In the third session at 'Business And Events In A Post-Pandemic World - Part 2', Carla Hallmark Jones, Head of Events at Nesta, and Sanj Surati, Digital Atelier/Founder of Tiger Heart explored event tech trends and what skills events professionals might require to take them on. Martin Fullard, Editor at Conference News, moderated.
You can watch the video below, or read on for our key takeaways of the session. This event was hosted in partnership with Swapcard and London Filmed.
Table of Contents
The coronavirus pandemic has been a learning curve for us all, and Carla notes that Nesta have had to look at their content, select the best content and decide what will work best in a digital way. Rather than succumbing to the urge to just turn everything digital, even if it doesn't really work in that medium. As an events team you can be as prepared as you like, but it's also important to prepare your speakers, who may not be used to virtual events either. In this way, everyone is 'learning on the job', as it were.
She adds that joining peer groups and network groups has been really useful for her. The market is so flooded with content at the moment that talking about challenges and experiences within these online groups is a really helpful exercise.
Observe and adapt
Sanj has noticed that human behaviour is changing dramatically as we evolve to a new events landscape post-coronavirus. As a result of this, the digital medium has been tested to the extreme, and there are multiple platforms in place to accommodate great digital events. It is common, now, for organisers asking technology companies about AI and how this can be incorporated in the digital space to manage certain things, such as who goes into an event, for data gathering purposes. It is important for these companies to listen to how the consumer uses the technology and then adapt accordingly to this change in behaviour.
Simplicity is key
A key factor in this adaptation process is simplicity. Sanj uses the example of Zoom here, suggesting that it has been so popular due to its simplicity to use, thanks to its digital architecture. This has caused other platforms to reevaluate their own digital architecture, taking note from platforms like Zoom. Some platforms were already simple to use, however some are simply not designed to being used in the capacity in which they're now being used, which means companies have had to reamalgamate what they're offering to a consumer.
What tools do event professionals need?
Carla notes that knowing the technology you're using inside out is invaluable for an event organiser planning digital events. It's important to understand how the technology works (at a basic level at least) and how it can be used to achieve your objectives. This isn't necessarily easy, but certainly important now in the digital event world.
Another tool that has proven to be useful for Carla is basic video editing. Being able to take content and turn it into a marketing tool is a really useful skill and will also save on outsourcing costs.
Sanj believes that collaboration is key. Looking for a business that understands the skill set that you're looking to explore and collaborating with them can be a great way to share skills and knowledge. It is essential to explore the platform you're going to be using to see whether it's going to be right for your business & event objectives. This is more than a quick play around though, it's important to invest the right amount of time to do this - you could hire some interns or temps to really get to grips with the ins and outs.
What are your thoughts on charging for digital events?
Carla believes it comes down to what you did before. If you didn't charge for live events before, don't charge now! If you did charge, then maybe consider charging for access to your online events, as otherwise it may devalue your product and the content you're offering. If you use the right technology and offer fantastic content, then attendees will be getting a fairly similar experience as before and will be willing to pay for your events just as they did before the pandemic.
You could also introduce this slowly, such as running a few smaller virtual events for free, and then holding a larger event where you do charge for access. This differentiates the value for money and also gets your attendees interested in your events before they commit to paying for one.
Check out this piece for some tips on how to monetise your virtual events.
Are there any specific platforms you would recommend or avoid?
Sanj recommends Zoom as a simple, easy-to-use platform, and adds that Microsoft Teams and Skype have got some catching up to do. Facebook have launched a Rooms function, as have Google with their Hangouts platform, so these are worth exploring to find out which one works best for you. He adds that he has been using Streamyard too, as well as Youtube.
Something that will be changing dramatically in the foreseeable future is how you apply a payment aspect to this type of streaming service. He notes that legalities makes this a bit complicated, as does encryption: even if you're charging a premium, anything digital can be hacked. Events companies don't necessarily have the time or resources to fix these issues alone, so again this could come down to collaboration between solutions companies and events teams for addressing this and creating a solution.
Where does the management best sit in an organisation?
It depends on the organisation and the skill set of the team, says Carla. If you have people with required skills in-house and they have a willingness to learn, then upskill them and give them the opportunity to learn. It's a collaborative effort: use the support around you from teammates and different sectors and draw on their knowledge. Depending on your organisational structure, third parties could also be a great resource too, such as Hire Space!
Carla Hallmark Jones, Head of Events, Nesta
Carla and her team help bring all areas of Nesta's work to life through live events. From breakfast briefings, learning lunches and interactive workshops to evening lectures and our flagship festival, FutureFest. Prior to Nesta, Carla was Head of Event Operations and Customer Services for live events at Haymarket Media Group. Her experience focuses on attendee experience as well as developing and activating innovative, engaging event formats.
Sanj Surati, Digital Atelier/Founder, Tiger Heart
Sanj is an award winning multi-disciplined Digital Atelier with over twenty years of experience within the music, fashion and luxury industries. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world including Burberry, Gucci, Charlotte Tilbury, BMW and Alphabet. Tiger Heart is his new home where his specialty is working with technology to develop new live digital experiences for the purpose of product launches, retail experiences and experiential events.
Martin Fullard, Editor, Conference News
Martin Fullard is editor of Conference News magazine. An experienced, award-winning journalist covering a variety of fields, Fullard has been covering the conference and meetings sector since August 2016, appearing on many panels and leading discussions relevant to the events industry. He campaigns alongside the trade associations to government to achieve greater recognition for the events industry.
If you want to watch the other sessions from this event, we've collated them all here.
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Izzie brings a deep understanding of the events world to Hire Space, and keeps busy by writing lots of Hire Space and EventLAB content and managing the Hire Space social media presence.