I really, definitely, and seriously did attend Relate 2020

Freya Dobrindt
Zendesk Design
Published in
5 min readJul 10, 2020

Here’s what happened

I made it to Miami. Bring on tropical air, cheesy empanadas by the dozen, and Relate 2020 — Zendesk’s global user conference. Since I work in customer support, I’m here to get looped in on all things CX, and to be part of a standout community. So, let’s get in the lambo. That’s what they promised on the website.

It’s 8:30am, and I’m strollin’ over to the Miami Convention Center. I am ready to roll, especially after my morning dip in my hotel pool. (I swear I’m here for serious business.) I think there’s going to be over 3,000 attendees talking about what’s new in customer experience, sharing our stories on the good, bad, and ugl — wait, is that a gradient-coloured Zendesk SUV zipping by?

Miami South Beach full of gradients

Here comes the sun

This venue is impressive. Big, functional, and modern. It’s also delightfully air-conditioned. It may be a brand new convention center, but I feel like I’m entering a Zendesk experience. A giant branded staircase leads me upstairs, and iridescent foil structures catch my eye.

Magnificent staircase
Registration area with shiny, iridescent structures

At registration, a friendly helper in a gradient tie-dye tee hands me my badge. Bonus points: it’s not made of plastic. And the swag is actually thoughtful — a reusable water bottle, drawstring bag (more incentive to hit the beach after hours), sweet pins, and conference notebook. As part of Zendesk’s social impact efforts, they’ve got a swag shop too (a cute little street-style cart), with all proceeds going to charity. I nab a beach towel that says “CX on the beach”. Obvs.

Swag cart–all proceeds go to charity

Okay, back to why my company sent me here…I pull out the Relate app, and start planning out the sessions I want to attend over the next three days.

The Relate app — my useful companion

Shine on

On entering the Expo Hall, I’m guided through an enormous light box. Every step leads me further into the light. I’m definitely sensing a metaphor here.

There it is. Directly ahead, a giant glowing sun is suspended in the center of the room. Underneath, there’s a theater set up for sessions. And surrounding the theater, iridescent booths of all shapes and sizes. The perimeter of the room is lime-washed in warm yellow light, a subtle nod to the yellow carpet on the floor. There’s a real buzz and shine in the space.

Entering the expo area
Booth with Zendesk partners
Zendesk info booths

Let there be light

I find a good spot in the auditorium for the first keynote. This space feels unique; there’s another suspending light ball, but it’s glowing subtly. On stage, a Cuban band is rocking it. We’re all in groove mode now.

Then, the music stops. A suspenseful, dramatic pause, as the room dims to near darkness. A single beat, and dark sleek shapes flood the screen, slightly illuminated. A countdown.

Sarah Reed gives us a warm welcome, even for Miami. The main stage gets sneakily transformed into a kitchen. Cue Zendesk CEO, Mikkel Svane. He catches us up on Zendesk’s new briefing center, The Kitchen. Gotcha, that stage oven makes sense now, as does the chef preparing a meal live on stage. Could I get a bite of those Swedish dill potatoes? I’m drooling.

I won’t delve into Relate content because it’s best if you experience all the good stuff for yourself. You can check out this library for the interesting and useful presentations. On top of the learnings, you’ll get a glimpse of the beautiful details, which made Relate feel special throughout. Even the holding screen content gradually transitioned from dark to light from conference start to end.

Lot’s of beautiful presentations have been prepared to fill 3 days with content
Holding screen content in motion

The big, hot reveal

After three days of fresh insights, CX know-how, and metaphorical and literal sunshine, I drop my badge and lanyard into the recycling station. I say adios to the friends I’ve made, roll up my custom Relate towel, and catch a final glimpse of the glowing light. This event was like a dream.

Or maybe, it actually was. Maybe in real life, I’m a designer working on brand experiences at Zendesk. And maybe this event didn’t even happen.

________________

Yep. Relate was cancelled two days before it was meant to happen, due to COVID-19.

But hey, a gal can dream, right?

It’s true. I am a brand designer that works on the creative team at Zendesk—and Relate was just a dream (that I spent almost a year working on).

But I had to document what this event would’ve been. This article is an ode to the amazing team of Zendesk creatives and marketeers, from 3D to sound and video and slides, as well as our colleagues from Sparks, who dedicated sweat, time, tears, talent (and, let’s be real, probably a little blood) to create beautiful things that never saw the light of day. Pun intended.

Your creations live on in this article. RIP Relate 2020—we hardly knew thee.

(On a lighter note: Relater, our global online event, is what came out of the dust.)

Thanks for taking a scroll with us. Check out design.zendesk.com for more thought leadership, design process, and other creative musings.

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