How this virtual event made a worldwide splash
Ingram Micro’s origins date back to the days of disco, but nobody could accuse them of being stuck in the past. In consideration of the pandemic, the California-based distributor of global technology and supply chain solutions embraced the opportunity to make their annual ONE conference fully virtual — and globally accessible.
The idea? An inclusive “follow the sun” event. This approach paired succinct global content with customized regional content, allowing worldwide attendees to attend the event that aligned with their locations and their languages.
The team had extensive expertise when it came to events. However, executing this virtual event was a first, let alone one spanning multiple time zones and languages — so they weren’t quite sure where to begin.
The goal for the event was to reach both existing customers and prospects, and globally unite everyone as “one.” The Ingram Micro team knew the value of first impressions and wanted to ensure that this event wowed attendees and sponsors alike, so its top goals included:
Ingram turned to Freeman, its long-time partner, for help.
Making an event virtual is nowhere near as simple as replicating an in-person event — a fact Ingram Micro realized quickly.
The team knew keeping virtual attendees engaged for long stretches would be difficult, so it upended the idea of typical conference sessions.
Through the virtual event platform 270 speakers gave solo presentations or engaged in virtual conversations — with none lasting longer than 15 minutes. Much like how people binge-watch short videos or TV shows online, Ingram ONE’s 12,000 virtual attendees were able to binge-watch engaging content that ignited the imagination and gamified the experience. Content included captions and was translated into multiple languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German.
If attendees wanted a palate cleanser, Ingram Micro and Freeman coordinated “facilitated distractions,” such as musical entertainment from up-and-coming artists and also curated happy hour packages that were shipped out to attendees across the globe.
“No matter how engaging we made the content, we knew people would need a break,” explained Niedzielski. “By creating those moments on purpose, we could more easily maintain interest and viewership throughout the event.”
The team was ecstatic to see registration for the event reach 3x the amount for the previous year’s in-person event. After Day 1, the question hung in the air: Were attendees engaged enough to return for Day 2?
Ingram Micro wanted engagement — and they got it. Not only was the day-over-day return rate impressively close to target for a brand-new virtual event, but an interesting story arose out of the data when it came to engagement, particularly with unfamiliar faces.
Typically, Ingram Micro sets a target of 4 percent “net new” registrations for unengaged attendees (i.e., people who hadn’t attended the in-person event in three years). For the virtual event, net new registration doubled to 8 percent, suggesting a huge boost in engagement with a brand-new audience.
Going virtual allowed Ingram Micro to build new relationships. While its largest percentage of attendees remained CEOs, owners, and other c-suite types, many attendees were in technical roles and enjoyed being able to engage with the sessions that were relevant to them without having to travel to a physical event.
The team achieved its goal to transition registrants to attendees, with a conversion rate of nearly 70% in the U.S. and 49% globally.
Ingram Micro was particularly delighted with the fact that the event came within a few percentage points of its profit goals. To glean even more value from the content produced, the team added a dedicated banner on its website to direct new clients and prospects to the on-demand content available from the event.
Speaking of delight, what did the event’s attendees and sponsors have to say? Ingram Micro’s post-event survey (conducted in seven languages) revealed glowing results, with the attendee experience meeting the bar for success.
Sponsors were equally smitten. A major sponsor said this was the best engagement they’d seen for a virtual event, and other sponsors have been flooding Ingram Micro with comments and emails asking how they did it and who helped.
“I wanted to take a moment to compliment and congratulate you on this year’s ONE event. Not only is the content relevant and interesting, but the sound and production quality provide an engaging experience. I miss seeing everyone in person and look forward to future on-site engagements, but until then, ONE is demonstrating the full potential for virtual events.” — Ingram ONE sponsor
This event was monumental to Ingram Micro, and created a massive buzz with both clients and others across the industry. But perhaps more importantly, Ingram Micro created an incredibly viable event prototype and testing ground. The team can use this new model now as it expands into more virtual events and hybrid events going into next year.
This incredible, successful, deeply educational experience cemented Ingram Micro as an innovative industry leader, and equipped its team with new expertise to tackle the changing business landscape ahead — no matter what the future brings.