Mark Schaefer interviewed me before our SAPPHIRE 2020 virtual event
This week I’m bringing you an inside view of a fascinating digital marketing 2020 case study built from a massive, global virtual event.
Beginning June 15, SAP — which powers the enterprise processes for 440,000 customers, including most of the Fortune 500 companies — is launching one of the biggest online networking events in history, opening up its exclusive annual SAPPHIRE NOW event to the world, for free.
This week-long digital conference represents an extraordinarily ambitious virtual event in the pandemic era – or any time – and today we’ll peel back the curtain to see how SAP is approaching a streaming content strategy to fill their digital stage.
I had a chance to talk to Ursula Ringham, Head of Global Influencer Marketing, whose team was responsible for booking nearly all the talent for the show. They’re designing an innovative, new content experience that includes acclaimed author Simon Sinek and other global thought leaders.
Ursula provides a fascinating insight into the content considerations for this massive undertaking …
Digital marketing 2020: Tackling the daunting task of moving global events online
Mark: Can you take us behind the scenes and tell me about the process SAP uses to decide on just the right speakers for a significant virtual event like this?
Ursula: Steve Jobs had a great quote, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” You might have an idea of who you want in a speaker. Maybe someone with a large social media following. Or a recommendation from a friend. But when it comes down to it, you have to put in the time to research.
You must read, watch, and listen to all content a speaker creates. Are they keeping up with what’s happening in the world? Are their topics aligned with yours? And then you map your findings to your product marketing requests and show them the best fit.
At SAP, it’s a collaborative effort. My team receives a request. We do all the research and then sit down with each product marketing team to review and talk through a Lookbook of top choices. It’s a Herculean effort but creates a more personalized and focused experience across our entire product portfolio.
We look at professional celebrities, thought leaders, and influencers. And at the same, our analyst relations team is also hard at work integrating their speakers. All are different cogs in the wheel to help tell the SAP story in partnership with our executives, customers, and partners.
Was choosing speakers for this year — when people are broadcasting remotely — different than picking people who would be speaking live on the big stage?
Definitely. Presenting on stage, in front of a live audience, is very different than talking to a camera from home! We watched a lot of videos but also live-streams. The key was to find speakers who are staying active, talking about topics that are relevant with what’s happening in the world during these uncertain times.
When live speakers take the stage, the tech is in the hands of SAP. But on a remote event like this, the video, sound, lighting, and streaming quality are in the hands of the speakers. This adds a whole new layer of complexity, doesn’t it? How do you assure this runs smoothly?
In researching speakers, we did consider if they had the equipment and technical expertise to deliver a virtual presentation or interview. It wasn’t a showstopper, as we can always ship them equipment, but it was definitely a consideration. Lighting and sound are important. But we also have an amazing production crew behind the scenes that did prep video calls to review the speaker’s environment and provide tips and tricks to ensure a good experience.
When it comes down to it, we’re not trying to create the perfect environment. That’s not the reality right now. Everyone does the best they can. And every background and live stream will show the real, authentic side of each person.
Who are some of the external speakers featured this year?
We looked for people who bring interesting and different perspectives to help tell our story. For example, Simon Sinek is always a draw. But at our virtual event, we’ll be doing a one-on-one interview where he talks directly to our audience about leadership in the time of COVID 19.
And then, there is Adam Savage, former co-host and executive producer of Mythbusters. He’s an interesting character. We wanted someone who can take complex ideas and make them easy to consume and fun to talk about. We filmed him right in the middle of the launch of Space X and he brought a lot of energy to the topics he discussed with us.
What a fun job you have lining up exciting outside speakers for your event! Have you ever been star-struck by a SAPPHIRE NOW speaker you’ve worked with?
It is fun but I’ve never really been star-struck … so far! There’s so much work that goes into securing talent I’m more excited once the event happens and everything goes smoothly. Then you realize, “Wow, I was part of something amazing that included that speaker.”
Music — That’s one area SAP never disappoints, I’m pretty excited about our musical guest this year. This year we’re providing a free concert featuring Sting!
I’m sure there will be many top company executives speaking at this event. They have an amazing opportunity to reach potentially hundreds of thousands of people with this content. How will their messages change in the context of the crisis sweeping the world right now?
They will address it head on. SAP is committed to helping our customers continue to operate seamlessly through this current crisis. Our mission has always been to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. And each executive speaker will focus on a different part of the business and highlight its specific purpose during this crisis.
Is there any presentation you’re particularly looking forward to?
One of the highlights will be a live Q&A with the entire SAP Board on June 19. Our host, Laurie Segall will speak directly with Christina Klein, Adaire Fox-Martin, Juergen Mueller, Luka Mucic, and Thomas Saueressig. During the week of Converge, registrants will be given an opportunity to submit questions. Laurie will ask questions submitted by people from all over the world. That should be fascinating!