10 Questions with Rocio Sarriegui Zulueta!

10 Questions with Rocio Sarriegui Zulueta!

Graham Forsyth

Head of Marketing

Rocio is the Event Director for InsureTech Connect Asia, a brand acquired by Clarion Events, which includes their Las Vegas event–the world’s largest InsureTech event! Rocio has worked in the banking and insurance ConFex industry since university and worked her way up from Conference Producer. Before joining (in her words!) “her beloved” Clarion Events, Rocio worked for Incisive Media, Thomson Reuters, and Informa. Rocio describes herself as having a weird passion for ‘making boring subjects interesting!’

We certainly hoped our questions weren’t boring, but regardless, Rocio gave some fascinating answers!

Can you describe the feeling when you realised that conferences in 2020 would be moving to a virtual environment rather than in-person due to the pandemic?

I first felt that we were all going to lose our jobs, a very deep feeling of hopelessness. As someone who has just worked in events, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do if I lost my job as every other events company was in the same situation. Then, we started to see that digital events could bring the revenue needed to help us survive the storm. Although it has been a very rocky road, we have been able to deliver value to our customers with the help of other industry players like Grip.

How did you and the team react and adapt to this situation?

It’s been a lot of guessing. No one is an expert on dealing with pandemics, so we had to trust our gut. What can we deliver that will maintain the brand’s trust so when we’re back physically, they will come back to us? Lots of conversations with our ‘friendlies’ in the industry, lots of compassion and flexibility. The aim was to maintain the brand reputation so as soon as events were open, we could go back to 2019 numbers.

What was your feeling towards virtual events at that time, and how did you feel the Asian markets would react to this change?

The reason why people attend our events is for networking, and it’s very difficult to provide a similar experience virtually. I still believe that digital events will never substitute physical networking and human contact. However, it has proven to be a very useful tool to deliver good quality content to all corners of the world. The developed Asian markets have embraced digital very well and have been very supportive. But there is still a big pool of people that are holding off until physical events are back. Europe and the US have been much better at adapting to virtual events.

How big is the Asian market for Clarion Events?

We have offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore, and we’re leading the hospitality management and energy sectors. ITC Asia is the largest InsurTech event in the region, and we look forward to expanding the event to China.

How have the experiences of 2020 impacted how you’re delivering conferences in 2021 and beyond?

I still feel on edge. It’s going to take us (the events industry) a while to recover, and I feel so lucky to work for a company that has invested in digital and believes in its long term success. I think from now on, most events will have a digital aspect if the cost makes sense. With digital offerings, we can reach out to those that would usually not travel to attend events or more junior team members that don’t get the budget approved.

Do you feel event technology is meeting audiences’ expectations? Do you feel there are areas where it is accelerating the experience, or are there advancements in event tech you can’t wait to see?

We’re comparing digital events with face to face experiences, and that’s a very tough comparison. Technology is a great addition; it helps reach greater audiences, but it’ll never achieve the same. After this madness is over, technology will need to find its niche and act as partners to event organisers. Matchmaking and smart badges have great potential to make lead generation very smooth – it still needs a bit more sophistication, but it’s getting there!

Have you found that digital events have increasing data and insight available to you? Have you been able to utilise this information either in real-time or for future events?

Data is key, and the extra data collected will help us shape the physical experience even further. Who wants to meet who? Who is interacting with who and for how long? How accurate is matchmaking? What questions we need to ask in order to make AI smarter? And a question I really want to answer: can virtual and physical networking co-exist?

Can you tell us a little about your experience when working with Grip?

We have trialled many tech companies. However, Grip standout from the crowd. The design is beautiful, user friendly and intuitive, they listen to their customers and keep developing functionality, and it’s clearly created with a customer-first approach. The thing that makes me want to stay with Grip is their people: the project management is methodical. They are patient and will never make you feel stupid. You know you are in good hands when you look forward to the weekly calls. I know the event will be a success because they will make sure I don’t fail!

What’s your best conference experience, and what made it so memorable?

I’m a conference nerd. I love attending events! And although the content and the right exhibitors are key, there is nothing better than when the organiser really nurtures the attendee experience with entertainment, good food and drinks. When you are comfortable, you are more predispose to network and make good connections. One of our competitors, DIA, does this amazingly well and I can’t wait to attend their events again!

Is the future of events virtual, in-person, or hybrid?

Hybrid. Physical shows will come back as soon as it’s safe. However, the number of events people attend will decrease as they have all seen they can survive without them! Just the leading events in each industry will survive, and geo clones will slow down. Hybrid will enable the most cost-effective investments for sponsors and attendees and a larger audience reach. However, putting a hybrid experience together can be very time consuming, and I’m not sure if all organisers will keep up with it once business is back to normal!

I look forward to watching Grip’s developments in these evolving times and seeing how technology can make events even greater! I predict a very bright future!

We loved talking to Rocio! Look out for the next in our ’10 Questions With…’ series soon!