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As Live Events Shutter, Companies Must Take Digital to the Next Level – The Six Five Podcast
by Daniel Newman | March 25, 2020

On this special edition of The Six Five, hosts Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman examine the impact COVID-19 has had on events, major tech events to be specific, and best practices for digital events.

Currently digital events haven’t been great. They haven’t necessarily evolved in the last few years, continuing taking a back seat to in-person events. But in the current situation that may end up lasting months, companies are realizing it’s time to make a change.

It’s clear that people don’t want hours of boring footage with no engagement. Nobody wants to be talked at for long periods of time and hopefully companies will start to realize this. So what can companies do to make sure they get information across and keep audiences engaged? Let’s examine it further.

Style Matters

It’s important that companies leverage video right now and that does not mean PowerPoint slides via video with a monotone voice. It should be dynamic with multiple cameras and multiple people. Stage your production, take your narrative to the next level — it will make a big difference.

Google has always done a good job of this for their product announcements and developer events. They are the ones worth emulating now.

Engagement is Different Now

Zoom recently hosted an analyst day and according to Daniel, knocked it out of the park, when it came to engagement. He shared that they had giveaways and allowed attendees to ask questions. They forced participation without making it feel forced.

They also respected that people were in different timezones and likely were attending through meal times. Zoom offered DoorDash codes so people could have “lunch” during the event as if they were in person. It’s small things like that that make a difference.

Conversely, Patrick shared an experience that was not so stellar. The company requested that analysts turn off their own cameras. The issue with that is, people by nature, will get distracted. They will get up and go to the bathroom or start checking email. They’re not on camera so they don’t need to pay attention. Patrick emphasized that companies need to respect and understand the psychology about being at home.

Bite-Sized Content Wins

Companies are trying to compress 20 hours of content from the original event to 2 or 3 hours. It’s tough, but doable. Both Daniel and Patrick noted that companies need to be realistic about what people will want to consume.
Now that we are in our homes, there’s other noise and distractions that can be tough to deal with during the day.

Companies should produce a well-designed, well thought out, 4K multi-camera, multi-dimensional keynote that tells the most important items. It’s also wise to make it available on demand, so if an attendee didn’t get something, they can watch it again or if they want to work late at night they can watch it then when it’s quiet and they have fewer distractions. Think boiled down and simplified.

Daniel also noted that one-on-ones that were scheduled during events can and should still happen over video. A lot of people attend events for the face time. For the ability to connect with people who they have never met. Don’t eliminate that.

With bite-sized content and one-on-ones attendees can get a lot of the same value as if they were there in person.

Platforms and Security Matter

As events move online, security and privacy are coming front and center. Daniel pointed out that platforms like Zoom are more consumer-focused and don’t have a lot of security compared to Webex or Microsoft platforms. For most cases it’s fine. Zoom is a great platform, but it’s something to be mindful of if you’re disclosing private, proprietary, or financial information.

Patrick also noted that the size of the event might dictate the platform. YouTube and Twitch are good options for events that need to go out to thousands if not millions. Platforms like Zoom, Webex and Teams are limited in terms of scale.

All are great platforms, but several things should be taken into consideration when planning your digital event. The key takeaways are make it dynamic, consumable and easy to engage with and you’ll be on the path to success.

Over the next few months, Daniel and Patrick will be releasing more special editions of The Six Five with insights from executive all of the world on the current situation. Don’t miss out on any of the conversations that are headed your way, subscribe now.

Transcript:

Patrick Moorhead: Welcome to this week’s edition of The Six Five. I’m Patrick Moorhead with more insights and strategy, and I am joined by my cohost, the better half, Daniel Newman from Futurum Research. We have a special edition served up here in the light of our last podcast, which was all about business continuity of the age remote work, AKA the show must go on. We are going to talk to you about a topic that’s near and dear to our hearts, Daniel’s hearts, and quite frankly, we’ve had a ton of inquiry from our customers asking us, “Okay, if the show must go on, which we must, how can we do events if everybody’s staying home?” And therefore, we’re going to talk about some best practices for digital events. But before we jump in, I just want to say, hello, Daniel, how are you?

Daniel Newman: I’m so cooped up here. I haven’t left my house much in the last couple of days, but I have a lot of energy because the show, as you said, must go on and we must be vigilant in helping our customers and helping the tech industry forge itself forward into the next era, and no matter what ends up happening here with COVID-19 and the continuation of coronavirus, tech is going to be a critical component to the industry and its success. I just want to be here to, A, help support that, and B, hopefully tell the industry how to make these digital events that they keep asking us to attend just suck a little less.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it is amazing how many events we do a year, Daniel. I think at one point, digital and in person, I attended over 100 events. If you think about our schedule, let’s say we take two week’s vacation and that gives 50 weeks to events, it adds up and you’re right. Currently digital events are great. They haven’t necessarily evolved. There are some folks that we both consider best practice out there. But, hey, if you’re a company out there who is looking to up your game … and like I said before, Daniel and I are taking a ton of advisory calls from tech companies of how do we make digital better and [inaudible] I’d like to kick it off with a framework, Daniel, that I know we each have our own framework going back and forth. But I think one of them is the platform matters. Leverage the medium that’s out there.

Another one is about engagement, right? You have to have engagement, and you have to have a interaction with that. I have one called respect the psychology, which is I’m not in the same room with you, don’t try to copy the medium, respect the psychology that somebody is in their office and they’re not in your face, they’re not sitting in your audience, so you have to do things differently that respect that. Then I think tactically, right? You’re thinking about the length of the event hosting. Should it be live or on demand or both?

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I think that’s a bunch of really good questions. 27 events, Pat, was what I had had canceled, and almost all of them have now decided to go digital. I have attended a few already with mixed experiences. I witnessed some different platforms, I’ve witnessed some different formats, but after a few of these events and after I think everyone came to the reality that this isn’t temporary, that this is going to be at least a few months if not longer, suddenly it was like you could see the shock or confusion in the eyes of these event leaders, these comms leaders as they’re trying to figure out, Pat, what in the world can we do to make Pat Moorhead sit at his desk and stare at this screen for four, eight, 12, 16 hours straight so we can get this content across.

Patrick Moorhead: It certainly wasn’t one that I was on last week where it was all slides, no humans and no interaction.

Daniel Newman: Oh, it’s brutal. What we’re seeing right now are three formats, right? One is the live stream format, where they’re basically saying, “We’re going to just broadcast to you and you can have the option to watch it at your desk.” That’s cool. I mean, that’s been a thing for awhile. The second format has been we’re going to do video and PowerPoint for you. We’re going to have a video panel, and we’re going to throw PowerPoint slides and talk you through them like a webinar. Okay, that’s cool. We’ve done that for a while. Then the third format has been, where I think things need to go, which is a hybridized set of interactive, engaging, thoughtful events that are done in smaller, more consumable bite sizes that treat people like we have things in our lives going on other than staring at our computers for eight to 12 straight hours.

That’s where I’m hoping that we can help take people here, is on the, okay, I think everybody gets what we don’t want. We don’t want long continuous boring outputs with no engagement, right? We don’t want to be talked at for long periods of time. I think all of us enjoy a one-hour keynote from the CEO or maybe the top exact brass when they have exciting new announcements to make.

Patrick Moorhead: It goes downhill. It goes downhill really quickly. First off is, I say, always leverage the medium, right? So leverage the video medium. So what does that mean? Does that mean PowerPoint slides that are being sent over video with a monotone speaker? No, absolutely not. It’s dynamic background. It’s showing humans on the camera. Always show humans and faces on the camera. Psychologically, we’re drawn into faces, and have dynamic camera movement. When’s the last movie, Daniel, that you’ve watched, that was two hours long, they had the same camera angle, had no movement from left to right, up and down? Focus back and forth. Make it like a movie. That doesn’t mean you have to spend $50,000 on a Hollywood crew.

Get three cameras, have it go in and out, have it staged and produced in real time with different angle. By the way, don’t do that at 360P or don’t do that at 720P. I really appreciate the way Google does it. They shoot in 4K, 1080P, 60 frames a second, camera’s all over the place. It is a beautiful production, and I think that makes a big difference. It makes you wake up, it makes you want to go in there, and at a minimum, it’s setting the stage that at least if the content is any good, you’re going to pay attention, and all the research in the world says excitement is half the battle in cognition.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I think you’re right. I like that example, that narrative had of stepping up a little bit. Now, I can forgive the industry that was responding and reacting to events that were canceled days ahead. But put something together quickly, just throw in the towel, and got their messaging out. Especially smaller groups. Like for us, for analysts, we really need to know what was going on. I think that’s important. I think as you’re starting to scale up events, I think the first thing is this religion of meeting to keep the dates really can go out the window. This was the date we were going to do the event, so this is the date we were going to do the digital event. And yes, I do know people have calendars and people keep calendars.

But like I said, just assume that once you canceled your event, the three to four days that that have been committed have probably now been marginalized to maybe about two to four hours that they’re willing to commit to hearing what you’re going to say at a time that’s convenient to them. Which brings me to my next point, Pat, capture and make easily available for distribution later. Now, there is the two sides. There’s the engaging event, right? You said high quality content. Can we ask questions? Can we hop up on video? Zoom, who can be very tough on sometimes about some of the things they do, actually did a great job with their analyst event. They found two or three very different ways to engage this group.

There’s maybe 75 analysts on a video, and they did these spinning wheels of engagement where they actually engage the audience in. So the audience was forced to participate and speak up. They had creative giveaways, and I know that sounds a little trivial, but they started off the day they gave everybody a pair of custom Nikes to design. It was interactive though.

Patrick Moorhead: Those are great examples, Daniel.

I’m so sorry I didn’t attend. I want my Nikes, man.

Daniel Newman: Yeah man, I ordered them. I’ll show them to you when I get them. But then they did another thing. When we go to events, we usually get fed, right? A lot of these events, they just push you through lunchtimes, and if you’re on different calendars, right? Because very few events, is it not Europe to California, or Asia to California, right? Which means you have a dozen times zones. You’re in the middle of people’s meal times, you’re in the middle of their food and beverage time. So Zoom actually gave DoorDash codes, and had a schedule lunchtime in their analyst day, and everybody was able to order their DoorDash so they provided the food, they … You know what I mean? So very thoughtful, very engaging, very creative. Especially because, like I said, it was decided just days before, the actual event, to move it to digital.

Patrick Moorhead: Okay. Let me just give one bad example.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, sure. I think that’s important.

Patrick Moorhead: I attended one this week and it was supposed to be onsite, and it went to video … Sorry, it went to video, and they had asked all the analysts to turn off their cameras, right? Now, I totally get, okay, if you have 75 cameras, why you’d want to turn it off, but what happens, Daniel, with half the audience when you turn the cameras off, when bad content comes on the screen, right? You either get up and go to the bathroom, or you look to your other display and you start doing email and then you drift and you drift and then you drift. This is what I mean by respect the psychology. Your camera on puts pressure on you because everybody sees … At least if you’re looking at the camera, the worst case is you’re multitasking, right? You didn’t get up to go to the bathroom, you didn’t get up and walk your dog around the block. Right? There’s some respectful tension that that causes.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I would throw that on the other side though too is respect the time. So you respect the time, respect the psychology, and that’s why I said we understand that you had 20 hours of action pack messaging. What can you tell us in two, three? What can you make available on demand? My recommendation, take the most important content, deliver it live, make it on demand later, keep it concise to less than half a day, for instance. Okay? And ideally, like two hours, really. You’ll get uninvited attention from the most important people at the event.

Patrick Moorhead: I think it’s a great point. I hadn’t even thought about it, which was minimizing the time. I think that’s a great, great idea. Almost-

Daniel Newman: Here’s the thing-

Patrick Moorhead: It’s being realistic about what people-

Daniel Newman: Exactly.

Patrick Moorhead: … are going to tune into.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I mean, think about it this way though. You want some messages, you have three key points, five key points. You give me a one-hour, well designed, well thought out, 4K multi-camera, multi-dimensional keynote that tells me the most important items, that will stick with me. Make it available on demand, so if I didn’t get something, I can watch it again. If you want to do breakout sessions, make them available on a track, record them. Again, this is the way I work, the way you work, the way a lot of people work. Let me watch it at 10:00 at night when it’s quiet here. Don’t force me in the middle of the busy day when we’re running businesses.

See, bringing us into the environment is what forces us to engage. You take us out of the environment, you put us back in our homes, now all of the signal and noise becomes constant and so you’re got your employees reaching out to you, Pat, and I’ve got mine. We’ve got all our customers being able to get access to us. We have a calendar that’s committed, but not really because you really can’t commit eight hours, three days a week to a digital remote event. It just isn’t really possible.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, and I love the chop up the video is huge, and I was envisioning myself, I’m on a treadmill now, right? I got back into exercising again, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate when a vendor will take a day conference and do a highlights reel. I mean, I love that stuff and it’s exactly what you said. It’s, here are the key points, here’s exactly what I want you to know, and even though I didn’t … maybe I didn’t attend all of it, maybe I did attend all of it, but it was so much that it needed to be boiled down and simplified.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely. I mean use one-on-one has been another thing I’ve seen be very effective, is making those one on … Because so many events that I attend, it’s that one-on-one FaceTime with certain executives, certain people you don’t get to see a lot when you’re at home or when you’re on the road. So I think that the key, Pat, is when you have that one-on-one time. One company’s event, a company called Zendesk, I thought did a really good job, was they scheduled the same one-on-ones that I had scheduled if I was onsite, and I had them over video. I thought that was really clever because, yes, I wanted to hear the keynote, but maybe one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go down there was I just never had the chance to sit with five or six of their senior executives and get stories from their different business units, their product development teams or marketing teams or comms team, hear what was going on.

So don’t throw that out. That’s another thing to really think about, is make sure, because a lot of people that attend, whether it’s customers, partners, that attend these tech events, Pat, they’re really there for that FaceTime. We’re going to miss the dinners, we’re going to miss the breakfast, we’re going to miss a lot of the conversations in the halls as we’re walking around. But if we can get that key messaging in that one or two hours that we talked about in the beginning, Pat, and then we can have those one-on-one meetings created in a very similar speed dating style because tech actually is very friendly for this. We can get a lot of the same value, consolidate time and actually add value, get more done, and in some cases, maybe not miss a beat from what you would’ve gotten out of that live event.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, the one I was talking to a vendor about that same thing on the one-on-ones, and the only thing that would be hard is how do you get that moment when you’re getting coffee or getting a drink where their handlers aren’t around and you’re getting the real deal? How do you do non handler type of communications? I’m thinking about security, right? I mean, it’s weird. We could record every conversation will be illegal, but there’s something about video when you’re doing it, when you have the SVP or the president of the division or even the CEO talking, that I think makes them a little bit uncomfortable because of that. But then again, if you don’t have a choice and you have to do a digital, there may not be any way to replicate that.

Daniel Newman: You make a great point, and having said that, obviously our work is a little different. The type of access and exposure that we get to companies as analysts might be a little different than the attendees, the employees, partners that go to tech events. So of course, we want to be empathic towards all of your experiences. But Pat, what you’re saying is right. Another thing I think is really important to call out here is a little bit on the tech side. So we did our other episode where we talked about business continuity, we talked about tech, and talked about platforms, talked about some best practices for technology. I just want to lean into a couple things here, Pat.

I don’t know if we could take them in here and talk about platforms a little bit and talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart, which is privacy and security too. One of the things that is really interesting about taking all of these events digital is companies have a lot of options, a lot of different platforms. I’ve had digital events now where there’s been work groups on Slack, where the event has been hosted on Zoom, where it’s been on WebEx teams, where it’s been a Citrix product. It’s been Microsoft Teams. So there’s been a bunch of different platforms all being used, but not all are created equal. One of the things that’s really interesting about enterprise events now is you have communications going from hundreds, dozens, thousands, depends on the size of your event, Pat.

But I wrote a piece about this yesterday, about in the age of COVID and remote work, is making sure that you’re thinking seriously about security and privacy of data because it’s not all created even. I looked at Zoom versus Teams, WebEx versus Teams, Microsoft, and it turns out, for instance, Zoom is a much more consumer type platform. The content that gets captured on Zoom is not as secure, it’s not necessarily limited from use in selling to advertisers, which is very different than what Microsoft and Cisco do.

Patrick Moorhead: Let me put a fine point on that. Zoom very much captures data that can be sold to advertisers. It’s not even CAP compliant for schools. Schools can’t technically use Zoom if they’re CAP compliant because they store data.

Daniel Newman: Correct, Pat, and that’s good technicality, but I don’t think it’s necessarily been advice that people have been following. Chuck Robins today said 5.5 billion minutes of Team collaboration was done last month across the platforms. Zoom, you can tell by both the stock market boom and by just the word on the street, it’s become Kleenex for video collaboration, has picked up a lot of the momentum here. But I do think it’s important. We use Zoom. We’re recording this on Zoom right now, so we’re not saying it’s a bad platform, we’re not saying the security in all cases matter. We’re okay, this is a podcast that we’re going to publicize. We don’t care if this is captured. This is going out to market. But if I’m an enterprise and I’m disclosing financial information to my faculty’s analysts, I might not want to use the platform that can take that data and use it for purposes other than purely internal and security and management that most cloud software companies for enterprise would do.

So again, not a big knock on Zoom, but I think it’s important as you think about the platforms and the tech you use to think about how important is it that this data is private, that this data’s secure, that the people that are participating understand how their data is being used. Because to some extent, using a Zoom is like using a Google or using a Facebook in terms of how data would be protected and managed. Whereas using a Microsoft or Cisco is a little bit more what I would call enterprise grade. So as you’re rolling these events out on platforms, just be considerate to that and consider it to the data privacy of all the people you’re asking to attend and participate in these events.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s a great topic, and then on the flip side, if you’re going out to consumers and you want interaction, looking at platforms like YouTube or Twitch, I mean I’ve seen some pretty incredible events, very large events’ hosts on YouTube that has the size that you would be able to take out to millions of people. So it’s a very different type of thought tree and decision making exercise. But all the gamers, right? Where do they do their announcements for E3 last year? Right? They do them on Twitch. Where does Google do their spectacular events? They do it on Google. It’s beautiful, it’s fast and has infinite scalability. One of the challenges that the Zooms, the Microsoft Teams and the Cisco WebEx have had, quite frankly, is their scalability. All the numbers are down and they’re having challenges keeping up there.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, definitely. The idea of one to many, we didn’t talk a lot about here, but as these bigger events do roll out, having that channel, and that’s why I’m such a big fan of recorded content because the recording allows for YouTube, it allows for Vimeo, it allows for editing and adding quality and adding in … If you don’t have that live multi-camera set, you can add visuals, you can add quality into the final experience that will give that viewer later something that’s a little bit more impressive than maybe what was live, making it even more enticing. So there’s a lot of ways to use both. One thing that we should probably also mention too is events have been historically great at using social media and hashtags, and I don’t think this is surprising or crazy insightful.

But I’ve noticed with the digital events that the engagement has been way down in terms of the amount of social, the amount of live tweeting. So what can you do to spur that? Whether that’s gamification, using a contest, giving away a pair of Nikes. Whatever it is though, what can you do to get people to participate? Because that was a lot of the buzz of these events, was the keynotes being live tweeted by influential people, and I’ve noticed though three or four events in the last couple of weeks I’ve been to, the Twitter volume is a fraction of what it’s been when you’re actually live watching these events.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, that’s a great point, particularly when it’s … You talk about the public event. Heck, I was on an analyst live event and I had never seen this before, but they were using Zoom and they had a clap where you could clap when you liked something, you got a heart. I didn’t even know that feature existed, and what I wish the people up front would have said is, “Hey, if you like what you’re hearing, let us know.” Right? Now, that’s been on Twitch and YouTube forever. I’d never seen it on a B2B platform before, but that’s just another way to interact. I have seen the raise the hand, right? I think that that’s been in Skype forever. But I really think answering those questions up front, what kind of feedback do you want? What type of outside of event interaction? I’ve always said that the best way to get eyeballs on your big event is to get everybody who’s outside of the event inside of your event, to create a leading hashtag or just getting the buzz going.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, absolutely, Pat. Yeah, I think there’s a lot of good stuff here though. I mean, whether it’s … I love your … the psychology, considering the psychology. I think that’s a great point. Maybe a lightening round here at the end. My one thing is be extremely considerate of time. That’s my one thing, and I’m guessing I can tell you what yours will be, but I want to lean into that though. Give me two great hours of content and I will make a lot happen with that. Just know it’s not because we don’t love you that we don’t want to give more time. It’s just a byproduct of working from this environment that we cannot. Without all the other components, those coffee breaks, handshakes, dinners, it’s not the same, and so if you can kill it for those two hours, let us catch the rest of what we want to catch on demand, I guarantee you’ll get more return and more excitement about what you are going to announce than if you try to cram it into two or three days.

Patrick Moorhead: My one word is dynamism, and make it dynamic, make it exciting, entertain me, give me a reason to look at my 17 to 35 inch display and not look to the left, not look to the right, not look at my phone and see who’s texting me or seeing what’s going on Twitter. Move the camera around, put a real human face out there.

Psychologically, we’re attracted to faces, not to PowerPoint slides. Now, I want to backtrack a little bit. PowerPoint is okay, PowerPoint is great. Put a human face next to the PowerPoint as you’re presenting this content. Make sure it doesn’t look like a bunker that’s 30 foot below the surface of the earth. Have good lights, invest in LED lighting, have really cool backgrounds. It’s what I love about what Google does about Google IO. Check out Google IO 2019, and I know they’re a huge company, they have a huge production budget, but you don’t have to spend that much money to have that dynamism.

Daniel Newman: I love it buddy.

Patrick Moorhead: All right. Daniel, I appreciate your time and everybody who’s listening in. If you’d like what you heard, press that subscribe button. I’m really liking these special additions we’re doing. Go check out our business continuity about remote work, AKA, The Show Must Go On.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I love it, dude. By the way, one thing out there for all you listening, we are going to be doing, Pat and I, a series of special edition podcasts that are Six Five insider over the next couple of weeks and into the next month. We’re going to have some great executives from some of the world’s most exciting technology companies. I sound like a politician that we all know well when I say that. But it is. It really is going to be a star started lineup. It’s going to be some very good discussions on everything from business continuity to new products and launches, and hopefully everyone hits that subscribe and tunes in because those will be coming out every few days throughout the whole month of April, as Pat and I, ourselves, are pivoting and shifting to finding new ways to create content to make sure the story gets heard.

Patrick Moorhead: Thanks a lot Daniel, and that wraps up our edition of The Six Five special edition. Daniel, have a great week.

Daniel Newman: See you buddy.

Disclaimer: The Six Five Podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. Over the course of this podcast, we may talk about companies that are publicly traded and we may even reference that fact and their equity share price, but please do not take anything that we say as a recommendation about what you should do with your investment dollars. We are not investment advisors and we do not ask that you treat us as such.

Image Credit: Webex

 

Daniel Newman