Jeff Singsaas, general manager of global event marketing at Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., has spent the past eight years refining the company’s event processes and practices. His group is directly responsible for about $200 million in event spend each year. It also influences meeting and event spend throughout the company, which can easily reach three times that amount. Singsaas’ background in large-scale project management in the aerospace industry has served him well in moving the department from a tactical operation to a player in Microsoft’s marketing strategy. These days, what really gets him excited are the opportunities for expanding events into the digital realm, some of which he shared with Corporate Meetings & Incentives.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: Can you talk about your goals at Microsoft Events?

Jeff Singsaas: They’re much different today than they were five years ago. Our focus is, and always will be, awesome execution and good management of the spend we incur. But more and more we’re being asked to develop a new muscle around digital. We’re asking what digital means for the events that we do, and what it means for the industry. Those are big questions.

CMI: What does digital mean for your events?

Singsaas: The digital angle is a really important development in this industry. It’s about building anticipation for what you’re going to do. It’s about a social adjunct to the live meeting that allows people to connect and talk about what’s going on during the show. And then there’s post-show communication, post-show access to content, and post-show momentum that builds to the next event. Attendees want—and we want—to stay in touch from year to year, and this is a really great way to do it. So the questions are, how should you do it, how much should you be spending, and how important is it as a part of the overall event experience? These are the things we are sorting through.

CMI: Are attendees using social technologies?

Singsaas: The social aspect of live meetings has reached critical mass. In a keynote, you can actually see Twitter feeds happening in response to the content that’s being presented. On the one hand, it’s kind of scary. On the other hand, it’s really great to get that immediate feedback about what you’re doing. And it does nothing but enrich the live event experience.

CMI: What about events that are entirely virtual? Does Microsoft see value there?

Singsaas: We’ve had tremendous success with virtual meetings. One example is the Office Communicator launch held earlier this year. We connected with all the folks we were expecting to connect with. It was a good foray. Probably not suitable for all product launches but really effective for our goals. Another was the Small Business Summit. It’s an entirely virtual event and thousands of small-business owners are invited to participate and hear speakers talk about how to run a small business.

CMI: Are you tracking the effectiveness of your digital efforts?

Singsaas: Over the last couple years we’ve done a lot of work carefully defining event objectives and, in the process, also defining what it is that we’re going to measure—perception, intent to buy, satisfaction, and so on. Moving onto a digital platform gives you much richer measurement possibilities. You can see exactly what content gets clicked on and how long attendees spend with the material. This kind of measurement has a precision that’s very powerful. And the other important thing is that you’re measuring behavior that people are electing to engage in. You can really tell where their interests are. We’ve never had that kind of intelligence before. Now the issue is harnessing it effectively.—Sue Hatch

You Might Also Be Interested In:

Social Networking Tools for Meetings

2010 Changemaker: Jeff Singsaas