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What 2020 has taught us about holding great online events

2020 has been a year of reinvention. None of us have been able to keep on with business as usual, so we’ve been forced into trying new things. And do you know what? Some of them have been brilliant.

All that new technology has suddenly gone mainstream. Zoom and Teams have new dictionary definitions, and WFH is no longer a dirty word (words). But perhaps one of the real eye openers has been the way live events have been changed into online ones - and how some major names have capitalised on a new way of doing things.

Of course there’s no substitute for personal contact, so these organisations haven’t attempted to recreate it. Instead, they have looked at how they could incorporate the advantages of the online world into their event. And while the following examples may have substantial budgets behind them, there are many lessons that can be learned and principles that can be adopted on a smaller scale.

1. Salesforce

The cloud-based software company’s in-person conference was turned into a virtual livestream in just 10 days, attracting 80,000 viewers. The highlight was an App Exchange, where participants presented their apps via a 3-minute real-time demo. The audience then voted on the winner. Keynote and breakout sessions were made available after the event.

Take out: Ideas like real-time demos and online voting can be genuine crowd-pleasers and drive audience engagement. Your event can also have longevity with segments available on-demand afterwards for training or use on social media, allowing budgets to go even further.



2. Adobe

The first-ever digital Adobe Summit, where attendees could participate in training and keynote sessions hosted by professionals via on-demand sessions, was a great success. The whole event worked seamlessly, mainly thanks to stylish eye-catching intro videos which set the mood for the session to come as well as showcasing Adobe’s products.

Take out: Pre-recorded video linking segments in this way can make any online event feel more professional. Creatively incorporating products can also make it an effective sales tool as well as enhancing your brand image.



3. NBA

Though fans couldn’t physically attend the restart of the National Basketball Association league, they could still share in the excitement. Dozens of cameras and microphones were repositioned closer to the court so viewers could see the NBA from new angles and hear every grunt and shout. Using the MS Teams’ ‘together’ feature with the latest AI technology connected to large screens in the stadium, the players could see the virtual spectators and the fans could feel like they were actually there.

Take out: Virtual events can be shaped to fit any type of occasion. They can be brought to life in a number of dramatic ways to make the viewer feel part of the action - sometimes making them feel even more intimate than being there.



4. Tomorrowland

Creating an entirely immersive music festival online may seem next to impossible. Tomorrowland took on the challenge and created a virtual festival that blended a highly stylised 3D world with live performances. The result was one of the most captivating events held this year - virtual or otherwise.

Take out: When technology meets creativity, incredible things can happen. At any scale, virtual and online events can provide an opportunity to display a fresh side to your brand and perfectly showcase your capabilities.



5. Apple

Instead of holding their live conference this year, Apple went digital - in true Apple style. All events were pre-recorded and used the new Apple Park in California as a backdrop. Every presentation was beautifully shot, making it informative, engaging and a true extension of their brand values.

Take out: Virtual events can give you total control over what and how you communicate. Every minute can work to enhance your brand.



If you have a big event coming up, careful planning can ensure it has impact, not only during the event itself, but also on demand. Of course marketing of the event itself should also be part of your plan - and in this respect it pays to think big. Virtual events have no limits on attendance so they can offer an exciting opportunity to broaden your brand reach.

Everyone talks about what the new normal will look like in years to come. One thing’s for sure, online events will become more and more a part of business life. By thinking creatively and teaming up with knowledgeable partners you can make sure they’re far more than a poor cousin to live events. They can be an essential element in building a strong brand presence.


For more help with your online events or your reach and engagement generally, contact Rachel Arquati on +44 1285 626000 or email

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