Ten events that have pivoted to digital!

With so much going on at such an unbelievably quick pace in the world of events, it will prove to be very useful to see how others are managing. So in this post, I have highlighted 10 great events that have pivoted to virtual.

We can be sure that there will be many different approaches to pivoting to virtual events.

For some it will be temporary, some will favour a hybrid model and some will never run a physical event again!

I am sure some will make this pivot a success.

And others will fail and fail badly.

But we will all be able to learn from those successes and failures: thanks to these pioneers!

So by watching others, we may, you never know, be able to work out the types of events that can pivot more successfully than others.

Or perhaps we will ascertain that certain audiences are happier to shift online.

And how the revenue model works!!!!!!

One thing is for sure, there will be loads to keep an eye on over the next few months.

We will be posting regularly so check out our online events resource page.


Ten pivoted events to watch

I have found ten events that will now be online. Well, actually nine, but the other one on the list is super important to keep an eye on.

I’ve picked a variety of events and from a few different markets.

The list is a bit digital audience heavy, but that is to be expected. Events about digital are likely to jump to digital quicker than others.

But there are also a few non-digital events on the list.

So I hope this list will be really useful for any organisers thinking about pivoting to digital.

I recommend that you bookmark this post and jump back every week or so. From here you can jump to all of these events. To see how they are getting on….or not…..

I also recommend that you sign up to any of the mailing lists, that way you can really keep an eye on what they are doing!

NB: I am very happy to update and amend if I have made any mistakes: it’s been a busy few days!

So here they are, in no particular order (apart from the last one)


1. Social Media Week

SMW was fairly quick off the mark to highlight to their attendees that things were likely to change with their two big events in May and June.

Back at the start of March (which seems like a lifetime ago) with the travel ban to the US in place, Social Media Week highlighted that attendees could pass on their entry to someone not affected by the ban or shift to other events in 2021.

But things changed rapidly. Like all organisers, SMW had to catch up, and on the 18th March, they announced a 100% pivot to digital.

From their website:

“#SMWNYC (May 5-7) & #SMWLA (June 17-18) Merge to Become #SMWONE: A Virtual Conference Series for 2020”

The made the announcement that has (and should be) a template for other events.

I’ve broken it down but you should certainly read it.

  • Highlight the extraordinary situation that we all face
  • Note the danger that this change has to businesses like theirs
  • Tell people that they want to be as open as possible
  • Explain the impossibility of having a physical event
  • Detail how technology can help us all make this shift to digital
  • State the change: the shift to 100% digital event
  • Highlight the added things we can do online that we couldn’t do at our physical event/s
  • Ask the community to look ahead
  • Place a holding note on next steps for those already engaged in the event
  • Link to find our more / be kept in touch.

It will be really interesting to see how this model works. I will have my eyes peeled!


2. Collision (from Home)

Collision was one of the first big physical events to make the switch to a 100% digital event.

From their website:

“Times may be uncertain, but one thing remains true. There’s a simple power in people coming together. That’s why we’re launching Collision from Home”

Collision are pretty much looking to replicate the event online.

So they are going for the same 4 day format….but from the comfort of your own home.

I’d like to highlight the positive messaging. They are big on highlighting the benefits. This is a must for any event that is pivoting to digital.

At this point, they don’t seem to be adding to the programme or trying to increase value (perceived or real) so this makes it a really good one to watch.

Will everyone simply switch their physical ticket to an online one?

This is an interesting test case as the event is SO BIG. 30,000 PLUS attendees. So it will be interesting to see how they pivot such a huge event.


3. Digital Transformation Festival

I would really encourage you to check out the format of the DTF. It could be revolutionary for the way we deliver online events.

From their website:

“A new kind of festival for a rapidly changing world”

This might seem like the easiest event to pivot. A transformation to digital is surely easy for an event called digital transformation.

So what have they gone for?

The festival lasts for around SIX WEEKS of drip-fed digital content.

The Drum launched the festival because it was unable to run its physical events at SXSW and Marketing Week.

This makes this an interesting case for many reasons.

Can they get this up and running so quickly? Will they achieve their objectives by hosting their own events, compared to attending other events and will the duration of the “event” work?

You can see the festival launch here.

I have already watched some fo the content and I suggest you to do. This may be a game-changer.


4. MarTechFest Global

These are a series of events and one of them is 100% digital. So it kind of counts as a digital pivot.

An anti-conference is how they are marketing it.

From their website:

“Put on the kettle, we’re comin’ to your place!
It’s time for #MarTechFest Dial Up – the internet edition of your fave anti-conference.”

For one whole day, we’re going live around the world with brilliant speakers direct to your living room…or whichever room you choose to dial up from!”

It would be really interesting if we could persuade them to tell us all how this one compared to the physical ones in terms of achieving its objectives.

Running a series of events targeting the same market will really allow them to benchmark the success of the digital one.

Loads to learn from this approach so keep an eye to see if they do ever spill the beans about how the digital one stacked up against the physical ones.


5. The Future Assistant European Summit

This two day physical event has been live-streamed since 2018. So the organisers (me and the Gallus Events team) feel that we aren’t starting from scratch, more like extending the offering to all of our attendees.

The Future Assistant European Summit revenue is made up mostly from attendees. So this will be a very interesting case study to see if we can maintain some kind of revenue from running the event online.

I hope there’s going to be bags of best practice from our approach.

So check out the messaging on our website and especially the pricing matrix!


6. Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference 2020

Apple took a very positive approach.

From their website:

“We are delivering WWDC 2020 this June in an innovative way to millions of developers around the world, bringing the entire developer community together with a new experience

I want to highlight those two words as they have cropped up across these events.

Taking an event online is clearly a way to increase the size but also the level of engagement of your online audience, or your community.

We get that, but “experience”, for some might seem like a stretch.

Can you really create an “experience” online in the way that you can create an experience at a physical event? Many people have their doubts.

As any experiential event organiser will testify, you create the experience by affecting all of the senses. And you simply can’t do that in an online world.

But of course, everyone will have an “experience” engaging with an online event.

And experiences can be bad as well as good.

So it will be great to see the feedback from this event in a few months.

And how much will it cost to attend? Well this was how it was done in 2019:

“Prospective attendees enter a lottery and can only attend WWDC if they are awarded a ticket. For the past several years, tickets to WWDC have been priced at $1,599 each, and 2019 is no exception. To enter the ticket lottery, developers were required to submit an entry on Apple’s developer website.”

Apple hardly needs the cash, so it will be exceptionally interesting to see if Apple takes this opportunity to forgo the revenue to widen the engagement of the event.


7. Digital Energy Scotland

Digital Energy Scotland is Owned by DIGIT, a company with several events in the digital space in Scotland.

They have made the move to digital for their spring events including the April event Digital Energy Scotland.

The ‘free to attend for attendees’ business model they have for their physical events should allow them to pivot easier than most. They would be expecting to increase their online audience.

But with all income coming from sponsors and exhibitors, their’s will be a very interesting case study from an exhibitor and sponsorship perspective.

Keep on eye on that one for sure!


8. The Leeds Digital Festival

Here is a very interesting one! Is this a pivot? Well, 50% of it is!

From a local news outlet:

“The organisers of this year’s Leeds Digital Festival have announced that it will be split in two, starting with a digital event, then a physical one later in the year.”

So, the Leeds Digital Festival will run a digital festival over Spring and then run the physical event later in the year. Do check out my post about postponing possibly delaying the inevitable!

This will, I reckon, become a pretty standard response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Give them something online and then bounce back with the physical event later in the year.

So again, a different approach, and a great one to follow.


9. DayBreaker

Here is one of the strangest events that have pivoted to virtual.

If this event can pivot to digital then maybe, just maybe, every event can!

And as someone who believes in the power of digital events, I can’t see why this one won’t work!

Join the virtual dance party: DAYBREAKER LIVE – 3/21!

From their website:

“Because for the first time in our 7-year history, you’re invited to plug in and get wild for the official LAUNCH of 💃Daybreaker LIVE 📹, a global pajama onesie dance-party experience broadcasting to you online”


10. Google I/O

The Google developers’ conference has been canceled, so Google (the TECH and DATA giants) decided to cancel rather than pivot.

From their website:

“Will this year’s conference take place online?

No, Google has decided to not to move forward with I/O in any capacity this year in order to prioritize the health of everybody who is a part of our community”

As I say here, canceling is seldom the thing to do, but Google have canceled this massive event.

So should you do what Google do?

If you are thinking about canceling and not pivoting, I would like you to consider the message this gives out to stakeholders.

Think about Google. Great that they are putting the health of everybody first! But really, you can pivot to digital without any health issues.

This isn’t really the attitude and response you would expect to see from Google. Of all companies.

It is on my list because I have to ask: will this event be reborn over the next few weeks as a digital event? Was Google too quick to cancel? It will be interesting to see.

So keep your eye on this one!

I hope this list is useful. We have a lot to learn, so hats off to the leaders, those that have pivoted already.

Drop them a note if you are watching them closely, I know they will appreciate it.

Published On: March 23rd, 2020 / Categories: Online Events, Technology /