Why and How We Hosted CouchCon, Our Virtual Conference
From choosing speakers to using tools to get the job done, learn what went into CouchCon (and why we did it).
August 20, 2018
Last week, we hosted our first-ever virtual conference, CouchCon. During this online event, we brought together 13 marketing experts from companies like LinkedIn, Intercom, Buffer, and more. They all graced the virtual stage and shared their experiences with using video to solve common marketing challenges.
As we look back on August 14, we thought it might be interesting to share a little bit about why we decided to host a virtual conference, how we actually executed on it, and what results we were able to achieve. So, if you’re considering putting on a virtual conference at your business, or if you’re just interested in learning more about what went on behind-the-scenes at CouchCon, then this post is for you!
Why we hosted a virtual conference
As many of you know, last year we decided to end WistiaFest, our annual “in-person” conference. One of the main reasons we called it quits, was because it put such a heavy strain on our marketing and creative resources, which meant other projects weren’t able to get off the ground. So, with WistiaFest behind us and some resources freed up, we held a brainstorm as a team where we tried to come up with some unique marketing ideas for 2018.
During our brainstorm, we thought a lot about our current audience of marketers and how we could still help them do more with video, despite losing that in-person opportunity at WistiaFest. Just because we weren’t going to continue on with our in-person conference, didn’t mean we wanted the flow of knowledge to stop. We knew these folks were starting to use video more strategically, and we wanted to give them more content that would help them get the most of the videos they create. And that’s where the idea for a virtual conference was born!
“Just because we weren’t going to continue on with our in-person conference, didn’t mean we wanted the flow of knowledge to stop.”
We decided that CouchCon would be a completely free, online event that focused on solving marketing problems with video. The concept made perfect sense — here at Wistia, we’re all about sharing our wins, losses, and missteps with our audience so that everyone can learn and grow into better marketers. But, the reality is, traveling far and wide to attend a conference can sometimes end up feeling like a bigger burden than it’s worth. Between hotels, tight budgets, time away from family and work, and more, attending an in-person conference takes a significant amount of heavy lifting up front.
That’s why we wanted to put the focus on the content at CouchCon. We wanted our audience to be able to watch whatever session they wanted, from wherever they were in the world, whenever they wanted to! Our goal was for all our viewers to walk away with a jam-packed list of marketing to-dos so they could really grab their video strategy by the horns.
How we chose our speakers
For our speaker lineup, we wanted to make sure that folks came from companies that were similar to ours so that our customers would really be able to learn from them. That meant we were looking for small to medium sized, growth-seeking companies that weren’t afraid to take risks. We wanted to feature companies that were pushing the boundaries with their marketing efforts and using video in new and interesting ways. So, we started reaching out to folks who were running really unique campaigns that inspired us to do better marketing ourselves.
One other important factor we considered when it came to choosing speakers? Demographics. We wanted to be super intentional with the voices we were amplifying at CouchCon. That’s why we worked to find speakers from different backgrounds by asking around on social media and reaching out to other folks in our networks. As the project manager for CouchCon, I decided to put a call out to women specifically who were either already in the speaker circuit or who were interested in doing more public speaking.
We were thrilled to end up with 13 amazing speakers for CouchCon, including two of Wistia’s own — Chris Savage, our CEO and cofounder, and Customer Success Strategist, Keara Ziegerer.
Other speakers included:
- Phil Han, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn, who spoke about video for B2B marketers, and the best practices that LinkedIn has seen in using video for social media marketing.
- Eric Peters, Growth Marketer at HubSpot Academy, who spoke about using video for education, and how HubSpot Academy became a giant in the video education space.
- Jennifer Pepper, Marketing Manager at Unbounce, who spoke about using video on landing pages to increase conversion rates.
- Brian Peters, Digital Marketing Strategist at Buffer, who gave us a peek into Buffer’s explosion in video views in just one year.
- William Holden and Phil Byrne at Intercom, who spoke about how their sales and marketing teams use video in email as well as in-app to drive conversions.
- Sherri Powers, Director of Marketing at TechSmith, who spoke about nurturing leads with video, and how video can move leads through the funnel.
- Claire Suellentrop, Co-founder of Forget The Funnel, who spoke about her process building a video-focused company from the ground up.
- Gabriel Marguglio, CEO of Nextiny, who spoke about how video can drive agency success.
- Cara Hogan, Content Strategist at Zaius, who spoke about using video as a promotion tactic for her series, The Empowered Marketer.
This lineup covered everything from conversion optimization and lead nurturing, to video education and social media strategy, leaving all of our CouchCon attendees with actionable, tactical advice for using video in their marketing efforts.
How we planned the logistics
Putting on a conference is no easy task, and as it turns out, hosting a virtual conference can feel just as hard at times! Knowing that there would be a ton of moving pieces involved, we decided early on when planning this event that we wanted to streamline the process wherever we could. Here are a few areas where we decided to keep it simple!
We recorded the speaker sessions ahead of time
While it would’ve been pretty amazing to have all of our sessions go live at certain times throughout the day, we decided to have folks record their sessions ahead of time in order to mitigate any technical difficulties day of. Live sessions put a lot of pressure on speakers to be perfect, and since this was our first time hosting a virtual conference, we wanted to avoid some of the risks that often come with that. Plus, releasing all of our content at the same time meant that viewers could watch whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.
“Plus, releasing all of our content at the same time meant that viewers could watch whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.”
Recording the speaker sessions ahead of time meant we could keep the focus on delivering amazing, actionable content. We did, however, decide to go live for Chris Savage’s keynote since we knew we’d be able to control the variables a bit more.
We asked all of our speakers to use Soapbox, our free webcam and screen-recording tool, when recording their sessions. This gave us a consistent feel across sessions — instead of having 13 different types of recordings, asking folks to use Soapbox allowed us to have a similar type of presentation across the board. Using Soapbox also gave speakers the opportunity to create a personal experience for attendees. Since our speakers weren’t physically at a location where they could interact with attendees, having their faces front and center within the content was the next best thing. Our speakers were right there with you the whole time, which made the content feel more like a behind-the-scenes mentorship session than a fancy conference talk.
On August 14, the day CouchCon went live, all of our pages were already built with the speaker recordings embedded — all we had to do was hit “deploy”! If you’re planning on hosting a virtual conference, we’d recommend considering a pre-recorded option. This could save you a ton of headaches in the long-run, and also allows attendees to pick and choose what sessions they wanted to watch based on what’s most relevant to them.
We provided the design to stay on-brand
We gave all of our speakers a Keynote file with guidelines for how the slides could look and what colors they may want to use. This wasn’t mandatory, of course, but it helped speakers get some of the design aspects out of the way so they could focus on the content. Plus, this meant they wouldn’t have to rely on their internal design resources to get their session recorded.
One other hot-tip? Provide your speakers with custom images for them to use and promote on social media. We shared images with pre-populated headshots, session titles, and Twitter handles so sharing on social would be a breeze. This got our speakers excited for the event and also empowered them to share the fact that they were speaking at CouchCon right away with their networks. We also asked each speaker to share their images from their company’s social media pages, knowing that some speakers might not be able to. At the end of the day, the goal was to just get the word out there as much as we could, so whatever folks were able to do was great by us!
Here’s an example of the custom images we created for our speakers!
We used tools to get the job done
For our one live session, we used a tool called CrowdCast to broadcast the stream. Having only one live keynote allowed us to keep that coveted conference-feel and also create urgency around the date.
“Having only one live keynote allowed us to keep that coveted conference-feel and also create urgency around the date.”
With CrowdCast, we were able to embed the live stream and chat right on our landing page, so we didn’t have to direct viewers elsewhere. This also meant that attendees could easily engage with one another during the session and ask questions to Chris directly.
We looked into other software like Livestream, which embedded a Facebook Live on the page, but we ultimately decided against it. Having Chris' keynote on Facebook Live took away from one of the registration benefits for our attendees, which made it feel less exclusive. After all, part of the benefit of a conference is the feeling that you’re learning something others around you don’t already know. So, when planning your next virtual conference, keep in mind what tools you may want to use and be sure to test them out ahead of time!
So, how did it go?
We’re glad you asked! As far as we’re concerned, CouchCon was a big success. During Chris' live session, we had nearly 1,700 attendees and a ton of engagement throughout the talk. Hundreds of conversations took place during the one-hour live event, and folks from all over the world — Mexico, Italy, France, Jamaica, and India, to name a few — tuned in to participate!
Another positive success indicator was all the love we saw on social media. We heard a ton from the attendees themselves and learned more about what they really liked and found valuable from CouchCon!
Here are some tweets we saw from folks who were super excited about CouchCon:
And here are some others from attendees who loved what they learned:
While CouchCon was a virtual event, a bunch of folks at Wistia got together to watch Chris' live session on the bleachers at our office. Other attendees also shouted-out the fact that their whole team got together to watch the CouchCon sessions, which was truly amazing to see!
All in all, we had a blast putting on our first-ever virtual conference. It was a lot of work, but totally worth it based on all of the positivity we’ve been seeing and hearing out there on the web. We hope that all of our attendees feel better equipped to go forth and do some aspirational marketing with video after attending!