Events – What’s in a name?

Throughout history, there have been events. Dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years, events are how we remember key moments in history.

Many events occur for reasons out of our control – from the humble birthday, to a scorching hot summer, but to embrace the spirit of the moment we’ve learned to celebrate them in the best ways possible. But for decades we’ve also devoted time, energy and money into manufacturing events; awards ceremonies, product launches, announcements, celebrations, opening and closing parties, hedonism… you name it, there’s likely to be an event for it. International Sushi Day anyone?

Change means change

This year, we’ve had to change many aspects of how we live, how we work, and how we do business. And in business, one of the sectors to really feel the impact is the events business. For the foreseeable future, we’re not going to be traveling to large conference venues, or mingling with strangers, or sitting in rooms full of rows of seats packed so tightly you’re practically sat on your neighbour’s lap. We’re not going to be wandering into beautifully crafted entrance foyers, or plan rise with row upon row of exhibitors, all with their professionally crafted display stands and their sharp, bright sales people, eager to demonstrate their innovative product to you. We’re not going to be witness to the dramatic music to open the keynote speech, or the 90 seconds of visual effect on screen that took months of planning, design and late nights in the office to fine–tune. We’re not going to be able to network with others at the event in whatever way suits our individual personalities, or have an informal chat over a drink at the end of the day.

Or are we?

An event should be an event

Ever since the world of business turned virtual, people have scrambled to try and turn the physical, into the virtual. Tens, if not hundreds of platforms now exist to run ‘virtual events’, all promising to emulate the physical events experience, but, like many things in life, whilst they all look good on paper, in practice they’re simply not the magic bullet to creating an event, digitally.

Yes, technology is part of the solution, but it isn’t the solution.

A few weeks ago, we launched Podium, a new Immersive Digital Events Design service. Podium was born from two key observations:

1. Virtual events don’t have to be, nor should they be a direct translation of the physical events experience – because the beauty with digital is you can pretty much create whatever you want. You’re not constrained by the size, shape or location of the venue.

2. Just because an event is digital, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have investment into the craft that its physical cousin receives.

What we’ve noticed is that, in the rush to either transform physical events into virtual ones, or create new virtual events, people seem to have forgotten the above. Large scale events planned for thousands of attendees, with well–rehearsed presenters standing on grand stages, with beautifully produced graphics for their backdrops have become the equivalent to a rainy day in Slough. People presenting in their baseball caps, in messy rooms, with a glib PowerPoint presentation, droning on for half an hour, with little to no audience engagement.

See the problem?

Where’s the craft?

Where’s the planning?

Where’s the production value?

Where’s the event?

The answer is simple

As a brand manager, or anyone responsible for holding an event, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why are you holding this virtual event?

2. Who’s it for?

3. Why will people bother attending?

4. What are you doing for it that’s going to keep their attention?

5. What are you prepared to invest to make it as good, if not better than the physical one you were planning this time last year?

These are the questions we ask any prospective Podium client, because these indicate whether the aspiration is there to create a virtual event, or in fact, it’s really just a webinar, or a piece of on-demand video that’s needed. To add, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these things, but they’re not an event, nor should they be considered as a viable alternative to one.

Still think it’s an event you’re after? Call us

Oliver Budworth
Head of Strategy at The Crocodile

Imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery

Over the past month, there’s been a huge surge in demand for virtual events, but when it comes to designing them, not many can see beyond the conventions of the convention centre.

In 1985 a new start–up called W Industries was formed, and in 1990 ‘VIRTUALITY’ was launched. If you were around at the time, you’ll remember the big grey headsets appearing at video–game arcades throughout the world. It was meant to herald a new era in gaming but the technology underpinning it wasn’t powerful enough and despite the massive PR machine behind it, the experience was quite simply, a bit pants.

The world of Second Life

In 2003, Linden Labs launched Second Life, a new ‘virtual world’ in which, anyone could create an avatar, and then go about building their own alternate reality, along with interacting with many other online ‘residents’.

It was hailed as the next big thing, and brands flocked to it. In fact, it became so popular that in 2006, U2 even hosted a live concert on the platform.

But as fast as it grew, people lost interest. After all, who wants to play something that quite literally mirrors real life, but without all of the drama, nuance, serendipity, idiosyncrasy and fun that often frequents life in the physical world.

It seems anything that’s ‘virtual’ usually ends up being a less-good version of the real thing.

And so today, with the self-isolation and lockdown implemented as a result of Covid-19, we see events around the world either being postponed, cancelled, or transformed into ‘virtual’ versions of the physical thing.

Welcome to the virtual foyer

Unfortunately, many seem to interpret a virtual event as something that’s a direct translation of a physical one. The welcome foyer. The plenary. Exhibition booths. Conference rooms. Reception desk anyone? And what this approach typically results in, is a crap version of the real thing. Not only is it not as good, it also acts as a stark reminder that once you’ve stared at the virtual lobby, and watched all the talks, you sadly won’t be walking to a bar serving ice cold drinks, or the nice roof terrace to go and network in the evening sun.

Putting a physical event online should never be about trying to replicate the physical world, virtually. It’s a broken formula – proven time and time again, and, as Tom Hanks’ character in BIG famously said: “What’s fun about playing with a building? That’s not any fun.”

When digital offers almost infinite possibilities in terms of the experience you can create for people, it seems crazy that an event would try to imitate the physical world and all of the constraints that come with it.

Think about movies such as Ready Player One, Tron and Inception – immersive, fantasy worlds unconstrained by the physics or realities of the physical world. Think about how these movies play with our minds, stimulate our imagination and helping us to see things in a new light.

A digital blank canvas. Wow.

Now imagine, if you had a blank canvas for your next event, one that was free from the constraints of elements like the location, size and shape of the venue, the colour of the carpet and the paint on the walls, or the distance between the various rooms for the talks, what sort of experience would you want to create?

Digital presents a world of creative potential for events – the only limit is your imagination and ambition.

Podium designed events combine creativity, craft and the very best uses of technology platforms to create events with theatre, quality and excitement that provide attendees with a feel-good experience from beginning to end.

We call it Immersive Digital Event Design.

So when you’re thinking about your next event, ask yourself one question; what sort of experience you want your event to deliver. Then call us.

Oliver Budworth
Head of Strategy at The Crocodile

Industry leaders launch Virtual Event Initiative

London, UK – 8th Apr, 2020 – Today, The CrocodileOnalytica, and Turtl are announcing Podium a global Immersive Virtual Events initiative, in partnership with ON24, the leading technology company helping businesses transform their marketing and customer engagement through data-rich digital experiences.

With high demand for enterprise organisations to pivot from physical events to digital, this offering enables enterprises with a readily available digital event solution that quickly delivers the scale, theatre, richness and excitement of physical events, online.

In virtual boardrooms globally, the same question has been echoing across video calls – “We have to pull our physical events this year – what are we going to do instead?” Switching to online events is the answer but the shift to digital isn’t as straightforward or as easy as it might seem. Now, it’s mission critical for brands to elevate their webinar experiences to match the engagement and impact of traditional sales and marketing conferences.

The Podium initiative pulls together best-in-class online event design, influencer marketing and media rich interactive content formats to create an immersive online event experience powered by the ON24 Platform.

The Podium initiative has an ambitious set of principles and goals:

  • To create the next generation of immersive digital event experiences
  • To replicate the theatre and excitement of physical events
  • To design data driven digital experiences that feel more human
  • To scale the engagement of in-person events to a much wider audience

This initiative is consistent with a growing trend for complimentary providers to work together to create agile, best-in-class solutions that address the fast-changing and unprecedented needs of business.

Tessa Barron, ON24 VP of Marketing, commented: "Our mission at ON24 is to help businesses transform their marketing into an experience their audience demands. And, we know that realising that vision takes more than technology. Through innovative service offerings like Podium, we hope to help companies successfully bridge the physical-to-digital event divide, now and in the future."

The Crocodile’s Managing Director, Jason Talbot, adds: "In the blink of an eye the world changed. It’s forced many of us to confront digital experience gaps that exist across many organisations. By breaking down silos and collaborating we’ve created Podium – immersive event design with craft, theatre, connected data and digital scale as a viable alternative to physical events in 2020 and onwards."

Tim Williams, CEO Onalytica: "Physical events create spikes of social media engagement, but brands have historically struggled to build and sustain dialogue and engagement pre- and post-event. Integrating internal and external influencers in the promotion of events drives an 8-week audience engagement cycle, improves the quality of events and creates inspiring content assets that can be used in the sales cycle throughout the year."

Nick Mason, CEO Turtl: "I’m very excited for Turtl to be part of Podium. In the present climate, the ability to deliver amazing digital events is an absolute must and Podium will be leading the way with best-of-breed technologies for every step of the digital event experience."

Visit Podium website.