April 5, 2020

What we’ve learnt from building a virtual design conference.

Building Frontrow, our virtual design conference has been quite the journey of successes & failures. We held our first edition of Frontrow in 2019- For our business Pitchproof, it was deemed a great success. Here are some of the takeaways of what we have learnt from hosting our 2019 online conference & planning our 2020 edition;

It's an experience- not a webinar.

What makes a virtual conference an actual conference, not a webinar? To us, an online webinar is simply a video stream with little interaction. Sure, there might be a few live questions answered but what makes a conference great is the ability is not only the opportunity to be educated by great speakers but to form a network of new creative buddies around you.

With our Frontrow conference, especially this year where we are currently more 'socially distanced' than ever- we are putting a huge amount of energy into building virtual networking opportunities for our attendees to connect & collaborate with like-minded individuals from all corners of the globe.

Humanise the experience.

A problem with virtual events is that you can often just get people with funky usernames such as 'SallyPants92' (Shout-out to GaryVee fans) with their cat as a profile picture writing comments into a live chat such as "This is amazing content!".

For us, it's extremely important to humanise interactions throughout our virtual conferences. If we have a live chat, we want people to have conversations with others- not just quoting what a speaker has said. When we run mentoring & networking sessions, we want people to use their webcam. Why? Because nothing can beat human interaction.

Make it accessible.

One of the greatest things about virtual conferences is that you can attend anywhere. Like, literally anywhere that has an internet connection. If you want to attend while on the toilet, you can do that. If you want to attend sitting in your home office, you can do that.

Don't make it complicated. Pitchproof was founded by designers, so user experience is at the heart of everything we do. With our Frontrow2020 virtual conference, there's no crazy onboarding experience. You simply enter your name + email & you're set to go!

Don't use a webinar platform.

Now we're not saying that all webinar software is bad- because there are definitely some really awesome ones out there! But from our experience, webinar platforms are too limiting to making a truly awesome & unique virtual event.

Sure, you might be able to white-label a few things- but it still feels like a webinar, not a conference experience. For our Frontrow2019 design conference, we broadcasted to Youtube & used an open-source streaming platform called OBS to create a broadcast that felt unique, and not like any other regular webinar.

We worked closely with a motion designer to develop a set of broadcast overlays & elements to brand our event in a way that felt natural & inviting to our audience. And to be honest, something as simple as that amplified the overall positive experience for our attendees.

Be prepared for things to go wrong.

When we hosted our first edition of Frontrow last year, things could have not gone more wrong in the lead up to us going live on the day of the conference. The weather was horrible & we had to cart thousands of dollars worth of technical gear across the city of Melbourne, Australia. We had issues with our accommodation & parking. Literally everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

But fortunately, we managed to get everything fully set up & ready to go with no real major issues during the conference broadcast itself. But it taught us a very important lesson, plan for everything to go wrong.

For our 2020 edition of our virtual design conference, Frontrow- we have reimagined everything from the ground up. Our passionate team are honestly so excited for our amazing line-up of speakers, sessions & activities planned for our 3-day virtual event.

Enjoyed this article? You'll love our virtual design conference. 😍


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The world's design leaders, one truly virtual conference.

Ryan Hayward

Ryan is the founder & CEO of Pitchproof, as well as the creator of the Frontrow conference. Ryan is also going to be hosting our Frontrow2020 conference!

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