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Give an overview of FutureNet World
FutureNet World is an annual event for the global telecoms industry and this was the 3rd edition. The launch event in April 2019 was an in-person event in London and the 2nd edition was due to run in March in London and was postponed and eventually run as a virtual event in September 2020. Our objectives for 2021 were to grow the event revenues by 70% and double profit. We also aimed to grow our pre-registered audience 40% (target 1000) and live audience by 33% (target 500).
We were keen to move the event back into the March/April slot which meant running 6 months after our 2020 event. Our plan was to enhance the attendee/partner experience and took learnings from our first virtual event and focus on the content and engagement with the content as our primary goal. Networking remains a challenge with virtual events and in consultation with our key vendor partners, we decided to drop the virtual exhibition and facilitate networking with invitation-only roundtable discussions.
The format for the event was 2 half days featuring 27 sessions, 60 speakers, including 11 'live' panels, 10 pre-recorded presentations/fireside chats, 6 'live' analyst Q&As & audience polls plus the FutureNet World Awards.
What technology / platforms did you use?
We used Swapcard as the virtual platform and decided on the self-service option. The self-service option allowed us to set up the event early, open the platform to our partners in good time and enabled sponsors to populate their 'sponsor areas' well in advance of the event going live.
Our technology stack included Eventbrite, our registration platform which plugged into Swapcard. We partnered with a production company who supported us with the broadcasting of the content using zoom and VMix. Our aim was to create a studio based event experience which we successfully delivered 100% virtually. Our host and speakers were all remote with the technicians running the show from a studio.
Describe your sales and marketing approach?
Sponsorship sales: To convince target clients that this will be the #1 telecom networks virtual event of 1H 2021. We didn't promise the world, and by admitting that our virtual expo feature (last year) was not effective and the networking was flawed, we gained credibility for being realistic. We focused on what we could deliver well, sponsored sessions (presentations, panels, and roundtables) and launched a new roundtable format, our offer to facilitate targeted networking, which was well received and our customers attained good ROI.
Customer service was key. We recorded video instructions for how to use the platform and we set up drop-in sessions to demo the platform and help sponsors settle any unanswered questions. Event data was delivered within 24 hours of the event, which was really well appreciated. Our sales target for this event was to grow sponsorship revenue by 70% and we achieved 170% growth.
Delegate Marketing Strategy: To grow our audience we decided to build our campaign around the 6 themes (90-120 minute chunks of content). In addition, we promoted all 25+ sessions individually, as opposed to the event as a whole. Social Media was a major channel using individual session posts with tagged speakers. Speakers and advisory board were influencers, promoting their involvement. Emails and partner emails reinforced the message, and promoted the clusters of themed sessions. We targeted 1,000 registrations (706 in 2020), achieving 1,376 and targeted 500 attendees (376 in 2020), achieving 830.
Can you quantify your success?
830 live attendees (vs 376 in 2020 & 500 target) from a pre-registration of 1376 (vs 706 in 2020 and 1000 target), a 60% conversion rate vs 53% in 2020. 57% of audience were CSPs (buy-side) including 170 unique companies. 83 countries represented across 5 continents, The geo mix is key as the event is global and whilst 63% of the attendees were from Europe, other regions were well represented with 12% APAC, 13% MENA, 11% N America and 5% Latin America.
The event ran over 2 half days, 27 sessions, 60 speakers.
- On average attendees viewed each panel for 29 minutes vs an average duration of 33 mins. An average of 17 minutes per presentation vs an average duration of 20 mins (20% more than 2020)
- On average 7 sessions viewed per attendee vs 5 in 2020
In line with our efforts to increase engagement with the content, these results beat targets across the board.
Financials: Our objectives for 2021 were to grow the event revenues by 70% and double profit. Achieved revenue growth of 170% and 3.5 x OP growth.
What lessons did you learn and how would you do things differently in future?
This is the 2nd virtual event we have run and after a very steep learning curve on 2020, we were able to benefit from the experience in 2021. One of the biggest lessons is that virtual events require about 4 times the effort/time/resource to run vs in person event. The preparation and planning required is significantly higher and requires more precision. For example, speaker management, briefings and preparation calls, guidance notes, technology/internet tests and checks, sponsor and partner briefings on the platform, networking/audience engagement, script/autocue preparation, practice/dry-runs and so on.
3 major challenges:
1. Resource: the event was resourced with support of a core freelance team. Finding the right team to deliver to our standards was key. (operations, marketing, speaker management, sales support)
2. Partners/providers: In 2021, we decided to go with a different virtual platform provider and a new production partner. This was a major decision and staying with the same partners would have been a safer and easier plan. The risk paid off and the whole experience for speakers, delegates, sponsors was enhanced significantly as illustrated by the feedback we received
3. Studio based experience: As part of our plan to enhance the experience and drive engagement with the content we wanted to create a studio based event experience virtually. The challenge was to deliver this effect without bringing the event host/moderator into a studio.
Share testimonials and customer feedback
"Giles Cummings and the FutureNet team have done an excellent job at honing their platform to create something that is very watchable. It doesn’t feel like just another Zoom call, and they made smooth and natural turnovers between pre-recorded and live sections. In fact, it was a lot like being at a live event – in a good way, and without the schlepping between breakout rooms or arriving into plenary sessions to find eyechart slides on a screen half a mile away."
"Futurenet World is a top-notch experience. Not only slick production, but thoughtful curation of speakers and content."
"The choice of attendees by FutureNet sets it apart from any other event; it’s smaller yet more exclusive, with the true intent of debating key topics. I’ve built genuine relationships that will stay with me for a long time."
"Automation in all its aspects, from the technical challenges and achievements up to the key business drivers, discussed in all openness. That's why so many operators in the telecom industry participate at FutureNet World."
“FutureNet World is a very focused event that hits the sweet spot where AI, automation & cloud technologies collide. …We are happy with the returns on our marketing investments”