It’s easy to pass off the virtual events that take place in place of this year’s in-person meetings as a mere filler, a necessary evil, ready to be consigned to the history books once we can all safely gather together in large amounts again. However, the messaging app Line’s experience with its online-only developer conference was positive enough to influence how future versions of the event will play out.
Line made the bold decision to cancel its in-person event earlier in the year, but instead of running a scaled-down online event, Line’s virtual DevDay 2020 turned out to be a bigger event than ever. I spoke with Euivin Park, Line’s chief technology officer (CTO), along with two Line developers who gave presentations on the challenges of a virtual event and how it has led to plans for something new next year with live and online content.
Bigger and better
Line’s messaging app and social platform are more popular in Asia, but the app is available everywhere, albeit in the US You may be more familiar with the cute Line characters you see in your Line retail stores. Friends. Park began by explaining when it was decided that DevDay 2020 should take place online.
“From February to March this year, when the coronavirus infection spread and countermeasures began in various locations, the team began to consider it as an option. The final decision not to be offline was at the end of April. We never really thought of canceling it. We thought, how should we do it better online? “
This gave the team seven months to organize a virtual event, but why was it so important to keep going?
“We really had a lot to share,” Park said of the reasons for celebrating Developer Day in 2020. “Technology is a joint effort, I think sharing is really important for advancement. Instead of Line employees attending different events to learn, we wanted to have a conference where we could bring everyone together to share experiences in one place. There are many advantages [to a virtual event]. For example, you don’t have to travel. Our Developer Day used to be aimed primarily at Japanese developers, but this time we had a lot of developers from abroad. “
Line took full advantage of the move to an online format. Over 150 sessions were divided into three days instead of two, the digital nature of the presentations meant that simultaneous translation was possible for international attendees, and Line also invited a total of 36 guest speakers, the most it has ever had. Based on the response, the approach paid off.
“Last year, about 2,000 developers attended; this year, there were 7,000 pre-registrations, ”Park revealed.
Line’s DevDay 2020 got expanded, but what happened behind the scenes and what new challenges did it present? Last year, for DevDay 2019, I sat in an auditorium and listened to Park give his keynote presentation in person, so how different was it to present it online in 2020?
“It was very difficult, I admired YouTubers!” Park exclaimed about the process of recording his main presentation, rather than giving it live to an audience. “You had to look at the camera and almost speak to yourself. I panicked! When you have people in front of you, you can make it more conversational, but I was alone so it felt strange. It was very challenging. Looking at a camera, speaking in Japanese [Euivin Park’s first language is Korean]He really couldn’t say the things he wanted. I don’t even like talking to an audience, but I think it’s 100% better than talking to a camera! “
Charles Hubain, Line’s Senior Security Engineer, who has appeared in person at Line’s Developer Day events before, gave us an insight into how the recording process worked.
“[The team] we built a real mini studio inside Line’s main office in Tokyo, and we had three large cameras and screens in front of us, instead of the usual audience, ”he said, before speaking about the experience itself. “It was my first time [presenting online], so it was a very strange experience. I spent more time writing an actual script and working on my tone and expressions than usual, so it was less spontaneous. “
Rather, it was the first time that Leo Chu, an Android applications engineer at Line, featured at a Line developer’s day event, and the online nature helped eliminate some of the anxiety related to public speaking. .
“As this was my first time speaking, I felt quite relaxed introducing myself to the camera, as I didn’t need to be in front of anyone. However, since I couldn’t see the audience, I couldn’t read their faces. Personally, I felt a bit uncomfortable talking to a camera instead of people. “
Despite the challenges, both Hubain and Chu commented on how they enjoyed the event, but also mentioned how the limited opportunities to speak and interact with colleagues were a disadvantage of the online format. This is where Line’s future plans come into play.
The hybrid future
There is no doubt that 2020 has required many of us to make massive changes in our lives. Park had already explained how Line adapted and pushed its technology to meet the demands of the year, so how did celebrating DevDay make Park and the Line team virtually watch future events?
“We have been thinking about how we should do it next year. I really like this online event format, and even after the pandemic, I think it would be good for us to keep it online, “Park told me, adding,” but since there are many advantages to keeping it offline, we thought about having a hybrid event, both online and offline “.
A hybrid event is gradually becoming the future of large-scale events like Line’s developer day, at least in the short term. In a survey conducted by event industry publication EventMB, 62% of respondents said they would retain a virtual look for future events. This would create a “television show format” with live speakers, a small live audience, and a strong technology aspect for the online audience, according to another article written by the publication in July.
A variety of large events will follow a similar format next year. For example, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival will be a hybrid event, as will the Glasgow Film Festival. The Games Developer Conference (GDC) has also been billed as a hybrid event, and many others are expected to follow suit. They are not just events either. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the hybrid model is the “future of work,” and a Blind workplace survey showed that 80% of respondents also favored a combination of working online and in the office.
Line’s advance planning and subsequent positive experience give us hope that key events like this will continue, from film and music extravaganzas to industry events like CES and Mobile World Congress. Hybrid tech-driven events would allow more of us to enjoy them, as geographic location won’t be important, while at the same time injecting much-needed real-life contact with other attendees into the mix. Learning from well-executed virtual events like Line’s DevDay 2020 will be essential in making online sections as engaging as in-person events have always been.