From live to virtual in 10 days

SAP NOW is one of the most important customer events in the leading software manufacturer’s annual calendar. This March, the event was switched at short notice from the premises of the CCB to virtual reality.

Around 3,500 registrations from partners and customers are generally received for the two-day SAP NOW conference. When the corona lockdown was announced, the company took the decision, fully in line with its business activity, not to cancel the major event but to switch it to virtual reality with the aid of the Congress Center Basel (CCB). "On the one hand, we had put together a truly excellent programme of first-class speakers for the two days and, on the other hand, we had received more registrations than ever before. That more or less obliged us not to simply cancel the event but to have something to offer our guests", says Dirk Scherble of SAP Switzerland in looking back. By going ahead with SAP NOW, the company has impressively shown its guests just how important they are for the company – and how enormously flexible, agile and up-to-date SAP is.

Impressive figures
Switching the conference from a live event to virtual reality in just ten days constituted a challenge. The CCB worked flexibly and collaboratively with us on achieving this. And we greatly appreciated that – genuine partnership!”, says Dirk Scherble. In addition, the CCB was shown how the handling, the infrastructure and the technology could be further optimised. In contrast to already established virtual formats like webinars, a virtual conference is much more multi-layered and complex. At SAP NOW, up to six sessions were produced live at the same time, in three languages. Around 90 percent of the planned lectures were recorded live on site. A wide range of formats was offered, such as digital experience, virtual live scenarios and showcases, virtual partner stands, including interaction with experts, and chats, etc. A live atmosphere was created with a DJ and moderators. "A virtual presentation ought to be even more exciting and crisp than one held in front of an audience, since the audience’s reactions are missing. It’s best to imagine yourself in the role of the virtual guest and consider what would stop you from clicking out of the presentation”, says Dirk Scherble in giving tips on how to be successful. A presentation should be both short and concise, inspiring and strongly presented.

Live communication and interaction
Virtual options or not – personal meetings and networking in day-to-day business life cannot be replaced 1:1 with video conferences, chats or streaming. Live communication and interaction are also important for SAP. “But I believe that there will be more hybrid models in future – in other words, an event experience that unites both worlds”, says Dirk Scherble. Live presentations can be recorded during an event, for instance, and then made available in different languages afterwards. Combining and connecting live and personal events is playing an increasingly important role for the CCB team too. The dimensions of the CCB’s virtual offer extend from the organisation of readily manageable video meetings via Zoom through to a fully equipped studio for professional video products in Basel or other international locations.