3X more attendees than previous events
87% engagement during the CenCal event
VP of Events
Bitwise Industries is in the business of community building. Its mission is to create pathways into the technology industry for underrepresented groups—which it does by providing education programs and apprenticeships, offering tech consulting, and transforming blighted real estate into community spaces. These spaces were the center of focus for Talisha Brantley, then Community Liaison, now VP of Events.
“As we began to grow, we ended up with a theater in one of our buildings,” she says. The team was using it to host classes, but having this space opened up a realm of new possibilities. “My CEO came to me and said, ‘Do you think you can do a concert?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know, let’s find out.’” So they did—and it was a hit.
“Turns out, doing concerts in the theater was a really good way to get people into our buildings,” she laughs. So, when they weren’t renting it out to various user groups, they started hosting their own concerts and events. “It was a way for us to build community and to bring in talent—whether that’s acts that aren’t normally in our area or more diverse acts that we can, quite literally, provide a stage to be on.”
It was a fantastic outreach strategy—so much so that Bitwise gave Talisha a small team of people to run these live concerts and events. But right as they began to ramp up, the pandemic hit.
With in-person events on pause, Talisha and her team focused on supporting Bitwise in other ways. But all the while, they were thinking of ways they could re-incorporate events into their programming. “My teammate was like, ‘What if we did a virtual festival?’” says Talisha. From this question, the No Place Like Home virtual festival was born.
Like many teams in the early days of the pandemic, Bitwise turned to Zoom to bring their virtual event to life. But as they began to host more events with higher production values—such as a virtual Pride show that needed to have transitions, pre-recorded content, and visual overlays—things started to get complicated.
“I was layering Ecamm over Skype to get my virtual cameras, and pumping them into Zoom,” she says. “Meanwhile, my team was in Zoom, monitoring the Q&A. We would chat back and forth on Slack about the Q&A coming up and they’d give me the questions to read out loud. It worked. But it was a cobbled-together solution.”
Talisha was tired of fitting a million different puzzle pieces together. “I thought to myself, I want everything I’m doing right now in one place.”
It was Bitwise’s CEO who first suggested Welcome as a solution to their virtual event woes. So, Talisha decided to have a look. And what she saw blew her mind.
“As soon as I saw everything demoed, I thought, this is it—this is exactly what I had been looking for,” she says. Welcome took everything she had been doing across multiple tools and put it all together in one place. It made everything so much more simple and compact.
“Before Welcome, I was thinking, ‘I’m going to have to get a switcher. We use Ecamm, but we should probably change to OBS. We always needed this, that, or the other thing to make it work,’” she says. “Now, one or two people can run our events easily without any special equipment.”
“Before Welcome, we always needed this, that, or the other thing to make it work. Now one or two people can run our events easily without any special equipment.”
With Welcome, Talisha and her team are able to simplify their event production without sacrificing quality. “With just one platform, we can do everything we want,” she says. “We can put in lower thirds with people’s names. We can talk to our guests backstage, which is huge. Instead of resorting to Slack or text messages, we can all communicate in one place.”
For the Bitwise team, that means less time focusing on the technology and more time building community.
For a company with such a focus on community—one of Bitwise’s mottos is “no one belongs here more than you”—Welcome has helped facilitate a sense of belonging over virtual space.
“We want it to be lively,” says Talisha. “We want it to be diverse. We want folks to be running into people as they walk in, that sort of thing. With Welcome, we can do all these things.” They’re able to translate the friendly environment of a Bitwise in-person event to a virtual context.
Welcome has allowed Bitwise to create a warm and inviting atmosphere, and as a result, the community has flourished. “We now have way more engagement in the chat,” she says. “We start each event by asking people where they’re tuning in from. People can see, ‘Oh, Toledo’s in the house. Hey, I’m from Toledo, too.’ It builds an instant sense of connection.”
Plus, using Welcome’s analytics, Talisha and her team are able to fine-tune their events to keep getting better. “We track who comes to our events and how long they stay engaged,” she says. “That’s caused us to shorten some of our events.” They also track how many attendees show up vs. how many registered, which allows them to see what times of day work best for their audience. Armed with the data, they’re able to create events that meet their attendees’ needs. And it works—at their recent CenCal Dreamin’ event, they had 150 attendees, three times the 50 they were expecting.
And there’s so much more they still want to do. Talisha and the Bitwise team want to start using Welcome’s polling feature to further enhance connection with their audience. As they open up their in-person event spaces, they want to explore the potential of hybrid events. No matter what community-building efforts Bitwise dreams up next, Welcome will be there to support them every step of the way.