Microphone to depict a virtual event

Of Pirouettes & Pivots: Setting a standard for excellent virtual events

Emma Thwaites in an interview with Katrina Marshall


The Virtual World – here to stay

Although there might be some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it’s fair to assume that virtual conferences and other thought leadership events, are with us for the foreseeable future.

Communication agencies and our clients now have an exhaustive list of new considerations to bear in mind. Not least is to manage how audience behaviour might have changed (shorter breakout sessions, more real life distractions); adjusted spend on public relations with a re-examination of it’s priority as a strategic business function and; staying on-brand and on-message before, during and after the event in what is now a concentrated medium.

The reality is that there is a lot of middle ground for comms managers to cover for their clients; not least that the physical aspects of events are immediately lost, and with it the intangible value of human interaction. Less can be read of a person’s body language via VC and many speakers feed off of audience’s reactions to drive and personalise their presentations. That disconnect, as a challenge, cannot be ignored. The further challenge is the removal of traditional means for measurement of events that have now gone almost entirely virtual.

It is a challenge that we at Allegory faced at one of the industry’s largest events: CogX 2020 where we curated a range of panels and talks on behalf of the Open Data Institute.

Managing Director Louise Burke explains:

Allegory helped the comms team to identify how the organisational objectives for the year ahead could be supported by the ODI’s involvement in CogX, and evaluate how successful the event was for the time and budget involved. The results achieved far exceeded our expectations. Allegory joined ‘the dots’ in terms of all our internal and external owned and earned channels in a way we would have struggled to do on our own and at such pace for 5 events over 3 days”.

To put a finer point on the value added by Allegory, Louise specified:

“It is the ability to quickly and seamlessly scale your in-house communication team with the depth of experience that an agency like Allegory brings that makes the difference. They have the right strategic know-how to align efforts between communication, marketing and commercial arms of an organisation, and make sure the impact is maximised pre, during and post event.”

Appropriate deference should be paid to event coordinators whose workload has tripled due to the new working model. Case in point is our events partner, The Business Narrative who are now delivering exclusively digital events for clients including The Open Data Institute (ODI) and Ada Lovelace Institute.


Trust and consistency

The point of hiring a full service agency in a specialty area is to ensure that it has been tried and tested; not just weathering storms but maintaining standards and coming out stronger on the other side. What makes Allegory – and our experience – best placed to address these considerations is that there is (as yet) no end to this evolved online operational normalcy with which almost every sector has had to grapple. We have managed to not just continue (with little more than a wrinkle in time) but to excel. It’s worth noting that clients like the ODI embolden our approach to service delivery because of their trust in our ability to solve the challenges and imagine the possibilities the virtual event model presents.

Trust and consistency are intrinsically linked as the alpha and omega of maintaining client relationships. With a lot of elbow grease and a sprinkling of pixie dust, most service providers faced with the paradigm-shifting challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic can just about pull off a virtual event in place of what should have been a physical one. But far fewer agencies worth their salt can change gears while still moving at a fast pace and deliver time and time again. Yet with consistency and the growing trust of our clients, Allegory is pleased to be able to make that claim. We recently pulled this off for our Client Icebreaker One, ensuring a successful contribution to London Climate Action Week. Reflecting on the event, Icebreaker One founder and CEO, Gavin Starks said:

“London Climate Action Week 2020 was an opportunity to raise the profile of Icebreaker One, position our young organisation as an expert thought leader and convene and address our target audience. Allegory helped us to curate our session in less than two weeks with content that attracted almost 200 attendees on the day.

Allegory helped us refine and tailor our messaging so we could speak directly to our target audience, with high-quality and engaging content. Participants shared feedback on Twitter about how much they had enjoyed ‘such an engaging and relevant conversation’. One said, “I just wanted to say that this was the best presentation I’ve seen on climate data and its uses, and I’ve been attending 3+ events a week since April. Really intelligent, diverse panel and interesting topics, I left with a lot of research to do.”

While our methods are solid, we have met unprecedented challenges with more than a little informed experimentation. This proves to be a teachable moment for prospective clients as well as another nod to the synchronicity of trust and consistency upon which we have built our business and pride ourselves.


Future opportunities

It is foolhardy to make idle boasts of having it ‘all figured out’ when we continue to navigate these unprecedented times. But there is something to be said for creating opportunities for innovation where others see obstacles. It is worth noting that while, to some, it may look easy to maintain excellence in standards of service delivery, excellence itself is not an accident. It is the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution. It represents the wise choice when faced with many alternatives.

We hope Allegory will be your wise choice!

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