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CMX Global Connect – Event Recap

CMX Global Connect – A Virtual Conference for Community Professionals

Three weeks have flown past since the first ever 100% virtual CMX Global Connect!

Back on April 28 2020, CMX Global Connect was a one-day virtual conference that brought together a truly global community, online. I joined over 2000 other passionate community professionals for 6 hours of sharing, learning, and connecting.

I concur with Martina Pocchiari in her great write-up “Community in a Time of Crisis: Thoughts from CMX Global Connect”. We’re seeing online communities stepping up to meet a need, brought about by the lack of physical interaction.

“I would have never thought that I would witness a world in which online communities were called to redefine the meaning and significance of human connection.”

From a business development perspective, community makes sense too. As Sam Edgar @ Bevy Labs wrote to me in his post-event follow-up:

“virtual community events can also open doors that weren’t open when you were confined to physical space. Community in perpetuity is the critical piece to making this work…. Community in perpetuity doesn’t just happen. You need an infrastructure that supports, facilitates, and scales it.”

CMX Global Connect by the numbers

From the CMX team in their excellent show and tell:

  • We put CMX Global together in about five weeks.
  • We had almost 2,879 RSVPs, and 2,100 people attended – a 79% turnout rate
  • There were 84 countries represented in the audience
  • We had 29 speakers, on 4 stages.
  • We had 27 volunteers help with emceeing, stage managing, IT help, chat moderation, and more!

CMX Global Connect was born out of the Covid-19 crisis. Recognising that “the community industry is constantly changing, and during the months of Covid-19, many community professionals pivoted their *entire* programs.”

The organisers, Beth and Ann-Marie @ CMX Hub put this on in only 5 weeks!

Their aim was to “educate and connect our community during this time, and provide content with the particular focus on how to build community virtually and online”.

Encouraging all community industry professionals to attend “because even during this time, we can build, grow and connect with our communities and each other.”

This virtual event took inspiration from large conference events, with multiple stages, parallel presentations, facilitated discussions, and networking opportunities. Even a version of an expo hall for real time platform demonstrations from sponsors.

From the off, this really felt like an event.

Yes it was online, but there was a vibe. You felt that you were participating in something, not just watching yet another webinar. And so many others I’ve seen comment concur. This was a wonderfully diverse, global community event.

Beth and Ann-Marie certainly didn’t fall short of their ambition to make CMX Global Connect unlike any virtual community conference I’ve ever attended!

CMX Global Connect session notes

I didn’t take copious notes, and didn’t drop into all the sessions. Martina’s post covers a few more.

Opening Remarks

David Spinks – Co-Founder @ CMX Hub

David kicked us off with a great intro, setting the scene and providing some context. Good common-sense advice first up – close out tabs, focus, get comfy, prepare food & water – make space, and move. But all the more relevant for a long virtual event!

David covered some of the highlights from the 2020 Community Industry Trends Report. Community initiatives are maturing and scaling. They are combining online and in-person elements, and focusing on customer retention. And yes, quantitative measurement continues to be a struggle. Organisations able to prove the value of community are continuing to increase investment.

Predictably we met COVID head-on, with the theme of the event looking at community in times of crisis

To build an audience, help people.

To build a community, help people help each other!

The Remote Bill of Rights

Joe Martin – GM, VP of Marketing @ CloudApp

Joe presented the ten amendments constituting his Remote Worker Bill of Rights. A poignant and humorous look at working remotely. Even a timely reminder of some self-care for those of us remote work veterans – when did I last take a shower!? 🤔

I loved this summary from Wayne Sutton on Twitter:

Reminder humans, we’re complex.

Video on, it’s ok.

Video off, it’s ok.

Some like cold coffee, it’s ok.

Some like hot coffee, it’s ok.

Some are introverts, it’s ok.

Some are extroverts, it’s ok.

Some are both, it’s ok.

Empathy = ♥️

Supporting our Community During this Unprecedented Time

Sarah Franklin – EVP & GM, Platform, Trailhead and AppExchange @ Salesforce

Sarah took us through how Salesforce is adapting to the times. Leveraging the immense scale of their Trailhead community to enable and support. 

Sarah had the luxury of having Christie Fidura facilitating in real-time via the chat. A nice touch, I thought made the session the more engaging.

We were also treated to a guest appearance from Sarah’s daughter! It was lovely to see handled so naturally. Kudos Sarah, and to your daughter!

Let’s stop apologising for our families, they are part of our lives – even while we are working!

The future of the Industry: How one community changed a company forever.

Erica Kuhl – CEO & Founder @ Erica Kuhl Consulting

Credit: Story Time

Erica tried something different, telling her story, by actually reading a book!

“The Road to Chief #Community Officer” is a memorable collection of experiences, mistakes, and learnings, documenting the Salesforce community journey.

Erica’s top delivery – even via web meeting! – provided a creative, inspiring, and educational story time: A reminder of the power in storytelling.

Erica has explained more of the story behind the story in her own words here: Story Time.

Fireside chat with Tina Roth Eisenberg

Tina Roth Eisenberg – Founder and CEO @ CreativeMornings and Tattly

Moderator: Derek Andersen

This conversation had me in rapt attention. Tina’s insights delivered with humility and conviction.

Tina shared her thoughts on how the current crisis is affecting us. Exploring the role community can play in supporting us when we lack physical interactions.

“People want community, people want connection, and we will figure it out how we’ll give it to them digitally”

“It’s not a replacement for what we’ve lost, but it’s a different thing that we can cherish and relish.”

Tina shared some great insights on how CreativeMornings, the world’s largest face-to-face creative community, has had to pivot entirely to virtual experiences during the coronacrisis.

“My Fridays are now a trip around the world”

Focus on the opportunities, not just on what we have lost. It’s not a replacement but we can still cherish it.

We need to align our hearts….

“What is the purpose of our event…for people to feel like they are not alone during this time”

Mindful Stretching with Adriana Medico

Adriana Medico – Yoga Instructor

Adriana introduced us to some moves and stretches that we can take and incorporate into our daily WFH routines.

The truth is we should do more of this even when in the office!

Taking a break, getting out of the chair, and incorporating some movement, all hugely beneficial to our wellbeing.

Working remotely I love being able to adapt my location and workspace to my circumstances and task at hand. Switching between my standing desk, sitting, or stretching my legs whilst I take a call.

“When we put intention on the things where we are putting our attention, you start to see change.”

Fireside chat with Marsha Druker

Marsha Druker – Founder & Host @ Fuckup Nights Toronto & Create Community Podcast

Moderator: Miles Cutler

As someone who has done a couple of “Fuckup Nights” sessions, I was looking forward to this chat. I found them incredibly intimidating, even in small intimate groups in familiar surroundings. Hearing Marsha being honest and humble, sharing her personal experiences, demonstrated why she has been able to build community around Fuckup Nights Toronto and her podcast.

Marsha wondered whether her #community #fuckupnights was relevant in this time. whether people wanted to talk about their past fuckups, or were they overwhelmed dealing with current fuckups! Awesome session on the transition to a virtual

Online Events Planner: Your Ultimate Checklist to Launching Online Events

Shana Sumers – Head of Community @ HER App

“Webinars are NOT a virtual event”

I found Shana’s energy so compelling. Sharing insights and guidelines on how @HerSocialApp pivoted to virtual events. Her talk was packed with useful and actionable insights for community teams!

Ask your community what they want in an online event. Ask what their questions are beforehand. Think about giving away freebie downloads and don’t use the term webinar, because it’s not engaging. – Lauren Haggerty

Fireside chat with Anil Dash

Anil Dash – CEO @ Glitch

Moderator: David Spinks

Awesome chat, Anil making some of us feel old reminiscing!

I particularly warmed to Anil taking on the topic of vulnerability, and linking community and technology to connect.

“We need more technology built by community, not imposed on community”

On a very personal level, Anil talked about what it meant to him to be a New Yorker, his feelings of belonging to and staying in NYC.

“Show humility to others, and they’ll reciprocate. It’s natural, human to do so”

Icebreaker networking session

I was out of juice by then – late at night – looong day online following Intranet Reloaded, but decided to give it a go.

The system paired you with another participant speed-dating style.

Unfortunately my pairing and I hit video connection issues, which prevented us from getting the most out of this session.

The after party!

DJ Airsun @ErssonBartle played a set, on-camera, visual effects, shades and sparkling jacket included!

And I was literally laughing out loud as Shane McKnight, founder of Top Hat Provisions and Cocktail Curator at Coachella & Outside Lands, took us through mixing some flavours. Whilst side-kick Ann-Marie stole the show with her improvisation and spontaneity!

The Platform

CMX Global Connect ran on a platform that was new for me – hopin.to.

The onboarding was simple but required a unique link. A slightly different flow if you were expecting a username and password combo.

User Experience

Once in, the UX is simple, clean, easy. Just what you want to let the event contents take center stage.

Overall the platform has all you need to run rich, engaging virtual events at scale. The concept of a center stage, complete with an indicator of when a session is live, brings an air of a physical event.

The flow between the “reception” area, the agenda, and the current sessions wasn’t the best. Folks quickly suggested opening the agenda in a second tab in order to manage. Having the agenda show the currently running sessions more clearly, would have helped avoid confusion here.

Multiple Sessions

The concept of running multiple parallel sessions again contributed to the feeling of a conference event. It gave attendees the benefit of being able to drop in and out without risking interrupting the room!

It took me a while to work things out, but these breakout sessions allowed the attendees to join on video. This was great from a participation perspective. I found it really helped create an intimate audience feel. It did detract somewhat from the presenter though, working better in smaller groups or more interactive sessions. I found myself watching rather than inflicting my video on everyone!

Chat

Hopin provides a simple chat interface alongside the sessions. Unfortunately this was way too fast to be engaging on the main stage. Though not surprising given the energy and number of participants!

Networking

The networking feature was awesome but scary!

There was little to indicate how it worked, so it required a leap into the unknown a little. The browser requesting access to the mic and camera before you knew what to expect was intimidating.

Once over that, it paired you up with another available attendee, speed-dating style! You got the chance to chat for a few minutes, connect if you wish, and on to the next.

A shout-out here to Adrian Speyer, Head of Community @ Vanilla Forums, who I had the pleasure of meeting as my first connection.

Photo mosaic

During the event we were encouraged to share a selfie via social media of us enjoying the event, which would then form part of the virtual mosaic photobooth. I enjoyed seeing the photos coming in via twitter in real time, though unfortunately wasn’t set up to share mine 🙁

As an aside, following #cmxglobalconnect on Twitter made it feel more like a physical conference for me. Having that public interactive backchannel, which was richer than the chat feature.

The EmmCee!

This recap couldn’t go without calling out Beth’s superb job at hosting the whole thing.

Queue some more of that applause! 👏 👏

It was super! Adding that touch of energy and enthusiasm that is so hard to get across in online events. Beth moved us between sessions, allowing for nice short breaks between. Perfect to squeeze in a bio break, a quick pitstop for hydration, or just check in on family.

Session recordings

As Beth and Ann-Marie explained on the excellent follow-up AMA session held a week or so after the event, the publication of the videos of the sessions has taken longer than hoped.

“The way our platform recorded the sessions requires a lot more post-production and editing time than we anticipated so we appreciate your patience while we get the videos ready for you.”

Something to look forward to!

Lessons Learned

As if putting the event on wasn’t enough by itself! Accompanying the follow-up AMA, Ann-Marie and Beth have created a fabulous resource in their post “Everything We Learned from Running a 2,800 Person Virtual Conference”. This should be a required read for anyone looking to run an online event.

Resources & Links

Here I’ve pulled together a list of all the content, articles and session material I managed to collect as I wrote this post.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything and I’ll update this list, thanks!

Talk links

Other resources


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