The Pixilated Podcast

Lori Pugh Marcum | EnsembleIQ | Pixilated Podcast Season 2

June 29, 2022 Patrick Rife Season 2 Episode 10
The Pixilated Podcast
Lori Pugh Marcum | EnsembleIQ | Pixilated Podcast Season 2
Show Notes Transcript

Lori Pugh Marcum has 17 years of experience in the meetings and events industry on both the planner and supplier sides of the business. As Events Content Director for Path to Purchase Institute and Retail Leader, she creates and executes content strategies for all events, awards, and webinar programs. She also participates as an expert host and facilitator and creatively tests and refines content delivery ideas to delight attendees. 

Lori formerly served as Head of Meeting Innovation at Meeting Professionals International, where she was responsible for managing meetings and event production along with speaker and session management, as a part of MPI’s global live and virtual event portfolio. 

She spent 6 years at Jacksonville’s PRI Productions as both an event producer and manager of the Event Producer Department. During her time at PRI Productions, she managed events with partners such as THE PLAYERS Championship, Gator Bowl Association, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Prior to her role at PRI Productions, she was also Special Events Manager for the AAA Five-Diamond resort, Ponte Vedra Inn and Club as well as Events Manager for the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. Lori holds a Bachelor of Science focused in Communications and Advertising from the University of North Florida and a Master’s Degree in Meeting and Event Management from San Diego State University.  

Lori was honored as one of MeetingsNet’s 2021 Changemakers as well as Meetings and Conventions Magazine’s 22 Millennials to Watch in 2016.  She also served as an anchor for MPI’s Global Meetings Industry Day Broadcast from 2019-2021.

You can connect with Lori Pugh Marcum at:


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Patrick Rife:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Pixilated podcast. I am Patrick rife, your host and CVO here at Pixilated. welcome you back for another episode. So for those of you out there that had been subscribing and listening to our podcasts for a long time, thank you. And this won't be new to you. But for those of you who may be tuning in for the first time, maybe some of the Lori's people, we have decided to dedicate Season Two to one on one interviews with event professionals kind of with the goal of knowing that it's overarching talking about the events world, but more so what I wanted to do this season was kind of start to find people that are inside of niches in the events world so that way, we can start to understand a little bit more about that. I feel like oftentimes event professionals we find ourselves working in these new ecosystems, but because the events space is so hurry up and wait, a lot of times, we don't have time to really dig in and learn about you know, maybe a new partner or a new person, you know, whether it's like a DMC or whether it's somebody working in the higher education space. So that's what this season is dedicated to. And I am extremely excited to have Laurie Pugh mark, come on the podcast today, Lori and I connected probably like 14 or 15 months ago, through a lot of the work that I've you know, talked at nauseam about how great MPI has been for Pixilated the last two years. So we met around g mid for 2021. And since then, we've stayed in touch and she has now moved on to her to her next adventure. So we're gonna get into all that. But before we do so, Lori, welcome to the Pixilated podcast.

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, I'm super excited to have you on. Listen, before we get into kind of the detailed questions, why don't you let everybody know, you know, just a little bit about yourself who you are what you do?

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Sure, absolutely. So I have been in the meeting and events industry for almost 18 years now. Some of my previous roles have been head of meeting innovation at meeting professionals international or most commonly known as MPI. And I am currently the events Content Director of the path to purchase Institute and retail leader. I have taught many classes in the industry. I have done virtual in person events, I love all things events, and a proud graduate of the SDSU master's program for meeting professionals as well.

Patrick Rife:

Awesome, wonderful, good intro, good intro. Well, so there are a ton of I typically don't write a lot of pre questions, and I'll skim so I've got some things that I'm really curious to talk about. But, you know, one of the things I feel like we will be really remiss to not mention is, I feel like you sit at this interesting space, right? Because the first year of the pandemic was your last year at MPI, right, which is a very unique position to be sitting in, even if it weren't the last role that you were under there, right. Like, just from a from a perspective of surveying the industry getting the broadest breadth of like, what is really happening and some of the challenges, but then being, you know, like on the innovation side, and really, really having that be part of your your world must have been brutal, fascinating, educational, all of the things for that last year, but then what's interesting is then you you migrated and year two of the pandemic you've spent inside of a large organization kind of leading, and I'm guessing there's been a shake up of sorts, and a lot of new things that that, you know, like every company right now has to progress kind of repeat Amenti to stay up to date. So, you know, that being said, what is your sense for, like, where the event spaces right now get given that, given what you learned, you know, over the last two years,

Lori Pugh Marcum:

absolutely. So for global meetings, Industry Day GM ID that we worked with you on, we had over 10,000 Viewers, as a part of that at MPI, their their broadcast. And it was really because people were at home, it could not leave to go to in person events, and they wanted to see what this virtual event thing was like. So it was a huge, I would say catapult into people understanding and how do we how do we engage How do you do virtual events? And, you know, I'd have to say meeting professionals really rose to the challenge of doing them and understanding them embracing podcasts looking at other options, to still have that sense of community and To end to educate now, fast forwarding to now we are seeing more and more events happening. I do have events this year, all of them actually in Chicago, but one in May, June, October. And you know, I think we are meeting professionals are realizing, okay, meetings are bad, but not maybe as large and niche events are actually very popular. However, one of our competitors just had 10,000 People in Las Vegas. So I would say some sectors are definitely back to pre COVID numbers. I think it just depends on your audience. And I think we're starting to realize it's getting back on the road, we forget how, oh, my gosh, how do you pack your pack to go to an in person event again? And why are we so tired? We are out of out of meeting and event shape. But yeah, there's light on the horizon, we're starting to see things turn around. You were virtual events, or shorter virtual events, and more niche. And I think we've gotten just better at doing them in general.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, yeah. It's also weird to have to psychologically deal with being away for from your people. You know, like, I'm a father of three. And when travel comes up, I am, like, just ready to cancel it. I just like when push comes to shove, I'm just like, ah, like, I'm not sure that this is worth it. Like, I'm not sure that I'm ready to shift back. So here's a question for you like, maybe a little T. Where in the in the realm of event technology, right, billions of dollars, right, billions of dollars of venture capital just flowing, just streaming it like, it's like the Hoover Dam of money, like going into event technology over the last two years, right. And I'll say it right virtual event platforms, a lot of them are websites with widgets on them, like, at the end of the day, like a lot of website builders don't hate me. But you know, like, that's the truth, right? Our virtual photobooth is something that fits inside of a widget on our website, like, it's like, that's just the way that it is an iframe is, is an enclosing element that's built for a website, which it was needed, not saying that it isn't. But I feel like there's a lot that transpired that is not going to quantitatively add up on the other side of it. So without being you know, without picking a fight, what are the elements that got missed? Like, what did it look like for your perspective, right? Like looking at all these tools that should have changed, like, first of all, hybrid tools don't really exist, right? Like, that's, that's not really a thing like you, there are companies like us, right? We've got an IRL and we've got a hybrid tool, and we know how to make them work together. But like, it's by and large, all of that virtual investment hasn't really translated yet to the live space. So, you know, where did the boat get missed?

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Yeah, that's a great question. Um, you know, interactivity, networking, that, you know, when I use your tools, some of the most fun things to do are things that will engage people that aren't even necessarily business related, like, hey, I want to see the pic of your cutest pet coworker. Right. You know, they're things that I think sometimes in the beginning, we forgot how to have fun at events. So that was one of the things I really liked about your tool is fun challenges and things for, for people to do to use it and to bring some laughter I mean, you have to entertain people as much as you're educating them with, with virtual events. And a lot of the platforms that I've seen, and I just speaking from my own experience, you know, we aren't doing hybrid events this year. It's just the ROI. Because in my opinion, if you're going to do a hybrid event where you have a virtual audience, and an in person audience, you have to have a significant investment to have that go well, and both Yeah, both of them. It's like you have to have to it's two different events, and you have to figure out where they intersect and you need to have a host for each one and addressing them and the return on investment because people aren't really willing to pay money for the virtual side or very inexpensively unless you're a company with a lot of money that is reaching out to your consumers or your your staff to put something on it that nature I'm most of the event professionals I talked to, especially ones that Association's just don't have that kind of money to do it right. Now, that's not to say that there isn't a place for virtual events and for in person events, it's just the hybrid component is so, so expensive and so much staff time. Now we know that tons of people got laid off during COVID from the event side, and it was a great transition for them to go to the, to work for the virtual platforms, right. There have been significant layoffs on virtual event companies in 2022, I think because people are going back in person, so I think they'll still find it space, there's, I have had quite a few like networking type virtual, either plugins, or companies acquired them, that I think are actually really quite good that we could mix in with our webinars versus long virtual events. But I do think your virtual events are going to get shorter, or maybe it's, you know, three days long, but it's only two hours a day. I mean, people's bandwidth is just hard. And it's more interactive, people are ready to engage. They've been listening to, you know, education being basically just straight atom where there's, you know, your, your mind shuts off after about seven minutes. So, I think we do from a adult learning perspective, that is definitely needing to change and was probably missed in the beginning by event professionals, but is people are catching on that the format's need to change.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah. editing, editing. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, a lot of what you said resonated. So I thought that, you know, my opinion was that what should happen with virtual is that, it should, it should, you know, at first, it should grow your audience, right, because you need to appeal to like a whole new subset, because you're not going to move everybody that was coming to IRL stuff onto your virtual place, but also, like, your addressable market gets larger, right for your cause, or your interest, because now all of a sudden, you're not burdened by it. But really what I thought, you know, hybrid to me is like, Okay, we got them all log that, like, it's getting somebody to finally click open on your MailChimp, and then you know, they're not gonna go to spam anymore. And they're there, right? Like, that's what it is, it was just opting in. And then from there, right, like, short, concise, valuable, educational, community driven ways where you could say, you met all these great people on on our live event, and like, by the way, you're gonna be able to connect with them on going right, and we're going to facilitate further connections with them on going and you know, like, is that, you know, the problem there is like, do I belong to every single company or events, you know, subreddit or Facebook group? Or is there a plugin? Right, that is the community plugin for all of these networks to keep them together? Like, I'm not sure because, you know, like, that is, that is where the work needed to get done, right? Because how do you not turn into LinkedIn? How do you How are you pluggable into all these places? Like, in a sense, like, how do you make something that's ubiquitous enough that like, you know, a monopoly is problematic, but also when you're trying to draw the largest amount of connectivity? You also, you know, like, there's distortion to have too many things that are in place. So I don't know, that's, that's kind of what I thought what would happen and that, you know, like, it would become more of like your ongoing like digital community that you're like living and breathing with, and you guys are, you know, you're having forums but for purpose, not just for like the sake of like, well, let's make this a 10 hour event or like a 20 hour event. So it's, it's it's kind of interesting to hear you say the same thing. And I think that that your gut is, is not dissimilar from I think, now a word from our sponsors.

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Patrick Rife:

a lot of what the industry is thinking.

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Absolutely. And in my current role, so the the audience that attends our events, or reads our magazine or interacts with our brand Path to Purchase Institute is all around how consumers buy products, specifically CPG. What that means is basically things you would buy in a grocery store, you know, groceries, Coca Cola, make up, toilet paper, you know, all of it. And what's interesting, the two parallel worlds, I'm good to mix my advertising background with my events background. And what is so interesting is that the consumer, even though they go back into the stores, you know, there's some of them are still doing where they pick their order online, they basically just like, repeat their order, right. And then they go to the store to pick it up, to pick it up, or have it delivered. But if they're picking it up, they still go into the store, maybe to, I don't know, choose their own produce, or you know, to grab a couple of things. And the reason why we still are carrying some of them behaviors over is because it makes our life easier. Sure. So the thought process for me is there's going to be a place for virtual events, because it makes their life easier. Meaning you don't have to leave your kids. You don't have to board your dogs, you don't you know, there's all those things, like you said, very specific niche content, because if you have these long events, you people are multitasking, and they're not listening to a single word you say, but if they can get something very precise, succinct and they don't have to travel, right. But if the purpose of in person events, and I have seen this, and so I have colleagues of mine, they want less content and more networking, and they want shorter in person event. So I'm seeing conferences no longer than two days. And where you have fewer education sessions, and you have networking sessions alongside of it, because people have missed that, that face to face in their content out. So even our in person events is you almost have to think, with what is going to make this easiest and most beneficial for the attendee, you know, we're darn near near killing people before COVID going to conferences, and we start at 8am. And then we have a cocktail party, and then we have a dinner and they don't go bed to midnight and they're coming home exhausted, I think Long gone are those days people are much, you know, they're looking to take care of their their family nucleus, well, and themselves. And so I think the shape of in person events is going to change from from that alone. And the convenience of all the things that we have now we're kind of we're putting ourselves first as consumers and of it attendees.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think you're right, like, in a non trendy sense, I think people have a greater sense of what, you know, like self care is like, and I don't mean going to the spa, I mean, like going to sleep, you know, like feeling that, you know, like, that's common, right? Like everyone is like, it's only two o'clock, what's wrong with me, you know, and some of us are like, in the middle of their parent zone. So it makes it makes sense. But I think that everybody is feeling that, like everybody has this sense of kind of like fatigue that is going on. And this, this greater self awareness of, you know, like, what we expect from our bodies and our minds on a daily basis. And, you know, like, after having had more space for that, you become very aware of when you're when you're removing that from, you know, the availability, listen to this going, going going. Yeah, so, so let's shift over, you know, let's shift over to the last year. So I would want I would love to know, like, what was exciting enough to, you know, to coax you from, from where you are and what you have been doing, like you had been at MPI for a long time, six or seven years? I think. So, a pretty significant chapter in your life. And I'm sure that you know, like, you'll, you'll only stray but so far after you've spent so much time there, but tell us a little bit about the last year.

Lori Pugh Marcum:

So you know, it was hard to leave MPI I still am in part of MPI family. I do a lot of volunteer work. So at the local chapter level, but I think there's a time in everyone's career when you've been in a job at a certain point of time and in NPIs headquarters is not that large and it just really wasn't a whole lot of opportunity for growth. And while all of the events that I did were very interesting, they were fun, I loved the content of them, I needed to think about what was next, you know, for my career and what my goals were long term. And so, you know, it was just like casually looking online and wasn't really even looking for a new job. And then I saw this position. And it really interested me from my advertising background about how consumers buy products and the events content side and hosting and seeing and doing those things that I felt like it would be a nice segue. And, you know, down the road, who knows what could happen, maybe I'll hit the lottery, and then I won't ever have to work again. But I think long term, I would want to get to a C suite level. And I just felt like this. advertising marketing, the publishing side of things, was very interesting to me. And it allowed me to move up. From a from a career standpoint, try something new. I'm, uh, you know, I want to keep growing. And I felt like I had grown about as far as I was going to with MPI, and I'm so grateful for them, actually, all the designations that I have, and their support with my master's degree, I would not be where I am today without them. But it has been an incredible year, and an absolutely incredible year, I am loving where I am. I'm loving the content. I'm, you know, it's funny, 20 years ago, when I worked at an ad agency, the only things that we really did from a media perspective is is radio, billboards, TV, you know, grassroots. Now, there's this whole world of technology. That's, you know, even we did very few even website banner ads 20 years ago, and now there's, there's data and there's measurement. There's, there's things like, there's cameras on the eye level, in the grocery stores that can help determine what products people are looking at, are they even looking at your product, like the minutiae of where we are going technology wise, just, it was something that I felt like I could, you know, dig my teeth into and learn something new. And it's been a lot of fun.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah. So what are some of those? Maybe before we get there? One is, are you are is this work from home? Or are you back in an office,

Lori Pugh Marcum:

it's work from home. So I've worked from home for about eight years now, which is great. I'm also a parent, I have a 13 year old daughter, gotta be around here to keep an eye on her. So enjoying it.

Patrick Rife:

That's great. That's great. So like, you know, first time you started a new job in a while, right? Like, what's that like? Like, you know, like, we're, you're, you're in the great resignation, right? Like, this is such a heady time to be kind of shifting, right? What's week one, like, they're,

Lori Pugh Marcum:

you know, it's like drinking from a firehose, you there's so much new information, and you do feel a need to have to kind of prove yourself because when you work in other organizations for a long time, you know, everything and I'm one of those people, it's like, I want to be the go to a someone has a question about this. And it is kind of humbling to start again. And so they were you don't it's simple as you don't know, the where the files are on the shared drive or, or the nitty gritty, somebody asks you questions, and you're like, I don't, I don't know the answer to that. Now, fast forward a year, I feel like I have, of course, a much better grasp on it. But it is it is humbling to start, start over again. But it's been an it's an incredible organization, voted one of the best places to work. The woman is we have our CEO is a woman and she is incredible, and very empathetic and very understanding. And I work with really creative people and creative writers. And I have to say it's just invigorated a part of me. I think everybody knows when it's time to move on from a job, you just kind of get this gut feeling. You just need to start looking and bam, I found something I was like, let me just apply. And then, you know, two weeks later, I accepted a position. So don't be afraid to step out try something new.

Patrick Rife:

That's amazing. That's a good story. That's a good story. So so with that being said, how big is it? How big is your team? What do you you know, like your your day to day now?

Lori Pugh Marcum:

So, ensemble IQ is the parent company and it's we have over 200 employees. I work for a division or what we would call a brand called Path to Purchase Institute. That brand has roughly 22 to 24 people. Okay? Yeah, my day to day is, you know, sourcing for webinars so we're seeing for our live events, you know, doing some hosting, doing some interviewing, helping really helping brands figure out the best way to get their messaging out. And new technologies that can help brands. I mean, there's all these not to get into the nitty gritty, but something called retail media networks where people are, you know, buying things from their phone or buying things on looking at a recipe on Pinterest that they like, and then adding it to the cart and having it delivered. I mean, there's just so And don't even get me started on the metaverse, we're already doing sessions on that. It's just like, very interesting, complex concepts that are really fun. You know, I am a data and technology geek and I am just loving. I'm loving all the possibilities and seeing what shakes out and what laughs Yep.

Patrick Rife:

So what are your What are your favorite tools that you're using to to make sense out of all of that data and the, you know, the campaigns and strategies that you're deploying and how they fit back in with, you know, the the top level KPIs?

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Right, you know, I could say that there's some fancy technology, but we, we use Google Suite. And so I've got a Google Doc and a spreadsheet for everything. We were using a lot of different event platforms for our virtual events that we still have, but we are back in person and transitioning to those with the exception of our webinars, which we, you know, continue to have an internal platform for that. So not really a fancy technology in terms of keeping organized and strategy. It's more the technology that our brands and service providers are using to get consumers to the products that I find very interesting.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah. So that that, you know, the, that, you know, area of focus, right of working with these individual brands. Tell me a little bit about you know about that.

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Yeah, absolutely. There's a lot of investment going into the metaverse, like I mentioned, it's not really built yet. There's tons of money going into it. But you know, Nike as a brand that it already has virtual shoes. They're selling I mean, there's already a lot of stuff going on. But it's more, it's not for every brand, right? I mean, some brands, they have found their their niches, and a lot of it has to do around what creative campaigns and things, I would have to say the biggest rise in 2021 was the rise of the QR code. Yeah, like people are getting in, you can have it in the store they get in or to win things. I mean, it seems so simple QR codes been around for a very long time. But now we're using them more and how do you integrate it? How do you get people to share things on social media? influencers and what they're doing with things, just, you know, micro events as well like the Superbowl, or March Madness. It's interesting to see how they're playing with different types of of, of way, ways to brand things to create experiences that people just create at home. Which is interesting, because we, as event professionals, when we think of creating experiences, we think of a tangible event that we're putting on in a location. But how do you create experiences that people take on their own? And do in their own houses? It's interesting concept.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, yeah. I just saw. I just read this thing about PPC, I don't know. So pay pay per click advertising. And Snickers did a PPC Ad where they looked up, like, I don't know, the top 1500 words that gets searched on Google. And then they placed ads on misspellings of the of those words. And then when the person got to it, it said, like, whatever, like this, the dictionary definition, something to the effect of you spelled this wrong, you must be hungry. So like, it ties back to that whole hangry like, like you turn into a real monster when you're hungry like that, that whole commercial that they did. So they did this whole ad where when people were searching for a word, and they misspelled it, they're like, probably time to take a break.

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Like, oh, that is so creative. I see. I love that. Right, right. Yeah. And we're also seeing in this industry, a great shift in where budgets lie and how teams are organized because you do need to have these tech savvy data analyst, social media gurus and that's where a lot of the younger talent is coming in and things are realigned. it's it's interesting to see the creative mindset and something that we wouldn't even think of. I'm not even old, but I'm still like, a lot of colleges will come up with this idea. And I'm like, I don't even know you could do that. You know, and it's just totally, it's the melding of all the generations together and a willingness to learn and be successful. And yeah, we've seen some really, really creative ideas.

Patrick Rife:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, Laurie, this has been like the best chat, I knew that it would be good when we finally got around to doing it. It just took a year. But that being said, we should probably this is a pretty good point to jump off. But before we do, let everybody know, that's listening, like, how do they connected with you? Where's the good place to follow along, you know, et cetera, et cetera?

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Definitely on LinkedIn, you can just send her Laurie Pugh Markham. And that's usually where I would do a lot of postings about big events or content that we have just general networking, things of that nature. So LinkedIn is definitely the best spot would love to connect love to, you know, go down the rabbit hole and talk about all the different technologies out there for meeting professionals and and just consumers in general.

Patrick Rife:

Awesome. Well, on behalf of all of our listeners, thank you so much for your time and sharing such thoughtful responses. I know that everybody that's listening is going to really be stoked from from having benefited from it.

Lori Pugh Marcum:

Thank you so much for having me. Always a pleasure.

Patrick Rife:

All right, guys. That brings us to the end of another episode. You know, shownotes will have links to to Lori's LinkedIn. So you can go and click that and follow along. I have two requests from you. Number one, leave us a five star review. Your five star review will help more people find the podcast which helps us tell more stories to more people, which is a good thing. And secondly, if you haven't yet, make sure you hit subscribe whether you are listening on Spotify, or Apple Music or wherever you consume podcasts. Make sure you hit subscribe. That way each time we publish a new episode you get notified immediately. So without further ado, I am Patrick rife and we will see you next time. Peace