The Adobe Summit went virtual – here’s our review
Apr 2, 2020

By Jenni Smith
Vice President, Strategy and Business Intelligence

This week, members of our agency team attended the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit. With the complications of the coronavirus, Adobe was among the brands that decided to convert their program to an entirely digital format. 

Usually, EGR is on the other side of the fence – producing both live and virtual events – but in this case, it was nice to immerse ourselves in a virtual event from purely the attendee point-of-view (and an unbiased point-of-view since Adobe is not a client).

The topic of virtual events is obviously top of mind these days, and everyone is looking for examples of how to do it right.  If you have an in-person event and have decided to convert it to a virtual format, there are some solid best practices to be gleaned from Adobe’s example.

Here’s our review of the virtual event practices used in Adobe’s Summit:

An impressive open-to-all format

When the Adobe conference converted from a live to a virtual event, they made the decision to make the content of the conference open to the public, making it a perfect case study for us to share with you. Take a moment to check it out here so you can see for yourself all of the best practices we discuss in this article.  The decision to open content to all is a bold move and one we’ve seen from many brands.  By providing leadership and valuable content to both current and prospective customers in their time of need, brands can effectively solidify existing relationships and nurture new ones.

We wish they had gone live

We logged on to this event expecting ‘main stage’ sessions to be live, and could not help but be a little disappointed that all content was served up as video on demand. We realize that to produce a live broadcast with any production value would have required violating social distancing measures for both crew and participating speakers.  But it would have been great to see even a low-key live stream keynote from a top executive or thought leader to kick things off. Watching a live broadcast creates a sense of excitement and feeling of community that video on demand simply can’t match.

Clean interface, easy to navigate

When it comes to designing a virtual event interface, less is more.  Adobe made their sessions easy to navigate with headline content up top and breakouts below, without a lot of other distracting messages or graphics.

Breakouts can be filtered in many ways – by track, by industry and by product, making it super easy to find just what you are looking for.  Right from the tiled interface you can see the breakout titles (which are clear and specific), featured speakers, and short session descriptions.

Once you select a piece of content, algorithms serve up related content – a helpful feature since there are over 100 breakout sessions to peruse.

The breakout sessions are tight 20-30 minute segments – just right for digital.

Fresh and fun intro/outro graphics

Obviously Adobe had to bring their A-game to the overall program branding and graphic elements and they did not disappoint.  Our designers and event producers appreciated the energetic music and fresh and visually pleasing intro/outro segments that unified each session. 

“Sneaks” – a content idea more brands should emulate

We’ll confess, many of us jumped right to the ‘sneaks’ content segments.  Adobe’s “Sneaks” are sessions that share new potential Adobe technologies – not all of which end up making it into the product pipeline.  They are presented by the designers and engineers who made them possible which is a great way for Adobe to recognize and showcase their internal talent.  As a viewer you feel you are getting a peek behind the curtain at the engine of creativity that drives Adobe forward – and this is exciting. More brands should communicate with this level of transparency, letting their brightest employees shine, and demonstrating their willingness to take creative risks to prototype and develop new products.

Lack of interaction is a weak point

As polished as the interface and content appeared, it was disappointing not to have any viewer interaction.  This is a huge challenge for many virtual events, and one that we always take great care to address with our clients.  With a live broadcast, you can easily field questions from the audience, moderate and answer them in real-time. If your content is entirely video-on-demand, as is the case with the Adobe Summit, you have to be a little more creative.  One option is to field questions ahead of time from the audience by launching short polls or surveys, and then respond to that content during the video. For example, in the welcome address, CEO Shantanu Narayenhe reviews high-level economic and marketing trends.  He could have also introduced a series of specific questions fielded from the audience about how to navigate marketing challenges with the advent of COVID-19 – and offered specific responses. Or, the meeting could have featured a companion app that allowed viewers to gather on discussion boards to discuss specific breakout content points, or virtual ‘office hours’ where thought leaders could offer advice and answer questions.

A clear path to conversion

Directly underneath each breakout content module, Adobe featured clear call-to-action modules, making it easy to explore related Adobe products.  This is critical. Brands want attendees to be inspired by their content – to purchase it or to adopt new programs and features – so the path to conversion has to be clear and it’s no surprise that Adobe did this well.

In summary

I think we all agree that a virtual event will never create the sense of community and engagement that can be fostered during a live meeting.  But when circumstances like these prevent us from gathering in person, a virtual meeting is an excellent tool for accomplishing critical business objectives.  Adobe did an amazing job in pivoting to a virtual strategy quickly and delivering a best-in-class experience for their viewers.

The Adobe Summit demonstrates many key concepts you can easily put into practice for your own virtual event. And when in-person meetings and conferences do bounce back, these virtual best practices will continue to be an extremely powerful tool to extend the reach of your live meeting. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at EGR if you feel you need more guidance – we are always here to help.