Bringing a physical conference Online

At Social Media Week, our immediate reaction to our inability to host our physical New York and LA conferences this year due to the Covid-19 epidemic was to - in some way -put on a virtual event.

Going digital is, of course, part of our DNA; not to mention, I've previously custom-built on-demand solutions - most notably, the SMW Insider platform, which we've utilized during our past physical conferences to not only provide livestreams of our sessions to pass holders, but also offer up hundreds of hours of OnDemand content, from nearly 3 years worth of past events.

Finding a Partner

The challenge, however, was that we were going to need a much different platform, something that caters to the need for us to deploy richer and more complicated session formats (simultaneously), composed of interviews, presentations, downloadable content, private event offerings, etc. And the timeline was tight.

As the sole and only Developer on the team, we needed the right partner to collaborate with in order to meet the need... and the tight timeline. We chose a platform called Bizzabo - it was a partnership that we had been exploring prior to the epidemic hitting, but what impressed us most was their quick pivot, already in motion, to offering event organizers a way to broadcast live events.

Executing a virtual conference as a series

As this was happening, I spend some time one night fleshing out and positioning a strategy deck, and presented it the next day to the team the next day. Included in that was the beginning of a brand identity for this new, virtual offering. The big idea, as it were, was all about cadence- offering up the usually-condensed physical conference as a virtual series that would span several weeks, instead of packing an entire week full of events. All of our peers in the industry were making the same shift but everyone seem to look at this transition as a linear path - a 1:1 ratio, if you will.

Why did we decide to take a different route? Time is valuable now - more than ever - and we need to be extremely sensitive to that. Our attendees may not have the liberty to binge on content, certainly not as they're trying to hold together their livelihoods, families, careers, and more. In addition, from a business perspective, deploying the "event" across 4 weeks enables us to gain momentum and strengthen and mature the networking that will have taken place during that time.

View overnight presentation

My execution on the Branding and Launching the website

The branding for this came to me that same night. For the longest time, ever since I started at Social Media Week, I've tried so hard to escape our ribbon logo. Instead, I've turned to utilizing acronyms such as #SMW which would later form #SMWNYC and #SMWLA and #SMWLDN, and #SMW Insider without the need to utilize the ribboned logo. However, after staring at the logo for a while and thinking about what exactly it was that we were doing in putting on this virtual event, I thought of terms like "togetherness" and "belong" and somehow #SMWONE came to be with the E being represented by the SMW ribboned logo.

I was pleasantly surprised by the response that I received after my quick, raw, and down and dirty presentation - everyone was on board. From there, each of my colleagues found a role in this new endeavor and we're now a month into the planning and logistics of this new virtual conference offering, called #SMWONE: A Worldwide Virtual Conference for Leaders in Digital Marketing. I quickly began working on a new site, we followed up by launching our initial Agenda and and speaker list. Kudos to everyone I work for and with. I'm certainly proud to have "given birth" to this idea; however, it will be the collective group that will make it a reality in just a few weeks. Tune in!

Launch #SMWONE

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