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Going All Digital: Converting Your Industry Events for the Future

By Charles Chu, Chief Product Officer, Brightcove

SXSW. NAB Show. The NFL Draft. These are only a sampling of the large-scale events that have been forced to go digital as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Industry professionals have wrestled with the loss of their physical gatherings and are now working to recreate experiences that bring shared passions and business goals together - but in a digital format.

The pivot from physical to digital is not as simple as flipping a switch. Converting from a physical to digital experience requires a major shift in mindset and approach to ensure events remain engaging and achieve the desired business goals for everyone involved.

When making the shift to a digital industry conference, it is important to universally align on goals you expect to achieve for both your brand and those in attendance - with driving ROI being the utmost priority. From developing engaging content to getting creative with lead generation, here are the best practices that event organizers should adopt now regardless of the sector they serve.  

Key Considerations When Moving to Digital

Achieving your business goals in a digital setting means using video to merge the benefits of physical and online environments. Human experiences like networking and content sessions are what bring people to events in the first place, yet, digital capabilities allow attention to more seamlessly be driven to educational content, newsroom announcements, social media channels, etc.

Event organizers also need to mitigate the risks of delivering a major high profile event, which includes taking infrastructure, resources, scalability, etc. into consideration. Having the human expertise and proper technology in place are two essential elements to ensuring success.

It's Time to Redefine "Live"

One of the most mission-critical mindset shifts when moving to a digital event format is altering your perspective of what "live" viewing means. Delivering a multi-day "live" event requires the infrastructure of a major broadcaster at scale and professional film crews present at each major speaker's location to queue up the live streams in real time, something highly unlikely for most brands at this stage as they work to mitigate looming budget cuts while also maintaining proper social distancing guidelines.

The best way to retrofit your content for the digital model is to approach it like a TV subscription service. Similar to how TV episode guides display upcoming shows and their air times, your conference agenda can serve the same purpose. Same goes for tracking services, usage and providing access to on-demand content - subscription services already provide the blueprint for this successful model. By prompting your audience to tune in to your pre-recorded content at a specific date and time, you've effectively recreated the illusion of live viewing, leading to higher engagement from those that are in attendance.

Going Beyond the Desktop

Expanding your event's reach year over year is always a top priority, and converting to a digital event enables you to capture participation from people who previously couldn't afford the time or expense to travel to a physical event. That means you need a video platform capable of supporting more viewers than ever before, on whatever device they are watching from. While broadcasting components of your event through webinar tools like Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft Streams works best for your desktop viewers, you may want to consider implementing a mobile app as a supplement to your digital experience.

By creating a dedicated mobile app, attendees will now have a one-stop shop for all your event collateral accessible via their phones and tablets - including the episode guide for your sessions to enable content viewing right from their device in real-time or played back on-demand. The mobile experience also enables easy sharing of your event segments to social media to make the user engagement more fluid, especially if you are simultaneously broadcasting some (or all) of your event sessions on Facebook Live, Instagram Live or Twitter. Social media is an integral component to extending the conversation beyond your key audience and content accessibility via your branded mobile app can only enhance the process.

Getting Creative with Lead Generation

Arguably the most important takeaway for any organization hosting a major industry event would be the qualified leads generated from their attendees. With demand generation and leads considered mission critical across the board, the digital conversion of your event can create new and effective methods of capturing this crucial data.

Luckily for marketing and sales teams, event attendee data will be collected immediately through event registration and mobile app downloads. However, the key learnings will emerge from the implementation of proper back-end integration platforms like Marketo, Eloqua, or Salesforce to ensure that the desired data flows seamlessly into the organization's database. Many of these platforms have the capability to be linked to your event's video solution/broadcaster of choice. This provides the valuable attendee data the marketing and sales teams need, broken down by event session with viewer information to help them customize their tactics as they nurture these leads based on their digital event engagement. This kind of data capturing goes far beyond the pen and paper at the sign-in desk of the event hall.

As we come to grips with our "new normal", it has become increasingly clear that the concept of the industry conference will evolve permanently. With the global mindset shifting from physical to digital in many aspects of our everyday lives, the business goals associated with these kinds of events still remain the same. By adopting these best practices now, organizations will be able to ride through the remainder of 2020 while ensuring they are set up for future success.

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About the Author

Charles Chu 

Charles Chu manages the product management, engineering, and operations functions at Brightcove, ensuring alignment of all teams that design, develop, and operate the company’s cloud-based products. He is a seasoned, hands-on executive with a proven track record of combining product innovation, business acumen, and streamlined, complex cloud service implementation for large-scale, global businesses.

Previously Charles served as Head of R&D at PTC, leading the $1.3Bil company’s global engineering organization. Prior to joining PTC, he spent more than 14 years at IBM in a variety of senior leadership roles in Product Management, Engineering and Sales. He is a graduate of George Washington University with a double major in International Business and Finance.

Published Tuesday, June 09, 2020 7:31 AM by David Marshall
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