Event Expert Insights: Liz King Caruso, CEO and Chief Event Strategist, Liz King Events
Liz King Caruso never thought she could make a living planning events—she thought it was just something fun to do. That was until she took a job as an administrator at her university.
“I realized I was the admin for the event team and that I had just wasted a lot of money on a psychology degree,” she said. “I learned a lot at my first job and started the twitter account @lizkingevents just to learn more about the industry.”
Before long, she started getting client inquiries and kept turning them away since she wasn't an official business, but finally took the leap and decided to start her own business.
“That was 11 years ago, and I've never looked back,” she exclaimed.
King Caruso, CEO of Liz King Events and techsytalk, and creator of the podcast, “The Event Hustler Show,” prides herself as an event strategist, consultant and speaker. She is an active event strategist who also educates and builds community for other planners. In the past 10-plus years, she has helped many businesses and thought leaders grow their audience and sell their products through in-person, virtual and hybrid events. She also has worked with thousands of event professionals to help them reskill and embrace technology as a driver of change in the industry.
King Caruso has been named one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Events Industry, Top 5 Women in Event Tech, 21 Most Influential Women in Events and Top 50 Virtual Meetings and Events Innovators, among other honors.
We had the pleasure of catching up with King Caruso to get her thoughts on what she adores about her work, some of the best events she has produced, trends defining the corporate events landscape, predictions for the future of the industry and how event professionals can best prepare.
Why do you love your job as an event professional?
I love the ability to bring people together. Regardless of the type of event, we get the opportunity to bring people together for a shared experience that they will always remember (when we do it right!), and that's a special privilege that I don't take lightly!
Can you share one of the most uncommon or interesting requests for an event during your career and how you pulled it off?
Wow—we had a client once ask us to work on their event in just three weeks. They had 3,000 people register for their event at the United Nations and the building could only hold 1,600, so we had to quickly figure out how to qualify attendees, communicate with them, build the team and set up our systems. To further complicate the situation, registration had to take place outdoors, and nothing could be placed outside—no tents, tables, stanchions, etc.—so we had to make sure we could manage all of this with just our bodies. It was quite a challenge, and we made it happen!
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned over the past two years—professionally and/or personally?
I think I've been more compelled than ever to study human behavior. For many years, we've known generally what we're doing, and while there was always room to innovate, the nuts and bolts were generally the same. However, now we've entered a crazy time, where all of humanity has been through a shared experience of a pandemic, and their behaviors are changing rapidly. It behooves us to figure out how they're changing and what that means for our industry.
What was one of the most interesting and engaging events you produced last year or this year, and what made it so successful and/or unique?
I think one of the most engaging events I hosted in the last year was our techsytalk GLOBAL conference last November. We really spent time rethinking what a virtual event should look like and integrated a lot of attendee-led topics, sessions and interaction. It wasn't interaction through polls and Q&A, but really building the entire event for and with our audience.
What are some of the most difficult challenges and pain points event professionals are facing in the current climate, and what advice would you give to overcome them?
Change. Change is a huge challenge for event professionals because our entire work is spent planning for the future. The constant changes from the virus, attendee behaviors, world challenges, etc., makes our jobs so difficult! More than ever, we have to plan for the worst-case scenario and operate as if it were, so that we don't have to shift with every little change in the wind.
What are some of the biggest trends defining the corporate events landscape right now, and how can event professionals capitalize on them?
I think the biggest trend is hybrid events—only for the innovators. There are many who are thinking we're going straight back to in-person events, and while I think there is a big interest in that right now, I truly believe that human behavior has really changed, and we're going to see a demand for more virtual and hybrid very soon. The best way to capitalize on this is to build now for the future instead of waiting until your attendees are demanding something different—then you're too late!
What are your predictions for the future of corporate events, and how can event professionals best prepare?
I suppose my last answer was really around this topic, but I also think we're going to see event professionals have to morph even more into marketing and content teams. This has been happening over the past 10 years, but with year-round engagement being such a focus for brands, we're going to see events morph from once-a-year special events to constant interactions with attendees, and that's going to look very different.
Do you have any productivity hacks you would like to share with event professionals?
Having two young kids while running a business and balancing everything else life throws my way, I'm always trying to improve my productivity. I think the one thing that has always done well for me is to simplify my technology. I'm a huge geek, and while I know about a ton of technology, I think the key is to streamline. Use a few pieces of software that work really well for you and become obsessed with using them to the max. For example, I use Google for my email and calendar, and I've leveraged just about every integration I can think of (Zoom, Docs, etc.) to really make it all work together on desktop and mobile. I think most times people overcomplicate things and it only makes their life harder.
What are you the most excited about for the events industry in the coming year?
Innovation! We've seen over the past two years that the industry is so creative and resilient, and we're going to see that even more in the coming year as things continue to change, event tech brands continue to consolidate, and planners get more experience in the virtual space.
Is there any additional advice you would like to share with fellow event professionals, particularly the next generation?
Don't live in a box. Your career can be anything you want it to be, and you'll enjoy it a lot more if you go with the flow and follow your skills and passions. Go hyper niche and just focus on the things you really love doing and do well, and you'll see huge opportunities open before your eyes!