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Content Strategy for Virtual Events | 5 Lessons from Adobe Summit 2020

Updated: May 20, 2022

We all have those moments that stand out in our careers. Our dream promotion, succeeding at tackling a massive project; is just something that brings back that feeling of seeing your report card hung on the fridge with pride. For me, it was being part of the team for one of Adobe’s largest events – Summit.

Being responsible for content strategy for virtual events means the 16-25 weeks prior to Summit are always jam-packed. Truthfully, it’s an environment I thrive in. So it came as no surprise that when the news of Summit became a virtual hit, it stopped me in my tracks. The rumor was no longer a rumor, and I saw a challenge the size of Everest in front of us. We had about 25 days to tackle this and from an event-rush junkie point of view, it was worth it.

With that being said, no event, online or in-person, is perfect. We had our peaks and valleys, and we’ve learned a lot from it. So it is, the five do’s and don’ts when turning your event virtual:

1. Do: Be an advocate for your speakers.

Don’t let your speakers be the low man on the totem pole of priorities. This isn’t their job; they are offering up their time and energy to help your event. Overcommunication with speakers is the number one rule. If you don’t have an answer – tell them that. If things are still in flux, your speaker should know that. In addition, be the advocate your speakers need you to be. If you’re sitting in planning meetings and you know something won’t be a great speaker experience – don’t hold back voicing that (but don’t forget your manners when doing so!).

2. Don’t: Only have internal speakers.

Taking an outside-in approach to your content and your event will have your boss’ boss singing your praise. Your customers are the best voice of your company. When you have customers speaking at your event, they are giving a personal endorsement of your platform, brand, and offerings. While internal speakers are great and should always have sessions, the customer speaker has the most powerful impact.

3. Do: Give a lot of consideration to the length of the breakouts.

I don’t know about you, but my attention span can range between a goldfish and dog begging for treats. You want the content you’re spending weeks and weeks developing to be seen, so make it consumable. Don’t have 45 minute long sessions – most of the time, only 9-15 minutes of content is actually watched. Slash the fluff and get right to the meat of the presentation.

4. Don’t: Get cut out of the host-platform conversations.

It’s important as a content manager that you understand what technology you’re asking your speakers to record on. It’s understandable and potentially expected that others more immersed in the tech side of things will make the final call on what platform is best. If you can, sit in the demos, and see the quality produced. We ran into issues with screenshots not being clear, as well as some glitches with switching between presentation and demos when recording our breakouts – this resulted in more post-production work than anticipated. This all is to be expected but if you can ask to see example recordings of the content you want to produce, it will help you avoid curveballs.

5. Do: Weigh the pros and cons of a live session vs. a recorded session.

I totally get it – the thrill and excitement over having a fully live event are enticing. Don’t commit until you think of everything that comes with hosting a live event. What if the wifi drops? What if there are streaming issues? What about platform malfunctions? Is there a middle ground of only a live Q&A instead of a whole session? Is it timezone friendly to your speakers? If not, how will that change your agenda flow? Take an extra day to map out everything that could go wrong or be affected by a live event.

While this list certainly doesn’t cover everything important for taking your content virtual, it’s a jumping-off point. Ultimately, by keeping the customer top-of-mind through their speaker and attendee experience, you’ll already have a worthy virtual event.

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