Usually, the end of May marks the annual pilgrimage for the Connect Conference, held on the Gold Coast, Queensland. But not this year since. COVID-19 forced a shutdown of all public events! This, of course, was not unusual as events everywhere all around the world were being forced to cancel, however in the midst of what could have been considered a disaster for the organisation and its members who normally attend, it quickly became an opportunity.
Just days following the cancellation, the CEO of CMAA, Nathan Brown who is responsible for the conference, called Story Strategist to ask if anything could be done online as an alternative? We all know anything is possible but at such short notice? We love a challenge, and within hours of talking, we agreed this adversity could be turned around and become a great opportunity to grow engagement with a wider audience and connect with more artists and media professionals than ever in the history of the Connect Conference.
We wrote up a proposal describing the technology and team required to pull something like this off. A budget was prepared and we got to work quickly on dreaming up who might want to be a part of an expanded schedule. Not only would we convert a physical in-person conference to an online series of events, but we were also imaging an expanded line up of speakers and even live concerts! Fortunately, Nathan Brown has friendships with many, many people across the world and everyone is self-isolating and more available than normal and willing to contribute to something new.
The technical evaluation included a review of several video conferencing and webinar platforms. The shortlist we considered included, Zoom, BigMarker and Webinar Jam, furthermore we wanted an excellent Content Marketing platform to help drive more meaningful interest in each of the events and provide the necessary tracking, ticketing and reminders for attendees. We concluded, HeySummit for Content Marketing connected to BigMarker for the delivery of the Summit events. We also knew that some of the events planned could appeal to a much larger public audience, and so for these events, we opted to simultaneously stream to Facebook enabling media partners to self promote these kinds of events to the public. The artists included in the public-facing events included Bob Goff, Dr Caroline Leaf, For King & Country, We Are Messengers, Nathan Tasker, Michael W Smith and others. Our technical team were able to build custom individual landing pages for each of these events for the media partners who collectively reach 5.4m Australian’s every month across radio and TV. This could get big! Attendees who opt into the full Summit would benefit from follow-up live Q&A’s with the artists of these public events.
The Connect 20 Online Media & Arts Summit is in full swing, promoting to people all across the world. We have 30+ events locked in across five days! We’ve created shout-outs for promotional use on Social Media and the Content Marketing team are busy developing engaging posts and building awareness and excitement for this event.
As I reflect on what has been achieved so far, I’m reminded it’s all about having the right people on the team. We’ve been building on the fly and coming up with ideas mid-flow, but that’s okay with us as we’re used to the pressure of making it work and finding solutions that fit. We don’t want to just make do, we want to surprise people with something exceptional and that’s our goal.
As I’ve been speaking with the many people involved and hearing stories from other members of our team I’m struck by the willingness of everyone to serve. There’s an appetite to do something new. We’re seeing people rise up in adversity, under unusual circumstances and make beautiful art. Some of the challenges that could still lie ahead for artists and all people engaged in the creative pursuit of media could seem overwhelming. Like, how will the film business re-start and what will it look like to adhere to social distancing on-set? How will this affect the types of projects that studios are able to proceed with? When will bands be able to perform in large public events again? Live concerts, touring and merchandise have been the bread and butter for the music industry. But, as I consider these past few weeks, I’m confident in the creativity, resilience and innovation of the folk I get to call colleagues and friends.
Just a couple of weeks ago we were meant to have delivered the annual conference up on the Gold Coast, today we are midway through what we think is looking to be the largest ever online media and arts conference held in the Southern Hemisphere! (yet to be qualified) How did we get here? Lots of faith, hope and trust in that what we share will bring people together and inspire us to share our ideas and hope with the world.