How a Successful Live Chat Can Make a Virtual Event Even More Successful

Brandweek 2020 attendees weighed in on the community-building

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Bonds were formed and insights were gleaned in Brandweek's chatrooms. Adweek, Getty Images
Headshot of Mónica Marie Zorrilla

Adweek’s keystone annual summit was supposed to be a 4-day, in-person experience at the Intercontinental Miami, a luxurious downtown waterfront venue with an unbeatable view of the ocean and the city’s bustling port. Due to the pandemic, however, Brandweek 2020 was reimagined as a fully virtual event that did not scrap the charm—nor the possibility of connection—from the original plan.

Instead, more than 6,000 attendees gathered from the comfort of their homes on Sept. 14 to 18 and tuned into riveting talks from foremost brand masters and figures of interest such as Ryan Reynolds, Dwyane Wade, Burger King CMO Fernando Machado, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and e.l.f. Beauty CMO Kory Marchisotto. And, while much of the interesting chatter was taking place on the main stage, the conference’s live chat feature became a hotbed of purposeful dialogue and community-building. Messaging during Masterclass workshops and panels became opportunities for engagement.

Adweek spoke with multiple Brandweek attendees who were active in the chatrooms about how conversation can enhance digital events.

Facilitates peer-to-peer networking

As an Adweek Executive Mentee and Walgreens Boots Alliance CMO, global brands Americas, Anisha Raghavan felt that she was attending a conference with hundreds of fellow mentees as they all shouted-out to each other during sessions: “The community-building aspect born out of the chats was great.”

Charlene Coughlin, managing director at Ohio-based agency TWIST Creative, found it interesting to see how live chat exposed similarities in questions, experiences and thoughts when it came to a speaker’s discussion points, generating a sort of intimacy that cannot be spawned from in-person event dynamics. “There’s a different level of engagement that’s possible during the virtual conference that may not happen during an in-person event. It’s much more real-time, compared to at an in-person event where you may only interact during breaks, on Twitter or during happy hours,” she said.

2020 was Rey Mendoza’s first Brandweek experience. He said, “I’ve been to other in-person events like SXSW, but I strongly believe we shouldn’t lose the virtual engagement aspect of the chatroom.” Mendoza found that live chat allowed people to engage while listening to a panel, which encouraged more organic dialogue that is often not possible in-person. “Imagine everyone yelling their comments across the room to each other during a panel?” Mendoza mused. He said making introductions on LinkedIn became easier after conversing through the chatting functionality.

Generates real-time audience feedback

“Between David’s conversation with Ryan Reynolds and Triller‘s ‘panda’ appearance,” Atif Kazmi, founder of Por Homme and co-founder of networkgray told Adweek, “there was just a constant flow of chatter, both positive and negative.” But, Kazmi added, that’s the beauty of a chatroom, which engenders a wide breadth of emotion and feedback.

Also, people’s inhibitions when sharing thoughts were lessened by the chat space. “It was fascinating seeing real-time audience feedback via chat to content I’d normally watch in an auditorium. It’s like being able to read the minds of 5,000 peers,” Raghavan said.

However, because virtual events can be hit or miss, Kazmi says that the success all comes down to community and how feedback is being considered through real-time discussions and how these conversations extend beyond the event. “While Brandweek has been amazing, I think the jury is still out on whether this is the blueprint everyone should follow,” Kazmi continued. “Your community and speakers have to be so aligned that you can keep their attention for this many hours. A part of me hopes it stays because it’s been one of the only times I’ve been able to feed off the energy of a room in months.”


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@monicroqueta monica.zorrilla@adweek.com Mónica is a breaking news reporter at Adweek.
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