Pivoting an Events Plugin During a Global Pandemic with Hazel Quimpo and Zach Tirell

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When you run a company focused on software for live events, you have no choice but to pivot when live events cease basically overnight. Hazel and Zach tell their fantastic story of how they were able to pivot a team of 50 people to focus their live events software on virtual events (spoiler alert: it’s not easy). In Build Something More, we talk all about Liquid Web’s acquisition of The Events Calendar in late 2020.

Show Notes


Joe Casabona: Real quick before we get started, I want to tell you about the Build Something Weekly newsletter. It is weekly, it is free, and you will get tips, tricks, and tools delivered directly to your mailbox. I will recap the current week’s episode and all of the takeaways, I’ll give you a top story, content I wrote, and then some recommendations that I’ve been using that I think you should check out. So it is free, it is a weekly, it’s over at howibuilt.it/subscribe. Go ahead and sign up over at howibuilt.it/subscribe.

Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody, and welcome to Episode 213 of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, how did you build that? Our sponsors today our TextExpander, Restrict Content Pro, and Mindsize. You’ll hear all about them later in the show. But I am excited to bring on Hazel Quimpo and Zach Tirell, the marketing principal and general manager respectively over at The Events Calendar. Full disclosure before we get going here, The Events Calendar was recently acquired by Liquid Web, who also owns Restrict Content Pro by owning iThemes. So I know that was a little bit confusing. It’s all under the same umbrella. I just wanted to make that super clear in the beginning.

But Zach has been on the show before and Hazel and I have known each other for a little while. I’m really excited because we are going to talk about a pivot that the team over at The Events Calendar made to add virtual events add on to their plugin. So before we get into all that, why don’t I welcome our guests here? Hazel, how are you doing today?

Hazel Quimpo: Doing fantastic. It’s early over here, but I’m an early riser, so it’s all good.

Joe Casabona: It is. When you mentioned that you were from California, I was like, “Man, it is early right there.” Now, I’ve been up since like five because I have a kid.

Hazel Quimpo: Same.

Joe Casabona: And Zach, how are you doing today?

Zach Tirell: I’m doing great. Thanks for having us, Joe.

Joe Casabona: Thanks for being on the show. Super excited. Zach, are you also out on the West Coast?

Zach Tirell: I’m not. I’m in the northeast. I’m up here in New Hampshire.

Joe Casabona: Okay. Very nice. Very nice. So, just a few hours’ drive down 95 to get to Philadelphia, which is where I’m.

Zach Tirell: Yeah. Not so bad.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I’d say a few hours.

Zach Tirell: Eight maybe?

Joe Casabona: Yeah, I think it’s eight.

Zach Tirell: It’s okay. It still a day trip.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. Just rock and roll. Absolutely. I was talking to somebody from Britain and they said that 100 years of their history is a one-hour or two-hour drive to us. As in it doesn’t seem like that much. Like 100 years is like half of the United States history. But to them, if I say I’m driving two hours, they’re like, “That is an insane amount of time to drive.”

Hazel Quimpo: I’m constantly reminded Europeans don’t realize how giant America is. It’s huge.

Joe Casabona: It takes like six hours for me to get to Pittsburgh from Philadelphia.

Hazel Quimpo: I’ll drive six hours and I’m still in California.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, right. Awesome. Well, that was your geography lesson for the day, listeners. Thanks for sticking with us through that. I’m really excited to talk to you about this, because The Events Calendar, fantastic WordPress plugin that focused very much on live events for a long time. And then it seems like you shrewdly realized in the wake of COVID that a virtual events add-on would be a good thing to have. So the first thing I want to talk about is how you pivoted. You were a relatively small team when you did this, right? You didn’t have a fleet of developers or…?

Hazel Quimpo: I don’t know. Do I consider it a small team or not? We’re probably middle of the road when it comes to that sort of thing.

Zach Tirell: We may be fairly big in like the independent WordPress plugin space. We’re no automatic or anything like that, but we’ve got kind of a mixed headcount of contractors and full-time employees. So headcount numbers pretty high, but our team is just over 50 human beings.

Joe Casabona: Wow. I didn’t realize that. That’s maybe something that I, as the host should have known going into this episode. I would say that’s a relatively big team. Which makes the pivot even more interesting. So how did the idea come about? And then how did you mitigate that sort of pivot?

Hazel Quimpo: This was fun to talk about in retrospect. We haven’t really thought about it in depth since this all happened. I remember January, February, March of 2020 was when all this was happening. In January and February we were all… last year actually we were going to do… we’re a fully remote team, we were planning on doing a remote trip actually. We were going to go to Italy last year. It was going to be a whole thing. And in February, actually in March even we were still like, “Yeah, we’ll probably go to Italy.” And then finally, it was like, “Yeah, we’re not going there. And also, what are we going to do about events because now nobody’s going to do events?”

So we did quickly. Zach and everybody in leadership, empowered, basically everybody on the team to be like, “Okay, well, what are your ideas that’s going to help our customers actually still be able to succeed with all these new limitations?” So people actually started whipping up all these extensions. There was all sorts of… Do you remember what some of them were, Zach? There was tons of little extensions to do all sorts of things.

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah. It was like every day. We kind of like took the shackles off in terms of the roadmap. We’re just like, “The world’s different. Everybody, just go do something interesting today because we don’t know…” I think we were working on an update to our mobile app that would have helped event check-ins in person. We’re like, “This doesn’t make any sense. Stop working on that right now.” I think we were in the final plans of starting up Seating Charts. Again, it’s like, “None of this makes any sense.” So we really kind of unshackled everybody and just “Go work on some stuff.”

Right out of the gate, Google updated JSON-LD to support virtual events. So somebody the next day put out an extension and then it was like, “Oh, now we have this support for The Events Calendar.”

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Zach Tirell: It was that kind of thing. I think, for maybe three weeks or so there, every day I would come in and one of our devs had done some weird, interesting thing that they wanted to share that was very customer-specific, very in the moment trying to address the kind of global anxiety we all were in the middle of.

Joe Casabona: Wow, that’s…

Hazel Quimpo: And it was…

Joe Casabona: Oh, go ahead, Hazel.

Hazel Quimpo: Well, I was going to say it was team-wide too. It wasn’t just developers. Like even on content side, people were writing all sorts of tips and things what you should do. Not even just my content team. It was everybody throwing in different ways of either hack to work around to make a thing happen, or just in general best practice. Like we’re all used to virtual events because we’ve been going to them daily for the past… I don’t know. Is it 20 years now? But at the time, people were scrambling, they didn’t know what to do.

And virtual events was always something we had kind of hovered around. Customers wanted it, but it wasn’t super high demand. So it wasn’t on our media roadmap at the time. So we started doing all these extensions, and we ended up, again, with the challenge of… Extensions are free. We have a free extension library that anybody on our team can make one. And we go through a little process, but they’re not supported by our full support team. They are little things. They could be a fun little thing, or like, “Oh, do you want to print your tickets as PDFs?” So various little things that aren’t in the product core.

The challenge we were experiencing is that we have a pretty large customer base, especially on our free product but they just don’t know about extensions as much as like I no shortage of any channel, I was trying to let everybody know about extensions. And we would still get these emails of like, “Well, how do we do virtual events?” I’m like, “Oh, we have this whole… all of this.”

The next part of it was a weird part, because we’re like, “Well, look, we want people to be able to do this. There’s also a business opportunity, but you don’t want to seem predatory.” So it’s like all of these things that came into balance. And it really worked out. We’re like, “Well, let’s put up some of these extensions along with some other stuff we’ve been working internally and kind of roll them into this virtual events add-on.” So now people realize, well, this is a thing we have. And just naming it really just made the success of it, made it so that oh, we understand that they support virtual events. And we still offer the free extensions if you want to piece it together that way.

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And now let’s get back to it.

Joe Casabona: It sounds like you, for a number of weeks there, just made it like 20% time, but like the whole time, right? Like Google. For those who don’t know, Google… I don’t know if they still do this actually. But for many, many years…

Zach Tirell: Yeah, I don’t know if they do it either.

Hazel Quimpo: I think executives get to do it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, right. Right. For a long time, they would allow employees to use 20% of their time to just work on whatever pet projects and cool things like that. And lots of cool projects came out of that like Google Reader, rest in peace, Google Wave, rest in peace, Google the social okra thing, rest in peace.

Hazel Quimpo: They’ve got a good track record.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, they have a really nice… there’s like a great website that’s called the Google Graveyard or something like that. But it sounds like you just kind of said like, “Go crazy. Let’s just come up with… there are no bad ideas in brainstorming.” Which the coder in me is like singing, right? Because there are some days where I’m like, “I wish I could just kind of knock off for the day and code some weird thing.” But also, I have a ton of content and client work I need to do, and limited time because I’m watching my kids half of the week. But that sounds amazing.

Then, Hazel, it sounds like you alluded to this. You had all these extensions and then you rolled it into a virtual event add-on. You said you threw out your roadmap. How long did it take between “the code everything, let’s see what ideas are good”? How long between that and the virtual events add-on? How much time passed approximately?

Zach Tirell: Till the release or until we decided we’re going to turn this into a thing?

Joe Casabona: Oh, yeah, that’s a good question. So how about you decided to turn it into a thing? Because when you decided to turn it into a thing, I suspect your roadmap changed a little bit there and you actually start to have a clearer one.

Hazel Quimpo: Absolutely, yeah.

Zach Tirell: I clearly remember, as a lot of these ideas were coming out, it was a little cowboy, right? We weren’t using all of our processes. We weren’t including a lot of people in the conversation about, “Oh, we’re going to put a virtual event indicator in ListView. What’s that going to look like?” And I’ll admit, our design team started to get some anxiety around that. They were like, “This isn’t us. We just launched these brand new views that are beautiful and very well designed and you’re just sticking the thing right here. You guys can’t do that. What’s happening?” So that was one of the big influences I think to us saying, “Okay, it’s fun to have these in the free extension, but we probably also want to put some polish on this to make it a real thing.

And then, I don’t know, it was probably late one night or early one morning because that’s when Hazel has her best ideas, she DM’d me and said, “This needs to be a thing. We need to package this up and make it a product. The experiments are fun, but we need to make it a thing.”

Joe Casabona: Got you.

Zach Tirell: That was probably three weeks in. Late March we did that?

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah. We were just really sending out as much content as we could about these extensions, about the content we had written. We get everybody like the playbook of how to do virtual events. And we were still getting inundated with people. You know, it was scrambling. People were afraid of their livelihoods at the time. And frankly, a lot of events people still are.

Zach Tirell: And admittedly we were too, right?

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah, of course.

Zach Tirell: We had no idea what was going to happen to our revenue.

Joe Casabona: I mean, that’s totally understandable. My brother, Phil works for an art gallery and his main job was to plan two huge events that were like the biggest fundraisers for this art gallery. And I think with grant, they were able to keep him until October, but eventually he got furloughed because events weren’t working. And I was like, “What about virtual events?” And he’s like, “We thought about that.” It’s really interesting.

So this pivot is incredible because it feels like you were able to help a lot of people out and empower them, and maybe even give them some ideas for how they can stay afloat in a time where people weren’t going places.

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah. We were able to roll it out with some other opportunities and popped up at the time, which we have an email communication tool for all of our events called Promoter. We gave Promoter away free for six months.

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Hazel Quimpo: Anybody could use it. Because that was a big hang-up, people were having is like, “Well, I need to let folks know if my event is canceled or not canceled.” There was so much uncertainty before everybody knew that everything is canceled. But at the time, it was like, “Is it canceled? Is it not?” So we gave everybody Promoter for free for a good chunk of the year.

Joe Casabona: That’s fantastic. I want to circle back to that, right?

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: Because you mentioned that you have a lot of free customers as well, your extensions are free. But I do want to talk about once you’ve decided to package this up… I want to ask the title question. How did you build it? How did you define the roadmap? What did the design team contribute to make sure that everything was on the up and up? So what did the rollout look like?

Hazel Quimpo: For me, the funnest part of virtual events was so many times we have our roadmap because we have – what? Nine, ten products? Yeah, they are nine or ten products. We have several products, which all have their respective roadmaps essentially. So when you’re doing things, you’re kind of hoping between different ones. Obviously, they each have their dedicated team. But if you’re in one that kind of floats between like marketing, I’m like, “Oh, what are you guys doing over here? What’s happening here?”

This was really cool. Everybody buckled down on just this one thing. And we actually did a pattern where we had meetings I think almost daily at one point going through the whole Mocow list, which I don’t know what it stands for. It was like a project management? I’m not a project manager. Like a must-have, could you do, whatever.

Joe Casabona: Nice. I may have heard that before. I’ll link in the show notes to something for that.

Hazel Quimpo: It’s really going through [inaudible 00:17:10]. Susan who runs the ship for all of this stuff was amazing on getting everybody on board, and really making sure that everybody understood what was next. The hardest part was, what is priority? Because this is new. When we’re looking at something for 10 years as we had for The Events Calendar, great, it’s pretty easy to figure out priority. That’s always the challenge. But it was like we had our general big buckets. And now it’s like, well, this is a whole new thing, and what is important that we could actually build? So Zach, I don’t know if you remember some of the stuff that was on our list. There’s some stuff that still hasn’t made it obviously.

Zach Tirell: Yeah, we obviously latched on to Zoom right away. It was clear that that’s where everybody was going. Still Zoom surprises me to some extent. There’s so many different video platforms, but at Zoom, one in this big disruption. So we immediately started building a Zoom integration. That was one of the first extensions we put out to. That became, I think, the cornerstone feature of the virtual events product. We needed it to be really easy for someone to create a Zoom meeting from within WordPress from within their event creation interface.

Obviously, updates to the views so that we can show virtual events I think embedded. Some controls around embedded video, which seems like, “Why all of a sudden are we doing controls around embedded video?” It was like, you know, if someone’s logged in, do they have a ticket? Can they view this? It was like, “Oh, yeah, because that’s what this is all of a sudden. Low priority feature that suddenly became high priority.

Joe Casabona: That’s super interesting. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about that for my members-only content. Like I want to have office hours or like a signup-only webinar or something like that. And I’m like,

“I could pay some exorbitant amount for a webinar software, but I don’t use it enough to justify that cost.” So I’m like, “I’ll just put a WordPress page and password protected.” But it sounds like you’re solving that exact problem and maybe something that we could talk about in the members-only episode.

Hazel Quimpo: Absolutely.

Joe Casabona: Along with joining the Liquid Web team is they also own Restrict Content Pro, a sponsor of this episode. I’m sure there’s probably some synergy there that maybe we can discuss. I mean this is fantastic. I feel like you really understood this space. Is that because you’ve been in it for a long time, or did you get a lot of feedback from customers or some combination of both?

Hazel Quimpo: So I was in a position where I could act as a prototype customer, because I am. I’ve been a customer for The Events Calendar from before I worked for The Events Calendar. I’ve always run various events, but most recently I run a parenting community here in Long Beach. And we do tons of events and all kinds of stuff. And I was also pivoting to virtual. I was like, “Hey, guys, can I do this with not taking 15 steps? Can it just take two steps?” There was a lot of steps to get Virtual Events going at first. You’re having to email everybody manually, go to your four platforms, you’re doing Zoom here, something else with be Events Calendar, something else with your email system.

That was a large part of what initially did. However, we dove right in and did a ton of user interviews too. Because I’m certainly not the be all end all event planners experience. So we dove in and did a few dozen user interviews. And that really helped guide us.

Joe Casabona: That’s great. And what did you use for the user interviews? Because this is something that’s come up on the show a lot. I certainly don’t do it enough for my courses or my products. I feel like it’s probably something that a lot of listeners want to do more of. So is there anything that you use to make those easier for you?

Hazel Quimpo: I have a very specific theory on user interviews that everybody is very afraid to talk to their customers. It’s not that hard. People overthink it, and they’re like, “What are we going to do?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Find like a customer who opened a support ticket recently and then email them ask if they want to talk more.” I don’t do a very scientific method on this. Perhaps I should. But it seems to serve us pretty decently.

Hazel Quimpo: Hazel is being kind of humble there. Her user interviews are so good. And she’s right that her process is pretty loose, but every time I listen to one of them because she records them… What’s the program you use that does the trick?

Hazel Quimpo: Oh, yeah, we use otter.ai to transcribe, which is great, because then you can go to listening to it in the background while you’re doing something or whatever.

Zach Tirell: And then I listen to those and sometimes she tells me like, “Whatever. It was kind of boring.” But a lot of the time, she says, “This one’s worth listening to.” And I’ll just sit there. They’re so full of ideas and things that we can do that just would make the product better. And sometimes not even big things. It’s just little like, “Oh, we couldn’t even see that. We’ve been in the product so long.” I love Hazel’s user interviews. They’re so good. I want to do more of them on this project.

Hazel Quimpo: That’s the thing. My only method is like, “We should do more of them.” And one of the channels I want to do more of—this is less related to this project, specifically, but ongoing—that I’ve been tossing around this idea of like, “Oh, someone on the support team has a good interaction,” or just maybe any kind of interaction where the person is kind of pushing more about ideas, well, I should just give them my Calendly link so they can schedule an interview because if they’re already interested in talking, let’s just keep that pipeline going.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s great. I think you make a really good point. People are afraid to talk to their customers because “what if I hear something bad”?

Hazel Quimpo: You probably will.

Joe Casabona: You probably will. No one’s perfect and no one could see possibly what everybody is thinking about your product. So I love it. You just reach out, use otter.ai… Is that good? I’ve heard a lot of automated transcription services, but this one keeps coming up a lot.

Hazel Quimpo: It’s the only good one I’ve seen. It still get some word weirdness. But it’s head and shoulders above any other one I’ve tried. And it’s really cheap. Like 100 bucks a year or something. It’s really cheap.

Joe Casabona: Oh, wow. Cool. I’ve been using the Rev Automation and that’s like okay, and it’s also very cheap.

Hazel Quimpo: I’ve never used that one.

Joe Casabona: It’s okay. I mean, I don’t pay for their person transcription because that’s really expensive, and my transcriber is amazing. Thank you, Evelyn. She’s great. But when I need something quick and dirty, the automated one is good. We’re getting off-topic here, but I think that was helpful.

Something you mentioned now a couple of times is the importance of the email list. And we were talking in the pre-show about how you’re using Freemius. For those of you who don’t know, I interviewed Vova Feldman in an episode a couple of years ago. I’ll link that in the show notes. But Freemius is essentially a way for you to sell… is it specifically WordPress plugins? I was going to say digital products. But it’s very specific to WordPress plugins.

Zach Tirell: It’s specific to WordPress plugins. You know, go listen to your old Vova episode for sure. But we don’t use the full Freemius platform. We use one-half of it. So Freemius can be your sales and distribution of your plugin but it also comes with double opt-in plus analytics on your customers. And that’s the piece that we use. So when anybody installs either of our free products, Events Calendar or Event Tickets, then they get prompted, you know, “Do you want to share your information with Events Calendar?” And then we’re able to communicate with them and build out our list.

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Joe Casabona: So the way the process works is somebody installs your plugin, they get prompted and say, “Hey, do you want to share info with us?” And then you ask them for their email address there. Is that like a secondary thing?

Hazel Quimpo: It asks there and then there’s a double opt in after.

Joe Casabona: Got you.

Hazel Quimpo: Like, “Oh, do you actually want to receive news from us?”

Joe Casabona: Cool. So they really want to want to, right?

Hazel Quimpo: Right. We try to say all in the up and up of it.

Zach Tirell: 100%, yeah.

Joe Casabona: Cool.

Zach Tirell: I mean, there’s certainly people who do that and then they’re like, “Why are you emailing me?” “Well, you told us that it was okay.” But that’s email marketing. I think that this has always been a big gap in the WordPress plugin ecosystem that Vova is filling really nicely. It remains kind of confusing to me why WordPress as a parent brand doesn’t have a lot of tools to support people like us. I know that there’s some dangerous waters around open source and all of this, but I don’t know… Automattic at this point sells a lot of plugins. It’s not the old days of everything being totally free.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Well, I have a theory and I don’t want to get all bummer. But when I interviewed Beka over at Jilt, she said something that surprised me, which was if you sell plugins to the WooCommerce through WooCommerce.com, you don’t get any customer information. You don’t get to see those email addresses or whatever. So I suspect there’s probably some purposeful vendor lock-in there that Freemius frankly probably doesn’t care about. Because you are the customer. Your customers are not their customers.

Zach Tirell: Yeah, exactly.

Joe Casabona: But you also raised the point…

Hazel Quimpo: But it has done…

Joe Casabona: No, go ahead, Hazel.

Hazel Quimpo: I was just going to say it has been a really nice channel for us. They’re free to pay. I mean, and not free to pay just from revenue, but also stuff like vital updates and stuff. Before we were trying to hunt people to “join the mailing list because you want to find out if something is a vital update you need or something is broken.” I mean, I’m not going to say we’re not wanting to sell them stuff. Of course, we do. But there are in tandem. There’s actual vital updates that we just didn’t have a channel before. And this has really opened that up and been really helpful.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I mean, you made the point that I was just going to make is you said that this has been a really great way for you to do. Something else I don’t think a lot of small business owners focus too much on which is building their email list at all. I started entirely too late on building my list. And it’s been a great asset for me. So I think just, first of all, until you mentioned it, I didn’t know that Freemius offered this other part of their platform. So those of you who are building plugins, but don’t necessarily use Freemius for distribution, you can still get analytics and build your email list, which is like super…

Hazel Quimpo: Vova is going to hate us now.

Zach Tirell: He might like us. He might be struggling to sell that part of his product. I must say his price is really good on that part of the product too.

Joe Casabona: Awesome.

Zach Tirell: If you’re using him for distribution, you hit a point where if you’ve got a big audience, it gets very expensive to be offering this. And I’m sure for him it’s expensive to support. So it’s fair. Right?

Joe Casabona: Right.

Zach Tirell: Not predatory but I could see where a bigger plugin shop may not look at Freemius because they’re afraid of the distribution piece. But the analytics is great, and we really love it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, that’s fantastic. So what do you use for the distribution channel? Did you build your own or using EDD? Did you build you own?

Zach Tirell: Well, there was an old plugin, I don’t know, 10 years ago called PUE, Plugin Updater Engine, and we forked that very early on. It probably disappeared five minutes after we forked it. I’ve never heard of anyone else using it. But we’ve just been building on that as kind of our internal distribution for many, many years now.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. Man, this has been such a great conversation. As we kind of wrap up here, I do want to ask for tips for the listeners. And I think probably around your plugin, you’ve been really looking at virtual events. I know I aspire to host a virtual event sometime in the near future when my schedule is a little bit more flexible. If somebody wants to start a virtual event, are there any tips that you have for them besides get The Events Calendar and the Virtual add on? Because I was just looking at it and for sure, I will be adding that to my lineup.

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah, it’s interesting a lot of my tips are less related to the software. Of course, that makes your life easier.

Joe Casabona: Sure

Hazel Quimpo: But virtual events, I mean, they get so much flak because so many people are not putting effort into them, frankly. They’re just like, “Come to my virtual event.” And it’s like… I don’t know. I can’t even think of a good example. But they’re not going to do a good job.

Joe Casabona: I mean, I’ve been the speaker at several events. Wordfest just happened as we record this. And the speaker team, really great job of communicating there. I think they did a fantastic job. I knew exactly what I needed to do, when I needed to do it, and where I needed to be. They did a really nice job there. But you’re right, some are just like, “It’s at this time. [inaudible 00:33:20]. Can you be there?”

Hazel Quimpo: And I think what it is is to me like an event has given take from the presenter and the audience. Whether it’s a concert or whatever, there has to be given taken. So many virtual events are just going one way. There’s several ways to unlock that. But basically, I used to say we live in an age of events. Anybody can go through an event. But it’s really become more now community. You can’t have a successful virtual event without being a good community manager. You have to actively be out there getting people involved, making them interested so you have that give and take.

Zach Tirell: It does have to be more than just a webinar.

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Joe Casabona: There are a lot of things missing from virtual events that happen in in-person events, right? And one is the networking aspect. How do you mitigate that? I think WordCamp sponsors have done a pretty good job. Like Yoast, I know, and GoDaddy Pro both did interesting things to get people to their virtual booth?

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah, I’ve seen that. WP Buffs has done a pretty cool job lately too at some of the stuff they have been doing.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I think maybe the main takeaway is if you’re going to have a virtual event, don’t just let it be a fly-by-night thing. Actually think about it and put effort into it and just be like, “Oh, I have Zoom. I’ll have a virtual event.”

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah. I think the takeaway is, just make sure you’re really understanding and thinking about the difference between event and content. A webinar certainly could be both, but typically, it’s a lot of times content. But the event is what’s live, what’s actually making people feel that sort of feeling when you go to an event that you have connection with the community.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I love that. Just as a little bit of a tangent here, I’ve been thinking about doing an evergreen webinar. Because I’m trying to move my own courses, and I’m just like, “How do I make it evergreen…” The virtue of an evergreen webinar is that I’m not actually there. And that’s got to be super clear. But what if people have questions? Am I better off just doing X, Y, or Z. So I think I’m going to test the waters by doing a YouTube premiere..

Hazel Quimpo: That’s a good idea.

Joe Casabona: …where I am there for that. Yeah, shout out to Aaron Flynn for giving me that idea. I’ll actually be there for their premiere answering questions in the chat. And then if they want the super special thing, there’ll be a link to a form where they can get super special. I mean, it’s taking a lot of innovating. And it sounds like you all have done a really good job of pivoting and doing that, and helping people make better events in a medium that not a lot of people are familiar with too.

Hazel Quimpo: Yeah.

Joe Casabona: Awesome. Well, I want to end this conversation with asking you my favorite question. You can give a combined one or two different ones, if you like. But it is, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Hazel Quimpo: Trade secrets! Zach I’ll let you go first.

Joe Casabona: I want to get a bell for when people say “Trade secrets.”

Hazel Quimpo: I know, right? They probably do to buy time.

Zach Tirell: Most of my career has been more of a developer, but I’ll give you a management trade secret, which is to hire people that are smarter than you. We wouldn’t have done any of this if we didn’t have our team coming up with weird ideas, Hazel pushing, designers pushing. Virtual Events is not the sort of product that spun out of one person’s brain. It spun out of the team looking at all these different opportunities, writing great content, talking to customers. I don’t know, that’s just a lot of smart people doing good work.

Joe Casabona: That’s awesome.

Hazel Quimpo: If I had a trade secret, you know, I would boil it down to what I said earlier. I see so many people just not being afraid to do anything wrong. There’s such a short memory of anything these days. Just go do something. Who cares if it’s wrong. Nobody is going to remember it tomorrow, anyway.

Joe Casabona: I love that. Your harshest critic will always be you in that situation. Let me tell you. I eat my words a lot. I’ll tweet something that’s wrong, but I’ll go back and I’ll be like, “Hey, I was wrong about this or whatever.”

Hazel Quimpo: Exactly. It takes that kind of openness. It opens a lot of doors that willingness to be like, “I’m not sure about this, but here’s the thing.”

Joe Casabona: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Zach Tirell: For sure.

Joe Casabona: I always tell people that I would much rather be corrected than going on thinking something is wrong.

Hazel Quimpo: [inaudible 00:40:01] that you couldn’t do it.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I’d much rather be actually right than think I was right I guess is the way to put that.

Hazel Quimpo: And the way you can find that out is by putting it out there.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, exactly. I have strong opinions that can also be changed. Awesome. Well, Hazel, Zach, this has been fantastic. If people want to learn more about you, where can they find you?

Hazel Quimpo: We’re on theeventscalendar.com. Pretty active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, all the place. But theeventscalendar.com is where we are.

Joe Casabona: All right. I will link to that and more in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/213. In the members-only show, we are going to talk synergy with Restrict Content Pro, possibly acquisitions, and more. If you’re not part of the club, you can sign up over at buildsomething.club. It’s just five bucks a month for lots of cool content and interesting things.

So thanks for listening. Thanks so much to our sponsors: Mindsize, Restrict Content Pro, and TextExpander. Hazel and Zach, thanks so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.

Hazel Quimpo: Thanks, Joe. This was great.

Zach Tirell: Always fun.

Joe Casabona: And until next time, get out there and build something.

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