Under The Shadow Of Covid-19: NVIDIA’s Virtual GTC Sets Bar For On-line Conferences

NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) has always been a must-attend for those involved with gaming, graphics, AIs, Autonomous cars, medical research, and, more recently, robots and drones.  As with all physical conferences, NVIDIA had to cancel their event, and they are one of the few companies that sell technology that could make digital conferences as good or better than physical meetings.  

GTC is the first conference to come up since this required pivot from physical to digital events, which would set a benchmark regardless. Still, NVIDIA’s unique digital tools should allow them to utilize this virtual medium better than other firms that don’t have technology designed to enhance digital presentations and entertainment.  

Suddenly a lot of people need to come to speed on what you can do with AIs, with graphics, and with autonomous machines (delivery, robotics, etc.) to offset the risks associated with a rapidly spreading Pandemic.  

The event starts on the 24th with Deep Learning Demystified, but for those that need access to this kind of capability, or just want to see where the first bar is set for virtual events, this should be a must-attend.  

What is particularly impressive is that NVIDIA pivoted from a physical to a virtual conference in only three weeks!  

What Makes A Virtual Event Different

Of course, it is virtual, but that means you don’t have a captured audience.  You see, in a physical event, once seated, people feel obligated to stay, and they don’t want to leave before the end because folks will notice they walked out.  With a virtual conference, particularly now with the kids at home, there are a lot of distractions, and if the content and presenter don’t hold the audience, they have plenty of things to focus on instead of your content.  

This difference means you have to go to extra trouble to hold their interest and keep them focused on your content rather than the other things in their home fighting for attention.   Content needs to be topical (for instance, right now, it is difficult to get people to read anything that doesn’t have Covid-19 in the title).  

You have to know how to use a small screen because most of your audience isn’t going to put the event on a big screen TV but will instead be using their monitor or laptop to watch.  This lack of a large screen means slides should generally be avoided as much as possible due to font size and busy slides will be almost impossible to read due to the screen size.  

Speakers have to be energetic, charismatic and have experience on camera with scripted content.  These events tend to be recorded, and a lousy speaker will have poor performance. Excellent performance can be used as a reference when looking for a new job; a horrible performance will have the exact opposite impact.   

But you can do in-line written questions, and you can sample your audience with surveys, both of which allow the speaker to pivot their talk to areas that audience members would like to hear and help to keep the audience connected to the content.   


Starting on the 24th and spread over several days, GTC has several engaging sessions to watch live or streamed after the fact.  Here are some of the ones I’d recommend (all times are Pacific):

How to Create Generalizable AI March 26 @ 10 AM:  This is the holy grail of AIs, an AI that could conceivably be used for anything.  This session provides a high-level overview of this concept, the problems facing its advancement, and suggested solutions.   

Decoding the DNA of Companies Achieving Highly Successful AI (recorded available March 26):  An IBM presentation contrasting companies that had strong AI results to those whose AI programs failed.   There should be a considerable amount of best practice information in this one.  

The Future of GPU Raytracing (recorded available March 26):  This is an interesting panel with representation from NVIDIA, Chaos Software, Pixar, Otoy Inc., Weta Digital, Redshift Rendering Technologies, and Autodesk.  They’ll be talking about what is coming next with next-generation graphics technology. 

Drones, Machetes, Fire, and VR: 21st-Century Tools for Social and Sustainable Impact (recorded and available March 26):  For those interested in how technology is being applied in remote areas to mitigate the damage of Climate Change this is a discussion of what has worked on the islands of Kosrea, Micronesia, and Vorovoro, Fiji.  

How AI Is Reinventing Retail (recorded and available March 26):  AI is having a significant impact on the positive impact on retail. When the current shutdowns are over, if applied correctly, it could significantly improve revenue ramp as we move into recovery.  This session will cover many AI applications and cases showcasing best practices that could be applied as the market recovers to improve sell-through stores.  

Wrapping Up:  

GTC will be one of the first events that have shifted from physical to virtual.  Being the first event means, this event will set the bar for the coming wave of virtual conferences, being done quickly showcases NVIDIA’s ability to produce content quickly which should speak (we’ll see) to the applied use of their technology.  

However, also being one of the first allows people to see what is working and what isn’t on someone else’s nickel and given there are a lot of companies pivoting to this format, more than the content, the event is worth attending to get a sense for what works and what doesn’t. 

For the next several months, a lot of your companies will be shifting to virtual content, spending time going to some of these early events could provide you with the critical information you’ll need when you do your event.  Best of luck, and please be safe out there.