Categories: Event Management

Transforming a flagship in-person conference into a fully virtual event with Webex Events

Cisco’s premier collaboration event of the year, WebexOne ‘21, was recently honored as the Best B2B Event of the Year at the EX Awards by Event Marketer. The journey to receive this honor called for lots of innovation and creativity.

During the pandemic, companies across the globe scrambled to put on high-quality, engaging virtual events. Cisco also had to find a way to pivot to a two-day virtual event for its annual collaboration customer conference, WebexOne.

“Given the social and economic conditions of 2021, we had to move to a 100% virtual event,” said Webex SVP & CMO Aruna Ravichandran. “We had to do something that was really out of the box in order to facilitate engagement.”

Fueling attendee engagement with Webex Events

To put on an engaging and innovative virtual event, the Webex team knew they first needed cutting-edge technology to power the experience. Thankfully, they already had a best-in-class event platform, Webex Events (formerly Socio).

“It’s an end-to-end event management platform,” said Joe Watkins, Chief Customer Officer at Webex Events. “Webex utilized everything from our multi-session agendas and tracks, to our speaker content, virtual sponsorship booths, and attendee engagement features.”

The attendee engagement feature proved especially key. The Webex team knew that meaningful interactions are critical, not only in person, but especially for virtual events.

“One of the most impactful elements for me is the attendee engagement—that pre, during and post show strategy of how you are engaging with attendees, how you gamify their experience,” said Emmanuel Gotsis, Head of Global Events for Webex.

Gamification elevates virtual event attendee engagement

Using the networking and gamification features in Webex Events, the Webex team helped motivate participation and added an extra element of fun. For example, attendees received points for participating in a variety of activities. These efforts proved successful, helping gain 31 million sponsor views and 58,000 completed game challenges.

Showcase hybrid work experiences

Webex decided from the start that it needed to find unique and clever ways to give virtual attendees a world-class experience. As part of this initiative, they decided to totally reimagine the keynote on day-one of the event.

“We took this as an opportunity to get away from traditional style keynotes where people just click through a slide deck,” Gotsis said. “Instead, we took attendees on virtual tours of actual hybrid workspaces we’d created in San Francisco, showing Webex products in action.”

This change produced powerful results and helped land content with the audience.

“Showing the Webex suite and Webex devices in these environments really delivered impactful results,” Gotsis said. In addition to ditching the traditional keynote, the Webex team also adopted a choose-your-own adventure model, allowing attendees to pick from a menu of activities. Between the mainstage talks, 30+ breakout sessions, sponsor booths, and more, WebexOne attendees were able to participate in live and on-demand experiences. This flexibility gave people a way to engage with content on their own terms.

The future of events: how to connect virtual and in-person experiences

In total, WebexOne ‘21 earned a 1.85x increase in registrations and netted 5.2 million keynote views, up from 1.1 million at the previous year’s event.

The numbers speak for themselves. Gotsis is a firm believer that virtual events are here to stay, given what the Webex team learned at WebexOne, and what is now possible with the right technology.

“The inclusivity of virtual events is undeniable. You will always have that virtual component going forward as part of your strategy, because the reach is amazing,” Gotsis said.

While people are eager to get back to in-person events as it becomes safe to do so, many events will likely still contain a virtual element, with hybrid events becoming more common. The best conferences and gatherings will use technology and creative solutions to seamlessly blend the in-person and virtual elements, making sure all attendees have an equal experience.

For the full story behind WebexOne ‘21, check out the expanded case study. Find out what went into the event planning process and what the Webex team learned about the future of events.

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