Converting a crisis into a crowd-pleasing event
If there’s one cable telecommunication industry trade show to attend every year, it’s SCTE•ISBE Cable-Tec Expo®. Since 1983, this four-day event has been where service providers, technology partners, and industry experts from around the world have gathered to witness the next generation of industry innovation and make valuable connections.
In 2020, Cable-Tec Expo was slated for October at the Colorado Convention Center in the heart of downtown Denver.
But, as we all know, nothing happened according to plan in 2020.
On June 1, SCTE•ISBE learned that the governor had declared the convention center an emergency facility for COVID-19 through the fall. That meant the team had five months to move more than 100 hours of programming, thousands of attendees, and interactive exhibits…online.
With this challenge, SCTE•ISBE leadership saw an opportunity to prove its industry leadership by showcasing how crisis can lead to innovation.
How could the organization turn its large-scale, networking-heavy event into something that felt like a live event? Could it offer the same level of engagement and value for attendees and sponsors?
Two things were essential to making that happen: First, they needed a way to create the awe-inspiring reveals that happen at a live event. Second, they sought to make the experience as engaging and easy to navigate as possible.
The team turned to Freeman, its long-time event partner, for guidance.
Moving the largest cable telecommunications and technology trade show in the Americas to an interactive, virtual experience in a very short time was a tall order. SCTE•ISBE had to deliver networking, technology demos, and thought leadership.
The pressure was on.
To create an interactive, virtual experience that would surpass the high standards of this audience, Freeman introduced SCTE•ISBE to its modular event platform.
The first order of business: Relaunch Cable-Tec Expo 2020 as a virtual experience. On June 8, SCTE announced the show would go on…virtually. Six weeks later in July, SCTE•ISBE launched registration. Then, in September, Freeman launched the customized Cable-Tec Expo 2020 event site on the platform, giving sponsors a chance to set up meetings in advance of the show and promote and pique interest in the new digital experience to come.
Of course, you can’t have a trade show of this magnitude without highlighting sponsors. The team set up a virtual Sponsor Showcase within the platform, enabling matchmaking, social media, and appointment scheduling functions once the site went live. Attendees, presenters, and sponsors could network in a whole new way, while a virtual media room gave the press and analysts access to sponsors and speakers.
The SCTE•ISBE Board of Directors planned to host customized CTO tours at the physical show in 2020. With the shift to virtual, the event team was determined to find a way to bring that experience to life in a virtual format. Traditionally, these tours were opportunities for sponsors to demo new products and have personalized conversations in intimate, guided groups of CTOs and decision-makers from across the industry. Since the tours gave sponsors valuable face-to-face time, designing a virtual edition was a top priority.
Next came building the educational heart of the show, the Fall Technical Forum. Thought leaders prepared 267 abstracts, 118 papers, and 40 workshops on artificial intelligence, operational transformation, advancements to cable’s 10G platform, and lessons learned from COVID-19. The team utilized the presentation management solution integrated into the platform to seamlessly gather presentation material and make it available online. The Freeman production team prepped speakers in virtual green rooms and helped them troubleshoot camera, audio, lighting, and connectivity to ensure smooth presentations.
A bonus? Extensive data that comes with hosting a virtual event. Freeman and SCTE•ISBE worked to outline what data to expect from the event, how to use it most effectively, and ways to communicate the value of data to sponsors. The team also worked with sponsors ahead of the event to make sure they were comfortable using the platform and were familiar with the features.
With Freeman’s help, SCTE•ISBE pulled off the first virtual Cable-Tec Expo. But what did people think?
They loved it. Not only did registration double, but international attendance grew from approximately 69 countries represented to 104.
Attendees were captivated, spending an average of 7.9 hours on the event platform. The heavy focus on live content added an energetic feel, allowing attendees to ask questions and interact with speakers, moderators, and each other. In fact, the chats were so lively, many attendees requested copies of the chat logs!
The buzz among attendees was incredible, and the media took notice: More than 40 media outlets and over 30 analysts attended Expo, to the tune of 2,500+ media mentions.
The highly anticipated CTO tours also became a highlight of the show. 40 tours were hosted, with over 200 CTOs in attendance. Because the tours were virtual, sponsors could meet with more attendees and get creative with presentations.
The virtual Sponsor Showcase was a huge hit as well, thanks in part to SCTE•ISBE’s promotion via social media. About 6,200 visitors clicked through within the first two weeks after the event. And because the sessions were recorded and available on demand, the site continued to gather traffic, providing long-term dividends and opportunities for sponsors.
The virtual environment thrived for networking, too: Sponsors received 34,000 recommendations and matches, and scheduled more than 1,300 meetings.
SCTE•ISBE set out to make an impact, hoping to turn Cable-Tec Expo into an engaging, exciting virtual experience. By leveraging its strong partnership with Freeman and focusing on relevant, live, and easy-to-navigate content, the organization turned the event into a significant win, exceeded many benchmarks for virtual events in 2020, and set the standard for its industry.