Instead of canceling or postponing, transitioning in-person events to a virtual or online experience appears to be a top option for planners as the coronavirus pandemic grows. As a result, many lessons about going virtual (especially unexpectedly) will be learned industry-wide, but this is also a time to study and get inspired by what planners can achieve in weeks or months.
Below you'll find five events that decided to go virtual in light of coronavirus. Two events have already happened, while the others will happen later in the quarter. Learn why planners made the decision to go virtual and what they're plans were/are to keep their events alive during such a challenging time in our industry. Maybe you'll be inspired to do the same!
1. World Tour Sydney Reimagined (Salesforce)
One of the first major events to go virtual ahead of the coronavirus pandemic was Salesforce's World Tour Sydney Reimagined, according to Business Insider. Salesforce made the call to switch to an all virtual event roughly two weeks prior to its original date. The event was set to take place in Australia and in the past has attracted tens of thousands of technology leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region. On March 4, the entire conference was streamed online and much of its content is on demand. Check it out here.
The company said in a statement: "Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our stakeholders. Over the last few months, we have been closely monitoring the evolving situation with the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak to ensure we are taking every precaution to look after our customers, partners, and employees."
2. Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (IAS-USA)
On March 6, the International Antiviral Society (IAS-USA) announced that its Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) would go virtual at its regularly scheduled time; with just two days notice. Associations Now says IAS-USA "quickly developed a plan to get presenters to submit video recordings of their slide presentations, which were then
streamed to attendees. In addition, poster presenters had the option to upload a five-minute video description of their research," which were available to attendees during the virtual conference via the mobile app. The conference was able to add a special, topical session on coronavirus, which featured four speakers discussing global efforts to control the outbreak.
After the event concluded, IAS-USA issued a statement where they said: “Although we could not organize as much real-time interaction and question and answer sessions as we would have liked, the energy and technological savvy of our audiovisual staff and some of our PC members enabled us to add a mechanism for direct interaction in sessions … We all have learned a lot through this process, and as we all do as scientists, we will analyze the data and outcomes we have observed and use the information to move CROI forward in the future.”
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3. F8 Developer Conference (Facebook)
Originally scheduled for early May, Facebook's annual F8 Developer Conference in San Jose has been canceled in place of a mixed format event, according to Event Marketer. While a new date and specifics haven't been announced, in a statement Facebook says it's "planning other ways for [its] community to get together through a combo of locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content."
In its statement, Facebook said: "...Given the growing concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 2020 ... We explored other ways to keep the in-person part of F8, but it’s important to us to host an inclusive event and it didn’t feel right to have F8 without our international developers in attendance."
4. Build (Microsoft)
Microsoft has announced that one of its largest events of the year will transition from an in-person to a digital environment in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The annual developer conference Build was originally scheduled for May in Seattle, one of the American cities hit the hardest by the outbreak. Build is also the place where Microsoft typically previews the latest changes to Windows, Office, and other software and services, says The Verge, and this year the company was expected to disclose more about its dual-screen plans for both Android and Windows 10X.
There's no word if the May dates will remain the same or what exactly the digital version of Build will entail, but Microsoft said in a statement: "In light of the health safety recommendations for Washington State, we will deliver our annual Microsoft Build event for developers as a digital event, in lieu of an in-person event. We look forward to bringing together our ecosystem of developers in this new virtual format to learn, connect and code together. Stay tuned for more details to come."
5. Consensus 2020 (Coindesk)
New York-based Consensus 2020, a major global cryptocurrency and blockchain-focused event, has canceled their in-person event originally scheduled for May. While all ticket-holders will get refunds, organizers from Coindesk (the industry publication that coordinates the event) have announced Consensus 2020 will now be a “completely virtual experience,” allowing attendees from all over the globe to join the event online at no charge, according to Cointelegraph.
On their website, Coindesk says the virtual event will offer a "TV-like" experience for attendees: “We are working with best-in-class platform providers to support this effort and are committed to bringing the entire crypto community together with the high-quality content you have come to expect from CoinDesk. With premier speakers discussing the most important topics of our time, all coordinated by CoinDesk’s experienced journalists and moderators in a rolling live TV-like experience, we are confident a virtual Consensus 2020 will be an enriching experience for our audience. And everyone can enjoy it from the safety of their homes.”
What other events are going virtual in lieu of coronavirus? Have you hosted a virtual event before? Share in the comments below.