The Best Laid Event Plans | Ben Hindman at Splash

The coronavirus pandemic has forced organizations to dramatically change the way events are organized and marketed. No longer are we rolling our travel cases across airport floors and congregating in hotel ballrooms. Now the events come into our home offices—if we can manage to break away from our other Zoom meetings.

These changes posed a special challenge—and an opportunity—for Ben Hindman, the co-founder and CEO of Splashthat, a company that offers an event marketing platform that gives planners a cohesive, professional, and engaging experience from launch to wrap.

On this edition of UpTech Report, Ben discusses how his company rapidly transitioned their product to meet the moment of 2020.

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Ben Hindman is the CEO and co-founder of event marketing platform, Splash. Ben brings to life his vision of democratizing event marketing across an organization by giving people the tools to market and scale event programs that are branded, measurable, and compliant.

Ben has an unstoppable passion for bringing people together through events. Before launching Splash, he led the national events program for Thrillist, crafting one-of-a-kind experiential programming to match the brand’s in-the-know digital reputation.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Ben Hindman 0:00
I think that the future is small. I think that big events are a thing of the past in a lot of ways that you’re going to see, especially with the ability to target the right people, the right people in the room. And the fact that small events are more intimate, and just more fun, in my opinion, I think we’re gonna see a lot more small events.

Alexander Ferguson 0:27
Ben, I’m excited to chat with you today more about and learn more about splash on your LinkedIn profile says event planner, turn tech entrepreneur, tell me in five seconds, very briefly, what is Splash.

Ben Hindman 0:40
Splash is an event marketing software. And our mission is to make it easy to host events. And we power mostly programs that are interested in scale. So when many different people in an organization are interested in hosting events, but you’re trying to make sure to keep them on brand, have the NOC go rogue, make sure all the data is linked up. We’ve got a heck of a piece of technology for that.

Alexander Ferguson 1:09
We’re an interesting world these past four months this year 2020. How has your initial problem that you discovered was seven, eight years ago? Because it was 2012? You started? How has that changed? Obviously bigger emphasis on virtual talking about that problem that you saw and are seeing now.

Ben Hindman 1:29
Yeah, you know, I mean, from day one, the thing that we did really well and do really well is make your events look great online. That’s what caught fire when we first launched this thing in 2012. And so designers or even any event planner can just jump in and create something beautiful. What ended up happening to the business is it started evolving to become something that allowed large organizations to manage that right and manage all these things that were going on. When COVID happened, we needed to move quickly to make sure that we could meet the moment. And what that meant for us was figuring out which problems we were interested in solving, and which problems we were already solving. And you know, where what was our lane was what we had to figure out pretty quickly. It was really is an incredible thing to watch, our team moved really fast. We, in about a quarter launched a solution that is focused on really what we saw as the top two problems for virtual events. Number one was the attention gap. The fact that we’re all getting it study came out recently it says we get five times the amount of invitations that we actually go to. So I think Zoom, zoom fatigue is real. And the second one was the data gap, how do you keep track of all the different people are coming into your event, and know who actually attended and how to follow up with them. So those are the two problems that we said, we have to solve that. And we did it in about a quarter, we launched a product that allows you to use any system that you’re already using, be at zoom, or on 24 or any virtual conferencing software, and essentially link up all of your promotion to that system integrated or embed that system right into splash. And so we call that slash virtual. We launched it about a month ago. And it’s really resonating in the market. It’s it’s been really exciting to watch. But you asked a question, your question was how have things changed? Not and I’ll tell you what, a lot of ways. And a lot of ways we were actually building this already it look, if anything, the world has become more distributed harder to manage large teams, right and more important that you stand out and capture attention. That’s the thing that we were already working on. And so it’s in a lot of ways.

Alexander Ferguson 4:01
Already that direction. Now, earlier on, would you say it’s more on the promoting and marketing and capturing the right data, of any of of a in person event and now it’s effectively bringing that same expertise, but now being able to help host and launch the actual live event as well.

Ben Hindman 4:20
I think what you’re calling out is exactly right. The thing that we’re doing different at this point is that we’re more involved in the actual event, right? Certainly we have a checking app, and we have badge printing. So you know, to a degree we are in the event, but to your point now more than ever, the virtual event is either happening on splash or in sync with splash in a brand new way, which opens up all new types of attendee experience, which really excites me as well as all types of new data that we can then sync back with flashing back with your CRM.

Alexander Ferguson 4:55
What give me an example use case of a case study of one one of your more recent ones that have used your platform, allowing someone to understand. Okay, how are you different from other options out there from beginning to end?

Ben Hindman 5:08
Yeah. You know, what I’ll do is I’ll talk about Expedia. You know, Expedia is a large global organization. They have partner managers who host their own events in order to drive up business. What they do is they use lashes, small team at Expedia empowers all of these, and it ends up being like 1000s of partner managers to host their own events, but in a coordinated way. And really the ability to oversee all of this different activity that events are complicated, that can be surprising, the creative, it’s a lot of people coming together by definition. And so the question is, how do you coordinate that. And so what Expedia does is they basically sync all those up, they keep all the templates, all the brands, all the event pages, locked in together, and it makes sure that all their data is synced up so they can track it and know who’s coming. And then really, as I said, in this new world, it’s even more important, now they’re doing more distributed events, people have moved all over the place. Sellers, field representatives are more in touch than ever with their local communities. And they need to be, and I guess I’d offer that the definition of an event is really changing. You know, nowadays, we’re seeing far more 20 person events, you know, round tables, mini workshops, even six person events, to the point where I gotta say, I just heard from Salesforce, you know, as you know, Salesforce just essentially canceled Dreamforce this year and Benioff launched and a million zoom challenge, right, you want a million zooms to happen by Salesforce. And their cmo just came out yesterday, talking about how they’re focused on delivering most of their content this year, but half their content, from events from virtual events. And again, these are like these 20% 25% 30 person events. So yeah, that’s a that’s a use case,

Alexander Ferguson 7:11
that’s a term that you said that distributed events is the word that I caught. So that’s how we

Ben Hindman 7:15
think about it. I mean, look, we started seeing it really early in the community space, we have these user groups that hosts their own events, but again, in a coordinated way. But we started to see was that type of behavior really pick up in the field, and to see the field marketing or field reps or partnership field? But again, these are lots of different organizations, right? Huge, huge parts of organizations hosting those events. Yeah.

Alexander Ferguson 7:40
Would you say your your top users or target market would be these individual groups inside large organizations trying to put on their own events is that

Ben Hindman 7:51
that’s exactly what from an end user standpoint, absolutely, often, you know, gets picked up by the operations team, right? Because they want to oversee it all or the head of marketing is centralized marketing group. But to your point, and this is the this is what’s exciting for me about the business, it’s really why we started it, look, the best events get thrown by the people who really care about the event, right? Like the head of recruitment for a specific org is going to really put muscle into making that event a success. A field representative is gonna have a really great workshop, and they’re gonna care deeply. And so a lot of what we’re working on is democratizing who can throw the event. The designer who wants to hold a meet up, maybe it’s a developer who wants to evangelize. And as long as they can do it on brand, and it looks good, and it’s all synced up, more power to them.

Alexander Ferguson 8:38
Wow. Now, you came from being an event planner, do event planners also, utilize your services as a platform for them?

Ben Hindman 8:47
Absolutely. It’s funny, it’s even as I say this out loud, so much of our DNA is in the event planner, but to what I’ve been speaking about so much has evolved to be anybody right. And that’s exciting. Absolutely. I’m an event planner, my background, I plan my prom, you know, I’ve been planning events since I can remember and I love it I love the the you know the in person experience I miss it. I wish we were hanging out right now but you know, here we are. You know it’s we still we I’ll tell you this I cannot wait for when we come back it’s a it’s really the event planner is our that’s our core user and a lot of

Alexander Ferguson 9:27
that core user get you see it I can tell it your energy and life and everything is is that experience. So if anything we talked about then that where it’s going for a moment, the future would you say we’re definitely looking at a mixed because ever it’s so much now is swayed to online and virtual. And there’s still gonna be people that are not going to be feel comfortable coming back in person for a while. How do you see that kind of

Ben Hindman 9:53
book? There’s no doubt that the future is hybrid, right that we are going to see broadcasts And in person, right, no doubt to achieve the scale that we’re looking for. But also tell you, I think that the future is small. I think that big events are a thing of the past in a lot of ways that you’re going to see, especially with the ability to target the right people, the right people in the room. And the fact that small events are more intimate, and just more fun, in my opinion, I think we’re gonna see a lot more small events, I think they’re going to be able to be safe, you know, safety is going to be, it’d be interesting to see how people find the fun in safety. But in that I expected 20 person 15 person events are going to be a big deal in the upcoming years, along with the hybrid, along with the hybrid and the virtual gimmicks,

Alexander Ferguson 10:46
to be able to get the proper monetization or a realization of the benefit of putting on an event, you’re probably going to be a bigger emphasis on metrics and data to be able to track who’s coming to how’s it attending both in person online. So utilizing a platform, like yours is going to be crucial. Tell me more about the technology itself, your your stack of how does it work? How is it differentiated? What kind of data are you tracking and providing?

Ben Hindman 11:12
For data standpoint? You know, we think about really three different types of data. For every event, you have the contact level data, so everything about the person, you know, learning about what they’re interested in, how to reach them, where they’re from, what company they’re with all that data, that’s the contact level stuff, you get into the program, how is your actual events performing? How are essentially how are things converting at every step? How are you using every touchpoint within the process to drive deeper and deeper engagement into the event? And then lastly, you have the impact data you have how it results into a sale? How are you actually driving funnel? Are you pushing pipeline as a result of that event? And really, at the center of that is what you’re looking for, right? You’re looking for a person, right? Who is engaging in your content, and is driving business. And so what we’re trying to do with our product is help event, marketers see that in real time and take actions on it. Look, at the end of the day, data is only as good as your ability to use it. And in an event, it’s happened in real time, you know, you have a ticking time bomb of the event coming. So the question is, how do you use that data in real time to get that right person and drive them to the event where

Alexander Ferguson 12:25
to buy? Automation is without doubt one of the biggest focuses in the last several years. Tell me more about how have you focus on automation within the data in the market to be able to use it?

Ben Hindman 12:37
Yeah, look, again, as I said earlier, our goal our mission here is to make events easy, right? It should be easy for the attendee, to RSVP by ticket to find your event, it should be easy for the host to host the thing, it should be easy for the admin of the marketer to track the thing, right? It should be easy. And just saying that out loud. That is a radical concept. I mean, anyone who started an event knows that they are not easy. They’re just not easy. But we are in this, you know, brave new world of technology, where to your point, automation can help you focus on the right things, not do tasks that you used to have to do right and have a better outcome. So everything we’re thinking about right now is how do we make it easy to host events. And that’s right.

Alexander Ferguson 13:26
And I see you got quite a focus on on integration as well speaking of data and be able to integrate and create automations around it, Slack zap, Zapier, which makes it everything Salesforce all the major CRM, so big emphasis on integration, and you’re the API so that you do want to connect with all the other text stacks out there. It’s really

Ben Hindman 13:48
something that we really, it started becoming a real focus. About six years ago, I was building a platform that worked with any piece of enterprise technology. What I’d say is, the thing that I’m most excited about today in this moment is that today, we launched our splash plus zoom integration. And so we’re, you know, early on their app store, we, you can use Zoom in conjunction or embedded right into splash. I’m just like, through the moon, what we end up being in this world is a way to connect all the data of your virtual event into your CRM and back. And so it puts us in a really interesting position in the market. I’m psyched up about it. So yeah, I mean, look, we’re having a zoom right now. And it could be way better slash plus zoom. I mean, I gotta say, because of this branded wallpaper, you know, try it attracts a lot of data, you know, when someone checked in or checked out. Like I know, this isn’t a sales pitch,

Alexander Ferguson 14:48
but I’m sorry. I could tell your excitement for it. And if anything, the need for better integration of video calls to make it either more engaging to me to be able to get more statistics out of it is crucial as where we’re going. So it’s affect I feel like the the innovation of everyone is is trying to happen at lightspeed this year to be able to improve the experience.

Ben Hindman 15:09
You’re great. And your, your platform

Alexander Ferguson 15:12
itself. It’s the the pricing model, the business model around it, it looks like it’s a yearly concept. So it’s like it’s an investment, say, we’re going to we’re going to go on this platform, it’s not event based, is that correct?

Ben Hindman 15:23
That’s right, we sell based off of licenses. So however many people are using it, we want them to throw as many events as they can, and so not attendee base, or that base, seat base. Gotcha.

Alexander Ferguson 15:35
And kind of looking forward from here, what are you most excited about in the near term next year for the company, and then long term where you guys headed?

Ben Hindman 15:47
Oh, man, you know, we’ve been, we’ve been building for a while towards that concept of just really making it easy to create an event and launch something that’s on brand, and feels really good. A lot of those investments are starting to pay off and we’re gonna see in call it like a year from today, as we look back over this next 12 months, I think we’re going to have seen just it’s become just easier and easier and easier to host some event. I know that’s simple. But that’s that’s it. That’s all we’re thinking about. And that’s fun.

Alexander Ferguson 16:22
super focused. I like it. It’s great. So for folks that are interested in learning more, where can they go? And what’s a good first step that they should take?

Ben Hindman 16:33
Check out Go like everything you see on LinkedIn about our zoom plus slash integration, because it is great. Yeah, and, look, it’s there’s a freemium product, check it out, you can host an event on your own. I think it gives you a pretty good taste of what we can do. And let us know it’ll give I’d say to anyone who’s thinking about connecting their sales to their events. Come Come check us out, we really have an interesting way to enable your sales team to market and to sell their product.

Alexander Ferguson 17:06
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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