Martech Interview with Tim Heffernan, Chief Growth & Development Officer at T3 Expo

Discover the elements that are crucial to providing a positive guest experience at an event.

Can you give us a brief about your role at T3 Expo?
As the Chief Growth & Development Officer at T3 Expo, my role involves spearheading the company’s strategic growth initiatives. I focus on identifying new business opportunities, nurturing client relationships, and ensuring our solutions align with evolving market needs. My responsibilities encompass driving innovation, marketing and government relations, enhancing our competitive positioning, and fostering partnerships to drive T3 Expo’s expansion and success.

In your opinion, has the event industry changed after the pandemic?
Undoubtedly, the event industry has undergone significant transformation in the wake of the pandemic. The shift towards virtual and hybrid events accelerated during the pandemic, and then quickly receded as live events came roaring back.

When I was head of all marketing and communications at NCR Corp, we pioneered virtual events right after the financial crisis put pressure on budgets. My CEO at the time was impressed with the promise of virtual events, coupled with the promised cost-savings. We set-up virtual booths, avatars and online meeting rooms for everyone to network in. We spent countless hours producing content and working to make the best virtual experience. After the event my CEO, while very happy with the content, told me, “Don’t ever let me convince you to do that again.”

The reason was he was very disappointed with the quality of interaction between attendees, and didn’t feel it produced the desired business outcomes of knowledge sharing and cross-functional learning that you get at live events. This also led him to want to restructure our entire office footprint because he saw us as “everywhere but nowhere” and wanted to create those same business outcomes in the office that were happening at live events.

This is very relevant today with back to the office, and how events are now serving as a place to meet like we used to at the office.

What are your organization’s USPs that have helped it stand apart from the competition?
T3 Expo’s unique value proposition is simple; we put the customer first. By being focused on the customer and combining it with our deep industry expertise and innovative solutions, we have been rewarded by a repeat and growing customer base.

While this may sound simple, it is not simplistic. It comes from a commitment to client success and focus on the root causes of wants and needs, rather than focusing on a point solution and/or worse focusing on individual profit centers of point products that are forced upon the customer.

We do this within every account through deep and continual discovery to look beyond the individual incidents or products, and to focus on the connections between them. Then you can get a real understanding of what causes customer satisfaction, because you are looking at what moves the points and not the individual elements themselves.

For example, if a customer is constantly paying late fees on a printed graphic in an area of the show, this will obviously be a point of distress on both sides. Our industry norm solution to this is to move the deadline further back, and maybe even charge more in order to drive to a “better behavior.”

This doesn’t work.

The fees and missed deadlines are a symptom of a larger problem or perhaps inherent in the nature of what is being printed. When we see deadlines being missed we sit down in our agile review scrums, and work on alternative plans that would eliminate the additional cost. The result is a very client specific plan to drive to greater success.

While addressing the event requirements, what are the must-haves you look at?
When addressing event requirements, we prioritize several must-haves. These include a comprehensive understanding of the event’s objectives, target audience, and desired outcomes. Seamless logistics, innovative design, cutting-edge technology, and the ability to create immersive experiences are crucial elements. Also, an adaptable approach that will resonate with attendees and achieve the desired impact of the customer is critical. We are always brainstorming and presenting creative new approaches to our clients. It is important to evolve in order to think of ways that will make our clients unique and memorable. Cookie cutter approaches are over.

Have customer preferences changed, taking into account in-person and virtual events?
Yes, customer preferences have evolved significantly. In-person events have come roaring back as the pandemic reminded people just how important they are for fostering personal connections and networking. While virtual events offer accessibility and broader reach, most clients have significantly prioritized in-person over virtual. While some attendees appreciate the convenience of attending remotely and interacting digitally, many attendees are excited to get out and travel again, to see colleagues and to use the time at events to interact in ways you just can’t do in a remote event. We have called this the “new offsite.”

Which factors play a major role in delivering customer experience at an event?
The best events bring clarity to where there are questions and opportunities within a vertical’s changing market dynamic. Simply, those that put together decision-makers with experts that can show attendees how to tame complexity have the most successful events.

Once they do that, then focusing on the attendee journey through making learning easy is a win. An example would be taking a cross-functional problem, like cybersecurity, and bringing together different companies within a pavilion to showcase tailored solutions within that vertical.

This does two things, first it makes it easy for the attendee to learn from a speaker in a TedTalk like environment. Second, it allows them to quickly turn to multiple vendors to see who can best solve their specific problem.

Could you give us a glimpse of some products used to address event requirements?
T3 Expo we have offerings for corporate and association event organizers, marketing, communications, and event agencies, and companies looking for a customized booth at an event.  The solutions that we offer to each of these customers span a very wide range, that all solve the problem of how to make the physical manifestation of your brand go from a render to reality.

How do you perceive the technological advancements in the event industry in the near future?
Technological advancements will continue to redefine the event industry. We’ll see further integration of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for immersive experiences. AI-powered matchmaking will enhance networking, while data analytics will provide deeper insights into attendee behavior. Hybrid events will become more sophisticated, offering seamless interaction between in-person and virtual participants. Sustainability and eco-friendly solutions will also gain prominence, reflecting broader societal trends.

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Could you give us a glimpse into the future growth plans of T3 Expo?
T3 Expo’s future growth plans revolve around innovation, expansion, and client-centric solutions. We want to continue to singularly focus on being the most customer centric partner in the industry and innovate around and for them.

What would you advise aspiring event organizers?
To aspiring event organizers, I’d offer a few key pieces of advice. First, understand your industry’s trends and challenges. This will enable you to be the best in understanding your target audience, and what drives the learning they are trying to attain by going to an event. This then will lead to the right sponsors that can offer insights into how they are solving those problems for others, and lead to more sponsorship sales for you. While doing this, stay adaptable and open to creative approaches that can enhance attendee experiences. You can supercharge your learning curve through establishing strong partnerships with vendors, suppliers, and technology providers. Lastly, never underestimate the power of creativity and innovation – strive to continually differentiate your events with shareable moments that resonate with attendees.

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Tim Heffernan, Chief Growth & Development Officer T3 Expo

Tim Heffernan works with clients to deliver the physical manifestation of their brand across events, retail and corporate office environments. He leads business development teams to accomplish this by focusing on guiding employees, attendees, and consumers across curated journeys that end in shareable moments. In addition, he directs innovation across marketing, government relations, and product development. Prior to T3 Expo, Heffernan had experience leading and advising governments and Fortune 1000s through all phases of go-to-market strategy, marketing/communications, government relations and product development. He holds patent pending technologies across retail technologies and has been cited as an expert across business and trade publications. He led teams both on the agency and client side at companies including: Cable & Wireless, NCR, Motorola, Symbol Technologies (now Zebra), The NPD Group, Weber/Shandwick and Aperio Strategy Group. Heffernan has received numerous industry awards, and as recognition for his contributions within the U.S. government, received multiple challenge coins from the Department of Defense and a token of appreciation from The White House. He has served as an advisor / vice chair to the International Franchise Association’s appointment to the White House working group to reopen the country from COVID-19. Heffernan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Rhode Island. While there, he received numerous academic awards in political science. He also holds the distinction of becoming one of the first civilian student representatives at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He resides in Miami with his wife and daughter. LinkedIn.
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