A masterclass in virtual events: simplyIC live

A masterclass in virtual events: simplyIC live

Click here for simplyIC.live 19/20th May 2021

In May 2020 we opened our virtual experience event platform, simplyIC live, to over 550 internal communications practitioners. And what an event it was.

When the realities of the current COVID situation hit, we had a choice to make. Cancel, postpone or re-imagine our annual two-day event. It ended up not being too difficult. Given our focus on enabling effective communications through transformative technologies, it seemed only natural we would explore how we could still support our community whilst also showcasing what’s possible when you have great platforms at your disposal.

So 21st May 2020, we hosted the first ever fully virtual festival for internal communications. We re-imagined it and we are so delighted that we did.

Bringing our global community together through the power of technology

IC professionals joined us from Australia, US, Chile, Germany, UK and penty other locations from across the globe to hear the stories from fantastic line up of guest speakers who were interviewed live throughout the event.

Lisa Pantelli, head of content and community at simplycommunicate said: the biggest driver for us was, despite the circumstances, to provide an invaluable and accessible learning opportunity for our internal communications community. We heard from many new voices across 9 different sectors each with a slightly different challenge – but all of whom were united in wanting to do the best job possible. They demonstrated how they adapted their teams AND their businesses to meet the needs of their people.

In between times, there were breakout rooms to have conversations in, a treasure hunt to complete and sponsored rooms to visit where you could learn all about the technologies that have been so key in saving the day for many organisations during these very challenging months.

Hosted on our Zapnito platform, the tech was new to most of us, but we soon got the hang of it and found plenty of opportunities to collaborate, contribute and learn. Having a scrolling Q&A during the interviews was a great feature, making it easy to see where the critical points of interest were. The quick polls were well planned and gave immediate insight into where current thinking is on so many of the big issues of today.

There’s no doubt that some of us missed the fabulous quality catering that we have grown accustomed to at simply events (mini pastries, anyone!?) – there was even some Twitter action on that particular point – but this was well compensated for by the ability to join a first rate conference from the comfort of home, or the sunshine of a garden, wearing shorts!

The team at simply wanted to show what was possible with the digital tools available today; we wanted to put on a masterclass in creating large-scale virtual events. We were never going to please everyone, but for the vast majority, we seemed to have pulled it off. So, thank you. It was only possible with the help and collaboration of our partners and sponsors, our network members and everyone else who joined us for the event.

In our survey on the day, 30% of companies said that they were planning a digital town hall event in the near future so we were delighted to showcase the art of the possible. “We’re so proud of the partners that brought this event together”, said Jonathan Phillips, Head of Consulting at simplycommunicate, “and we now have something to share with our clients”.

More to come

Over the next few weeks we will bring you more detailed stories about the case studies we heard as well as answering many of the questions raised and sharing the results of the live polls that were conducted throughout the afternoon.

But before you go, I will just share a couple of my personal highlights from the conference…

Sir Martin Sorrell was first in the hot seat and didn’t disappoint. Not one to shy away from an issue, he didn’t tiptoe around the current economic crisis – yes, ‘Q2 is a blood bath; it’s brutal’ he stated. He certainly tells it how it is and ruffled a few IC feathers early on by suggesting that IC can create barriers to comms in organisations. Typically, he combined authority with a sense of mischief which created a flurry of discussion in the network lounge. On reflection, I reckon this was a good thing – nothing like a little controversy to catalyse the audience and generate debate!

Re-engage, Adapt, Thrive

And then there was Den Carter of BA. You can only imagine the challenges of his job at the moment.

Few organisations have had to test their crisis channels quite as rigorously as BA, that’s for sure.

Their decision to put their digital channels into ‘dark mode’ was another hotly debated issue. Den explained that they had turned their ESN (Yammer) off to be able to avoid it becoming a harvester of fake news. Was this a brave move? There were many virtual hugs being sent Den’s way during his interview! This is one of the stories we will bring to you in greater depth very soon.

Chad Rogerson of Nationwide and Anne-Marie Kiernan of Kellogg both shared strong stories around employee engagement and digital fitness. We will bring you more on how they have maximised their channels to build community, provide reassurance and keep leadership connected to the organisation – who knew there was a free auto prompter app you can use on your phone?

At Ocado, while the economic story is positive for them, the last few months have nevertheless been hectic. Jo Hobbs calmly shared how the crisis has helped make transformation happen at pace and made the clear case for the importance and place of the company values in a crisis.

For Marc Wright, Founder of simplycommunicate, this is the 12th major conference under the simply banner, but it was a first in many ways:

“This was the first time in my career that I have seen internal communications take centre stage in the hundreds of enterprises and organisations who were represented at our virtual conference. I have never come across such stories of resilience, creativity, sheer hard work and commitment to keeping colleagues informed and motivated.

“We are now the story and in the coming months of adaptation and ‘back to work’ we all have a part to play in discovering and articulating the new normal that everyone is talking about but few can describe.

“I hope simplyIC live went some way to shedding light on how we can re-engage, adapt and thrive when so much is mutable and somewhat scary.

“It was also the first time we used the simplycommunity as the base vehicle for staging our event. It has shown me the importance of treating everyone as community members rather than mere readers.”


Many of those who attended simplyIC Live are already members of the simply network – an independent and exclusive network which connects passionate people with effective communications and transformative technology for better business results. The network is growing fast so in June we are rebranding this as the simplycommunity and hosting it on our Zapnito site, the same technology used at SimplyIC live. Members will have access to our events, exclusive content, conversations and support from your peers in a safe and like-minded environment. Keep an eye out for more announcements in June.

Miss out? Get in touch with Stew Donovan to find out how you can have access to the videos and a month’s free membership to the simplynetwork. Sign up to our newsletter at www.simply-communicate.com to hear about our future events.



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