Third & GroveThird & Grove
Mar 19, 2020 - Justin Emond

How to Digitize your Conference or Live Event

Twitch on phone

Conferences all over the US (and the world) are being delayed many months, or canceled outright. While many of the spring conferences will happen in Q3 or Q4, those dates are too far away to provide the top of the funnel pipeline you need for the first half of the year.

Here are our key considerations for turning your real-life event into a killer digital experience: 


Remember: We are all monkeys in shoes

This is perhaps the most important lesson to remember about virtual work. This is the main reason that, a decade after pundits predicted most employees would work from home, most people still go into an office every day. And in ten years they still will. Why? Because we are social animals, plain and simple.

This is important to remember because when you are virtual you have to make a conscious effort to make sure all of the small, meaningful social interactions that happen on their own when evolved primates are in the same space, happen virtually. Those little social interactions add up without you noticing when you are together physically.


Digitize Your Booth

Get a bit cheeky with what you were planning for your IRL booth and make it digital. We all need a bit more cheeky right now.

On the record, or off?

Do you need to password protect, or otherwise gate, any of the pages? Will a soft lock work (one you can easily work around), because you just want to capture an email address or a hard lock (an actual identity challenge) because you want to keep the session content off-the-record?

Also, make sure you clearly state in sessions if content should or shouldn’t be shared. If it’s on-the-record, or not.


What to do with all those sessions?

You have plenty of options, but we recommend leaning into well-supported options like podcasts or videos. Going this route reduces friction and that is the easiest way to boost conversion and engagement. Reducing friction is always a winning business plan.


Microinteractions matter

Think about all the different tracks you were planning to have at your conference. Your digital conference could easily have loads of content but only subsets of that content will be applicable to your visitor profiles. This is why it’s crucial to thoughtfully design and implement microinteractions around session filtering, discoverability, and viewing.  

And please remember that the most important microinteraction of all is remembering state for returning visitors automagically.


Do it live

Consider ways you can offer real-time interactivity around questions, comments on sessions, discussions, networking, etc. But do not overthink the technology needed for this. You can spin up a Slack for free, right now, without needing to talk to IT. Link to that Slack, set up a schedule for your team to ensure there is always one moderator, keep it active for a short, defined time period (like two weeks), and you are set. A few other options are Twitch and Zoom. 


Regulation, regulation, regulation 

Remember that old saying that it’s better to ask legal for forgiveness, not permission? Probably not great advice when dealing with the new regulatory reality we live in. Be thoughtful to ensure your experience complies with regulatory regimes like CCPA for California, GDPR for the European Union, etc.


Contact us form

It’s basic but crucial. Don’t forget a contact us form. The quickest way to do this is to create the form in your instance of Pardot, Marketo, or whatever you use, and embed that form on a page in your CMS. This is a temporary site built to deal with a once-in-a-century pandemic, it doesn’t have to be a perfect technical architecture.


Promote a clear schedule

The reason that grocery stores sell out of food during blizzards and pandemics is that humans are cognitively hardwired to value something more if it is perceived as scarce. Use this to your advantage by having a clear schedule around your digital event, about when content is being released. Use your email marketing tool and other, normal social channels to promote subsequent content drops.

The other advantage of the schedule is it allows you to set clear expectations around how long secondary experiences will be supported, like a digital conference Slack.


Web Accessibility Matters

When planning your real world conference you took care to ensure folks with disabilities were able to access the event, so don’t forget to do this for your digital conference. By doing this you get the bonuses of 1) feeling self-satisfaction for Doing The Right Thing (™) 2) not opening up your company to litigation, and 3) increasing the demand generation value of the experience by increasing the top of the funnel. 

Need help imagining digitizing your conference? Give us a shout.