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Now is the time to get digital

Published 2 months agoProjects

It’s April 2020 and the world isn’t what it was only a couple of months ago. Events and conferences are being cancelled, from Cannes to the Olympics, and tougher restrictions on movement are being enacted across the world as governments work to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the global world as we know it was changing long before the outbreak of Covid-19. The development of new technology is making it easier than ever to meet online and to work remotely. When Greta spoke truth to power, initiating a global movement to combat climate change, it became clear that it was everybody’s responsibility to do their part. 

It’s obvious that we need to be inventive and find new solutions to the challenges that come with a global world. It’s going to be what separates those that manage to weather the storm and those that fall. To us, it will be determined by the types of questions we ask. How can we do things differently? How can we use technology in smart and creative ways? How can we future-proof brands for a new reality?

As a global, multi-continent organization, we cherish the idea of collaboration across offices, borders and cultures. We know the value of getting people together, regardless of where you’re physically based, as well as building a joint experience and culture. 

So when we were planning our 20 year anniversary last year, we wanted to celebrate with a big, cross-office get together. At the time, we were blissfully unaware of a looming global pandemic. However, we knew that flying 150+ people across the world for a couple of days of conferencing and partying just didn’t make sense with our sustainability strategy. 

A fully virtual conference would have been the best, but we weren’t ready for that just yet. Instead, our goal was to make sure as few people as possible traveled, and that those who did traveled as short distance as possible. Which is how this tale of two cities and 20 hours of Google Hangouts begins.

Here’s how it worked.

1. TWO CONNECTED HUBS

2. THE HUB SPACE

Spaces with huge screens on the stage, connected our two locations.

3. PRODUCTION VALUE

Higher production value. Brought in an AV team with multi camera setup at each location (we’re not talking laptop webcams here).

We produced a graphics toolkit to wrap everything up in a nice packaging.

4. A TIGHT RUN OF SHOW

Does this sound more like a television show than a conference? Yes in many ways our conference was run more like a mini Oscar’s if you will, than a traditional event. But we tried to find as many opportunities for audience participation as possible, and to have a dynamic flow so it would never feel like you were just a “viewer”. We kept moving back and forth between locations, featuring and highlighting different people. 

We were pretty nervous about how this event would turn out, but in retrospect it exceeded our expectations. Looking forward, perhaps a fully virtualized conference could have worked. There are some bits missing that would make it a lot easier to create these types of virtualized events. While general infrastructure for remote team work is in a great state with things like Google Drive, Meet and Slack, we still miss good, easy-to-use solutions for virtualized events. Like a good “on air control tower” solution for mixing live VC feeds, mixing in graphics, managing audio and so on (Startup tip!).

Also, not really part of the story but: Our conference/party lasted for 20 hours, one for each year we’ve been around, and included everything from yoga sessions to brainstorms to live performances.

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