Inside AmEx LIVE 2022 Business Class
NEW YORK-In 2010, American Express introduced Small Business Saturday to promote and support small businesses in the wake of the Great Recession. The day is now an annual event that takes place every November between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (Mark your calendars: Small Business Saturday is November 26 this year!)
So when COVID hit the United States a decade later, AmEx knew it had to step in to help keep these mother-and-mother-sized businesses afloat. Enter Business Class, a series of videos to teach business owners about topics like growth, strategy, leadership, marketing, finance, and more.
And on July 20, after more than a year of business class, AmEx took over New York’s Javits Center for an IRL iteration of the video series. Dubbed Business Class LIVE, the content tracks included cash flow management, marketing strategies, outsourcing opportunities and workplace wellness.
The more than 5,000 attendees heard key takeaways on topics from visionaries like five-time No. 1 Adam Grant New York Times best-selling author who studies motivation; actress Issa Rae, creator of the hit HBO show Insecure who first gained attention for her work on Awkward Black Girl, a YouTube series; and Jay Shetty, author, former Hindu monk and life coach.Photo: Courtesy of American Express
And in addition to the “global and ambitious” education that has been provided, Clayton Rubensaalexecutive vice president, global B2B marketing at AmEx, told BizBash that the choice of venue – “all glass, [and] large spaces overlooking [Hudson] river” – designed for “a very inspiring environment”.
Beyond the stage programming, a marketplace acted as a central hub for attendees to explore AmEx products and services, discuss business issues with industry experts, or simply recharge in the networking lounge. “The marketplace was very hands-on and hands-on,” Ruebensaal explained, where “partners like LinkedIn and Meta had booths to talk about how to improve your LinkedIn profile or how to improve your company’s social media marketing,” per example.
“And then we had all these breakout rooms where we had something called ‘Contract Connections,’ which pairs – imagine speed dating – small businesses with procurement people from government agencies or large corporations, so that they can actually get out of there with the business.
The Contract Connections element has been a staple at AmEx since 2012 and has resulted in over 35,000 one-on-one meetings and over $1 billion in contracts awarded to small businesses since then.Photo: Courtesy of American Express
As Ruebensaal pointed out, these connections are the essence of Business Class LIVE. “We see in the data that people who attend events like this are so much more engaged than others. It’s similar to our airport lounges – people who experience the brand in a three-dimensional setting, as long as we’ve done our job well, walk away from the experience with a deeper emotional connection to American Express.
Throughout, the Javits Center’s on-site catering team provided both breakfast and packed lunch options for attendees (the event ran from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), as well as seated meals with a menu. which offered salmon, roast chicken, quinoa salad and more. Cold brew coffee carts gave guests a pick-me-up any time of the day, and a gelato cart kept guests happy in the afternoon. And before saying goodbye to attendees, a cocktail-style farewell was complete with past wine, champagne, and hors d’oeuvres.Photo: Courtesy of American Express
Oh, and all that programming was free. “It was extraordinary,” Ruebensaal said of the entrance fee. “We kept it open because the central idea of Business Class was to democratize this education, so we couldn’t reserve it for cardholders only”, and so the credit card company also welcomed “no -customers, hopefully potential customers”.
He added: “It has always been free, and it will continue to be free, because we want as many people as possible to come and continue to benefit from Business Class LIVE. The logic behind it is actually quite commercial: if we can help our customers grow by adding new sites, hiring new employees, and moving into new lines of business, their revenue increases. And as their income grows, so does ours.
So in the future, small business professionals can not only expect what Ruebensaal called a “first-class event” for free, but can also expect to be “surprised and delighted in new and interesting”.
Ruebensaal also pointed to an “area of opportunity” for AmEx: “I would like us to think, ‘How can we better foster what is so successful in person beyond the event?'”Photo: Courtesy of American Express
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Signage, Social Media and Marketing: Sarankco
Talents and Speakers: star power