The mission of the Geothermal Entrepreneurship Organization is as mind-blowing as it is important: to harness the natural heat from within the earth to power the world with clean, limitless energy that will offer a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels for generations to come. And arguably more audacious: to have this transformation led, in part, by innovators in the oil and gas industry. Not exactly an easy nut to crack. But a potentially world-saving one.
Early on, Jamie Beard, who runs GEO at the University of Texas at Austin, sought to bring the biggest minds, power brokers, and entrepreneurs in the energy industry into a room to learn, discuss, and problem-solve together. Thus, the annual Pivot conference series was born with its first annual five-day conference in 2020. Due to Covid, last year’s Pivot came together in a hurry, thanks to a small team of volunteers.
While it was an undeniable success as a whole, it looked like the kind of videoconference people have quickly grown tired of during the pandemic. Plus, there were a good many technical difficulties. To put it simply: “It didn’t go perfectly smoothly,” says Beard. She knew she could do better next time. So for Pivot 2021, Beard sought out Touchcast. She wanted a more immersive experience for the attendees, as well as the white-glove technical support that Touchcast offers.
“My number-one ask was to have the back end smooth."
The goal was ambitious: keep attendees engaged for all 40 hours of programming. Beard also planned to take advantage of as many platform features as possible—from Q&As and polling that would keep people thinking and interacting to microsites that would provide a bounty of information on what is a wide-ranging subject to multilingual translation, which would prove especially important: Over 104 countries would be represented in Pivot’s audience.
As Beard knew well: Global problems require global solutions.
If an organization is going to ask big-name, hyper-busy people to attend a weeklong virtual conference in this age of Zoom fatigue, the event’s look has to wow them. So Beard leaned on Touchcast’s design team to help GEO nail the branding—drawing from and expanding on what GEO had previously created to provide a sense of both continuity and growth. “That was really helpful,” says Beard. “This year was a lot more polished.”
But beneath the upgraded look was a massive logistical challenge: To have CEOs and VIPs—like Richard Branson—not just attend but speak, you’ve got to onboard them and get them trained. And if you’re going to have a whole lot of speakers—say, over 150—things get complicated in a hurry. “It was a lot,” Beard admits. But as with any event, whether in person or virtual, you figure out ways to get it done.
By the time the conference was set to begin, all the speakers were booked and ready to roll. And the Touchcast production team was geared up for what would be a thrilling but grueling week—seamlessly producing five straight days of programming and then tying it together behind the scenes into an interactive and living multimedia experience that would impress attendees as much as it would inspire them.
According to Beard, Pivot 2021 was a massive success, and it saw the kind of increase in scale that GEO hopes geothermal can soon achieve.
“It was a lot bigger than the first year - by probably ten times."
Attendees who showed up to the previous year’s conference were awed by the upgraded setting and how it enabled people to engage digitally. They also loved how the site was not just a video platform but also an expansive text-based resource on the subject, due to the interactive articles that Touchcast creates for each session, or, as one person called the site, “the handbook on geothermal.” Compared to Pivot’s previous virtual conference, “It was a huge, huge change with a lot more features and functionality,” says Beard.
“There's a clear edge and a unique quality about the platform that was excellent."
Some attendees told her that they watched all the way through Friday—a huge feat. Next year, Beard hopes to add regional, in-person watch parties across the globe, so that people can watch together. But once Covid subsides, would she host Pivot in person?
“I think because Pivot started virtual, it will stay virtual,” says Beard. Which is perhaps the greatest compliment a virtual events platform could ask for.