Back in January, we laid out plans for BigWP in 2020. BigWP is an enterprise event series where our customers, partners, and friends gather to share the exciting things they’re building with WordPress at scale. We had a big vision for multiple events in New York, San Francisco, and London this year.
Then everything changed.
We knew pretty quickly we didn’t want to miss out on BigWP by waiting to see how the pandemic would progress, so we made a quick decision to pivot to a virtual event.
This post outlines our approach to the first-ever virtual BigWP. We hope it can be helpful for you as you navigate your way through the world of newly-remote events.
There are so many new considerations in taking an in-person event online. For us, those included:
- Could we engage high-quality speakers on short notice?
- Would people want to attend with all the distractions they were enduring?
- Might this open up the opportunity for more attendees without being geographically limited?
- Could we keep the balance of informative and fun that makes BigWP so special?
Turns out, the answer to each of these questions was a resounding “yes!” We realized we had a great opportunity to bring the San Francisco and New York events together, and dubbed it BigWP Americas —which also allowed us to extend invites to clients, prospects, and partners in Canada and South America. Our first win!
Next up… everything else.
Mission 1: Platform selection
In choosing a platform to host the event, we wanted to ensure it was interactive and something that attendees were familiar with using. Our immediate thought was to host this as a Zoom webinar, but that wouldn’t have allowed the audience to be seen, only the speakers. Since the enterprise WordPress community was at the core of this event, we shifted to what attendees would later call “the largest Zoom meeting [they’ve] ever been to.” Not only did this allow everyone to see and interact with each other, but it also allowed us to use breakout rooms for the Happy Hour to satisfy the social aspect of the evening.
Mission 2: Branded event website
While we previously used Meetup.com for BigWP events, we outgrew the constraints of the platform. We needed a site that could become a one-stop resource hub for everything BigWP—while also being reliable, easy to update, and granting us full ownership of the content. We built the new site on the VIP Cloud, which allowed us to serve multiple events and locations simultaneously. This move will also enable us to create a resource library of past talks, all in one place.
Mission 3: Compelling content
Choosing the right speakers for this enterprise community event was essential. We always work to strike the right balance of informative and interesting.
“What is the right path to start selling products on my WordPress site?”
Presented by: Matias Saggiorato, CTO of SAU/CAL
Matias is the Argentina-based CTO of the web development agency SAU/CAL. He actively contributes to open source projects and he and his team are certified WooCommerce Experts and are a WordPress VIP Silver Agency Partner. They build, enhance, and maintain high-scale online stores.
“The key to evidence-based decision making for product teams”
Presented by: Cathi Bosco, UX Architect for XWP
Cathi is a designer and UX Architect for web development agency (and Gold agency partner) XWP and UX consultancy UXATT. Her teams work with companies to create great experiences for humans through UX audits and informal research studies.
“Web Stories and the early version of Story Editor”
Presented by: Paul Bakaus, AMP & Web Creator Relations, Google
Paul joined as our keynote speaker. We were thrilled when he did a live demo to share a product feature that is yet to launch! This was a great way to give our community behind-the-scenes access to what’s happening next with AMP and WordPress.
Mission 4: Delightful swag
Swag is a big part of our physical events. The right swag is a great way to leave a long-lasting, positive impression on your attendees, and we challenge ourselves again and again to up our swag game each time.
For our first-ever virtual event, we wanted to create a physical aspect of the event despite the distance. Enter: gift boxes with all the fixings for mocktails/cocktails. We chose a recipe inspired by the Smoky Lemon Mule featured on SugarAndCharm.com, who call WordPress home. This element allowed for a fun surprise arriving to attendees’ homes the week of the event, and created a shared experience over Zoom as attendees raised their custom tumblers in a toast.
Mission 5: On to the next one!
We produced an event in less than three weeks from concept through design to go-live.
This agility was thanks largely to moving the BigWP site over to the VIP Cloud. The new site gave us full control over the user journey and empowered us to create a richly-branded event using minimal technical resources—just one (awesome) designer and one (fantastic) developer.
Happily, BigWP was received well by both the attendees and the speakers. We can’t wait to host our next event, BigWP EMEA, coming soon!