interview about the event industry

Aleksandra Panyukhina, Head of Event Marketing at SEMrush, reveals how to perfectly integrate digital and in-person experiences.

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Posted on January 6, 2020
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Is there a more relevant topic than Consumer Journey on the agenda of event marketing today?

Not surprisingly, digital and in-person experiences indicate that the market of corporate events is the perfect ambient to integrate both of these efforts and take this opportunity to create a huge competitive advantage.

And that applies to most of the companies in the world, including agencies, corporations and startups.

So we invited Aleksandra Panyukhina, Head of Event Marketing at SEMrush, to tell us how she pictures the integration of both digital and in-person experiences at the events she’s already planning for 2020.

23rd of December 2020 update: even though Aleksandra is not working with SEMRush anymore, her insights remain very relevant.

1) Aleksandra, you are an ex a pro athlete. How is the transition when you decide to work with events? Is there something you did as an athlete that still has any influence on your current event planner routine?

It’s true that since the age of 12 till almost 23 I was all about cross country cycling and sled dog sport, however events have always been a part of it. Apart from attending competitions (and you learn a lot about how the event should be set and prepped once you have a race every weekend), I have been heavily involved in competition organization on my off-season: I’ve tried every role from being sponsor coordinator to logistics, media relations, opening and awards ceremonies planner. Combined with my major in international business and marketing this experience made it a no-brainer what career path I wanted to pursue once the pro sport was over. 

There are key things I’ve learnt in sport that have great influence on what and how I do now. First of all, I know how valuable and important is the team for your personal and project’s success. Never forget to put your team, listen to what they have to say and how they feel and always appreciate everyone’s effort. Second, I’m very organized and have a rule “it is not over till you cross the finish line”. So it helps me to stay concentrated and manage multiple projects at the same time. And lastly, after working at some harsh competitions when you spend 24 hours outside in January in the snow – there is no business event too hard for me:)

quote by the head of marketing at SEM Rush

2) Now, as the Head of Event Marketing for SEMrush, what’s the main kind of events you involve yourself with?

When I joined SEMrush 3,5 years ago, the main focus was on the trade shows and conferences where we would be present with a booth. However, with the growth of our brand recognition in different markets, we’ve made the pivot to run more of our own events of different scale and type: from small open to public meetups to high-end exclusive events and our global user conference.

We are not abandoning the trade show floors either, however our presence there is not as frequent as before but the scale is definitely bigger.

quote about the event industry

3) SEMrush innovations made UX writers, content producers, performance specialists and marketers in general fall in love with the tool.  How does that apply to the company’s events marketing? I mean: what kind of innovations are you guys bringing to your experiential marketing?

I think, what we definitely have in common with our digital tool is constant evolvement and experiment. Even for the roadshow series when events are supposed to look alike in every location, we tend to upgrade, update and add something new to every single edition. Also, when we think of our events (just like with our tool) we are well aware of competition there is in the industry. Therefore we don’t follow regular patterns, but try to come up with new innovative formats. They attract, educate and above all – give real emotions to the attendees. So things like dinner above the clouds in the Austrian Alps, conference at the farm in the Czech countryside or fun team game instead of the welcome speech are normal for our events.  


4) “Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing” has been a stormy debate throughout the last decade or so. You see this rivalry getting more stormy or we’re going towards a moment of integration? Traditional and digital strategies are ever going to operate together on event marketing?

My #1 rule in this debate is “don’t implement digital or use tech just or the sake of it”. With the ever growing influence of digitization and technology on our lives, event organizers feel more and more pressure to include those elements into their event design. However, I strongly believe that you can create ultimate offline experience. Those include no-power, wifi and AV free. Even in the digital industry, those can achieve huge success. It is all about creating the change in the behavior of the attendees with the help of the event. Digital elements are yet another instrument for you to reinforce those changes. 

Where the events industry should be more educated in terms of digital is the pre-event stages. I see majority of organizers falling into common pre-event promotion patterns, whereas digital world offers tons of opportunities to build up buzz and attendee engagement before they all arrive to the event itself.

5) Finally, what do you think are the main do’s and don’ts when integrating online and in-person experiences?

It’s probably one of the never-ending discussions and you can go on and on about it. However, to me, as to the offline experiences fan working in the online world, there are 3 major points to stick to:

  1. Whenever planning an event, never underestimate the digital experience people have when interacting with you online. It’s like the first date! With the events it happens online (unless you run a unique pop up experiential activation you’ve hidden on purpose). Bad online experience guarantees skeptical mood once attendee arrives.
  2. Try to incorporate your online elements in physical objects onsite. It will be a fun and interactive element for the attendees. Thus, people will appreciate your effort in connecting their experience in 2 realities.
  3. Be there online once your attendees leave the offline event space. The longer you can keep them engaged after the event, the more impactful the offline experience would be for them. 

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Check out the latest projects Aleksandra is working at the moment! You can find her on LinkedIn.


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