Flow Communications

The Daily Maverick’s annual The Gathering event, which brings together expert panellists and speakers to discuss and find solutions for South Africa’s challenges, is exceptionally popular among the publication’s readers.

In 2024 the publication asked Flow, for the third consecutive year, to provide and facilitate the online platform for this hybrid event, which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on 14 March.

In addition, for the first time, Flow facilitated a livestream of the event via the Daily Maverick’s website.

The Gathering2024platform

The brief

The Daily Maverick wanted Flow to provide a digital platform and experience that would make the online audience feel as if they were part of – and immersed in – the physical event. The client wanted the panels and talks to “feel” as engaging and impressive online as they would be at the live discussions.

The brief was for Flow to further develop the customised platform the publication had used for its online conference in previous years. Flow also needed to – for the first time – facilitate a livestream of the event via the Daily Maverick website’s home page.

Flow has handled the digital side of The Gathering since 2022, when the Covid-19 lockdown led to the first The Gathering being presented in a hybrid format.

The Daily Maverick learnt, through the 2022 conference, that a hybrid event could involve many more people than an in-person only event, and aimed to grow its audience for The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four in this way.


The 2024 event aimed to “cut through the noise” around South Africa’s 29 May national elections. It brought together influential leaders from political parties, think tanks, business, journalism and more, and promised to leave attendees “knowing more and knowing better” about South Africa’s future.

The objective was to expand the audience beyond the physical conference by providing a platform that was easy to use and could present an uninterrupted stream for the entire duration of the event (nine hours). Flow also needed to facilitate a live chat, “audience” questions from online participants and extra expert commentary running on the digital platform during the sessions.

Furthermore, for the first time, the Daily Maverick also wanted to provide a livestream on its website home page.

Former Public Protector of South Africa, Professor Thuli Madonsela, speaking at The Gathering.
Former Public Protector of South Africa Professor Thuli Madonsela speaking at The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four.

To achieve this and optimise the remote audience’s participation in real time, Flow used its own tried-and-tested, in-house, customisable conference application. This application was used by the Daily Maverick to present the previous iterations of The Gathering.

The aim was to attract 6 000 to 7 000 people (in-person and online), an increase on the 5 600 who attended the first hybrid The Gathering in 2022. In 2023, the Daily Maverick presented a niche event, The Gathering: Earth Edition, attended by 3 700.


Helping present the previous The Gatherings and many other large, high-profile hybrid events had taught Flow that solid planning was of paramount importance.

The digital application would feature a live video feed of The Gathering discussions, as well as a “user wall”, with tabs for the Daily Maverick journalists’ commentary, additional information, polls and a “chat box” with a moderation functionality for users. This was all aimed at providing the online audience with an interactive and engaging experience.

The platform would be set up to accommodate high traffic volumes.

In drawing up the 2024 strategy, Flow considered some of the lessons from the 2022 and 2023 conferences. These included the importance of providing solid, in-depth training on the use of the digital platform to the Daily Maverick journalists who were going to be providing commentary during the event, making sure that they were able to log onto the platform correctly and make use of its full capability.

The event platform needed to be able to deal with large dataflows, as did the Daily Maverick website, which, even without the event livestream, receives thousands of unique visitors a day. Flow developed a technical strategy that could cater for a potentially large online audience with minimal risk.

The strategy also considered the following essential elements:

  • It needed to be very easy for people to join the event online, so it was free to access and the audience could simply join by clicking on a link – no registration was required

  • It needed to be easy for online participants to chat and ask questions, so apart from the regular “chat box” for users, a special question function was devised that could be used by all attendees (online and in-person) to directly ask the panellists questions

  • The Daily Maverick ran exclusive content for online viewers during the tea and lunch breaks, including short interviews with panellists, which were carried on the stream


Putting the strategy to work, Flow and the Daily Maverick held a well-attended, day-long conference that went ahead without a hitch despite a large service outage for Microsoft users in the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. In addition, four undersea telecommunications cables for data traffic between Europe and Africa went offline on the same day, causing major internet disruptions across the continent, including South Africa.

Before the event began, Flow:

  • Trained the commentator journalists

  • Scaled up the Daily Maverick server to be able to deal with large dataflows

  • Performed a high-usage load test to ensure the server/s were able to accommodate the expected demand

  • Set up back-up accounts on other video platforms so that if the YouTube live stream failed, there were alternatives

  • Designed a custom look and feel based on The Gathering’s branding
    • Features and functions
      • Easy “one-click” registration

      • An easy add-to-calendar feature

      • Seamless virtual audience interaction features, including chatting, asking questions and taking part in polls

      • Easy-to-use commentary features for Daily Maverick journalists via a commentary wall

      • Strong moderation tools. Including a one-click banning function and abusive-language filtering to detect and prevent spammers

      • An attendance calculator that is more accurate than Google Analytics because it has a script that checks every minute if the user is still on the page and watching the webinar. (Google Analytics is prone to false positives because it calculates as an attendee a person who visits and leaves immediately)

  • Tested the event site to ensure all features worked

  • Ensured a dedicated internet line at the CTICC to ensure a smooth feed

On the event day, Flow had an in-person team at the CTICC to liaise with Daily Maverick staff and journalists from other media houses.

Flow teamed up with the live (in-person) event’s production team to ensure that the high-definition livestreaming via YouTube went ahead smoothly. Flow arranged a dedicated internet line at the CTICC to ensure uninterrupted data provision. The stream was outputted to YouTube Studio and then embedded on the branded platform and on the Daily Maverick’s website. It was the first time the event was livestreamed via the website.

The publication’s online journalists were supported via a WhatsApp group.

The event went ahead without a hitch, despite the major undersea cable break and Microsoft service outage that could have affected connectivity.


One of the positives to emerge in recent years has been the realisation that we can use digital media to include more people in events such as The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four.

The Daily Maverick aimed to have between 6 000 and 7 000 people attend the 2024 edition of The Gathering. Flow’s new attendance calculator measured 4 243 people attending online, and 1 600 tickets for the in-person event were sold, bringing the total attendance to 5 843.

However, this target was set due to the attendance measured using Google Analytics in previous years. Google Analytics is less accurate and measured 7 749 people attending online. Added to the 1 600 sold tickets, that is 9 340 people attending – far beyond the goal of between 6 000 and 7 000.