From Microsoft to HPE, Gainsight, and more, leading tech brands are going virtual.
COVID-19 and events have been challenging to navigate. Luckily, nearly every industry has embraced virtual events, including tech companies. From showcasing their products to making major announcements and connecting with developers, technologists, and B2B customers, it’s clear that virtual events are high value across the board. Here are 10 well-executed virtual event ideas from tech companies and what you can learn from them.
10 Well-Executed Virtual Events From Tech Companies
Qualtrics, an experience data company owned by SAP, has mainly focused its virtual event strategy on webinars. However, after having to postpone its huge X4 Summit — which Qualtrics bills as “the greatest gathering of experience management professionals on the planet”— the company decided to launch a digital event series called “WorkDifferent.”
The pandemic has completely transformed how companies do business, and Qualtrics celebrated how its customers have adapted to this change. “WorkDifferent,” which took place on Aug. 12, featured marquee speakers like best-selling author and acclaimed researcher Brené Brown, sports icon Tony Hawk and Omar Johnson, the former chief marketing officer of Beats by Dre, covering topics like “How Brands Can Find Their Way Without Losing Their Way” and “Keeping Your Wheels Spinning While the World is at a Standstill.” The event also featured digital case studies focused on organizations including Microsoft and the City of Orlando on how they’ve transitioned to remote work while improving both their employee and customer experience.
Key Takeaway: Qualtrics shows how companies can pivot their in-person events to online in a way that meets the moment. Brené Brown and other industry heavyweights were scheduled to speak at the X4 summit in March, but Qualtrics didn’t let that cache go to waste and figured out a way to reformat and reimagine the event virtually and deliver content that was both on-brand and timely.
Last year, Cisco convened its partners and customers from across the country in San Diego for Cisco Live.
This year, none of them had to leave home. The company transformed Cisco Live into a two-day virtual event with over 500 sessions focused on topics that are top of mind for IT leaders and professionals, including network transformation, SD-WAN and mobile edge computing. With that many sessions, Cisco was smart to divide the event into four distinct channels: the innovation channel, possibilities channel, IT heroes channel and the IT leadership channel, which gave attendees a way to easily navigate this massive digital experience.
Key Takeaway: Cisco used the power of its own technology to create what was arguably one of the largest online events ever in 2020. And Cisco apparently did so successfully. The two-day event had three million live views, the sessions received an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 and 84% of attendees either liked or loved the event, according to a promo video the company posted on Twitter.
Gainsight held a free two-day virtual event, “Pulse Everywhere,” that brought together customer success and product professionals. The May event featured over 25 sessions and a variety of event types across five tracks, with leaders from top companies such as Splunk, Adobe, VmWare and LinkedIn. Gainsight has made all the content available on-demand for free, allowing site visitors to watch video of each session and download the slides for future reference as long as they fill out a registration form to access Pulse Everywhere’s content.
Key Takeaway: Gainsight turned what traditionally would have been a 5,000-person live conference into an online experience for 22,000 attendees in the span of 45 days. In a blog post, the company said it was focused on creating a distinct virtual event, so it basically had to start from scratch with a “beginner’s mind” and focus on how to reimagine everything from the registration to the networking experience. Gainsight decided to go hybrid for some parts of its event, using a combination of pre-recorded sessions followed by live Q&As to bring a bit of the traditional in-person experience to attendees.
Source: Microsoft Build
Microsoft took its annual developer conference virtual with a two-day event that featured nearly 600 sessions on topics ranging from how inclusivity can drive innovation to how remote teams can be productive. In a sign of the times, Microsoft even held “Community Connections” experiences where a yoga teacher guided attendees through different movements to promote relaxation and stress reduction.
Key Takeaway: Realizing that it has a highly engaged audience of developers, Microsoft knew it was important to continue connecting with this audience, which is why the company held its virtual event on the exact same dates the in-person conference was scheduled to take place in Seattle.
Microsoft typically uses this conference to get the developer community excited about new product updates and to break news about the company’s latest and greatest innovations. More than 200,000 people registered for the event and major media outlets covered it, proving that conferences don’t always have to be in-person to generate the same amount of buzz.
In the future, you may even be so successful in the virtual space that you’ll want to continue using these hybrid event ideas!
HMG Strategy, a technology company whose platform connects IT leaders and security experts around the globe, holds several summits and live events every year that target chief information officers (CIOs), chief information security officers (CISOs) and senior IT executives.
On Aug. 20, it held “2020 HMG Live! New York CIO Summit of America,” a two-hour event focused on how IT leaders can “Learn from the Past and Present to Reshape the Future of Business.” IT leaders from top companies such as Amazon Web Services, Verizon, Deloitte, Olgivy, the NFL and Zoom all participated, sharing their insights on topics like the future of work and fostering collaboration in a hybrid work environment.
Key Takeaway: HMG Strategy has built a thriving community of IT leaders that it can call upon to both engage with and participate in its virtual event production and experiences. Its events are can’t miss because attendees know they’ll hear from CIOs and executives from big brands and learn best practices that may be beneficial for their own companies, regardless of whether they work at a Fortune 500 or a mid-sized business.
LiveWorx, a conference focused on digital transformation that usually welcomes 6,000 attendees to Boston, went from a four-day in-person event to a free one-day virtual event in June. Despite going digital, the conference still had 7,000 attendees who enjoyed nine live- streamed keynote speeches and more than 100 on-demand sessions focused on augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics and more.
Key Takeaway: LiveWorx demonstrates how you can do a virtual event at scale. The company embraced a hybrid approach, with on-demand sessions, nine live keynotes from influencers and industry leaders, live Q&As and gave attendees the ability to network with thousands of other industry professionals. Allowing attendees to consume content at their own convenience or interact in real-time is an effective way to make your virtual event experience accessible but still engaging.
In June, HPE held its first ever global virtual event. More than 38,000 attendees from 175 countries logged on to hear from over 100 speakers, including journalist Soledad O’Brien, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and an assortment of industry leaders. More than 200 sessions are available on-demand and so far the content has received over 1 million live views and counting.
Key Takeaway: Not only has HPE made hours of content available on-demand so it can generate continuous traffic and leads, it’s also made the content shareable on social platforms, including Facebook Messenger. Though organizing a virtual event for nearly 40,000 speakers isn’t light work, HPE shows it can pay dividends for months to come in terms of social traffic, brand awareness and ongoing engagement.
8. Apple WWDC
Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference is a can’t-miss event in the developer community, so it’s no surprise that instead of cancelling the event altogether, Apple made it virtual. Apple’s conference was a cross-platform experience. The company used its Developer app to share information on sessions in the run-up to the event and to allow attendees to engage with the content (naturally) on their iPads, iPhones or Apple TV devices over the course of four days.
Key Takeaway: Virtual doesn’t just mean desktop. Think about how attendees will engage with your content. Obviously, Apple has a huge advantage as a device maker and technology company, but if you’re pivoting to a virtual event, it’s important to also think about the mobile experience and make sure the user experience and content are consistent with what attendees will get on desktop.
Aruba Networks, a Hewlett Packard company, was supposed to host its wireless networking conference in Las Vegas in March. Instead, it divided the conference into several monthly events. The first event took place on June 9 and covered meaty topics such as edge computing, 5G and how companies can develop their own edge-to-cloud strategy. And if the June events weren’t enough, more virtual experiences are scheduled for September.
Key Takeaway: If you have a global conference that needs to go from in-person to virtual, why not spread the event out over several months and not just several days? By doing so, you can give “Zoom fatigued” attendees a virtual break.
Who says cybersecurity has to be boring? It already feels like we’re all living in our own version of the apocalypse, so it’s not surprising that CircleCityCon embraced this theme. The cybersecurity conference, which took place June 12-14, featured free training sessions, virtual arcades, game shows, a job fair and interactive villages where like-minded professionals could virtually gather. Conference organizers even sent attendees a swag bag filled with quirky apocalyptic insignia (COVID-friendly mask included).
Key Takeaway: Pick a unique theme and run with it. Some of the more than 40 sessions featured interesting titles like “Harry Potter and the InfoSec Apprentice” and “Every Breath You Take: A CTI Review of Stalkerware.”
- Go hybrid:Just because your event is virtual, doesn’t mean it can’t include IRL-like elements such as a live Q&A or panel or even a live DJ.
- Get social: Find ways to integrate experiences that attendees would expect at an in-person conference, like a happy hour, networking events or even a virtual lobby where attendees can mix and mingle before the main event gets started.
- Spread it out: An in-person conference doesn’t necessarily transfer 1-1 to a virtual conference. A one-day in-person conference likely will need to be a multi-day virtual event to give attendees the opportunity to consume content at their own pace. Given all the demands people now have as they work from home, splitting things up is a smart strategy for making your content more consumable.
- Leverage your community: If your brand caters to a highly engaged, niche audience, use them to shape your virtual events strategy. Seek their input on the content or ask community members to participate as speakers.