Blog > November 2020 > Q&A with Jeff Cherrington: How to Create a Virtual Culture and Conference

Q&A with Jeff Cherrington: How to Create a Virtual Culture and Conference

EVOLVE20 was more than an incredible conference – it was a successful foray into the virtual future. Of course, rapid digital transformation and engaging a remote workforce/audience are nothing new to ASG. We help our customers achieve both regularly. What made EVOLVE20 so impactful was that it proved the power of building a virtual culture, which is equally important for digital transformation as the technologies and solutions supporting it.


To expand on the importance of cultivating a virtual culture, I spoke with Jeff Cherrington, VP of Product Management, Systems, at ASG.

Q: How did ASG prepare for its first virtual conference?

JC: In 2020, we’ve all had multiple opportunities to engage with conferences that have been virtualized. We’ve also seen many different strategies applied as companies quickly shifted from in-person to virtual. Some were more successful than others.

Leading up to EVOLVE20, ASG saw what worked and what didn’t. We were able to gather some best practices and put on a world-class event. I commend the ASG executive team and marketing leadership for their decision-making, not the least of which was ensuring we had a very engaging MC, Paul Muller. We live in a world of short-attention-span theater, so if we don’t grab the audience’s attention at the very beginning, we can’t expect to have it at the end.

Q: Where did EVOLVE20 really shine?

JC: A successful event caters to a global audience. In EVOLVE20’s Systems track, ASG invited a customer to present in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking community. This was a critical move, because a virtual conference removes the in-person aspects of communication, like body language, that make it easy for attendees to understand when English isn’t their first language. Vendors must ensure they are speaking to their customers in the language they are most comfortable using.

The Systems track also brought in provocative and captivating outside speakers. I had the pleasure of presenting with Dr. Cameron Seay, who is a thought leader around the vitality of the mainframe in the enterprise. We discussed how emerging IT pros finishing their undergrad have an interest in the mainframe.

Finally, ASG excelled because we put together a customer-first, partner-first agenda. We featured them telling their stories, rather than our product marketing team doing pitches and sharing updates. Customers are far more interested in what their peers have to say, so we opened that conversation for them.

Q: How do you create an exciting virtual culture, for conferences and the remote workforce in general?

JC: We’ve come a long way in the last 20 years with video conferencing. People no longer want the over-rehearsed, stagey presentation style. It needs to be personal and relaxed. There are a number of ways to accomplish that, such as using different technologies, giving the illusion of eye contact via the camera and making the session feel like a conversation.

Companies should also consider gamification. Since we’re all on Zoom for work constantly, consuming so much content through analog video fatigues attention over time. At EVOLVE20, we included EVO, ASG’s mascot dog, as an Easter egg in each session. I’ve also jazzed up several roundtables by using PowerPoint animation, live polling and small rebuses. For those not familiar, a rebus is a puzzle of small pictures that make up a sentence (anyone remember the Concentration game show?).

The bottom line is that people attend virtual events because they want to engage. Vendors need to take advantage of that willingness and extend every opportunity for engagement. Don’t let attendees – or employees or customers – become passive consumers looking at a screen. Always strive for ways to create interaction.

Q: Why might virtual conferences be here to stay?

JC: Virtual conferences offer convenience. Attendees don’t have to deal with discomfort or the annoyance of travel (even those of us accustomed to it). Equally, when a virtual conference features real-time and recorded sessions, attendees in any time zone can participate, obtain the content they want and consume it easily.

On-demand content caters to the challenges we’re all facing as we work remotely. No matter what distractions attendees have at home, there is a big advantage to stopping a presentation and then resuming it when possible. A live conference can’t offer that.

EVOLVE20 attendees can log in to view the recorded sessions here. If you’re interested in ASG’s other virtual events, check out our upcoming webinars, roundtables and more here.

Posted: 11/4/2020 8:00:00 AM by Jessica Hohn-Cabana - VP, Marketing
Filed under :Culture, EVOLVE20, Systems, Virtual