Branding a Virtual Conference
- posted May 3, 2020
It wasn’t until coronavirus arrived that I realised just how much my client-base revolved around conferences and exhibitions. What previously supplied a steady and reliable stream of income, to all involved, has been thrown into complete disarray.
With a big question mark now hanging over the events industry and no clear timetable as to when mass gatherings will again be permitted, companies are being forced to think on their feet and offer new ways to interact with their customers.
For some, particularly ones that rely heavily on physical exhibitors, this poses huge and difficult logistical challenges. However, for others the transition is slightly more straight-forward. With a good team, some technical know-how and some creative thinking, building a high-quality virtual conference is a real possibility.
Case Study: TestBash Home
I’m lucky enough to work as head designer for Ministry of Testing, a global software testing community. Following recent events, its close-knit and dynamic team were plunged into uncertainty with the possibility of numerous conferences facing cancellation. In not much longer than a month, the team had come together to create a whole new virtual conference concept. It would bring together its entire global audience in an epic 24-hour long online event – TestBash Home.
My part in the project was of course the visuals. That is to say, the logo design, branding and all of the associated marketing. Branding a virtual conference is no mean feat when you consider the number of countries and cultures potentially taking part. However, one hugely uniting factor was the homes we were all confined to and it was this theme that took centre stage.
We wanted the event to feel bright, approachable and inclusive – something that everybody could enjoy and feel a part of. The branding incorporated one of the community’s mascots sitting on a sofa watching the event. The 24-hour clock behind them signifying the total length of the conference.
Given our global audience, creating a schedule that everybody could follow was all-important. As a result, we produced four different PDF timetables for different parts of the world – UK, Eastern, Pacific and NZ. We also made sure to produce accessible HTML versions which could easily be converted to additional time zones.
One of our most useful marketing tools was to map out the locations of the conference’s ticket sales. This visualisation really whipped up people’s excitement (as well as our own), proving just how far-reaching and multi-national the conference really was. It also created a healthy sense of competition among our audience.
A combination of Zoom and Crowdcast was chosen to stream and deliver the event, and because Zoom allows you to overlay videos with images, we were able to fully brand it – framing videos in our brand colours, adding logos, hashtags, schedules and other important information.
What made this event really stand out was the creation of a virtual venue in which our attendees could meet and explore. Styled like an 80s video game, people could pick their own avatar and use point-and-click functionality to move around and talk. From here they could access links to the live stream and other online services in a fun, user-friendly way. I’ll likely do a stand-alone blog post on this in the near future. Needless to say, it was a lot of fun to be involved in and a first for me.
Whilst virtual conferences will never be a direct substitute for the face-to-face interaction offered by physical events, many are now being forced to realise the benefits they do offer. With no venue, catering or travel costs to arrange and pay for, organisers will likely have significantly lower overheads. This means lower ticket prices for attendees, who will also save on things like travel, accommodation and time. And with fast broadband now commonplace in many homes, video and sound is generally reliable and of a high enough quality to make people feel immersed and engaged.
They’ll undoubtedly become part of the “new normal” and remain with us long after coronavirus has gone.
If you’d like help setting up and branding a virtual conference (or indeed a physical one), drop me a message – I’d be happy to assist.