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Woman waving at screen during virtual event

Community managers were thrown a lot of curveballs in 2020 — not least of which was the pivot to virtual events.

In a year where many of us had enough Zoom calls to last a lifetime, we wanted to end the year in virtual events on a high note. For CMX Winter Soirée: The Virtual Event Event, we asked you to share your best virtual event stories from the year — and were surprised by how many stories of joy, success, and triumph we received!

These responses showed that for all their challenges, virtual events can still play a unique role in a community’s success. Below, we’ve rounded up the best responses from the CMX community. These virtual event stories will make you laugh, celebrate your wins, and provide some inspiration for your virtual strategy in 2021. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Missed the CMX Winter Soirée? Check out the festive recap here! 

You found new ways to bring people together.

This year, community builders around the world were thrown headfirst into the world of virtual events. But through it all, virtual communities were a source of support through tough times.

“My best memory was definitely the Home Office Challenge we came up with in our community! We’ve asked our community members to share pics from their home offices, but besides that—a lot of side discussions started to go on! About shaving while working from home, or about keyboards.” Karolina Linda, Senior Community Manager, Dynatrace

“We produced a virtual wine and cheese tasting event to celebrate a promotion for one of our clients. She made partner at an accounting firm and was planning to have a large beach party in LA, but COVID had other plans. We teamed up with a sommelier and cheesemonger to curate several pairings and then delivered these items to all 40 guests. The party lasted 2 hours versus 1, as guests got sucked into wine chat and general life catch-ups.” -Liza Bagerman, Founder and Lead Event Producer, Studio DBI

“We held a customer contest where they told stories of the impact of their communities, and then our other customers voted on the winners. The Khoros Kudos resulted in over 90 submissions and 5000 votes to decide the winners!” -Jacob Borgeson, Product Marketing Communities, Khoros

“I mainly work with a network of digital rights activists, and we were able to reaffirm solidarity when we had a reunion last month! It’s quite difficult to ensure attendance especially if your members are experiencing attacks on the ground.” Dianne Olivan, Program Officer at EngageMedia

“Nostalgia Day! Since coronavirus, our core service was shut down because it hit most of our users’ economically so they decreased their spending. So, to make them stay and keep them engaged, I organized a virtual event that let them share their old memories with our product. It drove high engagement.” –Nurussakinah Hasnal, Digital Community Manager, Mapan

You learned to throw successful virtual events, with results that mattered.

At CMX, we chronicled our own experience taking both CMX Summit 2020 and CMX Global Connect virtual. While it wasn’t always easy, we were able to open the doors of our virtual Summit to more than 5,500 RSVPs from 85 different countries — a huge leap from our attendance last year, and a testament to the growth of the community industry. Without our shift to virtual, we would not have achieved the same level of global participation.

“In the first weeks of March, we shifted all of our 200+ company-run events from in-person to virtual for the remainder of 2020. Even though we LOVE in-person events, our small-but-mighty team worked to ensure a great experience for attendees that is not just a rehash of what we’d do in person, but created events that make the virtual format sing. We’re continuing to experiment and are looking forward to continuing with virtual AND in-person events in the future!” Joshua Zerkel, Head of Global Engagement Marketing, Asana

“Shifting our annual in-person, 5 day event to an all virtual model- increased attendee numbers, additional sessions and still brought the magic!” Emily Wirth, Senior Manager of Learning Communities, Discovery Education

“Our entire Autodesk University event of 2020 was 100% digital. Between our social accounts we had over 4 million impressions!” Diana Rouge, Social Media Digital Specialist, Autodesk

“We took our annual Founders Summit virtual this September for the first time. Through lots of hard work (and stress), I pulled off learning a new platform, organizing over 30 speakers, running a smooth 4-hour event with next to no technical glitches, all speakers showed up on time, and we achieved our highest participation ever for the event with founders signing on from more diverse parts of the world. A majority of the responsibility fell on me to put this together, so the result was gratifying.” -Kassandra McCleery, Community & Platform Lead, Hardware Club

“I’m most proud of the 100%+ growth of our virtual community in the last year and our plans to scale the team to fit this exponential growth!” Lauren Hagerty, Director of Marketing and Community, PowerToFly

You not only adapted — you helped your communities, and your organizations, thrive. 

When companies had to pivot their business models, communities adapted as well. Some of your virtual event stories showed how you found ways to not just change your strategy, but deepen your community’s impact.

“Our IRL global community of chapters pivoted hard to digital events, and then not only survived a radical change in our company strategy—they informed it by demonstrating the power of community to connect customers to a mission-driven organization!” Kate “Sassy” Sassoon, Director of Community, Singularity University

“We shifted our ‘AMA’ series from a written format to a live virtual format, and it quadrupled the participation. We also launched our own Bevy instance, which enabled us to do more events; my favorite is a series of ‘User Knowledge Share’ events that we’ve launched that empower community members to host and share their own tips with other users.” -Nicole Saunders, Community Engagement Manager, Zendesk

“When we had just begun in-person events with our community members, the pandemic struck. At that moment, we took a chance and thought, why not just go virtual and do the same things we do in an in-person event? Now we have done over 8 virtual events, connecting with more than 1000 people across India and from other countries too and adding more value to our events and community! Our members now know us much better and engage with us more strongly!” Rashmi Nagendran, Community Management Senior Associate, ParentCircle

“This year, we launched our new online community and used our summer virtual event ‘Newsela Summer Sessions’ as a kick-off. We were able to bring in 2,000 new members and launch valuable discussions with educators to support their transition back to school.” -JJ Janikis, Community Manager, Newsela

You threw really, really great virtual events.

For some of you, the best virtual event stories from 2020 were stand-out examples of great events. We’re inspired by all the creativity from the CMX community, and we can’t wait to see what you do next year.

“We host weekly workshops for Girl Geek Academy, where girls aged 7-13 learn to code together. The moment they share the results at the end of the workshops is the best! They create mini-games or some art, and the way they admire each other’s work is so genuine. We shall all learn from them.”  -Svetlana Grinchenko, CEO, Tulula

“In honor of Yelp’s Sweet Sixteen, we threw 16 virtual events in one day, highlighting a variety of local businesses from all around North America!” -Cassie Perez, Regional Lead, Yelp

“My favorite memory was DevFest India, which we organized together with communities across the country, reaching 40k+ people viewing us LIVE.” Varsha Jaiswal, Organizer, Google Developer Groups (GDG) Jalandhar

“I hosted a Texas-wide virtual event called You’re Not (A)Lone Star that showcased Texas-made/born businesses and brands. We did everything from make chili to two-stepping to cocktail mixing to weaving dream catchers.” -Katie Burbank, Community Director, Yelp

“We used a ‘follow-the-sun’ model to organize a 24-hour conference, starting in India Standard Time and ending in San Francisco.” Arun Teja Godavarhi, Community Manager

You lined up some amazing guest speakers.

Programming is key for any event. But for virtual events, it’s even more important to hold your guests’ attention. Here’s some of the amazing speakers you landed this year:

“We hosted an amazing virtual event in partnership with Acorio that featured Trevor Noah. He’s an incredible speaker who really knows how to engage and captivate an audience. Great speakers and content are a must to differentiate your virtual events in such a heavily saturated space!” -Josh King, Head of Business Development, emc3

“We did an event and recorded JANE GOODALL! I got to be on the call, she is a wonderful human being.” -Pat Swan, Director of Client Relations, MVS Event Production Service

And you made some once-in-a-lifetime connections along the way. 

Some of you shared the unexpected surprises that made your virtual events special in 2020.

“Ended up with the two rock drummers out of all attendees in a breakout room at a CMX Connect Ipswich virtual event. I’m a bass player, and we were supposed to talk about favorite Christmas decorations. Guess what we talked about!” -Ilker Akansel Founder, Findmea.dev

“I hosted a bris where my best friend’s baby was circumcised in the living room. No graphic content was included but the ceremony was incredible. Who knew you could attend such an intimate event virtually!” -Michael Skillern, General Manager, Fusion Workplaces

For more resources on community building and virtual events, subscribe to the CMX Weekly.

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