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December 17, 2020
Company News

Key Takeaways from Trailblazers 2020 and Thoughts About Running Virtual Events!

Key Takeaways from Trailblazers 2020 and Thoughts About Running Virtual Events!

Wow, what an event! Peaking at 700 active attendees, we were overwhelmed with the interest, support, and passion for the work we do at PheedLoop. We honestly did not plan for so much interest and engagement, not even close. Huge thanks to all our customers, partners, speakers, exhibitors, and guests. We learned a lot as a result, and wanted to share our thoughts in this post.

Oh, and all the sessions are now available on-demand, enjoy! Lots more events to come, the next one is just over a month away (we're going to have a big announcement about events hosted by PheedLoop in January)!

Avoid Avoidable Mistakes

Among all the incredible hits from networking and exhibiting to games, workshops, and more ... there were definitely some misses, notably the keynote for about 15% of people who didn't miss a chance to be pretty vocal about it! Sorry everyone! The thing is, that was so avoidable too! We suppose some rules are written in blood. For our next event, you can expect us to:

  • Use wired internet connections (biggest takeaway, we transitioned midway!)
  • Use better lighting and microphones
  • Plan to provide more live event support
  • Check the acoustics of our environment (we had unexpected construction above us!)
  • Provide better directions instead of session pre-roll placeholders for networking blocks
  • Hide camera feeds for speakers who are inactive for extended periods
  • Several adjustments to the tech we’ll be making to “fail safe”
We strongly recommend (re) watching the session called “The Power of Professional Event Production”. So much to take away from it, things we should have been much more aware of ourselves.

Rocket Scientists Should Still Fly to Space

We run these events for a lot of reasons, but the most important one is simply to eat our own dog food. We think of you, the event planners, as astronauts, and us at PheedLoop as rocket scientists. Uniquely qualified for what we do, yet highly interdependent on each other. Every now and then, it helps if astronauts pick up a calculator and rocket scientists strap on some Moon boots to gain a better understanding of what each role means to the other.

It builds empathy, and developing a stronger sense of empathy is what we’re striving for by running these events.

We don’t put on these events to impress people or blow people’s minds by doing a ton of custom work and pouring in cash to pull off a marketing stunt. We run these events to push the limits of our newest tech, give people a glimpse of what an actual event looks like (both its flaws and successes), and promote the customers, partners, and industry we love.

Why? So that we can improve our platform for the average user. Not for the user who can spend tens of thousands in technology and production investments. PheedLoop is a platform for the everyday user. So it’s important that we understand their experience. We think we did that, and we will do it again next time too.

Community Matters

One of the most heartwarming things for us was the outpouring of support from the PheedLoop community. We work hard every day, just like all of you, and it feels good to know that people care. We’re all in this together, we depend on each other. Seeing the kind of positivity we saw gives us the motivation to work harder for our community. We’re deeply grateful, thank you!

Our community really made a difference when, among 700 participants, for an event open to the public with unconstrained options for public communication, we expectedly experienced some attendees who seemed to bring negativity. That’s totally fine, we’re not here to censor communication.

The key lesson here is that if you invest in your community, they’ll support you in sticky situations and stand up and for you. Again, we’re grateful.

Raise Both the Ceiling and the Floor by Taking Risks

Another goal of ours is to take risks with our own events, so our customers don’t have to. We’re all in this together, and knowing our customers and partners, they want us to succeed. They treat our events like a sandbox to test, observe, and critique. This is crucial. We could have locked down all kinds of functionality, limited the risk of negative public discourse, played back pre-recorded content safely, etc. However, if we did that, we wouldn’t learn anything. Taking risks in a low-impact environment like an internal event allows us to keep raising the ceiling and the floor at the same time so that our customers have the best experience possible and keep benefiting from innovation.

Have an Opinion

We noticed that some of the things we said weren’t agreed with 100%. That’s healthy, we wanted and planned for that. There are enough people out there who will just tell you what you want to hear.

It’s important that we have an opinion, and be open to being proven wrong. That’s how we’ll move forward as an industry - through discourse and debate.

For example, we all want to transition to hybrid and back on-site as fast as possible, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter what any of us want. It’s what the market wants. We need to forecast, upskill, plan, and execute to meet the changing needs in the world. We stand firm but flexible in our opinions, and we’ll continue to incorporate them into our future events.

People Love Gamification

We seem to take our gamification experience up a few notches every event, and it still doesn’t seem to be enough for people. It’s absolutely wild how much our community loves gamification. Well, we hear you, and we’re going to crank it up a notch again in March. It’s just so great to see how much people love to engage and be a part of a competitive community. We’ll be back with even better prizes, and even more creative opportunities.

We Have to Admit, Virtual Events Really Work

Earlier this year, there was a lot of confusion and hesitation to go virtual. We ask ourselves today, running this event reaching 700 people all online at once, how feasible it would be in person. It would be a massive, expensive, and logistically challenging undertaking. It would take months of planning, cost six figures, require a tremendous amount of commitment from speakers, attendees, and exhibitors. It really makes us wonder how it all worked the way it did for decades.

The reality of the situation may be one that most of us, including ourselves, just aren’t ready to fully accept or understand, but it’s staring us in the face. Virtual events, like them or not, are here to stay. It’s time to adapt, it’s time to grow.

As Rahul said in his keynote address, event planners plan events, not engineers (evidently). The venue may be different, but the core skills, creativity, and passion remain the same. Events, virtual, physical, or anything else are your turf. We fundamentally believe this. It’s our job to work together to embrace even the small possibility that virtual events are here to stay. The normal that once was may never return again, but there’s a bright future ahead for us all.

Or, we may be entirely wrong and things will return to the way they were pre-COVID. It would be surprising though, we feel like we’ve learned so much this year. It likely means something. We need to work together to revitalize the industry, focus on building on-site experiences instead of lectures to attract business back on-site, and reemploy and upskill the tens of thousands of event professionals who are simply stuck. This is the challenge of our time, and we believe we need to take the risk of embracing it instead of dreaming of yesteryear.

What’s Next

This event was a testament to how active and passionate our community is. We’re going to do more to bring our customers and partners together on a regular basis.

We have so much product innovation right around the corner as well. We’ll hold off on most announcements until the new year, but it’s time to get excited!

Finally, we’ll be announcing our next user conference taking place mid-March 2021. PheedLoop Inventors! Stay tuned for more information soon.

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PheedLoop is an all-in-one event management platform for live, virtual and hybrid events. Our platform powers events for associations, corporations, agencies, educational institutions and governments worldwide including Shopify, Government of Canada, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, IBM and more. We commit ourselves to being a highly product focused company, and are dedicated to releasing new features and product updates every week since our founding in 2015. We post regular updates like this one to our blog.

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