Behind the scenes: a day at the Elastic{ON} Tour

The Elastic{ON} Tour is our series of special one-day events taking place around the world. We bring expert advice from Elastic engineers, talks from our leadership team, and AMAs right to your doorstep. Attending a Tour stop is a great opportunity for members of the Elastic community to learn a bit more about our technology, catch a glimpse of roadmaps, and speak with other users who are doing incredible things with the Elastic Stack.


Elastic{ON} Tour making its mark.

As an Elastician on the Content team within the Marketing department, I’ve had the opportunity to contribute to the Elastic{ON} Tour in a few ways — writing email announcements, putting my editorial eyes on the Tour web pages, and other small tasks. Still, beyond the larger Elastic{ON} Conference last year in San Francisco, I hadn't had an opportunity to see how things run onsite. So when the Tour rode into Seattle last week (well, technically Bellevue, but why split hairs?), I decided to drop by and see it all in the flesh.

On the morning of the event I drove along the 520 bridge during rush hour (a commute I never need to worry about as a distributed employee) for an 8:30 a.m. call time at the Meydenbauer Center. A quick ride up the elevator from the parking garage and I was greeted by the Elastic{ON} Team on hand for the day. Katy Wright, our director of Elastic{ON} events, greeted me with enthusiasm. I asked her when she had arrived in Seattle, and how early she usually rolls in for an event.

“The Elastic{ON} events team usually arrives the day before an event to build out the infrastructure,” Katy explained. “Setup can sometimes go late into the night, but the team is back onsite bright and early (usually around 6 a.m.) the next day to ensure operations are up and running prior to the rest of the event staff arrival."

"Since we know the Elastic{ON} programs best, we have to pay attention to a lot of things onsite. From placing food and coffee in the expo to driving attendees to onsite activations like the AMA booth, to helping our sponsors, setting up demos, and ensuring speakers are presenting within their allotted times to keep the day on track — it’s a lot, but the team manages it all. We often joke that we get our workout in for the day — our daily step goals are well exceeded, and between all the moving of furniture and boxes, we definitely get our lift on!”

There was indeed a lot of activity in the lead-up to attendees arriving. I walked in to the center lecture hall to find our VP of Worldwide Marketing, Jeff Yoshimura, running through the slides of the opening keynote for a technical check with the exposition hall staff.


VP of Marketing Jeff Yoshimura giving the keynote address.

After watching Jeff click through slides for a bit I decided to see a bit more of the space. I ran into Daniel Palay, manager of global customer advocacy, at the registration table. Daniel was on-hand from our Mountain View, California office to help our featured customer speaker from T-Mobile and meet with customers face-to-face. I asked him what his favorite part of attending the Tour was.

“This is my fourth year of being on Tour with Elastic,” he told me, “and each year I’m excited for the same thing: seeing and experiencing first hand the emotion and passion of our community members. Tour days and travel can be tiring, but whether it’s the energy of our speaker sharing their successes with the Elastic Stack from the stage, the attendee whose eyes light up when they see their specific use case covered or the art of the possible validated in one of the featured talks, or just the 1:1 conversations throughout the day with our community — these things make all the work worth it.”

It was still early and I needed a coffee, so I headed to the snack table just outside another hall. I walked in to find the area filled with sponsors, users, and Elastic engineers on hand to answer customer questions at the AMA booth. This is one of the most popular features of the Elastic{ON} Tour — the opportunity for users to ask burning questions about their use cases, find solutions to their problems, and get to know the folks building the products they use every day.


Engineers delivering critical information to our users.

I left the engineers to their work and again found Katy busily setting up signs to guide the community to the breakout sessions scheduled later in the day. Watching her, I asked Katy if there were ever any hurdles to getting a Tour stop up and running.

“One thing you may not know about event planners is that they sometimes need to get scrappy. If shipments don’t arrive in time, or if something looks wrong onsite, we hack it. I remember one time for an event in Toronto the lanyards for our badges didn’t make it through customs. Somehow, none of the office stores in the area had anything that would work. So what did we do? We bought black shoelaces, and tied them to badges in our hotel bar until 2 a.m. the night before the event!”

I told her I was impressed by the team's dedication and Katy gave an appreciative smile. “Our top priority is giving a top-notch experience to the users who are spending the day with us. We’re hosts. We want them to be comfortable and to feel like their time was well-spent. We take survey feedback very seriously, and since starting the program nearly five years ago, we have iterated year after year to ensure our events align with our users' priorities.”

Jeff looked polished as usual as he ran through the latest updates from the Elastic Stack in his keynote address, highlighting developments coming down the road. The keynote was followed by a talk from Senior Vice President of Engineering Kevin Kluge, who gave a detailed overview of the latest feature developments. Recording the talks from the back of the hall were two of our videographers, Kingsley Willis and Ben Ferrer.

“There’s a ton of prep that goes into an event like this,” said Kingsley. “Most of it happens before I even leave my home office in Austin, Texas. We’ve been busy refreshing some of Jeff's keynote content, and there was a fair amount of animation updates I had to do in the hours leading up to the event. Back in February, I updated the tour deck with about 15 new animations. We recently added Maps to our solutions set, so I modified the animation for the slide that shows our solutions all together on screen.”

I asked Ben, senior video editor, for his take on filming events like this. “As videographers embedded in the Elastic team,” he said, “we are familiar with the products, talks, and the different presenters’ styles. This gives us an advantage over contracted videographers as we shoot and edit the five+ hours of content from each Tour stop.”

Previously, lugging footage edit back at home created a lag in getting videos out to the public. This is something Ben and Kingsley are trying to remedy. “We’re shooting for accuracy and quick turnarounds,” said Ben. “The next step in delivering Tour videos sooner is to edit the footage live using a mini version of a broadcast video switcher.”



The live edit in action.

Kingsley explained the process to me. “The live edit uses three sources: a wide shot of the projection screen with the presenter, a closer panning shot of the presenter (some of them like to ping pong across the stage) and then a direct feed to whatever is being presented on screen. This includes one-of-a-kind live demos that don’t exist outside of the tour. These are especially valuable to our users after the event. We also piggyback on the microphones used for the PA system at the event, which gives us clear sound and three high-quality sources to transition between.”

Want to see what took place in Seattle? You can see footage from the event as soon as it's rendered. Better yet, join us at one of the many upcoming Tour events not just in North America, but also EMEA and Asia. So, come on out, meet your local community, and get expert advice from the Elastic team.

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