Cannes Lions

The Un-Summit


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Each year, Facebook’s Global Marketing and Sales (GMS) Summit provides an opportunity for over 6,500 employees to come together, share ideas and reconnect with the company’s mission. The 2020 Summit had been in the works for nearly a year when the pandemic hit; 3,825 hotel rooms were reserved, stage sets were built and caterers were paid. The ensuing global sense of uncertainty made connection and inspiration even more critical, but the risk of traveling or gathering was too great.

With 11 days to adjust, The Un-Summit was born — one of the first gatherings to

move online in 2020 and, according to industry experts, one of the year’s most innovative.

Nearly 500 people worked around the clock to create, edit and produce a show that featured 41 speakers in 10 global locations. It was distributed via Facebook’s Workplace platform, which had never been leveraged at such scale before.


We Were Built for This

After considering canceling the event, we were inspired by Facebook’s mission - to give people the power to connect and build community. We realized that Facebook’s platforms were built for a situation like this.

We would use the Un-Summit to show employees the power of Facebook’s platforms — the power to connect those who aren’t together and create a community that draws strength and inspiration from its members.

We pushed our platforms to the outer limits of tested capabilities, creating a virtual experience that transcended the limitations of a physical event and elevated interaction to levels previously unseen. The result was a two-day event that made every employee feel connected, regardless of geography, time zone or team. Several Un-Summit episodes even launched spin off online series. The digital format was used as a Facebook’s best-practice means of communication both internally and externally throughout 2020.


With just 11 days to change nearly every aspect of this event, we leaned on the rather prophetic event theme, Transform, to inform our strategy. Our goals were to:

• Deliver messaging and content virtually, in a way that was compelling and inspirational while keeping people safe

• Leverage the advantages of a virtual event so effectively that we would question the future of in-person summits

Our platforms were built to create connection and community regardless of physical distance, so we changed our delivery format from live stage to Facebook’s internal Workplace platform, pushing the platform to absolute limits with a massive global launch.

Anticipating the potential for screen fatigue, we re-designed the agenda to include moments of surprise and delight with opportunities for mass audience engagement and breaks for entertainment. The entire program was completely binge-worthy, focusing on producing high quality content with an intimate feel.


Nearly 500 people worked around the clock to redesign the content into 17 television episodes with custom graphics, comedic “commercials” and short interstitial spots. Episodes aired in a staggered schedule to accommodate the global audience. Inspirational employee spotlights, performances and surprise celebrity cameos helped build and maintain suspense, excitement and engagement.

Un-Summit ambassadors were provided discussion guides, printable posters and digital swag to organize small, safe office watch parties. Facebook’s Workplace platform enabled viewers to share comments and reactions in real-time, encouraging interaction amongst attendees and adding impromptu moments of unique connection impossible in a traditional in-person event.

A private Instagram handle allowed everyone to share photos, see behind-the-scenes content, and submit questions for Mark Zuckerberg’s live Q+A. A custom AR filter and #unsummiting encouraged attendee participation, and all photos were later combined into a billboard-sized work of art that now hangs in the company’s headquarters.


The Un-Summit demonstrated the powerful potential of virtual connection, despite being executed in 11 days, against the backdrop of an unknown and unfolding global pandemic.

38 videos were produced and streamed, featuring 41 speakers filmed in 10 locations around the world, to more than 6,500 Facebook employees worldwide.

As a result:

Pride in working for Facebook and GMS rose by 10%

Employees were 13% better able to communicate Facebook’s vision

Understanding of the GMS vision increased by 26%

Most impressively, this virtual event achieved a 5% increase in satisfaction over in-person events.

In addition:

By curtailing travel, we eliminated about $300,000 in carbon emissions

Nearly 18,000 catered meals were donated to San Francisco charities

And, while the Un-Summit was produced for an internal audience, even outsiders noticed. BizBash magazine, a trade publication for the event industry, named the Un-Summit “one of the most innovative events of 2020.”

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