Pivoting From an In-Person Event to a Fully-Virtual Conference
Toro Digital helped the Australian Legal Technology Association take its annual event online in less than six weeks
Melbourne-based Toro Digital focuses specifically on helping legal firms of all sizes master their digital marketing strategies. With an in-house team of senior marketing experts, Toro Digital’s staff has worked with some of Australia’s leading and fastest-growing commercial firms to effect rapid change.
With this solid track record of successful projects, it made perfect sense that when ALTA, the Australian Legal Technology Association, needed to quickly pivot its annual in-person event (ALTACON) to an online, virtual conference, they tapped Toro Digital to get it done.
As a member of WP Engine’s Agency Partner Program, Toro Digital was able to leverage a dedicated agency account team that helped them with the needed project requirements and provided WordPress expertise, advice, and support, which all proved to be invaluable during the six-week sprint to take ALTA’s annual conference online.
To find out more about this herculean effort, and to get some general tips for creating or shifting to an online, all-virtual event, we spoke with Paul Evans, the Managing Director at Toro Digital, to learn more.
Before we get into the details of this specific project, tell us a bit more about Toro Digital and all the great work you do.
Toro Digital is about five years old, I founded it after working as a head of marketing in some of Australia’s fastest-growing law firms. We now have 20 permanent team members, and all of our marketing managers have at least 10 years of experience working in law firms.
Altogether, we work with about 25 law firms—from small to mid-sized— all around Australia. We also have legal tech companies as clients (SaaS businesses focused in the legal industry) and legal associations (focused on legal tech, legal practice management, corporate counsel).
Our sweet spot is handling large website projects, content development (including creating video, podcast, and graphic content), content marketing (including promotion and repurposing), search engine optimization and pay-per-click marketing, campaign development, building custom platforms/tools for innovative firms, and training both lawyers and marketers in digital marketing (understanding analytics, social media, email marketing, writing with both readers and search engines in mind, etc.).
What about the connection between Toro Digital and WP Engine?
We’ve been a WP Engine customer from the day we started, and the support we’ve received has been incredible. We found WP Engine because we were looking for a managed host with the best support to help our dev team in the early stages of the business. Now, even as our technical requirements have become increasingly complex, our devs still benefit from the best-in-class support that WP Engine offers.
We know that with WP Engine, we get what we pay for, and it just works. For example, your staging environments make it super easy to build in new functionality to existing sites. Our first developer—who’s now our lead developer—wasn’t familiar with WP Engine when he joined, and he couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was to create staging sites using your platform.
Tell us more about ALTACON—when did you get wind of the project? What jumped out as the biggest challenge for shifting an in-person event to an online experience?
We got wind of the project about six weeks ahead of the event date when the ALTA board asked us to get involved. FineHaus, an association and events business we work with on a number of projects, handled the event logistics, and we built the platform.
The biggest challenge for us was to create a platform that supported the contributions of the speakers, exhibitors (we created an online trade hall!) and association members. Rather than just a long list of Zoom links, we wanted to create a real conference experience online. Our first suggestion was to find something out of the box that we could help implement. But when we couldn’t find something that matched that vision, we designed and developed something from scratch. Very, very quickly!
What were the requirements Toro Digital focused on and what did WP Engine cover?
As mentioned above, the whole process was quite quick and unplanned. We just had to act in an instant, and our counterparts at WP Engine were accommodating and eager to help, even with the tight timeline.
With virtual conferences, you get a flurry of registrations much closer to the event date. There’s no travel! So we expected a certain amount, and basically doubled the amount of registrations in the few days leading up to the event.
As we got to the point-end of things, I started to really think about the back end infrastructure. Lots of people (500+) all logging into a website all at the same time. I contacted WP Engine and basically asked, “What do we need?” Consulting with the WP Engine team here in Australia, they advised us on the best approach, which we took on board.
How about the day of the event? Did it go smoothly?
Before we get into the day-of metrics, which were remarkable, it’s worth noting that two days ahead of the event, we realised we had wildly surpassed the number of attendees we initially expected. We needed to quickly scale our hosting infrastructure to cope with the demand, and WP Engine engineers worked closely with our team at Toro Digital to scale and monitor the server load, which ultimately ensured the event went off without a hitch.
Across the two-day event, the site saw:
- More than 17,000 individual page views
- Users from 73 cities across 19 countries
- 772 unique visitors to the Virtual Expo hall
With this successful project behind you, what are the things to focus on when shifting from a physical to a virtual event—or even planning one from the start?
The market opportunity is so much bigger. If people don’t have to travel, you really are no longer just targeting people who can make it there (i.e. live there or will travel for it) but an entire region. We went from an Australian event being hosted in Sydney to an Asia Pacific event attracting attendees from Singapore, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, and many other countries.
As the market opportunity gets bigger, the marketing challenges change. They become very reliant on digital marketing, including leveraging the power of industry influencers on social networks.
I’d also say that with the move to online conferences, there is a lot more noise in the market, so your value proposition for attending needs to be right on the mark.
The last thing to keep in mind is that once your event is over, your work isn’t done. Make recordings of sessions from your event available as on-demand content, which will provide valuable lead generation and other opportunities, long after the day-of activities conclude.
What’s next for Toro Digital? Do you have upcoming events or other projects planned? Anything with WP Engine?
We are in the midst of turning the platform we built for ALTACON into its own unique product and service offering, together with FineHaus. Since ALTACON, we have run one more event, LawFest, a New Zealand-based legal tech event.
We have many other events in the pipeline. People are curious about it and need a starting point, as it’s all relatively new. The demand seems to be moving toward hybrid events—some physical, and some streaming.
We’re also working on other projects to support law firms—in particular, legal marketers and firm partners. We are also working with more and more software providers in the legal industry to help them with their digital marketing. The uptake of software has been massive in the last few months due to many people having to work remotely.
Find out more about working with Toro Digital for your next digital marketing project, and visit WP Engine to find out more about our Agency Partner Program—the largest partner network in the WordPress ecosystem.
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