French SaaS Employs Innovative Techniques To Bridge The Gap Between Virtual And Live Events

Learn how Agorapulse’s latest virtual summit is making attendees feel like they’re really there.

Agorapulse (www.agorapulse.com), a social media management tool, has been hosting virtual events every quarter since 2018 but with the onslaught of COVID-19, decided to take the second quarter of 2020 off to evaluate their options and, more importantly, determine the needs of their audience.

In the social media marketing industry, Social Media Marketing World in San Diego, CA in the beginning of March was one of the last live events of the year. And it’s been the same for most industries. The pandemic has wiped all major events and conferences off the calendar and forced every event organizer to either transition online or postpone a year or more.

And while virtual summits can offer much of the same educational material and opportunities that an in-person event offers, what most summits lack is the networking that happens in the hallways, over lunch, at the after party – the real human-to-human connections that are only possible when people can see each other and talk to each other.

Mike Allton, the Brand Evangelist for Agorapulse and the individual responsible for organizing U.S. events and activities, felt that putting on yet another virtual summit in the same old way just wasn’t going to be appealing. “Even before the pandemic, people were getting tired of traditional webinars,” Allton said. “Since March every industry has been forced to take every event online and most have done what’s always been done, and that is to give attendees a series of recorded sessions to consume from home. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, we wanted to create a more immersive experience to give our community a more compelling reason to get involved and meet other community members.”

As Allton saw month after month pass with friends and colleagues in the social media industry reminiscing over how the last time they really talked with one another was at World in San Diego, the last time they felt real connection with other humans, he knew that Agorapulse’s next event needed to be different from past summits.

The first change implemented was to go from 30+ sessions spread out over several days, to just 29 sessions packed into a single day. Allton knew from past summit metrics that after the first session, with huge breaks in between each stream, viewership plummeted. He reasoned that a single day with a packed schedule would keep an attendee’s interest and attention better.

He brought in renowned author and marketing SaaS founder Allen Gannett as a dynamic opening keynote and here, again, Allton determined to make a change. Rather than have every session pre-recorded, the opening keynote with Allen will be streamed live into a Facebook Group that Agorapulse formed earlier this year, Social Pulse Community (https://www.facebook.com/groups/SocialPulseCommunity). At the end of the event, attendees are treated to a live streamed closing keynote from Stephanie Liu, one of the most motivating and impactful live speakers in marketing.

All of the breakout sessions are pre-recorded and once they’ve aired initially, attendees have automatic access to watch them on demand for up to 30 days for free. But these sessions are organized along three simultaneous tracks that attendees can choose from, once again empowering the illusion that one is at an in-person event and has to consider which sessions to attend and rooms to get to.

Throughout the day there are scheduled breaks and networking opportunities, and none more interesting and innovative than the use of Facebook Messenger Rooms for virtual Table Talks!

One of the time-honored techniques the events we all miss employ to encourage networking is to set up tables and assign different topics to each table. As an attendee, you merely have to decide which of the designated topics most interests you or you have the most questions about and find a seat. Everyone at the table introduces themselves and starts sharing whatever is on their minds.

Social Success Summit: LinkedIn Edition (summit.agorapulse.com) has recreated this using Messenger Rooms, a feature within Facebook Groups that allows up to eight people at a time to join a “room” and connect on a video chat. Similar to Zoom or Google Meet, Room participants can see and hear each other, share screens, and talk about whatever they wish. The Social Pulse Summit sports 20 Table Talks with various topics of interest specific to LinkedIn (such as advertising or live video) and each table has a moderator to help get people talking and keep things running smoothly.

Another element of in-person events that many of us miss is being able to meet vendors and get introduced to new tools and solutions! Social Pulse Summit has replicated that as well with a Networking Plaza filled with virtual vendor booths featuring industry partners like MarketingProfs, StreamYard and Easil. They, too, will make use of Messenger Rooms to let attendees “join” the booth and chat with a representative. Vendors can answer questions, share screens, and even give demos of their products.

To help attendees stay on top of everything that’s going on, and to further establish the feeling that they’re at a real-life event, Agorapulse is providing every attendee with an Event Guidebook. Similar to the printed tomes you might receive at registration, this PDF provides a complete overview of the schedule, keynote speaker bios, and even a virtual floor plan of the event that shows you where every vendor booth and breakout session and table talk is. Attendees can open the Event Guidebook on their computer system and click a table or stage to go right there, and there’s even a Summit Help & Information desk available for those with technical questions.

Finally, one subtle yet critical element to the entire event is the deep incorporation of a Facebook Group into the schedule. As soon as an attendee registers they’re invited to join the Facebook Group and start getting to know their fellow attendees. The keynotes, table talks and vendor booths all occur within the Group so that each and every participant feels like they are truly part of the larger community

Social Success Summit: LinkedIn Edition (summit.agorapulse.com) takes place Wednesday, August 26th and is 100% free. It features 29 speakers and sessions, including industry experts like Melonie Dodaro, Neal Schaffer, Viveka von Rosen, Judi Fox, Jaime Cohen, Lee Odden, Jessika Phillips, Jo Saunders, AJ Wilcox and Roger Wakefield. It is also entirely focused on LinkedIn and is designed to help people both personally and professionally.

For more information, please reach out to Mike Allton of Agorapulse at mike.allton @ agorapulse.com.

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