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Salesforce’s Gareth Kelly stresses the primacy of business culture at IBTM World

At the IBTM World 2022 conference, a globally recognized platform for business tourism professionals, one address stood out distinctively among many top-tier presentations.

Gareth Kelly, the Senior Director and Head of Strategic Events EMEA at Salesforce captivated the audience with an enlightening discourse on the symbiotic relationship between business culture and impactful events. With a seasoned career trajectory, Kelly is the driving force behind Salesforce’s illustrious events portfolio, spanning Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It was evident that he understands, possibly better than most, the alchemy of merging corporate values with events to stimulate better business results and cultivate enriching cultural experiences for organizations.

Commencing with a genuine appreciation for reuniting with the MICE community, Kelly’s talk blended introspection and forward-looking insights. His address pivoted around the indispensability of integrating core business values into event designs and experiences.

Kelly’s presentation unfurled across five key dimensions:

  1. The Imperative of Culture: Kelly delved into the ‘why’ of culture. Why is its assimilation into the MICE world so crucial? Through poignant examples, he highlighted the tangible benefits of events that resonate with the DNA of an organization’s culture.
  2. Culture’s Role in Instigating Change: In a rapidly changing business landscape, Kelly emphasized the role of culture as a bedrock. Events steeped in core cultural values can lead to transformative experiences for attendees, catalyzing change and enhancing business performance.
  3. The Salesforce Event Experience: Lending a practical lens to his discourse, Kelly showcased a video encapsulating the post-Dreamforce experience, Salesforce’s flagship event. The video underscored Salesforce’s dedication to inclusivity, community, and innovation, offering attendees a deep dive into the company’s core ethos.
  4. The Importance of Subsidiary Events: Kelly highlighted the challenges and rewards of coordinating auxiliary events around a massive program like Dreamforce. He argued that the synergy between primary and ancillary events can augment the overall experience for attendees.
  5. Content – The Cornerstone of Successful Events: Emphasizing the crux of any event, Kelly articulated that without relevant, meaningful content, the very purpose of organizing an event falls flat. Crafting and curating the right content enhances event efficacy manifold.

Beyond the enumerated keynotes, Kelly expanded on the definition of culture, elucidating it as the harmony between values and behavior. He shared Salesforce’s five cornerstone values and explained how these ideals influence employee behavior and market perception. Such a confluence, Kelly asserted, not only affects the bottom line but also paves the way for genuine societal evolution. Drawing the audience further into Salesforce’s world, Kelly showcased the company’s endeavors through the’ Business as a Platform for Change’ lens:

  1. Legal Activism: Reflecting on Salesforce’s audacious stand against discriminatory legislation, Kelly underscored their non-negotiable commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community.
  2. Sustainable Strides: Detailing Salesforce’s green initiatives, Kelly spotlighted introducing a cloud dedicated to net-zero emissions, underlining the company’s unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability.
  3. Championing Equality: Kelly illuminated Salesforce’s ongoing battle for equality, emphasizing their relentless pursuit of gender and racial pay parity.
  4. Commercial Impact: Demonstrating the tangible ROI of ingrained cultural values, Kelly detailed how Salesforce’s solutions bolster customer performance and reduce acquisition costs.

The Evolutionary Dance of Events and Culture

In the subsequent closing segment of Gareth Kelly’s articulate presentation at IBTM World 2022, the Senior Director further extrapolated on the inextricable bond between corporate culture and event strategy. Building on his earlier discourse, Kelly ventured into the evolutionary trajectory of events, emphasizing the organic development of these gatherings in resonance with shifting cultural paradigms.

Holistic Approach to Event Strategy

Gareth Kelly highlighted the importance of a 360-degree approach in event management. An event should no longer be seen as an isolated occurrence but as a continuum of experiences that resonate with the brand’s ethos and vision. Kelly spoke about the “Pre-During-Post” strategy:

  1. Pre-Event Strategy: He emphasized the significance of stirring anticipation, weaving a narrative that ensures prospective attendees understand not just the “what” but the “why” of the event.
  2. During Event Engagement: Kelly accentuated the vitality of creating immersive experiences, aided by technology and personal touchpoints, to ensure attendees connect deeply with the event’s core message.
  3. Post-Event Evolution: This phase was described as a feedback loop – learning from attendees, measuring the event’s impact, and iterating for future experiences.

Technological Augmentation of Culture in Events

Diving into the technological dimension, Kelly touched upon the tools that Salesforce employs. He underlined the integration of AI-driven analytics to curate personalized event experiences and AR/VR to enhance the immersive quotient, which showcases Salesforce’s commitment to merging technology with its rich culture.

Localization of Global Events

While emphasizing Salesforce’s global presence, Kelly discussed the nuance of localizing events. He detailed the meticulous care taken to ensure international events are tailored to respect and reflect local cultures, bringing forth an amalgamation of Salesforce’s values with regional nuances.

Championing Employee Participation

An interesting facet of Kelly’s address was the spotlight on Salesforce’s employees. Kelly underscored the belief that employees are not just the face but the very essence of the company. Their participation, insights, and feedback have been instrumental in crafting events that authentically echo Salesforce’s culture.

Emerging from Crisis: Case Study of The Pandemic

Kelly tackled the mammoth challenge every organization faced – the pandemic. He discussed how Salesforce rapidly pivoted during these testing times, emphasizing virtual events. These digital gatherings were not just stop-gap solutions but culturally rich experiences that sustained the company’s ethos. Kelly shared feedback from attendees who felt more connected and included in these virtual settings, emphasizing the successful transition.

The Culture-First Blueprint for Future Events

In conclusion, Gareth Kelly laid a roadmap for businesses keen on intertwining culture into their events. He championed a meticulous approach:

  1. Internal Alignment: Ensuring every department, from marketing to HR, is aligned with the company’s core values.
  2. Inclusivity: Crafting events that are welcoming and celebrating diversity in every form.
  3. Iterative Process: Treating every event as a learning opportunity, drawing feedback, and relentlessly refining for the future.
  4. Innovation: Not shying away from experimenting with technology or new formats to keep events fresh and engaging.
  5. Impact Measurement: Employing advanced analytics to assess an event’s tangible and intangible impacts on attendees, the company, and society.

Gareth Kelly ended his presentation by emphasizing the symbiosis of business culture and events, underscoring a key takeaway: authentic cultural expression is the linchpin for genuinely impactful and memorable events in today’s business landscape.

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