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Breaking Analysis: Living Digital: New Rules for Technology Events

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(upbeat music) >> From theCUBE studios in Palo Alto and Boston, connecting with thought leaders all around the world, this is a CUBE conversation >> You know for years, marketers have been pushing for more digital, especially with their big conferences

However, forward-thinking CMOs say the war will be won in digital But the sales teams love the belly to belly interaction, so every year once, or even sometimes more often, big corporations have hosted gatherings of thousands or even tens of thousands of attendees These events were like rock concerts, they had DJs in the hallway, thumping music, giant screens, beautiful pictures, highly produced videos, they got technical breakouts, food lines, private dinners, et cetera All culminating in a customer appreciation event with a big-name band Physical events are expensive, but they generate tons of leads for the host companies, and their partner ecosystems

Well then, boom, coronavirus hits and the marketing teams got what they wished for right overnight Virtual events became a mandate, if you don't have a solution you are in big trouble because your leads from these large events just dried up Hello everyone, this is Dave Vellante, and welcome to this week's Cube Insights powered by ETR ETR is entering its quiet period and I won't be able to share any new data for a couple of weeks, so rather than look back at the April survey in this breaking analysis we thought we'd take a pause and really talk about the virtual event landscape and just a few of the things that we've learned in the past 120 days This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, but we do want to call out a few important items that we see as critical in this new digital world

In the isolation economy every company scrambled, they took one of three paths First, companies either postponed their events to buy some time, think like Dell, Technology World, Google Cloud, Next, QCon, VMWorld, MIT CVO event, et cetera Or two, some companies flat out canceled their events for the year until next year, like Snowflake and New iPath Or number three, they scrambled to deploy a virtual event and they went forward IBM Think did this, HP Discover, SUSECON, AWS Summits, DockerCon

VMON, PegaWorld, Vertica Big Data Conference, Oktane SAP Sapphire, and hundreds of others pushed forward So in this breaking analysis I want to share some data from theCUBE What we've learned not only in the last 120 days, but in 10 years of doing events, mostly physical, and we want to share the new rules of events and event marketing and beyond So let's get right into it

Everyone knows events have gone virtual, and there are tons of people who could give you advice on improving your digital events, including us, and I will in this segment But the first thing that everyone found out is they're going to attract far more people online with a free virtual event than they do with a paid physical event So removing time, timing, and the expense of travel, dramatically increases the participation TAM, the total available market Here's a tweet from Docker CEO Scott Johnson, he says that he's looking forward to welcoming 50,000 people to his event This is based on registration data

Somewhere around 30,000 people logged into the live event, so Docker got 60% of the pre-event registrants to actually login, which is outstanding But there's a lot more to this story I'm going to share some other stats that are worth mentioning, by the way, I got permission from Docker to share these numbers Not surprising, because the event was a huge success for such a small company In the end, they got nearly 83,000 registrations, and they continued to come in weeks after the event, which was held in late May

Now marketers generally will cite two to three minutes as a respectable time on site for a web property Docker logged in users averaged almost 4 1/2 minutes on site, that's the average The bell curve saw super-fans like this guy who was binge watching So this brings me to rule number one It's actually really easy to get people to sign up for free online events, but it's not so easy to keep them there

I could talk all day about what Docker did write, and I'm going to bring some examples in during this segment But the one thing Docker did was they did a call for papers or a call for sessions, and that's a lot of work, but if you look at the DockerCon speaker list, the content is all community driven, not all, but mostly community driven Docker had to break some eggs and reject some folks, but it also had to sponsor tracks, so it gave folks another avenue to participate So big success for Docker, they definitely did it right Which brings us to new rule number two

Attention is precious, you got to create high-quality content and realize that you have much less time with participants than if they were in person Now unfortunately the Docker example is a bit of an outlier, it hasn't always been this pretty, Remember that scene in "The Social Network", the movie, when Eduardo pulled the funding on the servers just to get Mark's attention? Remember how Jesse Eisenberg, the actor who played Zuckerberg, reacted? >> Okay, let me tell you the difference between Facebook and everybody else We don't crash ever, if the servers are down for even a day our entire reputation is irreversibly destroyed >> Look- >> Users are skeptical, Friendster has proved that, even if few people leaving would reverberate through the entire user base The users are interconnected, that is the whole point

>> Well, some of the big tech companies crash their servers, and they say there's no such thing as bad press But look what happened to SAP And SAP apologized publicly, and its CEO told people that they made a mistake in outsourcing their event platform So this brings us to new rule number three, don't crash I want to come back to DockerCon for a second, here's a tweet from a developer who shared the network traffic profile of his network before and during DockerCon

You can see no glitches I don't mean to pick on SAP, they owned the problem, and look, SAP had a huge attendance at its digital event, more than 200,000 people and over a million views, so wow, kill me with that problem But it underscores the importance of scaling And SAP, you have to say was not alone, there have been lots of fails from much smaller events Here's an example that was really frustrating

You try to login at 7:59, but the event doesn't start until eight sharp Really, come on back in 60 seconds? And then another example there was a slide failure, I mean many of these virtual events are glorified webinars, so if you're going to rely on slide ware, make sure the slides will render at scale Maybe embed them into the video But at least this company had a backup plan Here's another example, and I've redacted the email, because I'm not here to throw anyone under the bus

Well kind of, but no reason to name names, you know who they are But in this case an old legacy webinar platform failed, and they had to move to WebEx And again, at least there was a backup plan So it's been tough in a lot of these cases, here's a tweet from Jason Reed, it kind of sums it up Now what does he mean by vendor's are not getting the job done? Not enough creativity? Well, not only were platforms failing, they weren't performing adequately, but the virtual experience is leaving many users unenthused

They are just one alt tab away from something better if the virtual event fails to engage them So new number four is virtual events that look like webinars actually are webinars In fairness, the industry had to pivot with no notice but this is why I always tell people, start with the outcome that you want and work backwards, that'll inform you as to the content strategy The new roles you need to assign And make no mistakes, there are new roles

There's no site inspection in virtual And then you got to figure out what you want the user experience to be, there's a whole lot to figure out And this next one is a bit of a throwaway, because yes, it's so obvious and everyone talks about it, but I want to bring it up because it's important Because I'm amazed how many event speakers really haven't thought through their set-up You can look good, or at least less bad

Get those things called books and raise up the laptop, figure out some better audio, better yet, get a good kit Send it to their home with a nice camera, and a solid mic, maybe clear IFB COMs for the ear Spend some money to look good just as you might go and buy a nice outfit Even if you're a developer, put on a clean T-shirt So rule number five, don't cheap out on production value

Get your guests a good setup and coach them up It doesn't have to be over the top, just a bit thought out Okay, one of the biggest mistakes I've seen is event organizers they become enamored with the platform and the features of that platform that really don't support their objectives, kind of feature creep Or they have so many competing objectives and masters that they're serving, that they lose sight of the user experience And then the event becomes a buffet of unused features rather than a buffet of engaging content

Now many have told me that Dave, these virtual events are too long, there's too much content I don't necessarily agree, I really think if you have something to say you should say it, as long as you do it right and you keep people engaged So I want to talk a little bit about two of the Meteor events that we attended, one was Oktane 2020 hosted by Okta, the identity management security player, and then IBM Think 2020, they called it the Think Digital Event Experience And they both had multi-day events with lots of content They both organized sessions by topic and made it pretty easy to find stuff

And all the sessions had a reasonably consistent look and feel to them which kind of helped the production value IBM had content organized and categorized, which made things easy to find, and they both had good search And with IBM you can go directly from the list of topics, right into the videos, which I really liked, very easy and intuitive And as you can see here in this Oktane video, they had a nice and very ambitious agenda that was really quite well organized and things are pretty easy to find as you can see this crisp filtering on the left-hand side and really nice search But one of the things that has been frustrating with most of the events that I've watched, is you can't get to the sessions directly from the agenda, you got to go back out for some linear path and find the content and it's somewhat confusing

So I want to come back to the DockerCon example, because I think there were two things that I found interesting and useful with DockerCon This guy George nailed it when he said, "This is how you display a virtual conference" What's relevant about this picture is you have multiple simultaneous sessions running live, concurrently, and you can pop in and out of them You can easily see the sessions and this tile, and there's a red line, this linear clock that's running in real time to show you where you are in the event agenda, versus time of day So I felt like with Docker, that as a user you really connected to the event, you come to the site and there's a hero video, very easy to find the content, and in fact, you can't miss it

It's not a sales pitch to get to the content And then I really like what George Change was talking about in terms of the agenda and the tile layout, you can see they ran simultaneous sessions, and at one point up to seven at once And they give their sponsors a track on the agenda, which is very easy to navigate But what I really like as well is when you click on a tile, it takes you directly to the session video, and you can see the chat which Docker preserved in the post-event mode And you have this easy to follow agenda, and again, you can go directly to the session video and the chat from the agenda, so many paths to find the content

I mean something so simple as navigating directly from the agenda to the session, most events haven't done that They make you back out, in what I call this linear manner, and then go forward and find the sessions that you want and then dive in Maybe they're trying to simulate walking to a session in the Las Vegas Convention Center, because it takes about that long to figure out where most of these events and these sessions live So rule number six is make it easy to discover and consume content, sounds so simple, why is it not happening in most events? Okay, I'm running out of time, so I want to encapsulating number of items in one idea that we talk about all the time at theCUBE I ran a little survey the other day, and somebody asked, "Does it really make sense to cram educational content, product content, partner content, customer content, rally content and leadership content into the constrained confines of an arbitrarily one or two day window?" I thought that was an interesting comment

Now, it doesn't necessarily mean shorten up the virtual event, which a lot of people think should happen, People complain that these things are too long Well let me leave you with this, it's actually not just about events, what do I mean by that? Well you know everyone says that all companies are software companies, or every company is a SaaS company? Well guess what, we believe that every company is a media company In 2004, at the low point of its reputation, Microsoft launched Channel 9, it was named after the United Airlines Channel 9 that let you listen in to the pilots and their unfiltered conversations Kind of cool Microsoft understood that having an authentic voice with which to communicate to developers and serve its community was a smart thing to do

And that is the key point, Channel 9 is about community, it's not about audience metrics or lead generation, both important things But Microsoft, they launched this site understanding the leverage it gets out of its community of developers And instead of treating them like leads, they created a site to help developers learn So rule number seven is get your best media mojo on One of the biggest failures I see with physical events, and it's clearly carrying over to digital, is the failure to optimize the post-event opportunity and experience

So just like physical events, when the event is over I see companies and their employees, they are so burnt out after a virtual event because they feel like they've just given birth, and what do they do? After the event they take some time off, they got to recharge, and when they come back they're swamped, and so they're on to the next project It might be another event, it might be a webinar series, or some regional summits or whatever Now, it's interesting, it feels like all tech companies talk about these days is breaking down silos, but most of these parent and child events are disconnected silos Sure, maybe the data around the events is consolidated into a marketing cloud, maybe, so that you can nurture leads Okay, that's fine

But what about the community? COVID has given us a great opportunity to reimagine how we serve communities And one thing I'm certain about is physical events, they're going to come back at some point in some form, and when they do there's going to be a stronger digital component attached to them, hybrids will emerge And some will serve communities better than others And in our opinion the ones that do the best job in digital and serving their communities are going to win the marketing wars So ask yourself, how are you serving your community? Are you serving the best way that you can? Is a lead conversion your number one metric? That's okay, there's nothing wrong with that, but how are your content consumption metrics looking? What are you measuring, what is your arc of content look like? What's your content and organic media strategy? What does your media stack look like? Media stack you ask? What do you mean, Dave? Well, you nailed physical and then you were forced to do virtual overnight, eventually there's going to be a hybrid that emerges

So there's physical at the bottom, and then there's a virtual layer and then you got this hybrid layer at some point on top of that At the very top of the stack you've got apps, social media, you got corporate content, you got TV like Channel 9, you have video libraries, website, you have tools for agile media, you've got media production and distribution tooling Remember, customers will be entering from any one of these layers of that stack, and they'll be looking to you for guidance, inspiration, learning, vision, product knowledge, how-to's, et cetera, and you'll be delivering that primarily through content So your media stack should be designed to serve your community Event software yeah, sure

But it's much more than that, we believe that the stack will emerge not as a monolithic beast, but rather as a set of scalable cloud services and APIs Think of PaaS for media that you can skin Yes, of course, but also one that you can control, add value to, integrate with other platforms, and fit your business as your community demands And remember, new roles are emerging as a result of this pandemic, and the pivot to digital, the things are different, really mostly from most physical events is that it's very important to think about these roles, and one of the important roles is this designer or UX developer that can actually do some coding and API integration, think of it as a dev ops for digital organizations, that's emerging Organizations like yours will want self-service, and sometimes out-of-the-box functionality and features, for sure, no question but we believe that as a media producer you will want to customize your media experience for your community, and this will require new skills that you haven't really prioritized in the past

What do you think, what's your vision as to how this will all play out and unfold? Do you buy that all companies must become media companies, or at least media savvy? Not in the sense of corp coms, but really as an organic media producer Tweet me @dvellante, or email me at DaveVellante@siliconanglecom, or comment on my LinkedIn post We'll be back next week with some data from the ETR Survey Sphere, thanks for watching this week on CUBE Insights powered by ETR, this is Dave Vellante, we'll see you next time

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