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Transition to Virtual

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During the UK lockdown, James Morgan hosted a virtual discussion to assess how companies were adapting to new ways of working.

As the industry moved towards a new reality of virtual engagement, a panel comprised of Stephan Forseilles, head of technology and digital transformation at Easyfairs; James Samuel, portfolio director at Clarion and Rob Nathan, group marketing director at Media loggedon to share best practice, challenges and concerns.

Dr Kuldip Sandhu, principal digital transformation consultant at Innovative Quality Solutions also appeared on-line to share his recommendations. The panel started off by discussing the challenges of rapid transformation from live to virtual, including the types of available technologies and the required production values.

Forseilles said: “Video, sound, different content sources from different places, mixing everything – it’s all super important.”

He believes virtual events need to be produced like TV shows and this is “a skill we must learn or acquire if we want to do things professionally and keep our audiences engaged.”

Samuel agreed, stating that “production is arguably more important in a digital world than its live counterpart.”

He wants to “create digital events that will become part of the new normal and offer added value and opportunities for the market they serve … with or without a pandemic.”

To do this, Samuel says we should be sensitive to exhibitors and their problems but consider the need to create new revenue streams to safeguard businesses for the future.

With the challenges in mind, the panel went on to discuss what solutions their organisations had adopted. Media 10 had conducted research into clients’ event objectives. Importantly, the company had also looked at how to monetise those objectives.

Nathan stated that, “on the B2C side we have curated a mixture of e-commerce solutions along with engagement to increase social followings.”

Media 10 has used this pause in live events to ‘reset our offering to clients”, turning the business from a “granular operation into more of a client solutions business.”

So, what can the industry learn from these discussions?

The panel was asked to recommend actions that would make the transition to virtual more engaging.

For Samuel it was about relevance. “Understanding your market is key,” he said. Forseilles sees industry co-operation as important.

He said: “As an industry, we must share our experiences. It’s not a matter of competition, it’s a matter of survival for events as a valid marketing and business channel. Besides travel and tourism, I don’t think there are any other industries that have been placed into question as much as ours.”

Finally, Nathan reinforced the need for innovation. He said: “Organisers should be thinking about moving away from the vertical of pure events and serving content all year that is relevant, scalable and commercial; from webinars to podcasts to e-commerce to news platforms, there has never been a better time to press the reset button.”

Kuldip Sandhu agreed that the new normal requires a reinvention of the traditional business model with the hosting and organising of events in a new hybrid model.

He opined that the hybrid model requires a number of key considerations so the right tools and capabilities are developed.

These include:

» Customer engagement must be at the core of the digital environment to cater for clients’ needs pre, during and post events

» Platforms must be ‘easy to use’ so that everyone can be involved leading to a greater ROI

» Reliability of the digital platform i.e. a Cloud platform

» The platform should have streaming tools integrated, with the ability to stream regionally and locally

» Any choice should support CRM, campaign management and event management systems/software integration

» The platform should be experiential, marketing friendly with the ability to create personalised and adaptive experiences

» Finally, the platform should be able to offer a matchmaking function with 1-1 voice and video calls between organisers, sponsors, exhibitors and visitors.

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