fbpx

Let’s Talk About Tech, Baby

Posted on 16th June 2020 by Gilly Bain

Let’s Talk About Tech, Baby

Through being appointed to Scotland E.P.I.C. (Event Producer’s Independent Committee) I have been able to have open and honest conversations with colleagues across the live events industry, specifically focussed on the impact that COVID-19 is having on us all. I have also been supporting the DLP (Destination Leadership Programme) by providing insights into event and tech, and how it seems to be re-shaping the industry as I personally see it.

Through combining my chats with E.P.I.C. and formulating my thoughts for the DLP – the below is where I have got to so far. It covers where I feel we are at now in terms of online events, where we are headed with regard to hybrid events, and how tech is going to play a central role in large scale live events, when we eventually do go live again…

“I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but from a live event perspective COVID-19 has buckled the core of our industry”

I really don’t want to sound too dramatic, but from a live event perspective COVID-19 has buckled the core of our incredible industry. With news, such as the recent releases from The Business Visits & Events Partnership and the National Outdoor Events Association, we’re facing up to worrying and possibly irreversible consequences.

  • “The Business Visits & Events Partnership, the advocacy group for the UK’s £70 billion events industry, has warned of ‘a catastrophic and irreversible’ impact to the industry if the Government further delay publishing clear and practical guidelines on the opening of the UK’s vital events sector and relax the current two metre physical distancing rule.”
  • “The festival and events industry as we know it is on the brink of permanent demise according to research from the National Outdoor Events Association. In a report, the organisation reports that 84% of all organisers questioned have seen their entire events programme wiped out for 2020”

“Our lifeline for now? Tech!”

Our lifeline for now? Tech, tech, and more tech! We are leaning now, more than ever, on the technical, audio visual and engineer supply chain of our industry. This lean is also happening at a time where the income within it has all but completely stopped, and the appetite for truly bespoke online platform events and virtual experiences is there, but it’s a little cautious.

When COVID-19 hit, the events industry generally cut out the wider industry supply chain in terms of event production (both business and freelance), and quickly switched to ‘off the shelf’ products like Zoom, On24, GoToWebinar, Hopin, Microsoft Teams Live, Google Hangouts, and other platforms to deliver the event sector ‘quick fix and keep going’ message. These platforms are all limiting in different ways, but one thing they do have in common is that they all make it fairly impossible for our clients to stand out!

“But where there is challenge, there is opportunity!”

Of course where there is challenge, there is always opportunity! We’re now working together with industry streaming specialists to find the best bespoke experiences and the flexible platforms that we need to ‘take it up a notch’ for our amazing clients. There is obviously fierce competition in servicing this area – as it’s a small opening of hope within a hungry supply chain – but it is a real lifeline all the same.

This market is moving at speed, it’s quickly getting flooded with options and offers, and it’s moving so fast that we are working on set-ups that haven’t been done before. We are even identifying gaps in the live stream technology market that we need bridged. It’s fast and it’s furious, but we are making progress, and everyone’s online events are going to be better because of this community push. This movement will ensure our clients get more online event cut through, enhanced online guest experiences, and it will improve the all-important sponsor ROI.

It’s a journey that’s for sure – and here’s an insight into some of the tech waves we are currently riding:

WAVE 1 – ZIPPING UP ZOOM

“We all love a Zoom, but the day of the weary webinar is over people, and it’s time to zip it up!”

We do all love a Zoom, but the day of the weary webinar is coming to an end, and it really is time to zip it. We have moved on, and are now delivering private URL locked online events, fully branded, secure, with multiple feed possibilities, moderated live chat capability and a superior and more unique online event experience as an alternative to the standard one-size-fits-all platforms.

We’re creating scripts and tech flows for online events that create content which translates the traditional live event set-up and whizzes it into the modern world, to create graphics, speed, quick and seamless switching, true engagement, excitement and energy – it’s ALL about the content and scripting for us now.

We’re focussing on talent, it really is incredibly important – deciding who is on screen and how they ensure enhanced engagement, because it’s a skill set which sits outside of normal on-stage event hosting. We are shifting quite a lot of focus onto social media strategies, virtual influencer strategies, general line of sight raising and PR.

We have been working on and reassessing what the online events arena ‘Key Performance Indicators’ are, because they have changed from live events, in a considerable way. Which means that fundamentally our job has changed – the very essence of what ‘we do’ as event producers has changed – and we have had to pivot like Billy-o.

“The very essence of what ‘we do’ has changed – and we have had to pivot like Billy-o”

{whoever Billy-o may be, no doubt she is an industry leader in the streaming world ;)}.

WAVE 2 – THE HYBRID ERA

This is where things start to get a little more exciting, where with putting safety first, we are able to offer semi-live hybrid events, akin to that of a TV studio feel, with a small, and socially distanced, audience. We can safely film two/three/four live presenters on-stage (socially distanced of course) and stream them live to the rest of the audience at home.

“We can film live presenters on-stage in the studio, and stream them live to the rest of the audience at home”

It’s secure and fully interactive in terms of moderated chat, Q&As, polls etc. Along with this we can open up feeds from audiences watching from home, and we can stream their video link onto the studio wall, to talk and interact with our in-studio presenters – live.

There are some pretty incredible builds available in this arena – the most exciting tech I have discovered recently (that we are desperate to use for our clients!), has come from our friends at Black Light with their real time green screen replacement technology.

It’s incredible as it mixes augmented reality, with virtual reality… with reality. This technology basically creates real time augmented reality – a visual experience like this would normally have to be built on post capture using aftereffects.

Mind. Blown.

It’s also worth noting there are numerous amazing audio visual companies out there that we work with regularly, who also deliver streaming services and multiple and brilliant solutions, such as Sound and Vision, IFDNRG, We Are Cameron, and many more.

WAVE 3 – LIVE BUT SOCIALLY DISTANT

I’ve discussed this next stage at length with the founder of E.P.I.C. Shane Grieve, and our feeling on this, is that when we do ‘go live’, health and safety is never going to have mattered more.

“Health and safety is never going to have mattered more – the days of a mosh pit are gone…”

On-site, at mass gathering events, audience expectation on safety will be much higher than before, and we know audiences won’t tolerate the same level of crowd density we have seen in the past, even if the restrictions move down to just one metre distancing. The days of a mosh pit are gone! (For now, anyway…)

There is research and development underway to deliver multiple-pod sanitising stations for festivals, stadia and arena shows, and a flexible and affordable introduction of temperature checking is also in the offering to be rolled out.

Shane also offered a valuable insight in terms of CCTV Technology – and how we are going to adapt it. In the past, CCTV has been crucial for police and security to track individuals or small groups, but now we require redesigns of site layouts and crowd management strategy this will result in a more complex and robust crowd observation monitoring systems.

At YOURgb we are already working with our clients on mobile device applications, these will become more prevalent at live events also. Paperless entry is already popular, but this will become the absolute norm, and stadia and venues will use apps to deliver live messaging to customers before and during events.

We’re likely to see builds on this with digital floor mapping for distancing, and I’ve heard talk of laser beam queuing systems, ‘please mind the gap’ sound plays, personal space funny alarms, and drone drinks deliveries… who knows where tech might take us – but as long as we are in some-way live, we’ll be excited about it.

“Who knows where tech might take us – but as long as we are in some-way live, we’ll be excited about it!”

As Nick Creed from The Drum mentioned during a recent webinar “for online events we can create amazing content, but we can’t create the atmosphere for the audience online, sitting in their kitchens” – and following his thinking – that’s why I know that online events will never be able to fully replace live events. It’s the atmosphere. The energy. It’s because it involves all of the senses – it’s live.

“Online events will never be able to fully replace live events – live events are part of who we are”

Live events are part of our who we are – whether they are small gigs, conferences, or huge festival events and arena tours – they are all crucial to our economy in the UK, and on a more local level to me, they are critical to the success of Scotland, and Edinburgh.

On a slight side note: When live events are safe and allowed to happen we really must be ready – and there is a need for events to be in the pipeline for us to talk about, to encourage people to confidently and safely come back and visit Scotland, and the UK in general, once again (and when it’s appropriate). Up until then, our incredible, diverse and talented Live Events Industry supply chain has to be utilised or supported. If we don’t keep the supply chain safe, then many wonderful companies and independent producers and freelancers simply won’t be in the position to deliver when these live events are allowed to return – and what would happen then?

WAVE 4 – BACK TO NORMAL

This will be the dream, and I hope beyond all hopes that it’s not a long way off, from both a business and personal perspective.

And if it does take a little longer than we are hoping for, we will remain positive, proactive and supportive – we’re ready and raring to go, powered by all of the incredible tech minds that are available to us!

*BLOG LINKS:
THE BUSINESS VISITS & EVENTS PARTNERSHIP ARTICLE  : https://www.businessvisitsandeventspartnership.com/news/bvep-press-releases/821-bvep-warns-of-catastrophic-and-irreversible-consequences-for-the-uk-events-industry-without-immediate-practical-opening-guidelines-being-provided-by-the-uk-government
NATIONAL OUTDOOR EVENTS ASSOCIATION ARTICLE  : https://noea.org.uk/festival-events-industry-on-the-brink-says-industry-association/
BLACK LIGHT VR STUDIO : https://www.linkedin.com/company/black-light/
EDI CASTLE PHOTO CREDIT  : https://www.danflyingsolo.com/edinburgh-festivals-photo-guide/
SCOTLAND E.P.I.C : https://www.scotlandepic.info