The making of SaaS Showcase Remote, our first virtual event - key takeaways + lessons learned

L-SPARK’s SaaS Showcase is our annual tried and true demo day that presents the successes of companies in our SaaS Accelerator. It is the program wrap up and an opportunity to celebrate what the startups are building, and all they have achieved in the months spent working with mentors to develop their businesses.

When we reflect on the importance of this event, and really, any event that we execute on, it all boils down to providing value to our startups. Asking ourselves – how can we get exposure for our entrepreneurs and shed light on all they have accomplished?

Given the global pandemic we are currently faced with, we continued to ask ourselves just that.

How can we, in the face of uncertainty, continue to provide meaningful exposure to our startups?

In that moment, the answer was simple: the show must go on.

We spent time exploring various ways in which we could execute on a virtual event. There were many viable options ranging from having our founders pitch live on camera, to getting a professional film crew to film each pitch for consistency and quality’s sake, to having founders pre record their pitches from the comfort of their homes.

With each day bringing more stringent restrictions on the ability to have in-person meet-ups, we knew that it would not be a viable option to have our founders all meet in one room to be filmed in person. So, that option was quickly off the table.

We toyed with the idea of having founders pitch live on the day of the Showcase, but quickly realized that could open the door for error on event day – we wanted things to go as smoothly as possible for our founders and viewers. * I’m sure all of us can relate to the frustration of being on a conference call when there are technical difficulties.* In order to avoid the potential technical nightmare of a live environment, we decided against this option as well.

Again, it was a priority for our team to display our founders in the most positive light possible and to set them up for success.

We were lucky to work with Oxygen Events, a group of event gurus who have had experience executing video broadcasts in the past. The team at Oxygen was quick to pivot with us and helped to curate video guidelines to share with the founders so they could film from home. This included sound and lighting requirements, how to position themselves on camera, etc. This piece was important as it resulted in videos that were as similar as possible given the circumstances.

Founders were asked to submit their videos directly to a Dropbox link and include their pitch decks and slide timing. This was a crucial piece, as it allowed our production team to understand exactly when to switch slides throughout the founder’s pitch.

We were also thrilled to have our keynote speaker, Carol Leaman, CEO of Axonify, offer to film her speech remotely. This session rounded out our showcase and was very well received. We are still fielding email requests for the video recording!

Some of our key lessons learned were surrounding the engagement of attendees during the broadcast. We were uncertain about the uptake so opted for a more conservative approach to our Q&A. We wanted to ensure we gave the impression that the showcase was “busy” – so we opted to encourage folks to take the discussion over to Twitter instead of engage in the live chat, a feature of YouTube Premiere.

To our pleasant surprise, we had 150 people tune in live for the duration of the Premiere!

In hindsight, we definitely could have facilitated a more engaging discussion in the live chat, which included our founders and their mentors, and the opportunity for viewers to connect with the entrepreneurs in real-time.

There were some really great ideas that came out of our post-mortem with the team. One of my favourite ideas was to have virtual breakout rooms for each founder following the main presentation. This would give investors and community members the ability to join a private Zoom chat with a specific founder to ask questions and provide feedback on their pitch.

When I reflect on my biggest takeaway, it would be to have more confidence in our community.

We were so concerned with the actual production, and caught up in the “what-ifs” that we missed an opportunity to facilitate a more engaging experience for our viewers. We were afraid to jump into this piece because of the fear of failure, of there being little to no uptake.

Connecting with the startup and tech ecosystem is one of the best parts about SaaS Showcase – it allows key players in our community to connect with one another, exchange ideas, and learn. Going forward, I will definitely keep this piece in mind and look for ways to challenge our team to create an experience that goes both ways for viewers and startup founders.

All in all, I chalk our first SaaS Showcase Remote up to a huge success. We have seen over 300 community members and investors view our production, which is fantastic exposure for our startups. When we reflect on the mission going into the planning phase, creating value was our key goal, and I think we did just that.

We are so lucky to work with such a supportive network of sponsors who were eager to rally behind this pivot from the start. The teams at all of our sponsor organizations provided ample promotional support which contributed to the success that it was. A special thank you to the team at Dentons who graciously filmed an introduction for our keynote speaker!

If you have questions about our process, or want to chat more about hosting virtual events, I would love to chat. We are looking forward to our next virtual event, and I would love to learn from your experiences as well! Please reach out at stef@l-spark.com

Have you had the chance to tune into the event? Tune in here!

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