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Up until recently, online events were considered a last resort for event professionals. Mainstream digital experiences lagged behind their on-location counterparts and were largely the preserve of art exhibitions and the “the really risqué” (or borderline gimmicky). 

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic changed that nearly overnight when events professionals and businesses were left needing to pivot to online events, or risk severe financial and brand set-back. While no-one has come out unscathed, those who bit the bullet and embraced online events have not only mitigated some of the financial impact of the pandemic, they’ve also managed to keep their brands top-of-mind with peers and consumers, and managed to set a new standard in digital experiences. 

We’ve handpicked 5 examples of world-class online events from 2020 to inspire you, as online (and hybrid) events planning becomes the norm. They’re our favourite examples of companies that have:

1) pivoted at a moments notice from a planned physical event to a digital execution, and 

2) conceived and ran a fully online experience from beginning to great acclaim. 

Each of them embody an event planner tip you can’t do without as you take on the new challenges of the virtual sphere, so take them on board and enjoy the rewards of going digital! 


Pivot with confidence — HubSpot Inbound 2020

The go-to event for inbound professionals, this 3-day marketing and sales conference is usually held in person at the Boston Convention Exhibition Centre. Unfortunately, the pandemic struck when their plans were already well on their way, leaving the HubSpot team with the choice of cancelling or making a full transition to digital. 

The team bit the bullet and went live with their first-ever 100% virtual INBOUND experience in September 2020. High production value, combined with top-tier keynote speakers, workshops, panel discussions, Q&As and an immersive platform, kept participants engaged from start to finish. 


Leverage brand voice — Apple WWDC20

June 2020 saw Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kick off with an all-new digital-only format. A significant investment in production saw Apple maintain their trademark professionalism and trendsetting style, and offered attendees a conference that rivalled not only their previous physical events, but possibly outstripped them.

With 100+ engineering sessions led by Apple’s in-house team, to all-new developer forums, 1:1 developer labs, and more, Apple transformed their conference into more than just an extended Zoom meeting. How? By balancing group and individual or small-group engagements, and providing both open forums and by-appointment workshops (like their developer labs), just as they would have with a physical event. 

Related: Pioneering new ways of running familiar events in the digital realm does require technical support, and not everyone has an Apple in-house team to rely on. That’s why we’ve created an eBook on planning your next remote and hybrid event. It includes a breakdown of traditional event types alongside our advice on how they can be modified to suit the online space. Click the button below and download your copy. 


Don’t skip a beat — World Boxing Association’s 99th Conventions

In July, the World Boxing Association (WBA) brought the global family together at their 100% virtual, WBA 99th World Convention. Instead of cancelling the event entirely, they pivoted to an online event hosted with the help of GoToWebinar, GoToMeeting, YouTube and Interprefy (read the case study). 

More than 2,000 people worldwide attended this event to hear from their sports leaders and weigh in on issues such as the future of boxing, equality and gender, and the fight against doping. Through RSI services, they could participate in both Spanish and English, with ease — delivering on virtual events’ potential to remove barriers of access and be truly accessible to multiple audiences.


Keep people connected — World Teachers' Day 2020

World Teachers' Day 2020 on 5 October constituted an unprecedented moment for educators worldwide. Streaming live on YouTube for 24 hours, more than 500,000 people around the globe tuned in to follow the 100+ sessions, delivered in 7 languages, to reconnect about what educators have learned during the pandemic and what it will take to build back better.  

Going online allowed the event to connect with half a million attendees, with the event hashtag (#5octLive) appearing in over 26,000 tweets. Senior Coordinator, Timo Linsenmaier, even suggested that the 22,000 listening to Interprefy’s interpreting channels could have been higher with more languages requested and that the organisation will “definitely accommodate for that as we're planning our next online events. Virtual events are here to stay, and we'll have to continue to rethink how we can keep the engagement high”.


Connect when you’re most needed — SBC Digital Summit

The SBC Digital Summit of 2020 transformed what was possible for the betting and gaming industry. Sidestepping the disruption and (understandable) cancellations brought on by the pandemic, SBC ran a full-scale digital conference that ensured 140 industry executives had a platform to share their business insights when operators and their supply chain needed them most.

Going digital ensured industry stakeholders could work together at a time when meeting safely in groups of any size was nearly impossible. Thanks to technology, participants could browse exhibitions, attend talks and network in a fully interactive space that connected groups and individuals.  


The best events rely on teamwork

These pioneering teams have ensured that online events no longer feel like the poor relation of “the real thing”. Will we return to hosting physical events? Almost certainly! Will it ever regain its monopoly on the way we connect, communicate and network? Probably not. 

Online events have grown into their own, and there’s no getting away with a slapdash affair anymore — the bar has been permanently raised. 

Nobody pulls off a professional event without help, and the quality of your team determines how well you’re able to meet your client and event-goers’ needs. And nothing speaks quality like accessibility. For digital events that have broadened attendance to a global audience, implementing expert RSI is essential to ensure accessibility and inclusiveness.   

Offering your event audience access to the event content in multiple languages is a large part of maintaining the high standard online event-goers have come to expect. 

By leveraging platforms such as Interprefy’s, you’re guaranteed peace of mind when creating highly accessible events that increase audience engagement and deliver your content to a wider, multilingual audience. Reach audiences in their language. Click the button below and talk to us to see exactly how easy it can be.

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Markus Aregger

Written by Markus Aregger

Head of Marketing at Interprefy