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Breaking Analysis: Coronavirus – Pivoting From Physical to Digital Events


>> From the SiliconANGLE Media office in Boston, Massachusetts, it's "theCUBE" (intro music) Now, here's your host, Dave Vellante

>> Hello, everyone and welcome to this week's episode of Wikibon's CUBE Insights, Powered by ETR In this Breaking Analysis, we're going to take a break from our traditional spending assessment and share with you our advice on how to deal with this crisis, specifically shifting your physical to digital in the age of Coronavirus So, we're not going to be digging into the spending data I talked to ETR this week, and they are obviously surveying on the impact of COVID-19, but those results won't be ready for a little bit So, theCUBE team has been in discussions with over 20 companies that have events planned in the near term and the inbound call volume has been increasing very rapidly

Now, we've been doing digital for a decade, and we have a lot of experience, and are really excited to share our learnings, tools, and best practices with you as you try to plan through this crisis So look, this is uncharted territory We haven't ever seen a country quarantine 35 million people before, so of course everyone is panicked by this uncertainty but our message, like others, is don't panic but don't be complacent You have to act and you have to make decisions This will reduce uncertainty for your stakeholders, your employees, and of course, your community

Now as you well know, major physical events are dropping very fast as a risk mitigation measure Mobile World Congress, HIMSS canceled, Kube-Con was postponed, IMB Think has gone digital, and so it goes Look, if you have an event in the next three weeks, you have little choice but to cancel the physical attendee portion of that event You really have three choices here One is to cancel the event completely and wait until next year

Now the problem with that is, that type of capitulation doesn't really preserve any of the value related to why you were originally holding the physical event in the first place Now you can do what Kube-Con did and postpone til the summer or kind of indefinitely Okay, that's a near-term recision on the event, but now you're in limbo But if you can sort out a venue down the road, that might work The third option is to pivot to digital

It requires more thought but what it does is allow you to create an ongoing content ark that has benefits The number-one complaint brands tell us about physical events is that after the event, they don't create a post-event halo effect A digital strategy that expands time will enable that This is important because when the market calms down, you're going to be able to better-leverage digital for your physical events The key question you want to ask is, what are the most important aspects of that physical event that you want to preserve? And then start thinking about building a digital twin of those areas

But it's much more than that And I'll address this opportunity that we think is unfolding for you a little later Your challenge right now is to act decisively and turn lemons into lemonade with digital Experiences are built around content, community, and the interaction of people This is our philosophy

It's a virtuous cycle where data and machine intelligence are going to drive insights, discovery by users is going to bring navigation which leads to engagement and ultimately outcomes Now, very importantly, this is not about which event software package to use Do not start there Start with the outcome that you want to achieve and work backwards Identify the parts of that outcome that are achievable and then work from there

The technology decision will be easy and fall out of it if you take that path So out of a high-level, you have two paths One, which is the preferred path is to pivot to digital, on the right-hand side, especially if your event is in March or early April Two is hold your physical event, but your general counsel is going to be all over you about the risks and precautions that you need to take There are others better than I to advise you on those precautions

I've listed some here on the left-hand side and I'm going to publish this on Wikibon, but you know what to do there But we are suggesting advising for the near-term events that you optimize for digital That's the right side Send out a crisp and clear communications, Adobe has a good example, that asks your loyal community to opt-in for updates and start the planning process You want to identify the key objectives of your event and build a digital program that maximizes the value for your attendees and the maps to those objectives

We're going to share some examples that theCUBE participated in this week on what might look like the digital event, and we'll share that with you Event software should come last Don't even worry about that until you've envisioned your outcome And I'll talk about software tools a little bit later So new thinking is required, we believe

The old way was a big venue, big bang event, you get thousands of people You're spending tons of money on a band There's exhibitor halls You're not going to preserve that, obviously Rather, think about resetting the physical and optimizing for digital which really is about serving a community

Now let's talk about, again, what that might look like in the near-term and then we're going to close on how we see this evolving to a new era The pattern emerging with our sponsors and our clients is, they want to preserve five key content areas from physical Not necessarily all of them but in some combination First is the keynotes You bring together a captive audience, and you have your customers there, they want to hear from executives

Your customers have made a bet on you, and they want to feel good about it So one is keynotes Two is the breakout sessions, the deeper dives from subject matter experts Third are technical sessions A big reason customers attend these events is to get technical training

Four is to actually share news in a press conference-like format And the fifth area that we've seen is, of course, theCUBE Many of our customers have said, "We not only want you to turn to turnkey the digital event, we want to plug theCUBE into our digital production that we are running" Now these are not in stone, they're just examples of what some of the customers are doing, and they're blending keynotes into their press conference, and there's a lot of different news cases I want to stress that, initially, everyone's mindset is to simply replicate physical to digital

It's fine to start there, but there's more to this story that we'll address later on So let's have a look at what something like this might look like in the near-term Here's an example of a digital event we did this week with a company called "Aviatrix" Small company but very nice look for their brand which is a priority for them You can see the live audience vibe

This was live but it can be pre-recorded All the speakers were together in one place You can see the very high production value Now, some of our clients have said, "Look, soon we want to do this completely remote with 100 percent of the speakers distributed" And our feeling is that's much more challenging for high-value events

Our strong recommendation is plan to get the speakers into a physical venue And ideally, get a small VIP/influencer audience to be there Make the audience feel important with a vibe of a VIP event Yeah, you can wait a few weeks to see how this thing shakes out, and if travel loosens up, then you can pull this off But for your Brand value, you really want to look as professional as possible

Same thing for keynotes You can see how good this looks Nice stage, lighting, the blue lights, and a live audience This is a higher-end production with a venue, and food, and music for the intros and outros, very professional audio and visual And this requires budget

You got to think about at least 200 to 300 thousand dollars and up for a full-blown event that you bring in influencers and the like But you have options You can scale it down You can host the event at your facility Host it off at our facility in Palo Alto

I'll talk about that a little later Use your own people for the studio audience Use your own production people and dial back the glam, which will lower the cost Just depends on the brand that you want to convey, and of course, your budget Now as well, you can run the event as a live or as a semi-live

You can pre-record some of all of the segments You can have a portion, like the press conference and/or the keynotes, run live and then insert the breakouts into the stream as a semi-live, or as on-demand assets You have options Now before I talk about technical sessions, I want to share another best practice theCUBE this week participated in a digital event at Stanford with the Women in Data Science organization, WiDS, and we plugged into their digital platform

WiDS is amazing They created a hybrid physical/digital event, and again, had a small group of VIPs and speakers onsite at Stanford with keynotes and panels and breakouts, and then theCUBE interviews all were streaming What was really cool is they connected to dozens and dozens of outposts around the globe, and these outposts hosted intimate meet-ups and participated in the live event And, of course, all the content is hosted on-demand for a post-event halo effect I want to talk a little bit about technical sessions

Where as with press conferences and keynotes, we're strongly recommending a higher scale and stronger brand production With technical sessions, we see a different approach working Technical people are fine with you earbuds and laptop speakers Here's an example of a technical talk that Dan Hushon, who is the Senior VP and CTO at DXC, has run for years using the CrowdChat platform He used the free community edition, along with Google Handouts, and has run dozens and dozens of these tech talks designed for learning and collaboration

Look, you can run these weekly as part of the pre-game, up to your digital event You can run them day of the event, at the crescendo, and you can continue the cadence post-event for that halo effect that I've been talking about Now let's spend the moment talking about software tooling There are a lot of tools out there Some, super functional

Some are monolithic and bloated Some are just emerging And you might have some of these, either licensed or you might be wed to one Webinar software, like ON24 and Brightcove, and there's other platforms, that's great, awesome From our standpoint, we plug right into any platform and are really agnostic to that

But the key is not to allow your software to dictate the outcome of your digital event Technology should serve the outcome, not the reverse Let me share with you theCUBE's approach to software Now first thing I want to tell you is our software is free We have a community editions that are very robust, they're not neutered

And we're making these available to our community We've taken a CloudNative horizontally scalable angle bringing to bear the right tools for the right job We don't think of software just to hold content Rather, we think about members of the community and our goal is to allow teams to form and be successful We see digital events creating new or evolving roles in organizations where the event may end, but the social organization and community aspect lives on

Think of theCUBE as providing a membrane to the conference team and a template for organizing and executing on digital events Whether it's engaging in CrowdChats, curating video, telling stories post-event, hosting content, amplifying content, visualize your community as a whole and serve them That's really the goal Presence here is critical in a digital event, "Oh hey, I see you're here "Great, let's talk

" There are a number of news cases, and I encourage you to call us, contact us, and we'll focus on how to keep it simple We have a really simple MVP use case that we're happy to share with you All right, I got to wrap The key point here is we see a permanent change This is not a prediction about Coronavirus

Rather, we see a transformation created with new dynamics Digital is about groups which are essentially a proxy for communities Successful online communities require new thinking and we see new roles emerging Think about the protocol stack for an event today and how that's going to change Today is very structured

You have a captive audience, you got a big physical venue In the future, it may evolve to multiple venues and many runs of shows Remote pods rules around who is speaking Self-forming schedules is not going to be the same as today We think digital moves to a persistent commitment by the community where the group collectively catalyzes collaboration

Hosting an online event is cool, but a longterm digital strategy doesn't just move physical to digital Rather, it reimagines events as an organic entity, not a mechanism or a piece of software This is not about hosting content Digital communities have an emotional impact that must be reflected through your brand Now our mission at theCUBE has always been to serve communities with great content

And it's evolving to provide the tools, infrastructure, and data for communities, to both self-govern and succeed Even though these times are uncertain and very difficult, we are really excited to serve you We'll make the time to consult with you and are really thrilled to share what we've learned in the last 10 years and collaborate with you to create great outcomes for audiences Okay, that's a wrap As always, we really appreciate the comments that we get on our LinkedIn posts, and on Twitter, I'm @DVellante, so thanks for that

And thank you for watching, everyone This is Dave Vellante for theCUBE Insights, Powered by ETR And we'll see you next time (outro music)

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