For more than 20 years, Bryon Main and Ben Greenzweig have been producing and growing live events and, between the two of them, they have personally overseen 5,000 conferences, trade shows and roundtables, but it was the events of 11 years ago that really prepared them for the pandemic of 2020.
Back in 2008-2009, on the heels of the Great Recession, Bryon Main, who at the time was the Co-Founder and CEO of ExL Events, a leading pharmaceutical conference company, realized that there was an opportunity to deliver events virtually and begin researching all of the available platforms. A self-described “tech geek”, Bryon always prided himself on being an early technology adopter and was one of the first, if not the first, conference company to custom build their operations on Salesforce.com, so evaluating and implementing virtual event platforms came naturally.
After rolling out a number of virtual events, Bryon and his team learned very quickly what the hallmarks of a good virtual platform are, the right way to “time” a digital event and how best to communicate this new offering to the market. Eventually, the team at ExL found their footing and began produce a number of successful virtual events and quickly wrote the playbook on how best to deliver content in this medium.
As the impact of the Great Recession slowly washed out, ExL reduced, and then eventually phased out their virtual events, but little did Bryon know that the playbook he wrote would become a life saver in March 2020.
“As someone who has organized events for over 20 years, the challenges presented in a virtual environment can far surpass those you deal with at a live event,” Bryon is often heard saying to clients over video chat. “Those who organize events as a part time job are not prepared for the nuances presented by these types of events.”
When the pandemic hit, Bryon, who joined Momentum Events as COO and Co-Principal after managing a successful strategic acquisition of ExL by Questex Media, dusted off the old playbook and together with Momentum’s Co-Founder and CEO Ben Greenzweig, pivoted hard and quick into virtual events.
“Some say we leaned in to virtual events in March,” Greenzweig said. “In reality, we jumped in, full-throttle, and relentlessly invested in the technology and training to ensure that we would be an outright leader in the development and execution of virtual events.”
Since March, Momentum has produced 40+ virtual events, webinars and roundtables and have no plans of letting up. “While the general consensus is that live events will return in some form in Q1/Q2 2021, we have shown than we can deliver a tremendous amount of value to our clients in a digital platform, so we will continue doing so until such time as the market tells us differently,” Greenzweig said.
Main has been leading what he calls the company’s “hyper-digital revolution” into virtual events because, “We were already digitally transformed and had a good understanding of how virtual events work, but as more and more platforms came out, we created a process to evaluate ever new piece of software and, if we liked it, put it through rigorous testing before deployment.”
“Virtual Event platform providers are popping up every day and it is difficult to make a choice that suits your needs as an organizer and the learning and networking needs of your attendees. It is too big of a risk to choose amongst all the providers, rely on the experience of professionals who have used a variety of platforms and know which will be the right choice for your next event,” Main added.
Prior to the pandemic, one of Momentum’s fastest growing lines of business was their Conference as a Service™, otherwise known as CaaS™, a complete end-to-end solution that delivers professionally researched, developed and executed events without taxing any of your internal resources. When live events began shutting down, Momentum pivoted yet again and began to offer “vCaaS”, or virtual Conference as a Service, helping dozens of clients convert their internal conferences, retreats, awards ceremonies and prospect events into professionally produced and executed virtual programs.
To date, Momentum has evaluated and tested over 20 virtual event platforms and have created a short list of partners they feel delivers the most value to their stakeholders. “Virtual event platforms are like conference venues,” Greenzweig said. “One size does not fit all.”
Some virtual event platforms are better for networking, others for straight content distribution. Many clients are opting to use Momentum to also incorporate higher production values into their events, with even a few clients sending remote (and local) camera crews to VIP locations for professionally produced videos and sizzle reels. Coupling a wide range of production values with the essential elements of a virtual event such as training speakers and attendees on how to use the platform, ensuring there are redundancies in place in case of connectivity failure, programming each platform to reflect the attention span habits of the digital user and managing the entire process in a seamless, professional manner is a combination art and science, and something Momentum has become expert in.
“Virtual event platforms that are technology first, experience second, often misalign with a typical attendee’s expectation,” Main said. “We think the more successful outcome is to build the event objectives first, then align the best technological platform possible to fulfil the vision,” he concluded.
When asked what the top considerations he takes into account when producing a virtual event, Main responded with the following:
Momentum is proud to be working with many leading companies, law firms and financial service companies to deliver their events virtually. If you would like to learn more about us and our process, please visit us online or contact Ben Greenzweig at firstname.lastname@example.org.