How Atlassian Summit Drew Nearly 13,000 Attendees to a Virtual Event

July 16, 2020

Jillian Carey

Jillian Carey, CMP, is senior event and content manager at Atlassian with 10 years of professional event and marketing experience. She's known for executing successful programs, being a dynamic team player and her work with cross-functional teams.

In the early days of March, the world began retreating to their houses and home offices in response to the growing threat of the coronavirus, changing — and testing — business as we knew it. Corporate event planners had to make the difficult decision to postpone, cancel or transition their in-person events into digital experiences. It wasn’t possible to gather, yet the guessing game of when we might resume life as we knew it was too difficult to understand.

Even now, after four months of stay-at-home or safer-at-home orders under our belts, the return of in-person events remains elusive. Yet one of the silver-lining outcomes of this crisis has been the opportunity to embrace creativity and ingenuity.

Necessity: The Mother of Invention

Atlassian’s experiential engagement and field marketing team was ramping up efforts as our marquee event, Summit 2020, was slated to begin on April 2, and it was looking like it would be our biggest ever. The team was riding a high after reaching our ambitious registration goals; we had secured headliner speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, created a jam-packed exposition hall with more than 160 sponsors and planned dozens of activations to delight our attendees. We never imagined 30 days before we were supposed to host Summit we’d be shifting to contingency planning and discussing canceling the event. Ultimately, the difficult decision was made to cancel Summit and instead pivot to a virtual event hosted over the same dates for our customers around the globe.

Once the tough decision to transform the event was made, an equally difficult task was set: how to engage with our customers, partners and sponsors within a new format. Having set a solid foundation with clearly defined goals with Summit, our team was able to guide the reset back to true north for its first-ever digital event, Remote Summit. The most notable shift in strategy could be seen through our content adjustments.

Content Is Still King

The curation of content that would transform what was originally nine content tracks, three keynotes, and more than 100 breakout sessions and demos required a keen eye for what audiences might be able to stomach digitally and what would keep them engaged with the brand.

Our team gravitated toward inspiring and relevant thought-leadership topics, go-to-market solution offerings and compelling customer stories. There was a fair amount of gut-checking of selected sessions with track leads to ensure they were on-point and could deliver.

Delivery was a key factor. We wanted to ensure quality recordings for our prerecorded and “simu-live” format, so we provided speakers with guidelines, asked them to lean into remote and record in their homes. With two keynotes and 33 breakout and demo sessions to record in three weeks, this seemed like a herculean task.

While it’s difficult to recreate the magic of in-person interaction, we knew our attendees would be wanting some activities outside of sessions. We came up with some fun ways to engage, like creating a scavenger hunt, hosting 30-minute topical live chats with Atlassian experts, and ensuring that chat options were available in both our virtual sponsor and product booths.

All told, we created a choose-your-own-adventure experience with more than 18 hours of content, chat, sponsor booths and more.

The Results Speak

Remote Summit had 29,762 registrations — 46 percent above our target — including 23,594 customers across 10,962 companies. We had 12,868 customers attend, contributing to 16,417 total unique attendees and a conversion rate of 55 percent.

We were blown away by these numbers. The success of this event will now lay the groundwork for even better future digital experiences as we continue to navigate this new normal.

As we’re constantly looking to improve for future events, we would like to employ an emcee to anchor the event to provide humor and entertainment, and generally shorten programming as we noticed that audience attention spans are shorter in a virtual environment. 

We still don’t know when we will be able to gather again, but one thing we do know is that there is still no substitute for human interaction. Even if innovative digital experiences may now always serve as a complement to in-person events, we believe humans will always seek to be together again. Soon enough.

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