CASE
Turned an IT Conference into a Neil Gaiman Novel. The Case of Rostelecom
We maintained an informal atmosphere online with a bold narrative and direct influence of participants on the conference course.
CASE
Turned an IT Conference into a Neil Gaiman Novel. The Case of Rostelecom
We maintained an informal atmosphere online with a bold narrative and direct influence of participants on the conference course.
Every year, Rostelecom and the IT Development Guild hold a 'Project Confession', the conference where IT specialists share their experience and speak openly about their successes and failures. In 2020, the conference had to be launched online.

The main problem of transferring events into online format is the loss of an informal atmosphere. Everyone hides behind black screens in Zoom and listens to talking heads. It is difficult for speakers to work without feedback and participants become passive. Therefore, an entire event falls apart.
Goal
Create an online conference that will be remembered by the participants and will keep an informal, slightly 'geeky' atmosphere of the IT community.
Keep participants engaged on 4 conference tracks
Enable participants to influence the course of the conference
Main objectives
'Fool around': to create a narrative and a vivid image of the conference called 'confession' and held on Friday the 13th
Solution
Regular conferences seem to be coherent due to the unity of topics. For example, a panel on IT products, VR technologies, bioactive additives. It is suitable for people who come to the conference for specific knowledge but do not support the community.

Other conferences, such as Comicon, rely on the community: they exploit pop culture images that participants adore. Such events are made for fans and tell stories in the world of their favorite heroes.

'Project Confession' should make the best of both formats.
The narrative in the spirit of Neil Gaiman's novel
'Project Confession' itself tells a strong story: about repentance from the sins of IT projects, absolution, the struggle between good and evil. After all, it takes place on Friday the 13th.

Such stories strengthen the community and increase engagement, so we must reinforce them. The typical problems that the IT community faces become a battle between forces of light and forces of darkness, and the Horsemen of the Apocalypse become the symbol of the conference.
'Project Confession' trailer
The narrative in the spirit of Neil Gaiman's novel
'Project Confession' itself tells a strong story: about repentance from the sins of IT projects, absolution, the struggle between good and evil. After all, it takes place on Friday the 13th.

Such stories strengthen the community and increase engagement, so we must reinforce them. The typical problems that the IT community faces become a battle between forces of light and forces of darkness, and the Horsemen of the Apocalypse become the symbol of the conference.
'Project Confession' trailer
Cross-cutting story through the conference content
Four tracks were linked with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and IT solutions represented attempts to stop their arrival. The story is told through the website interface, broadcast design, moderator's setups and interactive user interactions with the platform.

The movement through the conference turned into 4 acts of one story making the users want to go through it to find out what the outcome is. A common goal brought the community together, and the story format kept the participants' attention.
Voting on the results of speeches
At the end of each 'confession', the participants had to decide the presenter’s fate: whether to absolve their project sins or not.

Voting is streamed live, which helps people feel their active involvement. Usually passive viewers directly influence the course of the conference.
Voting on the results of speeches
At the end of each 'confession', the participants had to decide the presenter's fate: whether to absolve their project sins or not.

Voting is streamed live, which helps people feel their active involvement. Usually passive viewers directly influence the course of the conference.
Interactive competition
To win Rostelecom branded merchandise, users should find code words hidden in the live streams and compose a phrase of an English poet of the 18th century.

You can listen to online conference broadcasts in the background while washing dishes or doing sports.
The contest focused the attention of those who enjoy gambling and gifts.
Interactive competition
To win Rostelecom branded merchandise, users should find code words hidden in the live streams and compose a phrase of an English poet of the 18th century.

You can listen to online conference broadcasts in the background while washing dishes or doing sports.
The contest focused the attention of those who enjoy gambling and gifts.
Visible outcome of the conference
Following the arrival of all the Horsemen, the Apocalypse should logically come. If the participants have not learned the lesson from the project sins, they will not be able to stop the end of the world.

To obtain forgiveness, participants take surveys to fight the Apocalypse in real-time.
This is a clear lesson of the conference: to save an IT project, you need to know and apply the experience of your colleagues.
Visible outcome of the conference
Following the arrival of all the Horsemen, the Apocalypse should logically come. If the participants have not learned the lesson from the project sins, they will not be able to stop the end of the world.
To obtain forgiveness, participants take surveys to fight the Apocalypse in real-time.

This is a clear lesson of the conference: to save an IT project, you need to know and apply the experience of your colleagues.
Challenges
In projects with an intense narration, it’s easy to run wild and lose focus on the target audience.

The images turned out to be too gloomy and active for mass promotion as Rostelecom’s audience is not used to this. When marketers saw the first version of the landing page, they were freaked out and asked to redesign it.

We calmed down the style for the landing page, so the participants of the 'Project Confession' gradually immersed themselves in the story.
Results
The experience of the 'Project Confession' shows that an IT conference can remain lively and informal even online. In the feedback form, most of the participants replied that the online format is not inferior to the traditional one.
Narrative and interactivity helped keep users engaged and showed them that an online conference could be more than just a panel of talking heads.

Finally, a few figures.
31%

of participants watched from start to finish; this is more than at similar events
1200

unique views were collected during all 4 acts of the conference
88%

of participants believe that the online format of the conference is not inferior to offline
69%

of participants consider the platform convenient; the rest had some difficulties
348

unique views on the first broadcast of 'Managerial Debt'
87%

speak positively about the narrative: 'brilliant, cathartic effect, dramatic'
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