Case Study:
HalfStack

Conferences

HalfStack runs UI-centric JavaScript conferences to explore the creative side of web engineering. They use online event platform, Vito, to create authentic shared experiences for their community online.

“In terms of creating a really nice, new kind of experience, I think Vito's really cracked the problem.”
— Dylan, Founder of HalfStack

Problem

Retaining the community feel when moving an event online

Dylan Schiemann co-founded the HalfStack conference series five years ago out of a passion for the JavaScript community and a desire to create authentic, memorable shared experiences in a fun and relaxed setting.

“The idea was to get the community together and have fun, have some laughs, and enjoy their time together.”

When social distancing restrictions came into effect, he initially didn’t think it’d be possible to run the event online in a way that would live up to what his attendees loved about it.

“Then obviously COVID-19 hit, and so we said, ‘All right. Well, we're not going to be doing anything for a while.’ Every online event I'd gone to felt just like staring at a Zoom call. Zoom calls are nice, but I felt like there wasn't much of a community aspect to it.”

For Dylan, the most important missing element of other platforms he’d tested was the ability to encourage conversation in a way that felt fun and natural. He wanted this to sit alongside the livestream so that people could easily interact with each other in real time.

“To me, chat is the primary thing. Twitter streams are really interesting in a normal conference, but it’s not the same because you can’t talk to your neighbor. We wanted a place for people to chat, and we wanted to have chat right next to the video feed. We like single track events because there’s a single shared experience, and we needed something to facilitate that.”

With these reservations in mind, Dylan initially considered waiting out the pandemic to run the next HalfStack conference for fear that an online version would feel like a poor substitute for the in person events. Then he learned about Vito, a new online event platform from the creators of Tito, and his interest was piqued.

“For a while we’ve been doing ticket registration via Tito, so I knew if there was a company that would balance having a really nice, easy-to-use experience that would be lean and efficient, they would be the team to pull that off.”

With a renewed excitement about being able to deliver a worthwhile online experience for his HalfStack community, Dylan came on board as one of Vito’s first customers and prepared to run the first ever HalfStack Online.

Solution

A thoughtfully crafted event platform that invites interaction

Vito is an online event platform designed to create a rewarding attendee experience, through an easy-to-navigate interface and a well-thought-out feature set. Dylan appreciated the intentionality of the design and the absence of gimmicky elements.

“Vito is the first tool that I’ve seen that captures all of the most important things you’d want for organizing an online event in a super streamlined and easy to use experience — efficiency, quality, value, and community facilitation. It feels fast, lean, and lightweight. The quality is there. The interface is simple. Features feel purposeful.

Events on Vito take place in a hub, a flexible space that conference organizers can tailor to the experience they want to create for their audience, so Dylan and his team were able to eliminate the headache associated with managing multiple platforms to produce an impactful conference.

“We wanted video, a schedule, chat, all in one window, and good quality streaming. We wanted something that worked and had an easy admin experience. We were new to streaming software, new to running events, but I’m technical so I got used to it pretty fast.”

With just a week to go before running his first ever online event, Dylan appreciated how quick and easy it is to everything up in Vito, and the opportunity to get creative with livestreaming.

“We go into the admin UI, we set up a hub and start to add sessions and speakers and pre-upload some videos. We add sponsor information, offers, and custom pages. Then we do a mix of live streaming and pre-recorded stuff. It’s almost like being a TV channel producer — connecting it to software and streaming from there. I had fun with running the conference; setting it up in advance, getting the details right.”

Dylan sees other potential future uses for Vito too, for instance as a community-focussed alternative to YouTube playlists.

“The Vito hub concept is a way to put all your recorded videos together so people can watch it like an event. YouTube's really good for distribution, but if you've got a community, with Vito you've got a place to direct them to, and you don't have to create a perfect website yourself to do all that.”

Finding a platform that addressed his early concerns has allowed Dylan to continue to bring his community together during the pandemic, and has instilled a new appreciation for the potential of online events to rival in-person experiences.

Results

Reaching new global audiences and greater brand awareness

Vito offers Dylan and his team an efficient and enjoyable way to put on online conferences, and they’ve been able to run two successful editions of HalfStack Online in six months. Audience feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and Dylan attributes this in part to the ways they’re getting creative with the online format.

“Going online actually allowed us to do some really interesting things with video, and people really experimented with their talks. We were able to do a lot of interesting things with music during breaks and even during the talks themselves that we couldn't normally do at an in-person conference, and it just in many ways it was better than the in-person stuff.”

In addition to delighting the existing HalfStack audience, Dylan has been able to reach audiences from further afield than who would normally attend the in-person conferences.

“We’ve been able to attract people from all over the world that we couldn't afford to normally bring together. We’ve reached new markets and a bigger cross section of the world than we would have before, so we've been able to raise awareness for our brand.”

Any early concerns about whether his audience could be fully engaged online have been allayed by the outstanding retention rate throughout the sessions.

“Some people stay the entire time, which is crazy! Our first event ran for 17 hours, down to the minute. But it was super easy to do.”

After almost deciding not to run HalfStack online at all, Dylan is glad he made the leap with Vito and is now able to create rich online experiences that live up to what his community has come to expect.

“It was totally worth it and rewarding. Some of the speakers were like, ‘This is the best event I've been to online or in person.’ Without the Vito platform, it would not have had that vibe, so they really helped us just deliver an experience that we were proud of delivering and that our audience really appreciated.”

While the future of in-person events remains uncertain, Vito gives Dylan the tools to continue to bring the HalfStack community together and fulfil his mission of creating engaging and memorable shared experiences.

Ready to run your own events online like HalfStack? Request early access to Vito and start delighting your existing audience and reaching new ones.

Get early access