Most Innovative Meetings 2012: #1 SAP’s Sapphire Now

The software company uses its massive conference to generate content that is available and relevant year-round, extending the event's reach far beyond its three days in Orlando.

By Mitra Sorrells July 19, 2012, 2:00 AM EDT

Content streamed from the studios for Sapphire Now's dedicated site.

Photo: Claire Pacelli for BizBash

SAP AG may have discovered the next step in hybrid event design: transitioning to an “always on” strategy that keeps content from an event available and relevant long after the physical gathering. The German software company has already established itself as a leader in the hybrid event space with innovative delivery of its Sapphire Now conference in Orlando to customers and partners worldwide. Now it is using as a permanent resource to share content produced from past events and information about future conferences.

“We don’t have virtual events,” said SAP’s vice president of global events, Scott Schenker. “We have an online platform for the event content and the experiences themselves. The online platform is meant to be of value every single day. We recognize with the content we have available, a connected event can happen at any time. Sapphire Now as a single destination for 72 hours is the old model. The new model is that Sapphire Now is always up.”

That approach is fueling marked growth in the company’s online visibility. There were 500,000 visits to during 2011 and 131,000 views of videos on its YouTube channel.

This thinking has also caused a shift in strategy regarding satellite locations. In 2011, the company designated 19 places around the world where customers and partners gathered to watch content from the Orlando conference. This year, Schenker said there were only a few such locations because they are “less concerned about how many physical events we connect to in those three days [of Sapphire Now], and more concerned that this content and excitement connects you to another physical event some time during the year.” Those other physical events, known as SAP Forums, will take place as many as 80 locations around the world in the coming year, offering a mix of new content as well as accessing content on the Sapphire Now platform.

With the focus now on creating an engaging and relevant online hub, SAP filters the content into 13 online channels, making it easy for users to find sessions from Sapphire Now and other company events by topic, such as analytics, cloud, and human resources.

SAP also employs eight online reporters who cover Sapphire Now in posts and videos on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. “They all have cameras and will have original video coming to their accounts,” Schenker said. “The social ambassadors came out of the recognition that being online can be as overwhelming as being at the show.” This year the social reporters began posting information about six weeks before Sapphire Now to build buzz for the meeting.

The physical event in Orlando continues to have an elaborate production system to disseminate content live online and also taped for future use. The company added two more broadcast centers this year, for a total of five, each with a specific function, such as showing product demonstrations or interviews with customers and analysts.

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