improve response

  • What presenters could do differently to be more engaging

Closing the gap between in-person and online audiences:

  • Why it’s a struggle to close the gap in hybrid events

  • What most marketers overlook when pursuing greater reach

  • How to think about formal and informal aspects of attendee experiences

The future of webinars and virtual events:

  • The most important thing to value in when using webinars and virtual events

  • The secret sauce for webinar content

  • The right role of tech relative to your goals




[00:00:00] Roger Courville, CSP: What do you get when a content wizard with legit cred like working at Zoom and GoTo talks, trends and marketing and content and webinars and hybrid events? Well, I don't know exactly, but you are about to find out.

My name is Roger Courville and welcome to another episode of #ThoughtLeaderConversations sponsored by the crew at Virtual Venues where, of course, you can instantly scale your virtual and hybrid event production team with a blue chip crew --achieve engagement and results by helping you focus on something other than tech.

Now I'm excited to welcome Rhonda Hughes, someone that I know is brilliant because I know her from more years ago than I can count. When go-to was part of Citrix, which was like two companies ago. More recently, Rhonda was the Head of Content, Social Media, and Customer Advocacy at Zoom.

And by the time you're hearing this, she will be public with a new role as VP of Corporate marketing at Mural. We'll probably end up talking about that maybe. Rhonda was recently named one of the top 50 women in content, led the team at Zoom last year and won the best TikTok campaign award from digital and social media awards.

We are blessed with the smarts of someone who excels at marketing, someone who knows the world of webinars and virtual and hybrid events and collaboration, and you know, probably how to make a good pot pie or something. Welcome, Rhonda.

[00:01:21] Rhonda Hughes: No pot pies, but I do like pie. And my husband does most cooking notes, so that's wonderful.

[00:01:30] Roger Courville, CSP: Hey What else should we know? Fill in a gap or two. Is there something else that we should know about you before we kick things off?

[00:01:36] Rhonda Hughes: A pretty gooda summary there. I mean, I've been in the world of marketing for 17 plus years. We were talking just before this about like how long we've known each other cuz it's been like 17 years. always in a role of content or webinars or some sort of helpful kind of marketinga whether it was social media or the likes. Buta yeah, so that's what I bring to the tables. Let's talk about that.

[00:02:00] Roger Courville, CSP: Let's do it. And to me, I mean, I think of webinars and content as two significantly overlapping circles, in part because one is about the what and the other is about the how, or the, you know, the, the method of distribution, which is not the only thing on the plate of a typical marketer.

But let's maybe start with. With the world of webinars, virtual events, hybrid events, what the heck is going on in the world of virtual events?

[00:02:31] Rhonda Hughes: I think the good news is that webinars, virtual eventsa I mean the pandemic changed things. People are much more comfortable with things like Zoom and like virtual engagements, and so you've got a broader audience that, you know, they know what it is and they know why it's valuable and they're all about engaging with it.

I think on the other side of thisa and this is not something that's just, you know, unique to webinar or events. But content as a whole, it's really noisy out there. And it has been alwaysa that's always been a struggle. You know, earning attention from a marketer standpoint is like the number one goal.

abut I think with things like ai, like the threshold for creating content, not saying good content, but the threshold has gotten much lower. And so it takes that much more like to make your content stand out. And so I think that's really where the webinar and events kind of world is, is going, is like how do you make something that is not just.

aa thing, but it's actually really helpful, really interesting, insightful, and memorable. anot to be boring, so

[00:03:33] Roger Courville, CSP: insightful, memorable. What was the other one you said?

[00:03:37] Rhonda Hughes: Helpful.

[00:03:37] Roger Courville, CSP: Helpful. Right. And just outta curiosity, what do you see the impact of AI being since you just brought that up?

[00:03:45] Rhonda Hughes: Oh, that's funny.

aI mean, I think it's a helpful tool, but I think it does. You know, there's, there's some questions that I have around just the need for media literacy. You know, not as a marketer, there's like a moral kind of piece of marketing of, you know, where is, what is the source of the content when you're using AI to generate it.

I think of it as a good tool for a first draft and for like opening up different brainstorming of ideas, but it really just makes the human side of what you can bring to content, making it memorable, emotional, bringing your insights, bringing your like little bit of flavor to the different things.

It makes it that much more important. It was always important. You should always be doing that, but I think it's even more so now.

[00:04:28] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I, I mean, honestly, I've been preaching interaction as the, as the unique and distinct advantage of realtime communications for a long, long time.

Right? I mean, one of the challenges, I even call it Netflixification. One of the challenges with just producing webinars that might be as interactive as watching yesterday's YouTube video is to your point, Out there in a sea of noise when, when it might be the ability to connect and interact that, that really becomes that point of distinction in this, in this space.

I'm just curious, where do you see, where do you see webinars as a mechanism or a distribution channel relative to others? Like for instance, your team won an award for TikTok. And, you know, you've got a lot of channel choices. When and where does webinars fit in the, in the, in the space as, as best you think of it?

[00:05:38] Rhonda Hughes: I think it all depends on your audience. I know that's like a I mean that's, that's the key to making great content is know who you're talking to and know what they're looking for. And so thinking about like the context with which. You're engaging with them. Sometimes they're gonna be in TikTok and they're gonna want a short form video that's personal and gives some information and is a little like, you know, not polished, but in other times they're gonna want more of the kind of presentation style.

I think kind of going back to a comment you said just a second ago about like the connection piece. I think that's something that webinar stands out with because you do have. People there for an opportunity to learn and like ask questions. I still see too many people doing recorded webinars and not like really leaning into the live component.

I know that that's something from way back in the day, Roger, you were always amazing at, and making sure that you're using the features that are there. So like the polls and the chats and the. You know, unmuting people and having an actual conversation. And I think, you know, I understand from a webinar or an event you know, kind of marketer, there's a, there's always risk with that kind of thing, but it's also the reward is there as well.

And so I I, I don't know if I answered your question specifically. I think it really does matter with what the audience is and then what's the goal of what you're trying to do. And then webinars just one of the many different formats that you can use.

[00:06:56] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah, I mean, I think the, it depends, answer is, Well, that's a good just bucket kind of answer, but it's also true, right?

For instance, one of the studies that I, in fact did for go to way back plenty of years ago, asked questions about what people's expectations were relative to where they were at in the sales cycle. And for instance, they expected a lot less interaction if it was, you know, a Seth Godin thought leader, top of the funnel kind of thing, than if it was , down the road where you are nurturing or perhaps even in the, at the end and, and selling and expressing explicit value of your own solution relative to others in the marketplace.

[00:07:40] Rhonda Hughes: Yes.

[00:07:41] Roger Courville, CSP: Curious about. Any other tips And I, the reason I'm gonna ask you this specifically comes from a viewer, Adam, who asked, what were some of the most effective tools or strategies that you saw utilized to engage the audience on the Zoom platform, aside from standard tools like polls, you just rattled off a few.

Anything else that comes to mind that you particularly liked about Zoom?

[00:08:04] Rhonda Hughes: Well, I really love when people use the green screen kind of format. Like, I think it's so prevalent in things like TikTok and people are just really used to it. Too many are using either talking heads which has its place or slides. Really badly created slides.

And there's just so many other ways I think to like break up the visual component of what you're talking through by being able to point to it and like move your little head around. And it's one of those features that I feel like most people don't know that Zoom has. And so I, I find that to be a really valuable one.

And then You know, annotation. I think anytime, I mean people are looking at the same slide and so how do you keep their attention? And I know Roger, you've always been so good about that as well, is like, let's draw this little thing here and let's move your attention over here. So I think those would be the two.

[00:08:51] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah, I probably got to be a broken record, direct attention visually and verbally in case they're not looking right. So point, use the annotation tools or drawing tools, but also do it verbally. I love the green screen comment though. Because it makes me think of maybe an opportunity or a need in the marketplace to do some education around that.

Right. You don't have to be, you don't have to look like the most perfect, slick weather reporter on the local news,

[00:09:23] Rhonda Hughes: but it's fun to be like the, in front of the, the screen!

[00:09:27] Roger Courville, CSP: You like that? Okay. Oh, I'm in The Bahamas today!

[00:09:32] Rhonda Hughes: I mean, I feel like having been in webinar world way back in the day, I do recognize that you're often doing many things at one time.

So you're dealing with the q and a and you're, you're prepping the content beforehand and you're trying, you know, trying to moderate sometimes, which is not a good mix. And so I do think it comes from just a fear of messing things up and having too many things that you're trying to do at once. So I'm a big fan of having a team of folks behind the scenes to help with webinars where you can, at least with like q and a and that sort of thing.

And that way you can really focus on the kind of presentation piece. But I think as a webinar professional too. You do need to be able to coach your like speakers, cuz a lot of times they haven't used those features and they're uncomfortable. Anybody, right? Nobody wants to look bad in front of others.

And nobody wants to look like they don't know what they are gonna do. But I think taking that time to kind of go through a few of the features and, and is gonna help people really see what the value is to their audience. And once you do it one time, you're that much more comfortable. But you sometimes do need a little bit of that like hand holding of like, Ooh, let me show you how.

And so maybe that's within the dry run kind of experience.

[00:10:39] Roger Courville, CSP: How has marketing for webinars or virtual or hybrid, how has marketing changed that you've watched?

[00:10:46] Rhonda Hughes: Hmm. I mean, I think the basics and the foundation is still there. You're trying to get attention. It's just, I feel like it's getting noisier and noisier and noisier and more and more difficult to You know, capture attention.

So I think that's where you have to lean on these different formats like podcast or live streams. You know, repurpose, repackage, you know, do a webinar, but also repeat that information in like short snackable videos or, you know, kind of really just thinking about the context with which the content is gonna show up.

And I think in the past and still today a lot of content teams or webinar teams are focused not necessarily on the distribution of the content, but on the production of it. And so not thinking through, well, who's my audience? When are we, you know, what are they, what is their experience of this? Is it showing up in a really noisy place like Twitter or on TikTok?

And that's going to shape the way that you have to produce it. Using those kind of features and functionality being a part of the culture of where that's showing up. You know, same thing with webinars. It's like, oftentimes email is a great way to get your audience engaged, but when are you scheduling these?

What's the time period? Is it during lunch? Like, is it and trying to think about that experience and how do you make it even better? And maybe even ask them like, how do you make these webinars better? Your audience is gonna be able to tell you that. And so, building that kind of feedback loop and then looking at the data, what's working, what's not.

Stop doing the things that aren't start doing.

[00:12:13] Roger Courville, CSP: You heard it here first folks, and it's just that simple!

Well, yeah, but you know what? I love that. You know, I mean, interestingly, the pattern in telecom has been the same for decades, right? The busiest times for meetings, virtual meetings, conference calls, all of that has been, you know, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday mornings, and you know, specifically Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday.

Friday, Monday in that order. And I'm always curious if and when someone might find a contrarian strategy, right? To your point. In fact, you used this phrase a little earlier that, that I loved and, and want to just share, create value, not noise. And one of those places that might be, can you do something outside of primetime?

Right? I mean, in the early eighties. Somebody experiment television. Crazy idea. But television stations used to go off the air at like midnight or 1:00 AM right? And somebody came up with this idea of buying up really cheap airtime and running a 30 minute infomercial and everybody went, oh, you're crazy.

And next thing you know, an industry was born. And you know, there are certainly cycles that we see, like lower participation in holiday weeks, for instance. But at the same time, I've seen some people have some crazy results pre, pre predominantly because of that. Because they were, they were catching some downtime.

I'm just curious, did you ever try any contrarian things or when you were, do you have any surprises along the way in terms of your own marketing efforts? Kind

of always, I mean, I feel like testing and learning has always been a piece of all the things that I've done. Like, because I like the new, I like to like, Ooh, what is that thing?

Let me figure it out. And and then you have to kind of look at what's working, what's not. I think, you know, I've said this with social media too. There's this, you know, the standard kind of posting time that most brands do or for like tech brands or corporate brands is like, Early morning on the Pacific coast so that it hits Eastern coast too.

Rhonda Hughes: What I saw through testing one time is that actually nighttime, that was when people were scrolling through Twitter and they were able to see that. So we had this kind of process where we would share the big news in the morning. Cuz usually that's when a press release or that sort of thing the news is released, then you wanna capture that.

And you wanna encourage like your employees to reshare that link. But then also that like in case you missed it, kind of, Testing the, the later time in the day or at night when people are scrolling. And so I love when people come up with new ideas on how to do it. The funny part is, as soon as you do it and you see success, all your other marketing friends, They see that and they're like, Ooh, I'm gonna do that now too.

And so this like constantly running just to stay in the same place. But I think that the things that you test that aren't what everybody else expects, that little bit of like, something is the thing that makes you stand out. And you know, I've seen success with it in, in a lot of different ways, but social is just one of 'em.


I remember, and actually I loved this about your crew at go to. Back when, when we were doing a lot of work because we had a chance, because you had that sense of adventure and there were times when we had a chance to do something that was outside of the norm. I remember one project series I did for Scott Barnett and I'll just mention his name cuz I also interviewed him here a couple months ago.

And we did like 16 events and the best results were one from that happened on a Thursday afternoon. Right outside of primetime. And I did another one once with Kelly, our mutual friend, and I'm like, well, why don't we try this like kind of early Ashan a Friday and can see if bam, we broke go too. That particular day, which I'm sure was all her brilliance as opposed to mine.

[00:16:03] Rhonda Hughes: I remember things being, I mean, that's the thing is you test something. If you're doing the same thing as everyone else, then you have more competition. For that period of time or that thing that you're doing, it's the people that will take a little bit of risk and try something different that people will like.

I feel like that's where you will get that attention that you wouldn't otherwise.

[00:16:24] Roger Courville, CSP: any other cool things you've heard about or seen or done with social lately?

[00:16:32] Rhonda Hughes: I don't know a lot of things. Well, I guess so you know, it says X zoom, head of, I was impacted by the layoffs, the last, the tech layoffs, one of the 200 and some odd thousand people.

You know, across tech in the last few months. And I started a TikTok channel cuz I had never created content for myself and I wanted a space to be able to share some of the things that I do. And the funny part is that like it's video number two went viral because it was just a silly dance. Of me like basically commiserating with what it feels like to go through this crazy time of being laid off and the feelings, like you got a lot of feels more so than I ever knew.

I'm, I had been in companies that had layoffs and I thought I empathized with the people that had in. Had been impacted, but there's like an emotional toll that comes. Mm-hmm. And so I could really video dance and I've had so many people reach out to me to say that that was such a helpful thing for them.

So I, there's not really a lesson other than, you know, get outside the boundary and like, try something new. Think about the audience. And where there's a connection point, like there's a lot of people going through what I'm going through right now and, you know, having somebody do a little silly dance saying that it was gonna be okay, helped other people.

And so I, I mean, I think that applying that to marketing as a whole, knowing your audience and trying to figure out how do you add value, how do you help them, how do you entertain them? What are the things that are relatable within that space? You know, it's the same kind of story, but a different rapper I guess.

[00:18:04] Roger Courville, CSP: but you and I realize that example was personal, but I think there are some awesome couple, at least a couple awesome, teachable moments in there too, right? I mean, we, we desperately need the humanization of companies. I. Right. And some brands have a higher risk tolerance for personality than others do.

Right. But, but I think about, I forget if it was like a, a water district in Ohio or somebody just started putting out these brilliantly humorous tweets and they built a significant following because they weren't talking about. You know, your local, your local sewer system, and the fact that Broadway was gonna be shut down on Friday afternoon or those kinds of things, they were, they were just talking about normal stuff.

And I think, I think, didn't me, I'm, you're the expert here, but it seems to me that there is this level of relatability probably at the brand level, probably at the content level, maybe at the campaign level where we want to know, we're talking to. Or dealing with human beings. I don't know.

[00:19:10] Rhonda Hughes: yeah, I, I, that's so core to the way I've always approached everything and I've worked for really cool brands who did you know, I had to, I had to build in trust.

Especially when I first got into social, it was like a new thing. And I'd come with these like, weird plans and people would be like, what is, what is she doing over there? abut like, Even the most boring brands have an opportunity to be more fun. So I will give an example here that is one that I, I, I always loved is, so when I worked at Citrix, so the corporate side of Citrix we came up with this idea.

We had a, a conference in person that was for our partners. And the theme was build. And this is a bunch of it people. And I came up, my children were young and obsessed with the Legos at the time. I came up with this idea of like, well, what if we did Legos that were Citrix branded and then we made these like stations so people could sit down and build like your own little mini fig with your own little hairs and like accessories and that sort of thing.

And I have to give credit to my partner crime at the time, Simmi, because she went and made that happen. I had this like little nugget of a random idea and she went and got like approval to make this thing happen. And we got. It went crazy viral. We had 5,000 of those things that we gave away in less than five hours, and it became the standard for all of their conferences for years after I left five, six years after.

And I still see brands like take that and, and do that kind of thing. So like all of our competitors ended up doing it. And it was one of those things just looking at, okay, so there's this, you know, you know your audience, you know, this is something that kind of resonates with them. And then you, you appeal to more the human side of things.

And that doesn't mean that you have to be random, cuz it has to be somewhat related. But it is, again, one of those opportunities to really kind of shine because you're, you're focused more on connecting and adding value than you are on selling a product, but you're gonna sell more products because of that.

[00:21:05] Roger Courville, CSP: yeah, I think that's one of the things that. That the bean counters sometimes forget is we all realize that we're accountable, but at the same time, when do you know? You can't predict when something goes viral, right? Sometimes you catch a tailwind, and at least as I understand it most, anybody who talks about viral goes, yeah.

Whether it's, you gotta be out there consistently, you gotta experiment or whatever, but you can't predict, okay, of the, of these pieces of content, this one's gonna go viral. I mean,

[00:21:41] Rhonda Hughes: well there's, there's usually some strategy behind it. There's some of it that's random and you don't know that it's gonna happen, but you're right place, right time, rod, audience.

And then there's others where it's like, yeah, you're gonna, like, it's amplified by paid, or you're activating people on the back end to get the ball rolling. And there are some things to go with it, but you do have to have this. You have to be able to take risk to a certain degree. And yes, different brands are gonna embrace that in different ways.

Like, you know, probably one of the things I've been proudest about is taking really boring brands and making them like fun and interesting. And not only is it, it works with your customers and your prospects, but it also makes your employees feel better. Like they're proud of what they're able to do and like excited to be learning and growing in new ways.

And so like I. I think one of the things that needs to go away is boring marketing. I feel like there's just not any, there's not any place for it anymore. Like you're trying to grab attention in the space where you've got kitty cat memes and tos and, and that sort of thing. And you have to be able to show up and grab attention.

And so you're gonna need to be able to think not just on. Creating a thing, but how do you make it something that's interesting? And that takes that like human side of it and it takes believing in the teams that are creating those things and encouraging them to take you know, healthy risks.

[00:22:59] Roger Courville, CSP: You may have just said it, meaning I might be asking you to repeat yourself, but how do you market things that are boring? One idea?

[00:23:14] Rhonda Hughes: I don't think it's just one idea. I think there's like an approach and I think it, it, you know, one, you have to work for a company that's okay with it. Like I, the, if you're working for a company that's like, Nope, we've done it this way and this is the only way we're gonna do it, and we're only gonna keep in, you know, speaking, corporate speaking, we're only gonna do it this way, then like, you're not gonna change that.

You're gonna have to go find something somewhere else that like will let you tap into that creative side. You know, but I think it's taking a look and grounding yourself and thinking about the audience. And like the context with which they're going to engage with this content, whether it's a webinar or attend an event or any other kind of format of content.

And then think about those pieces. How do you connect, how do you educate and how do you inspire? And you know, it takes knowing the context with which all these things are happening so that you know what their headspace is. So how you use LinkedIn is very different than how you use TikTok or Instagram.

And so, What I mean by the context with it is if you know that you're creating this thing for Instagram or TikTok, you're gonna approach it in a different way. That doesn't mean that you can't engage your audience in all of these places cause they are active in these areas. It means that you have to approach it in a little bit different of a way.

So I think that's a piece of it. And then I'm a big fan, like a more tangible one. I'm a big fan of collabs. And like co-creating things. So finding, you know, someone that's adjacent to you that is in a mutually kind of beneficial space and figuring out what you guys could do together, that's gonna co-create, let's, it's gonna create something more interesting probably richer in, in more in depth. And then you're gonna build in distribution that, like co-promotion. So I'm a big fan of those kinds of things, too.

[00:24:47] Roger Courville, CSP: \Hmm, I like that. But, but let me, I'll put an exclamation point on something, on a couple words that came outta your mouth just a moment ago. There's no room anymore for boring marketing. Did I catch, did I paraphrase that correctly?

[00:25:04] Rhonda Hughes: yeah, I did say that. I do believe, I'll say, how many times in LinkedIn do you see really good marketing? The l the what's? I'm gonna butcher this cuz I don't know who it is. It was like a cereal brand. That I saw an ad from recently and it was like circulating and LinkedIn and it was, they hired people with famous names but not famous to endorse their cereal.

And in it, they put a little asterisk and they're like, you know, this is not the, this is, yeah, this is not Michael Jordan. They live in Idaho and you know, work is a retail or whatever kind of thing. And it's like, Those kinds of ideas. Well that took a lot of input and then I always, I kind of geek out.

You mentioned something about like social media that is unexpected. One that was years ago was TSA on Instagram was like amazing. And I think about the background of this one loan social media person deciding like, this is what I think is the best thing to do. And it probably didn't happen this way, but I love the idea.

Of how these things come to life and what someone had to do to get approval for them. Because I have worked for France that were risk averse and had to like nudge my way forward to get to like a really good idea. And so some people are in this space where it does take steps and then there's others that are like, heck yeah, let's go as big.

Almost like too big. But I think, I guess, I guess I kind of rambling there, but I feel like those marketing. The, there's so many good marketers out there that there is no space anymore for just the boring stuff that's checking the box

[00:26:34] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah, and there's probably no I, no excuse not to come up with a good idea that might work for you.

I remember speaking to a bunch of trainers once, Fred, at an event for a t d back then A I T D as you know, a TD Association of Talent Development. Meaning I'm speaking to trainers and I remember cuz it was a very frequently asked question of me, what do you do when, when? And how do you be engaging, when, when the content is boring?

And I remember the snark that came out of my mouth probably shouldn't have, but he said, "There is no boring content. There are only boring trainers."

But, but the point was actually, and I think I went on to clarify and probably said something about a snarky, like there are only lazy trainers, because it turns out, and interestingly, I ended up getting a testimonial from this person and she worked for an elevator or a, a shaft a company that makes scaffolding out on the outside of buildings.

Right. And I said, okay, so let's walk through. And we actually made her an in on the spot case study who's really motivated to be interested in this. And we just went down the list. Right. How about the legal department? Are they interested in reducing your risk profile or the HR department? Because, because, you know, somebody falling off a la you know, scaffolding and dying would be kind of detrimental to their somebody's family or sales because they need to make more money.

And it really kind of came back to thinking through a little more specifically benefit And I. I think I got by with being a little snarky at that point, but, but I loved your point about, I'm sorry. Well, no, I was just gonna say I love the point about boring marketing. I think it's really useful to, to just dig in, right?

I've done a lot of work for like boring, boring groups. I've been told they're boring like accountants. I've done a ton of work for accountants. Accountants are not boring.

[00:28:42] Rhonda Hughes: No. Well, it's, again, it kinda goes back to your office. It's like what do they geek out on? What are the things that like, make them laugh?

Like how do you lean into that connection piece, which I know you have always spoken of. When it comes to webinars, like way back in the day is like, it is an opportunity to connect. And don't get too stuck on the, I'm trying to sell this thing. And I think that's where it's, it's the difference in the approach of how do I, how do I create something super valuable or super interesting or super funny or engaging to my audience versus I need to sell this product.

And I think it's the shift in subtle shift in the approach of that, because what you're gonna create ultimately is gonna be very different if you are approaching it in that way.

[00:29:24] Roger Courville, CSP: I, I actually started all, I, I had made it an opening line, Hey, you know, the world thinks you're boring. And they would all roar because they all know that people think accountants are boring and they don't think they're boring and, and, and they're not.

Shift gears. I know you did some, some great research at Zoom regarding hybrid and engagement, and I want to draw. Off of one of the point data points that, and I'm not gonna expect that you're gonna remember it right off the top of your head.

No, no. I'll set you up for success. Thank you. The question that we will get to, and then I'll fill in the gap. How do marketers or planners close the gap between in-person audiences? And online audiences. So your data point was, the question was event marketers consider interaction between virtual and in-person attendees and the ability to engage a greater audience among the greatest benefits of hybrid events.

Number one response was, yes, let's close that gap. I don't see a lot of people closing that gap. So clearly there's a pain point. Yeah. Any insights that you observed along the way?

[00:30:46] Rhonda Hughes: I will give a props to Zoom's events team because I think they do a really incredible job trying to like live and breathe and, and put a good example out into the world for others to kind of get inspired from using their own tools as well.

I think it's a big struggle because you've got two very different audiences and one of the best things about being in, in-person events is the, like, networking. And so you'll see features and functionality of different tools. Really investing in that is like, how do you. How do you facilitate connection and knowledge share that isn't like icky networking, right?

Like right. And not just like the booth experience of like getting sold tools, but how do we, how, how do we get connected? More deeply. And I think, I don't know all the features and functionality of all the tools out there, but I think that's where the space is. And it is a lot of work. I mean, you know, there's an appetite I think for in-person, but has that changed?

I don't know. You know, I, I've known from my own experience with events that like, it's, it's harder to drive live in-person attendance. So does the like in-person event. Evolve and it's more exclusive and smaller. And then you've got more of the broad audience over here for the virtual component.

I don't know. I mean, that's not my area, but like it's fascinating to kind of watch all of the spaces and all of the world evolve this last few years as like the world went through this experience of the pandemic. And being able to hear some of the cool stories of how people have reimagined.

And I think that's what it, that's the space that you're at with, with events is, is how are you reimagining it using the features and functionality. Like tech is gonna be a place of that. Like you can't host these things without it. But I think it does. It's gotta evolve. It can't just be the like presentation with somebody talking in front of it.

Especially with just looking at how busy people are now. So, I don't have a real answer for it, but I do think it's a space that there are going to be more investment from professionals now because I don't think hybrids going away. I think that's one of the, the pieces that is just gonna become the norm for any of these events if they haven't already.

[00:32:53] Roger Courville, CSP: Well, yeah, that's something we do a lot of the, and to be fair, for those of you listening, to be fair, that wasn't Rhonda's role at Zoom. So I'm asking her, her as an observer as opposed to a practitioner in that really specific kind of way. And you know, it's a little bit, it's a little bit self-serving. In this way because I'm a preacher of saying, number one, if you don't take it all apart and put it all back together with a design mindset from the very outset, then what you're gonna end up with is an in-person event and an also ran for the people online who just happened to be flies on the wall When A, and you miss the opportunity.

To blend the formal and informal, formal meaning. Okay, keynotes, breakouts, and the informal being, oh, afternoon break, coffee and cookies. Hey, what's your name? Oh, that's cool. And there's a whole lot of that go that goes on in person naturally, and it can online, but not if we just try to stream at our content and pretend we're virtual.

[00:34:07] Rhonda Hughes: I do feel for event marketers though, because this shift, I mean the amount of resources producing these things is no small feat. I've never done it, but like having done a webinar, you know, a single event or like that kind of thing, there's a lot that goes into producing them. So you think about having to produce a full in-person and then layer in this like other thing and not just make it an add-on and make it like a full rich experience.

You know, I think it's been amazing to see how people have navigated that. But I'm not saying that's an easy thing.

[00:34:38] Roger Courville, CSP: You're exactly right. And that's why sometimes it ends up defaulting to the lowest common denominator when, when it doesn't have to. All right. One question. And then we'll, we'll get you on with your day. What does the world of webinars and virtual events need to be thinking about for the future? Hmm.

[00:35:04] Rhonda Hughes: I, I guess I kind of wove this in a little bit, but I would say don't just look at other webinars and your competition as I.

Inspiration for how you make good content or a good experience, or what did you call the Netflix? What did it, what was the word?

[00:35:20] Roger Courville, CSP: Netflixification

[00:35:22] Rhonda Hughes: Edutainment is another way that I've said. It is like, you know, you're not just creating a piece of content or an event. You have to make it something that people not only take away the insights, but that it's memorable and that like they wanna go more like they wanna come to your next webinar.

Again, assuming that you want. Repeat listeners or watchers or whatever, viewers, I dunno, what, what would you call attendees? Okay.

[00:35:47] Roger Courville, CSP: Well, hopefully participants meaning they are engaged as opposed to, you know, snoozing on the couch with a little coming out of their, down their chin.

[00:35:57] Rhonda Hughes: So I mean, I feel like that's, that's where, you know, don't just look at the other webinars because Yeah, the.

The probably basis there is like somebody's speaking in front of us, you know, next to a slide because they're not even using the like weatherman thing. Go use the weatherman thing cuz I think it's it's fun

I feel like it's leaning into the content itself and really trying to create something that's valuable. Do half of what you've been doing. And I know not everybody has the ability to say, I'm gonna do less webinars, but if you do less webinars and you make them that much better, And you got more attendees or you engage a broader audience than like you're netting out at the same kind of thing.

So that would be the way I kind of think about it is not to, you know, look to other places for inspiration and that really requires that you step back and you have some space to be able to think through things. And a lot of marketers are not in that place. They're doing more with less and they're moving faster.

And so like, you know, I know that that's a struggle, so I'm not say, I don't know. I, that's what I, I recommend that you step back and you try to look at how you're doing things and how you make them just a little bit better. It doesn't have to be completely reimagined, but what's one thing that you could do and kind of build the muscle around that with that kind of constant iteration and learning.

[00:37:19] Roger Courville, CSP: Are there any questions I should have asked you that I haven't?

[00:37:22] Rhonda Hughes: No, I dunno. It's been interesting. I feel like I, I hopefully, who the folks that are listening, hopefully, there was a couple little nuggets that were helpful there and I didn't just like blather around. But no, I mean, I think I don't have any other questions

[00:37:37] Roger Courville, CSP: that you, okay.

Well, and I, nor nor do I. Or probably said another way we could probably go on for hours given how long we've been doing this, and I know we both need to roll. I will say this for our audience. We recently did an interview with Lauren Sawyer. I want you to look that up because she's doing something kind of interesting with marketing events that are using breakouts, breakout rooms.

And so if you want a different. Just to see somebody doing something a little different. I know you probably haven't been to too many marketing webinars that used breakouts in that form of interaction as part of how just creating relationship. So with that, againa virtual round of applause and thank you so much to Rhonda Hughes.

Rhonda, best of luck with your new role, a VP of Corporate Marketing. Right at Mural and to each and every one of you, thank you again for, for tuning in today. Thank you again to our sponsor, VirtualVenues, and we will see you on the next episode of #ThoughtLeaderconversations.


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