May 20, 2020 Tiffany Beddow
While COVID-19 has forced businesses to postpone or cancel physical events, D&H Distributing decided to take its entire annual tech conference, D&H THREAD, and convert it into a virtual THREADcast experience focused on educating and enabling partners.
In just two weeks, D&H developed an incredible virtual experience that included three keynotes, more than 20 channels, live discussions and hours of content that support the tech landscape. Here’s how the company made the urgent change-over to a virtual offering:
Putting A New Spin on the Established In-Person Event
D&H decided to try something brand new when making the pivot from physical to digital. To create a fresh identity while staying close to familiar naming, it rebranded and evolved its “THREAD” series to THREADcast — a new name playing into the planned live broadcast component of the virtual event. This change sparked excitement across its vendor and partner community and attracted a larger audience virtually then it would have in-person.
The D&H Team even created a unique social media hashtag, “#THREADcast” around the virtual event to drive registration, attendance and engagement.
Leading with Empathy for the Audience’s Changing Needs
D&H created THREADcast with the intention of being short and respectful of a partner’s time — especially in light of how workloads and availability have changed in the wake of COVID-19. Most “channels” were kept between 5-10 minutes in length to make content easily digestible for their viewers. With time on its mind, D&H planned accessible, engaging, relevant and specific content that connected with its audience.
D&H employed a live and always-on strategy for its virtual experience to make sure its content reached its audience. First, registrants could tune in and experience THREADcast live for real-time engagement. But if they couldn’t attend the live version of the event, they could tune into the on-demand recording at their convenience.
Additionally, D&H pivoted the planned session content to focus on categories that lent themselves to current issues: business continuity, collaboration, unified communications and security — all areas where partners needed real-time education to support customer needs around remote work and teleworker environments.
Empowering Rockstar Digital Event Project Managers
Every successful conference has a dream team that makes it happen. The same goes for virtual experiences, and D&H’s dream team — David Labagh, Creative Strategist and George Gunnett, Multimedia Coordinator — managed to pivot the company’s events from physical to digital within two weeks. The duo managed everything from prepping speakers on the new format to submitting last-minute creative requests to strategizing how to create the best online audience experience with the tools they had.
Partnering with A Dynamic Digital Experience Platform
With the help of the ON24 Digital Experience Platform, D&H made its virtual event plan a reality. ON24 allowed the team to streamline the setup for its more than 30 sessions while also creating experiences built for audience engagement.
Like with any in-person event, it was important that D&H have the ability to customize the virtual experience to match the branding. Each channel and session was easily customized for each vendor and reflected the overarching event branding.
Three LIVEcast digital sessions were held on high-priority topics and two keynote presentations. The company also asked vendor partners to get creative recording presentations ranging from a five-minute pitch to a full 30-minute seminar, using everything from a webcam to an iPhone to help put a face to the name for the remote audience.
Giving the In-Person Feel Online
Lastly, driving awareness of partner services and offerings was a D&H priority and a big part of making the virtual event a success. Similar to how partners would have booths and sessions at their event, the D&H team developed a virtual solution and created “channels” where partners could share solutions and use cases. The D&H team made sure to prime each channel for audience engagement by equipping each partner channel with a prominent Contact Us box, connecting interested prospective customers to partners immediately.
Also, as part of the strategy to drive on-demand engagement with the THREADcast event, D&H raffled creative service credits and other incentives for attending partner channel sessions within the first 30 days of the THREADcast on-demand period to encourage continued engagement.
A Virtual Play That’s Here to Stay
While it was stressful to rebrand and transition its event from physical to digital in just two weeks, it was well worth it for the D&H team. The company has doubled its predicted in-person event reach thanks to continuous on-demand engagement.
D&H plans to continue to use its newly developed virtual playbook for upcoming events since launching THREADcast. Additionally, D&H’s always-on, on-demand strategy is paying off, with more than 50% of session and channel views coming from on-demand views. In fact, post-event attendance numbers continue to grow every day, helping the company to support its partners continuously with potential new business year-round.