Mark Kilens
CMO Airmeet

Welcome to the Use Case Podcast, episode 275. Today we’ll be talking to Mark from Airmeet about the use case or business case for why his customers choose Airmeet.

Airmeet creates unique virtual events targeted to the attendees’ needs drives key outcomes.

Give the show a listen and please let me know what you think. Thanks, William.

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Show length: 27 minutes

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Announcer:

Welcome to RecruitingDaily’s Use Case podcast. A show dedicated to the storytelling that happens or should happen when practitioners purchase technology. Each episode is designed to inspire new ways and ideas to make your business better. As we speak with the brightest minds and recruitment in HR tech. That’s what we do. Here’s your host, William Tincup.

 

William Tincup:

Ladies, gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you are listening to the Use Case podcast. Today we have Mark Kilens from Airmeet and we’ll be learning about the business case cost benefit analysis or use case for why his prospects and customers pick Airmeet. So let’s do introductions first. Mark, would you please introduce yourself and Airmeet?

 

Mark Kilens:

Of course. Thanks for having me on the show, William. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you today. Mark Kilens. I’m the chief marketing officer over at Airmeet. Airmeet is the world’s first ever event experience cloud. So that is a set of products that allow people to host amazing events either in person, hybrid, virtually, online. So they bring together people, they get people to join together from anywhere in the world. And ultimately if you’re using it from a business standpoint, we’re helping businesses grow revenue and increase customer loyalty through really deepening the connection you can have with your buyers, customers, your community. My background has always been marketing tech, if you will. I was at a company called Drift before Airmeet, a conversational intelligence AI type company, conversational marketing if you will. And then before Drift for eight and a half years I was at HubSpot. So it’s always been kind of Mark tech for me.

 

William Tincup:

Oh, that’s cool. I’m a recovering marketer myself so I understand and support your … Especially HubSpot. Oh my God, just what a wonderful community and experience. The event experience cloud, one of the things I wanted to ask you about was with the hybrid events, is obviously people, if you want to do a virtual event doing something online, there’s a couple options there If you want to do something offline, okay, there’s options. Obviously there’s options, conferences that have been going on for hundreds of years. But more and more I see people needing, they need people there if they’re doing a bid, in fact, I talked to UKG earlier today and I can’t attend their analyst event because I’ve got jury duty oddly enough, but they have a virtual part of it that’s all being recorded. So I can watch it and listen to it later after jury duty, after I get dinged out of jury duty, and then I’ll fly out and I’ll actually go to the conference part, the event part.

First of all, I just see that in my world, your world is much different, much bigger outside of HR or work tech and things like that. So what are you seeing in terms of hybrid events and the need for either employees or candidates or however we want to phrase it, but what do you see coming from your customers?

 

Mark Kilens:

Sure. No, I mean it’s a good question because I think hybrid is a very confusing, loaded term and there might even be a myth around hybrid. So is a hybrid event one event or is it two events? We can kind of unpack this maybe. There’s hybrid with an in-person experience plus a live stream, but there’s nothing else on that. It’s just in-person and you’re watching the content being presented on the stage. And then even with that, the question is is the event host live streaming all of the sessions or is it just a select few sessions and you watch them on hand? So there’s that.

There is in-person with a digital online event that is more than a live stream, meaning there’s maybe an MC, there’s real networking, there’s connections, and then I’d say, well that might be considered more two events because at the end of the day an event comes down to the audience. So if you have two different audiences, even though they’re experiencing similar things, is it really just one event or is it two events? So there’s that debate.

There is in-person event with an online event happening after the in-person event. And I would say that’s probably not hybrid because that’s not synchronous in the sense, but at the end of the day, if it’s reusing similar content and whatnot, it’s two events but probably not hybrid. There is in-person event with on-demand experience, most likely definitely not hybrid, but some people could think of it as hybrid, it’s hybrid event, I’m going to listen to it on demand, but it’s not going to be exactly live streamed. There’s an online event with different watch parties in different regions. This doesn’t happen often. I think it’s going to happen more and more over time though. But you’re doing an online event predominantly, but then in say three or four different locations around the globe, there’s a small community of people watching the online content and engaging with each other in that smaller location. Is that a hybrid event? Maybe. So dude, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to hybrid events.

 

William Tincup:

Oh yeah. And it’s interesting because a lot of the traditional conferences have worried, and I don’t, maybe rightfully so, is if we have the two events running simultaneously, people won’t show up. They’ll just want to come to the digital one because it’s easier, less costly, et cetera. And I’ve always, I don’t know, I probably would’ve thought differently pre-COVID, but what I’ve seen post-COVID is people want to be around people. It’s crazy. I just came back from Vegas, we had HR tech earlier this month and it was outrageous because there was so many people there that in ’19, those people wouldn’t have been there. And then it had nothing to do with virtual or digital versus or otherwise. It was just people. There’s a pent up demand of I want to get out of the house.

So I think creating a great experience, whomever you’re creating it for, again for your customers or for your employees or partners, whatever the event is for, it’s like, what do they want? What do they need? And I think that’s one of the things I love about Airmeet is, y’all have the flexibility of meeting them wherever they are. It’s like, well what suits your audience at this particular moment?

 

Mark Kilens:

Exactly right. We call it attendee first.

 

William Tincup:

Ah, nice.

 

Mark Kilens:

We have purposely built the event experience cloud with the attendee at the center of all of your events. So you can make sure that you are able to connect that attendee to your brand, your company, you’re able to connect the attendee to the content and speakers, you’re able to have the attendee connect with one another, each other and you’re able to connect the attendee to different partners or sponsors of the event. So ultimately events are all about attendees and that’s also how we’ve done our pricing. We’ve made our pricing so instead of it being registration based, which is what most event tech and webinar tech is, it’s about no, we’re only going to charge you for the most important thing that you care about, your attendees. And that’s where the real value lies. You can have unlimited registrations with Airmeet, but we’ll only say to you, Hey, in case you go over the limit of your plan or the number of attendees you can have per event, we might charge you a bit more.

But that’s the final thing I’d say that’s different about us and other competitors is we give people the ability to host unlimited amount of events depending on which plan you give or you get every year. So every plan comes with unlimited events. It just is a difference of number of attendees per event. And I think that’s the other thing that a lot of people don’t offer up to customers these days. They say, “Well if you’re hosting more events it’s going to cost you more.” But no, we want people to join together, we want people to grow together during these shared experiences. So we’re trying to make it really easy for people to host events and have attendees leave the event and say, “Wow, that was well worth my time and I want to really check out that brand or be more involved in that community, whatever that might be.”

 

William Tincup:

So this is not an emerging category obviously. We had what you mentioned webinar tech pre-COVID. There was obvious some dominant players out there, but I’ve never really thought of them as event. It’s interesting that you bifurcated event and webinar tech and in my mind that made sense to me because I’d always thought of webinar tech is okay, yeah, okay, there’s this class of tech over here and then there’s this kind of a newer group of folks if you will, with Airmeet that it’s more than just one bespoke. Like a webinar, okay, we do one on Tuesday, it’s an hour, it’s a bid, okay. We do a webinar every month. Okay, again, that’s a bid, that’s a plan. I get it. And those are events. Yep. Fair. Cool. But not the way that you’ve described, even when we got into hybrid, you went through 19 different variations of actual events. Who do y’all get compared to most frequently? Who are you? If somebody mentions their name, they’re also mentioning you or otherwise?

 

Mark Kilens:

Yeah, I mean we definitely have competition. So for us we can host all these different types of events, different use cases, internal events, external events, and we can help you consolidate your webinar tech, your event tech, maybe even Zoom for example if you’re a smaller business because we offer up the ability to do meetings, group meetings, large group meetings, up to 300 people. So we kind of plan a lot of spots. But the classic set of competitors will be ON24, Hopin, Hublot. We start to bump it a little bit into Cvent and whatnot a little bit. But it’s really the core, I would call them more legacy players in this space. And then some up-and-coming players that have kind of emerged before, and right during the pandemic.

 

William Tincup:

So our audience would be most probably experienced with Hopin. For whatever reason recruiting and HR communities have both used a lot of Hopin and in fact recruiting daily for its virtual events through COVID, we’ve used Hopin. So our last event, we had 6,000 people register for the event. So not a large event but the audience would be used to that. And then this is, I’m not asking a bunch of competitive questions because my interest here is more what’s different because I know there’s differences because I’ve obviously looked into Airmeet and I know that y’all are different. But for the audience sake and edification, what’s different between … Where do y’all are superior to Hopin?

 

Mark Kilens:

Yeah, happy to answer that question. So we have four products that make up the event experience cloud. We have AirStudio, AX360 Attendee Experience, 360 if you will, AirControl and AirIntel. And each product is built specifically to help you with one of the core functions of an event. So AirStudio is all about creating stunning event experiences. AX360 is all about deepening and creating really great engagement during that event. We have AirControl helping you do the event management piece, making it more seamless and easy and then AirIntel’s all about the data, the analytics, the signals of intent of your attendees and even registrations and how do you personalize the event using that intel as well. So we believe that every event will probably need some set of features from those four products. So even our free plan comes with some subset of those products in terms of feature depthness.

Obviously Enterprise has all of them, but getting into the specifics that make us different, it’s really around like AX360, AirStudio and a little bit of AirIntel and we are the company that’s all about … Our highest level mission is joining people together. How do we help people meaningfully connect from anywhere in the world? That’s almost our vision. That is our vision if you will. That literally is our vision statement and we want to do that through shared experiences. So when you come into an online event with Airmeet, we’re trying to offer up different ways for the host of the events to facilitate, to get people to engage, not just listen to the content, but truly make a connection, make an introduction, meet people, meet the speaker, do all these different things.

We offer up 20 plus ways to do that with AX360. We offer up very interesting new ways to create stunning event experiences through using AirStudio 3D. I wouldn’t, it’s definitely not metaverse by any means, but we have some very interesting three dimensional ways to present the stage, present the virtual stage, present the virtual rooms that are very different than our competition. Again, it’s all about what you remember, that first impression, that wow moments. We really offer a next level of that branding experience. We also offer really great integrations with all these different major solutions and we offer attendees segmentation so you can segment attendees down into different lists and build different experiences for different attendees based off those attendees segments. And we’re just offering more and more in the form of personalization, both pre, during and post event, which most of our competitors don’t do as well.

So we always build with this idea of attendee first and how are we trying to make our products an overall suite, a platform, be more for the host and their attendees and less about like, Hey, how do I create a great event that gets a lot of sponsorship dollars or get a lot of registration? Yeah, we want to help you drive a lot of registration of course, but we want people to attend the event number one, and engage and come back to one of your next events. Like the ultimate metric for event leaders is really, or just marketers overall, no matter if you’re doing recruiting events, internal events, whatever it might be, is does that person or would that person recommend attending one of your events again or down the road and would they come back to one of your events? That’s ultimately I think the truest test.

 

William Tincup:

Love it. So first question or one question that I have is, how have you seen, or if you haven’t seen it yet, how would you like for it to be seen or used in terms of how companies engage and create things for their employees?

 

Mark Kilens:

Oh, we see huge use cases here. So one of our biggest customers on this front is Comcast. They have standardized all of their major events using Airmeet. They use Airmeet across their 189,000 employees and they use it all about getting more engagement between their employees. And they found is people that attend Airmeet events versus Zoom hosted events, are enjoying the experience more, are more engaged during the event. And overall those events that they do with Airmeet lead to higher employee satisfaction, better employee net promoter scores. So they’re literally now standardizing all of their major events across their business using Airmeet. It’s an incredible partnership we have with Comcast. Another one would be HP. HP is using us to do all of their enterprise global sales enablement. So a lot of our event use cases when it comes to teams is around learning, development, training, mentorship, networking, role-playing, coaching, and being able to do that in a more immersive way with better data after the event.

Integrating that with maybe some other employee systems that you have are all things possible with Airmeet. SAP is doing something similar with Airmeet. It’s interesting, we have a lot of Fortune 501 customers that use us right now a little bit more on the internal side. We have over 6,500 customers. A lot of them use us more for the external type marketing events or sales events. But more and more like we’re seeing companies bring this together. Comcast is now exploring doing more external events with us because they realize that it’s a great experience, but we can consolidate and create consistent experiences across the brand using Airmeet.

So the possibilities are kind of endless. But we have one company, for example, I’m trying to remember their name now. They’re using us to do hiring fairs. So they basically use us to, I think it’s once a quarter or twice a year, they use Airmeet. I’m looking this up right now to see which company it is, to get potential employees, people that are interested in joining whatever. During one of these events, they have networking tables during the event, they engage throughout the event. They have keynote speakers, they have their C level people sometimes speak at the event, and it’s just gone so well for them. This is actually, Kaiser Permente is doing this, I know that. And then I think it’s Marvel Technology. Marvel Technology’s also doing this. They did a huge job fair with Airmeet. So it’s very interesting.

 

William Tincup:

So I was going to ask you, well want to get back to the recruiting events because that was going to be the next line of thought, but the external events part for the audience’s sake, because I think they get the Airmeet, especially through the four products, I think they get all the digital part, but the external event, give us an example of, we know you don’t have to use customer names or anything, but just give us an example of what an external event would look like.

 

Mark Kilens:

An external event would be more of, it could be tied to a product launch, it could be tied to a big theme, a new messaging campaign you’re putting into the market. It could be a very topical thing. There’s different levels of how big or small that event could be. But at the end of the day, a great event, no matter if it’s 30 minutes, 60 minutes, three hours, multi-day is all about telling a story. And that story could be short, it could be long and very in-depth, especially if you’re doing a five day virtual type event. We have a customer that’s named Partner Hacker, just partnerhacker.com. It’s a media site and they’re doing a five day B2B event in November of 2022. And each day it’s a different audience. One day’s product, one day’s marketing, one day’s sales, one day’s customer success. One day I think is operations.

And they’re literally telling this overarching story around product-led growth and how important that is. But they’re doing it from five different kind of audience perspectives using Airmeet. So that’s a great event that’s about brand awareness, community activation, community engagement. Then you have other events that are more closing events that are about getting prospects and customers together in a shared experience. There might be 30, 40 people. Inviting them to an in person event or online event, making it about the experience, sending them something that they can all do together if they’re at home or online, if they’re in person doing it. Something that’s a little bit different than, in my opinion, a dinner and making it more about how do we get them to engage and interact with each other that’s outside of a table format. But again, that’s more of a closing event, if you will. That’s more external facing.

So the beautiful thing about events is they act as a center of gravity for the business. And so much can come from an event. You can create content from that event, you can do follow-up from that event. You can build upon the folks that attended the event and learn about what they were interested during that event. And you do more curated follow-up. So I think events are about to just completely explode over the next five, ten years because so much data is now being able to be captured because of event technology.

 

William Tincup:

So you dabbled into the career fair and the recruiting thing, which is where I wanted to ask you around campus hiring and things like that. And again, maybe Airmeet might not be doing as much of that stuff yet, but I can see the use case for why a company in the AT&T and larger companies would use Airmeet to do all their campus recruiting and things like that. So what do you see right now? Because you already mentioned the career fair side, but what do you see? Where would you like to grow that?

 

Mark Kilens:

Yeah, we have a good amount of customers using us, educational institution, schools, using us for that exact purpose. A lot of it is admissions, but also alumni. And then like …

 

William Tincup:

Oh, interesting.

 

Mark Kilens:

Yeah, it’s like getting the students to engage pre-signing up to say, “Yes, I’m coming to your school, I’m accepted, I’m going to do it.” Some of it’s going to be after the fact, but really it’s about, the great events we’ve talked about focused on the audience and the attendees. But they also really articulate well upfront, what is the goal for the attendee and what is the goal for the organization that’s hosting that particular event at that time in the journey of say the college experience. So the more crisp you can get about those two things, the attendees outcome and benefit, and your outcome and benefit as the organization, the more you can align the two things together. So if you’re trying to get someone to hopefully become a student of your college or university, or let’s use the other example, hopefully get a job, then you really have three things at play.

You’re trying to become the broker of these students and these businesses, and then there’s the institution, the school. So how can you design an event that really showcases the students themselves because they have to sell themselves, but then also the businesses are trying to sell themselves to the student as well. So with Airmeet you can create these different virtual rooms. So each business could have their own virtual room where students go in, check out that business, talk to people, see a live presentation, see a video, do the networking, and then move to the next virtual room and check out the next business. So there’s just so many ways you could create an actual physical experience inside of a virtual experience using mates.

 

William Tincup:

Okay. So let’s move to buy side just for a second. If you could just plant questions for people that are buying event experience software, what questions would you love for them to be asking you?

 

Mark Kilens:

Oh, questions. Show me the experience, show me this. Because I think it’s easy for us to talk about it and the best thing to do is show it to me. So I say, well, here’s a great video. We’re going to be doing a lot more with video at Airmeet to really show off these amazing events that our customers create. But then it’s also attend. Show me and attend. So that’s one thing. Questions though, when it comes, when you ask this question, is it about features or I guess can you clarify a bit to dive a little bit deeper into what you mean?

 

William Tincup:

I love that. That’s such a basic question. But you know what I mean? It’s like, no, you know what, just we can show you the software, we can show you videos and all that stuff. Why don’t you just attend an event? Here you go. Yeah. It’s not going to be on a topic that you care about, but just go and be an attendee and go wander around a little bit and then let us show you the software. I love that

 

Mark Kilens:

Pretty much. Yeah.

 

William Tincup:

On the occasion when you show folks the Airmeet for the first time yourself, what’s your favorite part of, I say the demo, but what’s your favorite part of showing people Airmeet?

 

Mark Kilens:

Showing them the use cases and how they could bring those use cases to life. So you might have people that really care about how it looks and feels. Great. Let me show you how to do that with Air Studio. You might have people that really care about the engagement and networking, and most of the time people care about two or three key things. Let me create a custom demo to show you how that will work for your audience. And then let me really show you and talk about event-led growth. Let me open up your eyes to this idea of using events as this strategic comparative across your organization to help you grow your school, your business, whatever it might be. And that’s all about opening up their eyes to all of these potential use cases that they could use in person or online events for. And that’s the biggest thing. How do you actually use events in a way that help you grow your business? Not think of it as a one-off thing, but as a real strategic imperative.

 

William Tincup:

I love it. Last question. And you can use brand names or not use brand names and company names, it doesn’t really matter. But your favorite or maybe even your most recent favorite customer story.

 

Mark Kilens:

My recent most recent favorite customer story. That’s a tough one. There’s so many good customer stories. I love the Comcast example that I gave. The example, I got to flash to this one again, that’s happening in a few weeks. It might have already happened, but this Partner Hacker, five day multi-day event that was amazing. We did an event two weeks ago with this company called RevOps Squared, and it was an event for really a finance audience with some marketers as well. It was about 2,500 attendees. And their whole thing was like, how do we educate the audience using world class speakers? They had some amazing speakers at this event and what that event made them do and realize, and the person who headed up the whole effort, his name is Ray, he and I actually spoke yesterday and he’s like, that made me realize that we could use events as a core part of how we grow our business. Which is exactly event-led growth.

They never really had done events at that scale. There were customers and attendees that were at that event saying, Hey, can you do deeper diversions of these once a month or once a quarter? And it was just such a great event and people loved the experience for the most part. And that event not only made him realize this is a thing that they need to be doing more of, but it also helped them build that real direct connection with that audience and their brand. So that’s one example. And I’ll share one more because I’m advising a few early stage companies and I suggested this really, really early stage company, seed stage company, small company, hey, why don’t you do an event? I’m like, hey, just use Zoom. You don’t need Airmeet. And I use Zoom and do this panel type event. It’s an AMA type event with three people, a host, two speakers, make it about this theme, do the right event planning, if you will.

It’s an hour long event. Small but engaging. And I bet you can get 200 plus people to sign up and I you, I bet you can get 50% to show up. And sure enough, they exceeded both those goals and now they’re like, and they’re going to reuse that content from that event, by the way. They’re going to take all the transcriptions and videos and chop it up and reuse it. Act it as that center of gravity. And now they’re going to be doing at least a couple of events a quarter. So it’s just that those types of stories are the best ones for me where they see the light and they just keep using events as a way to grow the business and grow the community.

 

William Tincup:

Mark drops mike, walks off stage. Thank you so much for your time, Mark, this has been absolutely wonderful.

 

Mark Kilens:

Yeah, thank you for having me. It was a really great conversation. Appreciate it. And yeah, if you have any questions, check out airmeet.com and William, thanks again.

 

William Tincup:

Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the Use Case podcast. Until next time.

 

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Authors
William Tincup

William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.


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