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Mash-up in global tech events

The high-tech events industry struggled to embrace is new normal of virtual events this month, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



Just an hour before it kicked off, Mimecast began its two-day Virtual Cyber Resilience Summit, and sent a lesson to the industry giants on how to stage an event flawlessly – coincidentally with a South African at the helm.

Mimecast’s South African founder Peter Bauer pays an animated visit to Mars

Tuesday afternoon also saw the virtual staging of Acer’s annual Global Press Conference, usually held in New York but this year beamed from the company’s headquarters in Taipei. While it ran smoothly, as one of the few hardware-focused events it highlighted the difficulty of providing the media with a hands-on experience in a virtual launch.

A comparatively small email management company, with a market capitalisation of less than $3-billion, Nasdaq-listed Mimecast was founded by Peter Bauer and Neil Murray when they moved from Cape Town to the United Kingdom in 2003. Bauer remains CEO of the organisation.

Aside from seamless blending of live and recorded content, the Mimecast event featured Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in a keynote, and an entertaining set of human characters called Human Error and Sound Judgement providing both light relief and serious lessons throughout the event. The piece de resistance, however, was a slick series of animated shorts showing Bauer visiting his “socially distanced” team on Mars.

The SAS Institute also gave an exemplary account of itself at its Global Forum, according to industry journal Channel Daily News. “Whoever put the virtual environment together had obviously learned from some of the less than wonderful efforts that have been foisted on us over the last few months,”it reported.

SAS followed in the footsteps of Kaspersky Lab, which coincidentally hosted an event called SAS@Home, but standing for Security Analyst Summit, at the end of April. Its execution, too, had been exemplary, despite relying on live presentations from speakers scattered across the globe.

Examples of less impeccable efforts included last month’s Microsoft Build, which required delegates to jump through hoops in order to register and attend on Microsoft’s own Teams platform, via a dedicated event account rather than their own Teams log-ins. Earlier in the month, Microsoft had also disappointed attendees to its May Inside Xbox games unveiling. It had promised “gameplay, trailers and sneak peeks”, but only the gameplay was delivered.

Aaron Greenberg, a general manager of Xbox marketing, was gracious in his response to the criticism. He said on Twitter: “Had we not said anything & just shown May Inside Xbox show like we did last month, I suspect reactions might have been different. Clearly we set some wrong expectations & that’s on us. We appreciate all the feedback & can assure you we will take it all in & learn as a team.”

That probably sums up the attitude of most technology giants who have learned just how different the virtual world is from physical conference halls and rooms.

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