Corporate Event Expert Profile: Mary Kelly Rich, Event and Community Marketing Manager, SkyKick
The Corporate Event News Event Expert Profile series features interviews with some of the many talented corporate event professionals who make this industry thrive.
Mary Kelly Rich has been working in the B2B technology startup world for the past five years. For the last two, she’s been the event manager for cloud automation and management software provider SkyKick. Rich attributes her success in event management to having spent a number of years in customer-facing roles where her focus was on providing an exceptional client experience — something she strongly believes is vital to success in any role, in any industry.
Q. What has your career path been to get to where you are today?
I started my career in customer service on the retail sales side, owning the in-store customer experience and events associated with delighting and surprising the clientele. From retail I went into nonprofit work, managing one of the organization’s annual half marathon fundraisers and its volunteers. I then decided to move back to the corporate realm on the customer-facing side in account management, working my way back towards marketing and the corporate event landscape. My background in customer service has been truly vital in designing events and working across internal teams, stakeholders, and vendors to ensure all parties are happy with the end results.
Q. How many events are you responsible for each year (average) and what types?
Four events that range in size from medium to large scale – these events see anywhere from 2,000 up to 30,000 people.
Q. What is your favorite part of your job?
I love the creation process. Thinking through how I’m going to create a compelling & engaging event and/or experience for our B2B audience of IT managed service providers within the Microsoft Partner Network, while delivering an ROI positive event that reaches overarching company and internal stakeholder goals.
One of my favorite events to work on is our presence at Microsoft Inspire. It’s a multi-day, multi-objective beast with numerous side events – and I love it. It’s exciting for me to think through how the SkyKick brand, products and our people will be featured in our booth on the tradeshow floor and then flow into our parties and workshops, down to even the minute details of parting favors, booth swag and so on.
Q. Is there any one app, program, or technology that you’ve found the most helpful?
Microsoft Teams and SharePoint have been extremely useful for collaboration across multiple teams and personnel. Sometimes being a corporate event marketer can feel more like one big project management to do list — especially being the sole event person at a company of our size — as so much of the success of an event is not based on one single person. You need to have clear communication and transparency across many departments and people to conceive and execute a successful event and these tools have allowed me to do so. I would also add that Asana is a great tool for in-the-weeds project management as the assignment of tasks and due dates to team members is very helpful.
Q. Your responsibilities include both events and community management. Do you tie the two together?
Yes, definitely. The community aspect for me revolves around newsletters and webinars and being able to work really closely with the campaigns team to drive that. If your role doesn’t include that aspect, I highly recommend that you find the person in your company who is responsible for understanding your community members: What are they thinking, feeling and wanting, what content is resonating with them, whether they downloaded a certain ebook or opened specific campaign emails.
Understanding the needs of your community can inform your event design from a trade show booth experience to a workshop or even a party. It can help you set the tone for the conversations you want to have at that event because you already know what is resonating with that group. It works both ways too — on the one hand, you can try to drive traffic to your events from within your community, and on the other, the conversations you have at an event could lead to a follow-up call.
Q. Is there any place in the industry that you see disruption happening or an area that you think needs disruption?
My personal opinion is that there’s still work to be done on providing audiences with an interactive event experience that drives results for attendees (as well as the business event host) long after the conference, workshop, or expo. Some conferences/companies are doing great things when it comes to offering a truly unique and actionable event experience for its attendees (Dreamforce and Microsoft Inspire are great examples!) Others have yet to crack the code on how to deliver a truly holistic experience. Let’s go back to basics to rethink and disrupt the attendee event experience.
Q. What’s the one thing you never leave home without?
When I’m working an event like Microsoft Inspire, it’s three pairs of shoes. I learned early on that even your most comfy shoe is not so comfortable on day three of a trade show. My second item would have to be my phone: I could not run an event without it and my essential apps.
Q. If you could give a single piece of advice on corporate events, what would it be?
Do as many informational interviews as possible. Set time up with the manager or head of the department/team you want to move to. Informational interviews are a no-pressure conversation to help you assess your current skill set and what you need to do in order to reach the next level when/if a role becomes available. It’s a great way to get in front of the hiring manager and be top of mind, as well as gain first-hand knowledge of where to beef up your skill set to land your dream job.
And don’t limit it to just within your company. Want to work at SkyKick someday, for example? While we don’t have an event role open now, set up time for an informational interview with me or other marketing leaders here to learn what will make you a top pick when a role should become available. In other words, utilize your connections and LinkedIn to start networking for your next career move.
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