How we returned to in-person SAP events - with a hybrid event pivot

Profile picture for user geoff.scott By Geoff Scott December 15, 2021
Summary:
After ASUG's first in-person event since the start of the pandemic, CEO Geoff Scott reflects on the experiences and advice of customers and attendees who came together to reconnect - what did they get out of it?

Conference in-person event coffee break © Cozendo - Pixabay
(© Cozendo - Pixabay)

In October 2021, ASUG SAP for Utilities event returned to in-person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

The question on our minds was – would attendees find value in this on-the-round format again? Would the tradeoffs of travel in the current environment be worth it? We were about to find out.

We took many precautions to keep our attendees as safe as possible during the in-person event. All attendees were either vaccinated or took a COVID-19 test before coming to the event.

Masks were required to be worn indoors, and hall monitors reminded attendees to wear their masks. ASUG provided COVID-19 tests and tested ASUG employees at the start of each day. Since the event was held in San Diego at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, we had the ability to hold the post-event reception outside, poolside. As an SAP employee who attended the event said, “Venue and logistics were great, but the size and attendance and content was fantastic, especially with covid.”

SAP for Utilities was a two-day event, featuring sessions such as: creating and delivering an omnichannel experience, how to innovate asset management with Internet of Things, and examples from organizations on ways to securely and efficiently migrate to the cloud. Darin Olien, an event keynote speaker, presented on running on alternative and renewable sources. All show content was also made available on-demand to attendees and registrants who may have missed something.

The event was our first hybrid experience, with 671 in-person attendees and another 92 that participated virtually. We have decided to continue offering virtual content as we return to in-person events by offering hybrid experiences. It gives SAP customers that may not typically be able to travel to in-person conferences the opportunity to join the experience. To register for the virtual only experience, the cost was only about half the cost as registration to attend the full hybrid experience, and virtual attendees have the opportunity to live stream the on-site content and to access on-demand content from the event.

SAP customers came back together to share stories, role changes, new offerings and initiatives. One attendee shared that, “The in-person connections were valuable in understanding where other companies are in their journeys with SAP. It also allowed connections with utilities to share experiences.

As a result of attending SAP for Utilities, 88% of our post-event survey respondents said they can now better solve an existing problem, or prepare for an upcoming project.  We all know how difficult it has been to connect in the virtual event world, it’s the in-person connections that have been missed most. Event attendees networked with one-another; I also had a chance to connect with several members and partners one-on-one throughout the event.

I sought to understand how different organizations are using SAP and where opportunities exist to make that experience even better. From these conversations, we were able to immediately connect organizations to share strategies and ideas.

The hybrid event offering also affords those unable to travel the ability to participate in ASUG’s on-the-ground events, where historically content was only available to those who attended onsite. David Wascom, ASUG SVP Executive Programs, moderated the in-person happenings for our virtual attendees. David shared that, “The new normal for in-person events is that some people will not be able to attend in person. By providing meaningful virtual content and experiences as part of an event like SAP for Utilities, it allows us to offer a “near in-person” experience to our members that would otherwise be unable to participate.”

ASUG has a number of events coming up, addressing a range of topics for SAP professionals (further information can be found here). We are looking forward to applying the lessons from this show, but what we can say with certainty is that the value of in-person events remains compelling – and a substantial number of attendees are ready to back that up.