Our goal for each Zoholics user event is to make it perfect for attendees – our customers who travel from all over the world to learn and make the most of Zoho apps for their business.
Making sure that everything is perfect involves coordinating so many major and minor aspects related to each event. What makes this even more challenging is the fact that most of our teams are geographically distributed and work across various time zones (more about working remotely with cross-cultural teams here.)
So, how do we do this for not just one, but four annual Zoholics events?
Here is the story of the people, processes and Zoho apps that work behind-the-scenes for each Zoholics event.
Setting the stage.
Pre-event Planning: To start with, we need to discuss and decide on the agenda for the event. Raju, who is the chief architect for all Zoholics events, initiates these discussions over Zoho Connect, our intranet where everyone watches out for important announcements and discussions.
Basis these discussions, we use a shared Zoho Sheet (our spreadsheet app, part of the Zoho Docs office suite) to draft an agenda and assign speakers for each of the sessions.
After we have the agenda ready, we move to a dedicated Zoholics Projects’ portal for further discussions such as content, promotion, logistics and travel. Everyone who will be speaking at the event or helping organize any aspect of it is invited to join this Project portal.
Over the next few months leading up to the event, the Zoholics Project portal becomes the “virtual meeting room” where we all check in to participate in discussions about the event and to post or follow updates about the status of event-related tasks.
What is great about using a Project portal for such discussions is that everyone can stay in the loop and get notifications over email or on the Zoho Projects’ mobile app. There are no communication gaps or operational lapses.
One of our first discussions over the Zoholics Project portal is about travel for the event. We create and share another Zoho Sheet – this one allows employees from other cities who’re traveling for the event to input their travel dates. Since the travel team is also part of the Project, they’re able to book flight tickets and hotel rooms.
Event Promotion: We also start a discussion about promoting the event through these channels – social media, email invites, banners within our products, log-out pages as well as the Zoho Buzz newsletter. Promotion-related tasks for each of these channels are assigned to the owners.
The messaging for promoting the event is quickly discussed and finalized over the Projects’ feed, without having to go back-and-forth.
We soon start promoting the event within our product pages and over social media, but what about email invites?
Since email is a direct form of communication, we want to send out email invites to people who would be most likely to attend. For example, attendees of past Zoholics events as well as customers and users of products around which we are focusing the event.
Once we decide on specific invite criteria for each event, we’re able to generate the corresponding invite list from Zoho CRM and sync them into Zoho Campaigns, our email marketing app. Zoho Campaigns lets us setup and send separate email campaigns with content customized for each segment.
After we send the emails, reports from Zoho Campaigns will tell us how many people have opened and clicked on them. And we will be able to compare these stats with our event registration numbers to see what kind of impact the emails made.
Presentation and Content: One of the most-critical pieces, is the content that speakers will present at the event – training and stories around our products, tips and best practices.
All speakers start working on their presentations using the Zoholics template already shared to them on Zoho Show (our presentation app, also part of the Zoho Office suite.) Some speakers use Zoho Show’s collaboration feature to invite their team members to contribute.
After the speakers finish creating their content, they’re able to add it to a shared Zoho Docs workspace. Everyone else who is part of the Zoholics workspace can now review these presentations and provide inputs.
Pre-event survey: As dates for the event come close, we want to get a better idea of attendees’ expectations from the event. So, we use Zoho Survey to create a questionnaire with specific questions about what they’d expect.
Because Zoho Survey comes integrated with Eventbrite (the 3rd party app that we used for event registrations), we’re quickly able to send out this survey and gather responses that will help us understand and deliver an experience that meets these expectations.
Lights, Camera, Action.
Presentation display: During the event, all speakers present their stories using Zoho Show. All presentations are available and can be launched directly from the shared central Zoho Docs workspace.
Here’s one of the presentations from last month’s Zoholics Sales and Marketing:
Social network for attendees to interact and connect: Since Zoho Connect can play that part well, we use it to create a Zoholics Connect network that allows everyone to ‘connect’. Attendees can interact with each other as well as with the Zoho team.
The Zoholics Connect network becomes a good way for attendees to network, share real-time feedback and ask questions throughout the event.
Live notifications and updates: To keep attendees posted about the most important details each day (mainly the training agenda and the food menu!) we use what we call the Zoholics Beacon.
The beacon lets attendees (who have the Zoholics iOS or Android app) get notified with push notifications such as these:
Depending on whether they are near track 1 or 2, these notifications would also tell them what session is going on in that area!
In case you’re wondering how we did this, these helpful notifications are powered by our database app builder – Zoho Creator.
And it’s a wrap.
Feedback about the event: Right after the event is over, we use Zoho Survey to email another questionnaire to all the attendees. This one aims at getting instant feedback about their experience at the event.
By asking specific questions, we’re able to understand what we did right, as well as the things we can do better at future Zoholics events.
Sharing presentation content with attendees: And finally, we want to share presentations from the event with all attendees. So, we create a shared folder in Zoho Docs and post a link within the Zoholics Connect network. We also use Zoho Creator to send this link as a notification to everyone who’s using the Zoholics mobile apps.
Ta da! And now we get to celebrate!
Well, at least for a bit before we start gearing up for the next Zoholics event!