How an in-person event for 15000 registered attendees was “reimagined” in just 10 days to be one of the first of many events to go online during the Coronavirus pandemic…
Once upon a time, way back at the start of February 2020 (less than 2 months ago), event planners were starting to get nervous about a virus that was making trouble in China. Large scale events with global attendees started to postpone. Fast forward to now, and the entire events industry worldwide is all but shut down.
Not wanting months of hard work and fantastic pre-event community engagement to go to waste, the team behind Salesforce World Tour – one of the largest live B2B events in the APAC region – transformed the event to be a fully online experience, in just 10 days.
This achievement was super impressive in terms of the short turnaround time and the team’s ability to adapt to the fast-evolving crisis. However, what was even more impressive was how successful the new format was at engaging the audience. The stats are extraordinary, and the new event, Salesforce World Tour Reimagined is now a poster event for how large-scale virtual events can be created to engage huge online audiences.
We catch up with Nigel Ruffell, Director at live brand experience agency, The Company We Keep who, along with their client Salesforce, led the transformation of this event from the real world to the virtual… Join us as we explore the future of events online.
Were you involved with the original in-person event?
Yes, we developed and ran the whole project last year and again this year. However, once we started to see that the landscape was changing, with people who wanted to attend possibly not able to, we felt then that no one should, and for the safety of our attendees, we would go to live broadcast.
Can you give a quick overview of the decision-making process to postpone the live event and switch to online?
We (Salesforce and the CWK) wanted a safe environment for our audience, our teams and our partners. We decided an event of this scale could not safely be held in this climate – that decision has been clearly borne out.
We did not want to have to cancel as others had done, there had been so much work on content, planning and speakers and such great customer engagement that we felt it had to go ahead. So, we started to dream up World Tour Reimagined.
What differed between the original event and what was “reimagined”?
Pretty much everything! We didn’t feel that what we were looking at for the live event including the keynote in the round and the huge expo space would work in this scenario.
To engage the audience, we felt it had to be broadcast focussed, how it is presented in a live scenario differs incredibly to how it translates on camera. To facilitate the journey, we wanted to tell the Salesforce story and create dynamism, we built live stages in film style sets for the presenters to speak from. They had animated content on LED backgrounds, satellite areas for separate sections, live demos and live crosses, which gave us more creative shot opportunities.
What worked really well?
The conversational approach, the way the content was conveyed as if it were the speakers talking to a friend. The animations and bespoke content lent weight on camera, the teamwork and collaboration with everyone to turn it around in 10 days. The spirit of the team was extraordinary – we always say that even the ordinary can be made extraordinary if you do it with the right people. This was extraordinary and was never going to be an ordinary change. Audience engagement was 80,000 people on Salesforce’s live platform and another 1.2 million through social channels.
What caused a few challenges?
Time! 10 days to recreate what had taken months, with the level of complexity and the fact that there were hundreds of sessions recorded for the on-demand component from another seven sets as well as the four live broadcast stages was something that I am incredibly proud to have been part of.
Do you think this is the future of large-scale global events, whether there’s a virus or not?
I think for sure we are going to see this as a huge part of the industry going forward. I think the systems and abilities will develop much faster, and I believe we will achieve this year probably what would have taken the next three years to achieve out of necessity.
Nigel also shares with us his top tips for hosting events during an outbreak…
1. ESTABLISH YOUR PARAMETERS FOR SUCCESS
• Know your audience, your brand and craft what you want say?
• Pick the right partners
2. AIM FOR ENGAGEMENT, NOT VIEWERSHIP
• Making people watch an experience is materially different than enabling people to participate in it
• Maintaining audience attention will be the biggest challenge, people really are only going yo see one presenter on their own for around 18 minutes max.
3. THINK ABOUT THE ENTIRE EXPERIENCE
• There is a proper way to execute it, but it requires empathy, planning and expertise across a variety of areas
• With the right strategy and technology, a great event producer can transform a virtual event from a passive experience, to an active one.
4. CHOOSE THE RIGHT CONTENT PARTNERS
• Technology can be tricky. So, be careful about who you choose to represent your brand
• Technology can enhance an online experience, but it’s just the starting point for a powerful virtual event
• What looks amazing in a live event space may not always transition well onto a desktop, television or mobile screen
• The main challenge being how to ‘hold’ or fully engage an audience for the duration cast.
Getting this right can open new and exciting channels that can solidify a presence in the marketplace and extend the reach and impact of its brand. Get it wrong and it can really have the opposite effect.
The current COVID-19 crisis is, and will be remembered as, the crisis that brought the world to its knees. There is barely a soul, business or country that has been unaffected by what is transpiring in the world today. In the same way, it is also bringing the world closer together. For one, we’re not at war with each other, rather we’re fighting against a common threat.
What we loved about this Event Showcase, and the reason we wanted to share it, was that despite the unfolding crisis, the unknown impact and the time pressures, the team involved in this event set about to create something new and innovative. Not a second-rate experience.
In the process of problem solving an evolving situation they created an event that brought the content to more people than the live event could have while maintaining (if not improving) quality engagement. This virtual event will be a legacy for the many more to come, both during this crisis and long after.
Thank you to Nigel for sharing his experience.
We’d like to acknowledge all the suppliers involved in Salesforce World Tour Reimagined:
Venue | ICC Sydney
Event Management | The Company We Keep
Set Design | The Company We Keep
Set Build | AAM, Green and Growing, HTH
AV Production | TDC, Eat The Elephant, Additive, Norwest, Create Engage, Reidel, Eighth Day
Filming | TDC, Suite Spot
Want to get in touch with Nigel and his team?
They’d love to hear from you… The Company We Keep are a Sydney-based live brand experience agency, that believes it’s all about the people, building a diverse team of collaborators, that share a common vision and have share values.