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Year in Review: How 2020 shaped us into a leading virtual events destination

The highs and lows of 2020 and how a successful pivot has set us up for a great 2021

2020 - in-person events to virtual - welcome to the VUCA world

We each have a story of 2020.

Ours is one of reinvention and gratitude.

At the start of the year, we were preparing to host one of Australasia's largest ever events, with 12,000 tickets booked for Simon Sinek Live.

At the end of the year, with the support of our community, we are successfully 100% virtual and helping others navigate a Volatile, Unpredictable, Chaotic and Ambiguous (VUCA) world.

  • With no mass gatherings allowed, our leadership events business model had to pivot.
  • Our pilot light was our existing mission statement: "Access to the world's greatest business minds."
  • To prevail, we would offer our community valuable virtual leadership education events and masterclasses, and embed the lessons in our own team.

The Growth Faculty - 2020 in numbers

It's a beautiful thing to write these words; after one of the toughest years in our 20 year history, our pivot to virtual has been a resounding success.

Here's a snapshot:

  • 19,500 delegates hosted at our virtual events and masterclasses;
  • Global headliners Jim Collins, Simon Sinek and Seth Godin featured;
  • Two bespoke virtual venues created;
  • 17 world-class masterclasses held (see what's coming up in 2021);
  • 500 participants attended masterclass on building braver leaders;
  • 50 of the world's most celebrated business books summarised by their authors on our member platform; 
  • New, improved membership benefits launched in July - with masterclasses now included for $0;
  • Membership of The Growth Faculty almost doubled; masterclasses a key to this success;
  • 1000s of positive testimonials received: "...miles ahead of every other virtual event." - Odelle Bell, 8 Consulting;
  • A huge year planned for 2021 with new content from Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni and Marcus Buckingham, plus a whole lot more. 

Imagining the lifelike venue

At the outset of the pivot to virtual, The Growth Faculty founder Karen Beattie shared her vision.

She wanted:

  • A virtual venue that looked and felt like you were really there in person.
  • An event with MC, sponsor lounges, lobby, discussion rooms and executive suites, a help desk, bookshop, and a main stage complete with curtain and audience.
  • Guests able to virtually explore the venue at their leisure as they waited for the live keynote to begin.
  • Broadcast quality using a production company.
  • Audience Q&A in real time, live to air.  

With CEO Trent Brown, she and key members of the team worked with the best designers to custom-build The Growth Faculty's lifelike virtual venue.

In the meantime, we hosted marketing legend Seth Godin in a virtual workshop to help our community innovate through the crisis.

Landing Good to Great author Jim Collins

To launch the custom-built platform, Karen invited a global headliner without peer - highly revered and reclusive author Jim Collins, of Good to Great and Built to Last fame. 

Not only has he sold 10 million books, he's expert on leadership during global disruptive, chaotic, and extreme events.

Due to the success of Jim Collins - Good to Great, a new virtual event Jim Collins - The Roadmap To Greatness featuring all new content has been launched for 2021.

Feedback shows delegates enjoyed the virtual format for Jim Collins's 70 minute keynote and 80 minute Q&A:

  • "I felt like I had a personal session with him." - Rachel Gillett, Shine Lawyers.
  • "Very engaging the far most engaging and amazing virtual event I've ever attended." Jessica Thompson, Chevron Australia


  • "The content of both his keynote and Q & A session was outstanding and the Growth Faculty's design of the event is an exciting new format."- Valda Lavoipierre, Human Capital Consulting
  • "This event is an absolute must for anyone in a leadership position or role." - Lauren Cockerill, Specsavers

Don't miss 2021 event Jim Collins - The Roadmap to Greatness

Simon Sinek in November

The experience lifted our confidence to host Simon Sinek - The Infinite Game as a two-part virtual event over 2 weeks in November, with thousands of delegates giving it a rating of 10/10.

  • "As close to being at a real life event that I have experienced in 2020." - Natalie Kobica, VLine Corporation
  • "I've been to a few virtual events...this one has been miles ahead of every other." - Odelle Bell, 8 Consulting 
  • "I half expected to see my own little avatar walking into the bookstore." - Rosemary Rae, Jurlique

Launch of Time for Transformation masterclasses series

In April 2020 we also launched our Time for Transformation series; 17x 90 minute masterclasses that ran weekly to November. 

From July we decided to include them (at no extra cost) in all Annual Club and Premium memberships of The Growth Faculty - over $4000 AUD worth of leadership education each year. We saw this as key to membership success. The number of members has doubled and we will now offer 30 live instructor-led masterclasses as part of membership in 2021.

Masterclass presenters in 2020 included:

  • Singularity University lecturer Mark Bonchek on Shift Thinking - The Tools for Transformation,
  • Multipliers' author Liz Wiseman on making everyone smarter and doing more with less,
  • U.S. former detective and hostage negotiator Derek Gaunt on negotiation skills,
  • Certified Dare to Lead facilitator Kylie Lewis on building brave leaders and courage cultures, based on the research of Dr Brené Brown (See our popular blog: Brené Brown top tip: Assume others are doing the best they can).

Many delegates said they found the masterclasses "short, engaging and insightful." (quote from Mike Clark of Think Right)

  • "Maybe the best online seminar l’ve attended in 2020." - Brad Roberts, City of Geelong
  • "I have not yet walked away without a seed of inspiration to share with my team." - Emily Skehill, Green Energy Trading

Author talks feature Patrick Lencioni, Julia Gillard, David Meerman Scott

Incredibly, 50 celebrated business authors summarised their books in 2020 for the convenience of our members (as part of their membership package).

Highlights included:

  • Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Chair of GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Women and Leadership),
  • David Meerman Scott (Fanocracy) sharing his passion for The Grateful Dead band,
  • Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman's journey to success (What it Takes),
  • Patrick Lencioni (The Motive) on the wrong reasons to become a leader,
  • Charlene Li (The Disruption Mindset),
  • Brian Dumaine (Bezonomics) on the rise of Amazon,
  • Former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss (Never Split the Difference),
  • David Marquet (Leadership is Language),
  • Dan Heath (Upstream) on upstream thinking.

What's ahead in 2021

We're roaring ahead with an exciting virtual programme for 2021; we're already taking bookings for major events Jim Collins - The Roadmap to Greatness and Patrick Lencioni - The 4 Pillars of High Performance Cultures.

Our Time for Transformation Masterclasses will be expanded to 30 masterclasses in 2021.

They include:

  • Marcus Buckingham - The Future of Work
  • Erica Dhawan - The New Rules of Trust and Collaboration
  • Dr Stephanie Johnson - Inclusify - How Diversity & Belonging Drive Innovation
  • Chris McChesney - Close the Execution Gap
  • Plus 26 more.........

The new normal - virtual events here to stay

Given the current circumstances and proven benefits of professional learning, The Growth Faculty will double down on hosting exceptional virtual events.

There are at least 7 reasons for doing so:

  • Necessity - restrictions on in-person gatherings will come and go for a while.
  • Venue limitations & geography not an issue. Regional and remote clients can now participate.
  • Speaker flights not necessary, and delegates can watch in comfort of own office or home.
  • Climate responsible. No waste, less printing, fewer flights and car trips.
  • Wider participation from disabled, housebound, and economically disadvantaged. 
  • Solves L&D issues for companies especially where they need remote solutions.
  • We're always going to have disruption. Jim Collins would say "Get used to it, like breathing." 

As to the return of in-person events, could our future events be expanded to include virtual? Could a hybrid emerge that marries the best of both worlds? How will our custom-built virtual auditorium and stage evolve to blur the lines between virtual and real even further?

Virtual events are no longer a novelty, but there are novel solutions coming to create a truly lifelike and seamless experience.

As we began the year, so we end the year with our mission as our pilot light:

  • "Access to the world's greatest business minds."

When you grow your people, you grow your business.

Again, thanks for being with us for 2020, we hope you're on board with us for the ride ahead!

If you're not already a member, and you'd like more information on the valuable new inclusions included in annual Club or Premium membership, click here.

Don't miss Jim Collins in his February 2021 live virtual event Jim Collins - The Roadmap to GreatnessClick here to book.