Alex Amado
May 27, 2020

Behind-the-scenes on converting a huge physical event to a virtual one

The VP of experience marketing at Adobe gives insight on how the company converted its annual Las Vegas Summit into an online event.

Behind-the-scenes on converting a huge physical event to a virtual one

For over a decade, Adobe has hosted customers, partners, press and analysts at Adobe Summit, our annual Digital Experience conference and marquee event in Las Vegas.

It’s where we release our biggest Experience Cloud product innovations of the year, demonstrate new technology and share how Adobe is helping to drive the future of digital experiences. Adobe Summit is an opportunity to get deep with our customers and share information—from our highest-level vision to the most detailed content for those who use our tools every day.

Due to COVID-19, the decision was made in early March this year—a month before the event—to shift from a physical event in Las Vegas expecting more than 23,000 attendees, to a massive virtual event. Then the plan evolved even further to turn Summit into an online destination, available for free to all and jam packed with on-demand content to inspire our community of experience makers.

Matter over medium

At the time, Adobe was one of the first companies to cancel a large, physical event and commit to hosting a replacement event on the original schedule. But people are ultimately at the heart of everything we do as a company, and one of the key priorities in every conversation was protecting the health and safety of our employees and attendees.

Our initial contingency plan was to film our Summit keynotes in Adobe’s headquarters in San Jose, California. We planned to set up a unique, all-LED stage installation for dramatic 180-degree graphics and record in front of a live audience. We wanted to design a digital experience that would have the kind of visual impact that is a hallmark of Adobe events.

But as the severity of the health crisis escalated, we recognised that filming live would still require a large team of people to come together—which simply presented too much risk for our team.

Ultimately, we decided that the story we planned to share with our audience was more important than the format in which we delivered it. Maybe even more so now, with the growing imperative to deliver digital experiences online and connect with customers in more meaningful ways.

Screen stars: Helping employees master at-home video

Over the last few months, we’ve all been adjusting to a “new normal”, taking videoconferences in home offices, dining rooms and kitchens. But it was a newer phenomenon when we decided to capture our Summit content in that same raw and authentic way, having our senior leaders using their webcams and recording keynotes straight from their homes.

Figuring out how to create that authentic content was unchartered territory for us. Usually, we would have our in-house video team around to set up lighting, cameras and do everything that comes with producing high-quality video content. In this case, we had videoconferences with our presenters and asked our most senior leadership to take us on a virtual tour of their homes so we could advise on the best filming location and light sources.

Through doing this, we’ve sharpened our best practices on training people to self-record. We created documents and training videos to instruct our presenters on how to record better videos including advice on location, wardrobe, camera position and performance.

With work from home arrangements set to become the norm, all businesses—regardless of whether they intend to host large-scale digital events—should be doing the same. Developing guidelines and best practices and disseminating them across the organisation sets standards for employees who increasingly communicate and present their ideas on camera.

Leverage tech: a personalised platform for everyone

We recorded more than 140 videos covering a wide array of topics, from data and insights to content and commerce, to customer journey management and more. There are vision and strategy sessions from our senior leaders and heads of business, as well as deep-dive breakout sessions.

All of that content lives on a custom web experience built using Adobe Experience Manager, which in turn employs Adobe Sensei, our AI engine to deliver recommendations to our audience based on their on-site behaviors and our past data about each individual. This creates a personalised experience for each viewer who visits the site. Of course, this is all being measured by Adobe Analytics on the back end so we can see what content is performing best on both the website and mobile app, making this a customised on-demand experience for our customers.

To date, we’ve had nearly 500,000 visitors from 195 countries tuning in to our Adobe Summit online experience.

Looking ahead: The future of experience

While Adobe is in the unique position of having the technology and know-how to deliver immersive personalised digital experiences, adapting to this new reality and moving a massive physical event online has been a humbling process.

Part of the mission of Adobe Summit and of our new site is to help other brands who are also adapting to this new paradigm. Summit is a hub for the best content on managing digital transformation for the enterprise, delivering great digital experiences and even tips and tricks for Adobe solutions from leaders across industries. Last week, we have made the critical decision to pivot Adobe’s in-person events to a virtual format for the rest of 2020, including Adobe MAX from October 20 to 22. This decision is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to continue to protect the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers, partners and communities.

At Adobe, events are always exciting opportunities to showcase our innovation, to be inspired, network, and learn from one another. As we pivot to virtual events, we intend to continue optimising these experiences and over time build content based on insights about what our viewers find most compelling. It’s just going to keep getting better, and that’s the most exciting thing.

Alex Amado is VP of experience marketing at Adobe.

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