When you look around the office of Gregg Eilers, you get a glimpse into how he approaches events and meetings. John Prine and Ray Charles posters hang next to a photo of a massive healthcare show he helped orchestrate along with a small print of a vintage robot adorned with the phrase, “fighting an invisible foe.” The phrase serves as a motto-of-sorts for how he helps brands communicate with their audience. As he declares, “ We’re always fighting for attention.”
How Gregg Eilers captures the attention for his clients is by taking a page from his passion for music: treat each presentation like a performance. “ Five to fifteen people is a meeting. Fifty people isn’t a meeting. It’s a show,” he explains. In his 40-year career, he has helped plan and produce meetings and events for Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Ford, and Volkswagen, just to name a few. Now, he serves as Vice President of Meetings and Events at Switch in St. Louis. After being fascinated with musicians and performers as a young man, he now “ makes corporate executives feel like rockstars.”
Before staging spectacles of all sizes, Gregg Eilers wanted to capture them as a photographer. It wasn’t until working the SIUE Mississippi River Festival concert series in the 1970s that he discovered his love for how productions and shows come together. This opened a door for him at Maritz – one of the pioneering companies doing large-scale events and meetings from St. Louis at the time. Since then, several agencies have developed an experiential marketing department, with Switch being one of the first and most successful in St. Louis.
There are many moving parts when staging and producing a show. Between the projectors, lights, screens, stage direction, and additional visual flourishes, an event like the 2019 Anheuser-Busch National Sales Conventional (something he has already started working on) requires months of planning. However, the biggest challenge isn’t the mechanics. “Being able to communicate the messages effectively is still the biggest challenge,” he goes on to explain. “ You want that emotional connection. If you don’t have that, you just have someone giving a speech or playing a video.”
Pulling out the key information and presenting it in a way that is engaging is vital. Often, a company may think they know what they want to say, but it isn’t until Switch meets with a client and dives into what they want to convey that the true message presents itself. He describes it as “connecting the dots with emotions.”
Engagement is easy to say but hard to do in practice. In the digital age, there are so many distractions and ways to collect information through our devices. Even with the help of digital tools and on-stage effects, it’s still a challenge to have an audience focus on the message. “Information is what drives people. You have to communicate a plan to connect the message to the audience.” No matter the size of the event or meeting, you have to make it relevant first and foremost. Once you have a clear message that the audience can relate to… then the fun begins. “ You want someone in the crowd to say, “That’s cool!”
Gregg Eilers isn’t just the person behind the scenes. He currently plays in three different bands and is constantly going to concerts and performances to get inspired. He’s quick to praise Justin Timberlake and Cirque du Soleil because of their attention to detail and storytelling. “Those shows are as good as live performance gets.” While Gregg has become an expert over the years with conveying messages to audiences, he’s still learning new ways to stay relevant and ahead of the curve in this unique and ever-changing field. Despite having over three decades under his belt – like the fighting robot hanging on his wall – he shows no signs of giving up.