How to turn a conference into a webinar in 5 days

Deloitte Digital Agenda 2020

Due to the growing concern about the coronavirus, Deloitte turned our Nordic flagship conference into a free livestream conference in less than five days.

In times of increasing uncertainty, creative solutions could accelerate real, sustainable transformation. 

Daniel Sunde-Hansen, Deloitte Center for the Edge Coordinator Nordics


Digital transformation in times of exponential uncertainty

Due to the growing concern about the coronavirus, Deloitte turned our Nordic flagship conference into a free livestream conference in less than five days.

The speakers were supposed to share their perspectives on innovation and digital transformation in front of a thousand guests. They ended up speaking in front of ten Deloitte employees. However, the speakers gave passionate performance for the over thousand people that participated online. I was one of them, watching the event from home, like the many others advised to not come to the office.

A bizarre situation

Last year’s Digital Agenda conference was an amazing experience. I was looking forward to attending this year, for a refill of inspiration and meet with interesting people during the tasty lunch break. Perhaps I could get the chance to talk with some of the speakers, such as Disney's former Head of Innovation and Creativity, Duncan Wardle.

Knowing the team that organizes Digital Agenda, I knew that Jonas Juul Mortensen and his team members had been working hard for eight months to outperform themselves. As the concerns over the COVID-19 virus started growing, I shared the anxiety of Jonas and his team. When it became clear that cancelling the event was the right thing to do, the team also changed the concept from a physical event to a live streaming event.


Fortunately, several of our keynote speakers joined the idea and lined up in an empty congress hall, where they delivered their talks in front of rolling cameras and empty chairs. A bizarre situation, but I am proud of the end result and the fantastic support we got from participants, alliance partners and colleagues.

Jonas Juul Mortensen, CMO, Deloitte Denmark

Linda Liukas on stage in front of 1000 empty chairs at Digital Agenda. Photo: Jonas Juul Mortensen

The team reached out to an expert in streaming video, Martin Elsborg. He is the CEO of Livehouse, who sprang to their feet to help capture and stream the onstage talks. Together, they made a virtual experience, bringing the spirit of the event to the next level in the process.


Beginning of a wider change?

I actually did end up having a great conversation with Duncan Wardle. Instead of approaching him at a crowded venue, I connected with him on LinkedIn. Not only did Duncan have a great experience speaking at the event, he states that this could be beginning of a wider change from traditional to digital conferences.


This may be the tipping point for the industry to consider a much broader application of online conferences. 

Duncan Wardle, former Head of Innovation and Creativity for Disney


If more conferences go online, this would not only reduce carbon emissions, but also open up access to the many people who cannot afford to attend the conference in person, Duncan points out.

He adds that digital conferences would make it possible to use AI to simultaneously translate talks into multiple languages. This would further democratize access to the insights shared to the majority of people in the world who would not understand the language spoken.

Transformation requires trust

Last years’ Digital Agenda featured an opening speech by John Hagel. The co-founder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge addressed how increasing performance pressure decreases the level of trust in society. More and more people seem to be competing to be successful on all levels, fearful of showing their vulnerabilities. Leaders feel obliged to be strong individuals that have all the answers, not asking for help as this could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

If we instead build trust-based relationships, overcome our fears and ask for help, we can unlock an enormous power to innovate. But in order for this to happen, we need a powerful call to action that inspires us to come together, show our vulnerabilities and ask each other for help to solve a common challenge.


A joint call for action

The COVID-19 pandemic shows that we are all connected, we are all vulnerable, and we can only solve this together. More than thinking outside the traditional boxes, we need to rethink the boxes.

When I was viewing Duncan’s keynote live, I wrote a short LinkedIn post about how we had made a traditional conference into a free online experience, as an example of creative responses to the turmoil we are in, and asking others to join in. I started getting messages from people wanting to exchange ideas that can help solve our common challenge. These are people from all over the world, including founders of health-tech and AI scale-ups, CEOs and thought leaders in the fields as diverse as mobility, health and learning.

People are connecting around this shared purpose, forming new and unlikely alliances. This can accelerate the radical innovation we need.

John Hagel, co-founder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, at Digital Agenda 2019.

Digital transformation of an analog conference

It is fitting that a conference aiming to inspire digital transformation ended up transforming from an analog to a digital experience over a few days. Through this action, Digital Agenda may end up inspiring change on an even deeper level than before.

Another speaker that shared his views in front of the rows of empty seats was Tom Goodwin. He commented: "It was a great event to be part of. Normally nobody laughs at my jokes and it was really great to have a good excuse for once."

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