An Innovative, Build-It-Yourself Approach to Virtual Events
Posted by Matt Allen on 11 August 2020 06:00 PM

We just launched MLTV, our new digital streaming platform for our content, and we built it ourselves on our own MarkLogic Data Hub Service technology.

Building MLTV wasn’t the initial plan. It was born out of necessity.

Like most companies, we thought we were going to have a traditional in-person event in 2020. As March rolled around and the COVID-19 pandemic became serious, we quickly joined the waves of companies that cancelled their annual in-person events and began developing alternative plans for virtual delivery.

There was no precedent for how to do events during a global pandemic and most companies did a “lift and shift” approach, using software to replicate their in-person events in a virtual environment. We explored that option but ran into a number of problems.

Virtual event software didn’t cut it for three main reasons:

  1. Virtual event software is clunky, outdated, and designed to replicate in-person events (albeit poorly). As we know now, Zoom fatigue is real and no one wants to stare at a screen for hours on end. We’re months into this pandemic and companies are still holding full 2-day virtual events. It makes no sense.
  2. Virtual event software is expensive. Why spend ten or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on software you’ll use for a 2-day event?
  3. Most popular virtual event software companies are overwhelmed with new customers. Event coordinators have said the customer experience with those companies has been awful.

For these reasons, we decided to get innovative. And, just like Sandy Carter from AWS emphasized in her keynote, we worked backwards from the customer to create an event that was best for them. Rather than replicating the entire 2-day in-person event, we decided to break it up into two components:

  1. 90-minute keynote delivered as a live webinar – We packed our content into short sprints to keep people engaged. It was fast paced and exciting to watch – a great environment for our known keynote speakers and product announcements. It turns out this was a good bet, and our attendance was more than double what our typical in-person events was.
  2. Launching our own digital streaming platform – Why not build our own version of Netflix? We decided to build and launch our own platform, MLTV, for on-demand content. Typically we would have delivered this content in 50 minute chunks to a room to 20-40 people. By moving it online, requirements for length go away and the need to travel. This means it’s cheaper to produce content and attendance is also higher.

The two-pronged approach worked really well, but it’s MLTV that is the key.

By delivering a Netflix-like video streaming platform, MLTV engages our audience in a completely new way. No longer are we time-bound by an event that only goes 2-days. We can deliver great content on MLTV all year around in a slick looking search app so our customers can discover and watch the content they are most interested in whenever they want. As the Pandemic wears on, delivering great content is even more critical to educate and engage customers.

Sound difficult to build it yourself? It took less than four months—extremely fast.

For us, it was about “drinking our own champagne” – using our own MarkLogic Data Hub Service technology and the benefits and drawbacks that come with that decision.

The benefit of using our own technology was keeping costs low and having full control. And, our technology is designed to run search and discovery applications. MarkLogic is already used to power the BBC’s iPlayer streaming service and other mega content delivery platforms so it made perfect sense. It’s a fantastic demo of our own technology that we can use to show people interested in MarkLogic. It also has the huge benefit over just posting to videos to YouTube by making everything customized with our own branding and fully trackable.

Building MLTV was also very collaborative. Never has our marketing team worked so closely with our engineering team. In the process, our marketing team learned a lot about managing metadata and our engineering team learned a lot about design and user acquisition.

Our “version 1.0” was a success, and the best part is that it doesn’t stop here. Because we are managing MLTV, we can continually improve and customize it over time. It’s new territory for everyone and user discovery is going to help us prioritize new features to add.

I encourage everyone to check out MLTV at and if you’re interested in building your own streaming service on MarkLogic, please get in touch. We’d love to share more!

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