Tech Giants: Dahlia El Gazzar on the Evolution of Events, Crushing the Status Quo and ‘Getting Shift Done’
Event tech and marketing wizard Dahlia El Gazzar is on a mission to empower event professionals with intel that helps them create next-level experiences. It’s the very reason she has been so passionate about the events industry since diving into it more than 10 years ago.
“What first got me interested in event tech is the ability the solutions have to help catapult event organizers' desires to create better experiences for their stakeholders, their events and their internal teams,” she said. “And yet it's an enabler, and I found that strategizing about how to use tech and combining it with the right talent and techniques is the winning combination—that's the part I love to uncover for not only the organizers but also the tech companies.”
El Gazzar and her talented team at DAHLIA+Agency have been helping event professionals embrace technology, “break the status quo and #getshiftdone” for the past eight years since she founded the brand, experience and marketing company, where she serves as tech evangelist and idea igniteur. She is also the self-proclaimed “lead ruckus maker” for the Women in Event Tech group, a global speaker on event technology and new and up-and-coming solutions and platforms, and the recipient of numerous industry publication awards that have named her a top influencer, trendsetter and changemaker, among others.
“I have an OMG attitude about all things tech, audience engagement and experience design,” she said.
That enthusiasm has made El Gazzar the industry’s go-to source for trendsetting tech solutions, event tech news and social media expertise.
We sat down with El Gazzar to discover what sets her company apart and get her thoughts on the keys to audience engagement, pulling off stellar events, the ever-evolving event tech landscape, particularly as the industry moves out of the pandemic, and how event professionals can prepare.
What sets DAHLIA+Agency apart as a global leader in event tech, audience engagement solutions and event marketing?
At DAHLIA+Agency we strive to work at a higher level. Certainly, we align our customers’ needs with the specific tools and campaigns required to reach their objectives and beyond (as all agencies do). But where we excel is in the clients we serve and the approach we take. We look for organizations interested in crushing the status quo and employ strategies designed to fundamentally change their trajectories. We definitely tend to push our clients out of their comfort zones. Sometimes they don’t like what we have to say, especially since we don’t sugar coat anything.
What are some of the biggest pain points event professionals are facing nowadays when it comes to event tech, and how is DAHLIA+Agency providing trendsetting solutions?
Event profs are grappling with three big event tech pain points: the unknown, too many choices, and not engaging event tech companies in the event strategy phase. We address the unknown by co-creating a risk-sensitive technology roadmap for them, which (based on our event technology expertise) narrows down the choices and aligns with their objectives.
Event marketing and production-wise, what are the most important necessities for pulling off a stellar virtual, hybrid or in-person event?
Top necessity: It truly starts off with knowing your audience and being laser-focused on why they should show up for your event, no matter the “venue.” We believe that event profs are now struggling to identify the reasons why attendees should register and spend time at their event, and what they want to gain from the experience. Another necessity: A detailed strategy is critical. After that, it’s important to match the most appropriate technology to the tactical requirements of the event and secure a production company fluent in the types of event executions detailed in the strategy.
What’s the secret to cracking the engagement code, and how are you helping your clients do it?
It’s essential to understand the client and their audience to know how far we can bend the technology to our creative will. The rest is our secret sauce, but it has involved sangria and drag queens. There are so many ways to engage the audience, and it’s not all the same. You have to continue to surprise and delight your audience and wake them up! How many times have you been on breakout sessions and “not” engaged? So, we always ask why, and then we work on the how with the clients.
Can you give us an example of one of your most successful and engaging virtual or hybrid events over the past 18 months?
I don’t want to name any events, since we do so many! I will say this, the most successful and engaging virtual event is when the chat feed is on fire and the attendees are actually excited to share highlights with each other and not only glean from the speaker on the screen. We do workshops on personal branding, tech trends and marketing tactics, and we know that they are a success when the attendees light up the chat and ask to have a breakout room set up right after the session to continue the conversation. We have to be very agile in what the attendees want in the program and who they want to spend more time with at an event.
What are the biggest and most interesting trends defining event tech this year?
One can’t go very far without tripping over the Metaverse, and it seems like there is momentum around the concept. Another trend, sadly, is that many returning, in-person events look like they were frozen in time. On the bright side, the industry is bringing in new talent and new ideas that will, with any luck, manifest in events soon.
What are your predictions for the evolution of virtual, hybrid and in-person events as we move out of the pandemic?
In-person and virtual events will develop into distinct and complementary channels exhibiting their own strengths and weaknesses. But with the constraints of time and location removed, hybrid events will evolve into a whole greater than the sum of its parts by incorporating the best of in-person and virtual events plus some. The industry will only become better at blending, managing and monetizing these amazing tools, and soon, the qualifying terms (in-person, virtual, hybrid) will fall away, and we will just have “events” with unique features.
How can event professionals prepare themselves for this evolution?
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career in event tech, particularly as a female leader in the space?
Be a sponge and keep learning from others, reach out to those you admire, strike up a conversation, and just listen. Always bring a team together that will empower you as a professional and is not shy about telling you when you are deviating from your lane. And don’t forget to have fun. Live and laugh and love through what you do on a daily basis.