Corporate Event Expert Profile: Emmanuel Gotsis, Director, Global Experiential Strategy, Marketing and Productions, Microsoft

January 9, 2018

At Corporate Event News, our objective is to showcase the diverse people, programs, challenges and rewards of corporate events, so what better way to accomplish that than by talking to industry experts? Each month, we highlight a different corporate event professional to help you get to know some of the individuals who make this industry thrive.

Our first featured event expert of 2018 is Emmanuel Gotsis, director of global experiential marketing at Microsoft. With more than 20 years of industry experience, Gotsis has impressive credentials. He got his first work experience at a young age in fine dining and worked his way through college in Chicago. There, he helped launch Wolfgang Puck’s Spago as his final gig in the restaurant industry.

Thanks to a college internship, Gotsis made the transition to event production and live event management which ultimately launched his corporate career. Prior to starting at Microsoft in 2016, he held senior event marketing roles in various locations at corporations including Apple, Dell, and PayPal - and has some great stories to tell.  


Danalynne Wheeler Menegus: How did you get into corporate events?

Emmanuel Gotsis: I found an internship at a small event production agency while I was finishing my senior year at Loyola University in Chicago – at that time I was hoping to get into film or advertising production and had no idea what a corporate or live event was – and after meeting with the husband and wife owners, I was hooked. After a few months I graduated, and they offered me a full-time position. The first big event I got to co-produce was a live onstage press-conference at the Art Institute of Chicago with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, launching an arts initiative with Sara Lee as a corporate partner who donated a massive array of artwork to the institute. There was Secret Service, handlers….it was pretty overwhelming for a guy straight out of college! But this is how I have always learned the most – throw me in the deep end. I also did tradeshow logistics, budget and labor management. Good foundation to my career – dove in headfirst, right away.  Totally need to give a shout out to Candace and Joe at Mobilisation – without them I would certainly not be where I am today.


DWM: Did you have a mentor, or someone who influenced you?

EG: I’ve got two. The first and most important as far as my career success was Steve Jobs. I worked as his executive producer for keynote and launch events for 5 years when I was at Apple. I was also responsible for the global instances of Apple’s presence at Macworld. Steve was very involved from initial design to creative strategy, and one of the most important parts to him was the onsite execution and the event “fit ‘n’ finish”. [Whether it was] our booth, the keynote – he reviewed it all. That’s where I really got my eye for creativity and detail – working with someone who was such a thought leader and set the mold for keynote and product launch events. The level of attention to detail and having to live up to the expectations of someone like that made a serious impact on me early in my career. The other influencer or should I say inspiration in my career is where I work currently at Microsoft. Satya Nadella is an amazing and inspiring leader and has not only refocused the company, he is changing the company culture from within and it’s not only working but an inspiration to me daily. I am very fortunate and thankful to work with two pioneering CEOs who have both taken a massive legacy business and powerful brand and righted their massive ships onto a new course with great success from the inside out.


DWM: What are your current responsibilities?

EG: I currently lead third-party experiential marketing at Microsoft, as part of the corporate events team. My responsibility is for our third-party external events – shows like CES, NRF, World Economic Forum and Gartner Symposium. I’m responsible for the overall strategy for these events at the portfolio level, and have an amazing team of executive producers who are responsible for the specific event strategy, production and measurement at the individual event level. We’re enabling clear and precise integrated marketing campaigns around event moments for our marketing organization while having a laser focus on event design and execution and providing consistent brand experiences to accelerate business, maximize impact and ROI for Microsoft and our partners. I know that sounds a little baked, but it really is our driving ethos behind the team.


DWM: Would you classify yourself as an introvert or an extravert?

EG: I’m a total introvert. I love to be on my own – and so does my wife. We both like to recharge our batteries solo at times - so we bought a house that has two levels, precisely for that reason!


DWM: Is there any particular event app, program, or technology that you’ve found the most frustrating?

EG: Any side meeting management tool – my team and I have been trying to find a good one for over a year and we are still not there yet. When you have a need that spans from 10 meetings to over 500 it is hard to find one size shoe that fits.


DWM: What is the best event experience you’d had to date?

EG: There are so many to choose from! I think the coolest event I ever did was the launch of iTunes Europe when I was working at Apple. Steve [Jobs] gave us three weeks’ notice to produce an event in London for 700-1000 attendees with a keynote, Alicia Keys on stage, and hands-on exhibit area. We had just launched the iPod and iTunes North America earlier that year and somehow, we pulled it off and it went flawlessly.


DWM: What is the biggest challenge you see corporate event professionals facing today?

EG: Professional perception. We need to shift the perception of the importance of event professionals and what we bring to a marketing organization small or large. Face to face events and experiences are one of the most important moments within a sales process or in building brand identity, and one of the most important facets of marketing that a company can invest in. Our job is to design and execute the event experience within budget and on time, but it’s also building the platform for that experience and enabling that moment to happen. It’s a very strategic engagement.


DWM: Is there any place in the industry that you see disruption happening today – or an area you think needs disruption?

EG: There’s no exact science for measuring success. Every large organization has an issue with tracking the lifecycle of event leads and customer engagement. The customer visit at the event may have just been a point in time during the sales process, or they could have stopped by the booth or event and learned something that caused them to make a purchasing decision. How does the events team get the credit? We need to find a way to enable events in general to be perceived as successful and a valuable lever of marketing and measure them effectively. I am fortunate that both Apple and Microsoft really value events, but I have worked with a few organizations that didn’t get it – which is tough.


DWM: Books or movies?

EG: Movies. I like psychological thrillers. The more complex and intense the movie, the more I’m not going to be thinking about other things. 


DWM: Other than watching “Silence of the Lambs,” how do you relax?

EG: Hiking down the road with our two dogs, Junior and Violet, to play on the beach. I throw sticks for them, my wife does a little yoga – it’s our way of healing and recharging even in the rain in Seattle.


DWM: What have you learned along the way that’s made your job easier?

EG: If you can turn around and directly show a correlation between the investment in an event and the impact that event had on the business in a simple, direct way, you’ll be able to get more investments and build the brand (and your own) credibility. Get to know PowerPoint. The ability to take an idea, thought, vision or strategy and articulate it visually and succinctly in slides will make your job a lot easier.


DWM: If you could give a single piece of advice on corporate events, what would it be?

EG: There are so many event marketing professionals who start off in their career with project based certifications. While those are important, it’s more important to think earlier in your career about being an event marketer. Think about the business impact of events, and about their place within the marketing mix. It’s a lot harder to take a seasoned event professional who has been purely focused on logistics and details and turn them into a seasoned marketer than it is to take a seasoned marketer and train them on events.


Gotsis has a gift for storytelling. In addition to some great event-related anecdotes, I also learned that he and his wife met through their dogs, shortly before his move to Seattle. His pit bull was entranced by her Great Dane at a town park in Austin, and the rest is history. 


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