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Event Planning & Management
16 April 2020 

Pivoting to Virtual Events: 10 Examples from Leading Brands

Jacob Thomas
Pivoting to Virtual Events: 10 Examples from Leading Brands

Learn how to pivot from an in-person gathering to a virtual event. Featuring examples from Adobe, Salesforce, and the New York Times.

As COVID-19 lingers, virtual events have become incredibly popular because they allow companies to interact with their audiences and provide memorable experiences while still maintaining safe social distancing practices.

If you’re looking to pivot to a virtual event, we’re here to help. The following 10 examples from leading brands will give you the inspiration you need to adjust your event strategy in these difficult times. Let’s dive in!

1. Gainsight Pulse Everywhere

Gainsight Pulse Everywhere - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: Gainsight

The in-person Pulse events by Gainsight are some of the most anticipated gatherings of the year for customer success professionals. The first-ever online version, named Pulse Everywhere, will bring the same level of expert insights and fun to attendees in their own homes. Speakers include experts from IBM, Salesforce, Adobe, and more, for free.

Key Takeaway: People attend business events to learn new information and network with others in their industry. Just because you’re hosting a virtual event doesn’t mean you can’t facilitate connection between attendees. Pulse plans to prioritize networking by providing plenty of eNetworking opportunities. Consider doing the same for your virtual event.

2. Adobe Summit

Adobe Summit - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: Adobe

The first-ever digital Adobe Summit was a huge success. Attendees were given the chance to learn from top Adobe professionals on topics such as content marketing, data and insights, and commerce. The training sessions were recorded in speakers’ homes and made available to thousands of people around the globe via on-demand videos.

Key Takeaway: Adobe is mainly known for its creative software solutions. So it makes sense that this design-conscious company would pay special attention to the way its sessions are presented to event attendees. Before most breakouts, an eye-catching video plays and sets the mood for the instructive content to follow. In all likelihood, you’ll have to record sessions from speakers’ homes. Give your event a more professional feel by presenting them in an interesting and cohesive way as Adobe has done with pre-event videos and matching graphics.

3. Salesforce World Tour Sydney

Salesforce World Tour Sydney - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: Salesforce

Salesforce hosts some of the biggest business events in the world. Salesforce World Tour Sydney, while not the mega in-person gathering we’ve all grown accustomed to, was still BIG in the sense of how in-depth and expansive its content offerings were. The conference included more than 100 on-demand sessions that folks could attend live. Now that the event is past, anybody can view the replays on the Salesforce website.

Key Takeaway: One thing you’ll notice as you peruse the Salesforce website and consume all of the amazing insights from Salesforce World Tour Sydney is how easy it is to view each video on a specific topic. This is because Salesforce grouped like-minded sessions into playlists, which allow viewers to watch one video right after the other. If you’re interested in sales, for example, you just click on the Sales playlist to see all available footage on the subject. Consider structuring your recorded video content search engine to improve the attendee experience at your virtual event.

4. Zendesk Relater

Zendesk Relater - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: Zendesk

Like most events that were scheduled for the first half of 2020, Zendesk Relate had to cancel its in-person gathering. But rather than shelve the entire get-together, Zendesk renamed their event to Zendesk Relater 2020 and recorded virtual sessions with top industry folks for attendees to view from home.

Key Takeaway: Zendesk Relater 2020 is chock-full of great content. To get access to it, viewers just have to give Zendesk some basic personal information like their name, email address, and phone number. For many companies, having to cancel an event means losing a significant amount of revenue. You can try to offset this financial setback by using your recorded virtual event content as a marketing tool to score new leads, who can be nurtured long term.

5. Atlassian Remote Summit

Atlassian Remote Summit - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: Atlassian

Teamwork looks very different than it did even a month ago. Most of us have been forced to work from home due to health concerns brought about by COVID-19. Fortunately, the Atlassian Remote Summit took place at the beginning of April to help us learn how to work together while being physically isolated. The event featured educational sessions that attendees could watch from wherever they happened to be at the time.

Key Takeaway: If your company is forced to pivot from an in-person gathering to a virtual one, your audience is going to have questions. That’s why it’s important to provide them with a detailed FAQ page to keep them updated. The Atlassian Remote Summit FAQ page is a great example of this tip in action. Make sure the page you create is clear, informative, and honest, just like theirs.

6. Oktane20 Live

Source: Twitter

Oktane Live, an annual event by secure identity management software company, Okta, is specially crafted for IT professionals, product leaders, and developers. The 2020 version was hosted completely online and featured 65+ breakout sessions on topics like Zero Trust, Hybrid IT, and Customer Identity. Okta went to great lengths to make the digital gathering as engaging as possible. There was a virtual lobby, which acted as the “home base” of the conference; attendees were able to ask speakers questions in real-time; and specific chat rooms were made available for networking purposes.

Key Takeaway: Oktane20 Live was an amazing event for all of the reasons listed above. But we want to draw special attention to the way Okta made virtual interaction fun for all attendees via the “passport game”. Basically, event-goers were able to earn badges by visiting virtual booths set up by event partners, attending sessions, and participating in chats. Top badge earners were displayed on a leaderboard and were eligible for special prizes at the end of the conference. How cool is that? Try to think of fun and creative ways to facilitate attendee interaction at your virtual event too.

7. #Celebrate Online

#Celebrate Online - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: Gong

#Celebrate Online was a Gong conference that brought together professionals from name-brand companies such as Automattic, Glassdoor, and Outreach to teach attendees about top sales tactics and techniques. The event also featured live networking sessions, a Gong product sneak peek, and a virtual expo area.

Key Takeaway: A virtual expo area is an awesome idea! Here’s how Gong made it work: first, sponsors set up virtual booths that attendees could “visit” via the event software Gong used to host the conference. Once a booth was visited, the visiting attendee had a chance to interact with a real company representative and talk with them about their offerings via video conferencing. The end result was a virtual expo that felt and operated almost identically to an in-person one.

8. SAP Ariba Live

Source: YouTube

SAP Ariba Live was an “exciting new digital experience” that featured on-demand keynotes and breakout sessions on topics like the unpredictable geopolitical environment, global supply chain disruption, new technologies, and more. All of the training is available for free to event registrants who share their contact information.

Key Takeaway: Most of the events on this list, including SAP Ariba Live, can be accessed and consumed for free. This is definitely a strategy you should consider for your virtual event too. While you might not receive the same level of event ROI that you’re used to, you’ll build up goodwill with your audience, which can be used to produce additional revenue in the future.

9. New York Times Events

New York Times Events - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: New York Times

The New York Times needs no introduction. The legendary publishing company has won multiple awards and been a mainstay on newspaper racks for nearly 170 years. NYT also produces amazing events with a focus on current and pressing issues. Undeterred by the pandemic, these events have shifted to virtual gatherings. Each one will feature in-depth conversations between NYT journalists and subject matter experts.

Key Takeaway: Two of NYT’s upcoming events (at the time of this writing) deal with Coronavirus-related topics. If possible, craft content for your virtual event that tackles hyper-relevant topics. That could mean educating your audience on new industry happenings and trends, discussing how your customers should weather the COVID-19 storm, or the process of transitioning from the office to remote workspaces. Do what you can to make your conference content as relevant as possible.

10. WSJ Health Forum

WSJ Health Forum - Virtual Event ExamplesSource: Wall Street Journal

One could make the argument that The Wall Street Journal Health Forum took place at the perfect time. The combination of COVID-19 and events has left many event planners scrambling. While WSJ did have to make significant changes to its event plans, the subject matter was incredibly timely. Attendees tuned in on March 24th, 2020 for the free virtual event that explored the current pandemic and gave global health experts a platform to educate.

Key Takeaway: Speaking of platform, The Wall Street Journal Health Forum was delivered with a dedicated virtual event solution. While video conferencing tools can be work in a pinch, consider investing in a virtual event solution to add more dynamic elements—like live chat, polls, surveys, and networking—to your digital experiences.

Main Takeaways: How to Pivot to Virtual Events

The novel coronavirus has disrupted the events industry, but it hasn’t destroyed it. Not by a long shot! Virtual events allow companies to host amazing conferences, training seminars, and trade expos while maintaining social distancing best-practices.

If you’re looking to pivot from an in-person gathering to an online one, keep these three things in mind:

  1. Get the Basics Right: Just because you have to pivot and produce a virtual event on the fly doesn’t mean you can fudge on the basics. Be sure to provide your audience with digital networking opportunities, prioritize good presentation, and make it as easy as possible for them to consume and enjoy your event content.
  2. Get Creative: With a bit of effort, you’ll be able to host an amazing online event for your audience. Take some time to brainstorm virtual and hybrid event ideas to present to your audience. If you can come up with something like Okta’s Passport Game or Gong’s Virtual Expo Area, you can craft a memorable experience for your attendees.
  3. Get the Right Tools: Virtual events require innovative technology — especially if you plan to host an online gathering that will rival an in-person one.

There are a lot of great virtual event tools out there. You can learn more about Bizzabo’s virtual experience solution by clicking the button below.

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