How Crescendo delivered a one-of-a-kind virtual event that could not go wrong
W hen tailored event agency, Crescendo, was approached by a world-leading international organisation to replace its annual senior leadership conference with a virtual event, they knew they’d be under pressure to deliver a flawless experience. When they learnt that the event was scheduled over three days and required interactive access for 600 participants across 11 time zones and 64 countries, they realised they’d need a powerful technical partner to deliver this one-of-a-kind event without a hitch.
The event took place in March 2021 and began with a presentation to the client’s full employee base of 40 000 staff to launch a new digital, community-based movement. This was followed by the first virtual version of the company’s senior leadership conference.
“It was a colossal undertaking,” says Crescendo founder Russell Allen. ” Our client has a robust fairness and anti-discriminatory policy and it was very important to them that everyone had access. But the organisation comprises many joined-up companies that have come together via acquisitions and mergers over the years, and each has its own technology heritage and firewall structure.”
After testing a variety of virtual event platforms and tools, the client decided that the only way to guarantee access for all staff was to use Microsoft Teams. But there was a snag.
“After the whole-room presentation by the CEO, the brief was to replicate the feeling of a live event, with cabaret-style tables where people talk with their neighbours,” Allen explains. “A standard Microsoft Teams implementation wouldn’t have been able to provide this combination of ‘broadcast’ and small group interactivity.”
Although Crescendo has a strong technical team in house, it needed a production partner that could deliver something that had never been done before, so it brought in audio visual and entertainment technology specialist Anna Valley.
After an exhaustive consultation process to establish exactly what was needed from both a content and technology perspective, and extensive testing, the partners designed the solution for the virtual event from the ground up.
The conference included pre-recorded video contributions and live feeds with remote presenters, as well as the interactive activities across multiple small groups. The Crescendo team produced over 70 individual videos for the event which was run entirely from Anna Valley’s master control room at their virtual event facility in South West London.
The broadcast vs small group conundrum was solved by using 60 individual laptops, each running a separate meeting for 10 participants, thus creating the “cabaret table” format required. “This meant we could begin by pushing a broader show into all the tables at once – so everyone could watch the plenary session together – but attendees could then participate in a workshop among just the people at their own table,” says Allen.
“The client response has been mind-blowing,” says Allen. “The CEO was hugely impressed with the technology, which really fitted with the company’s pioneering spirit. And the level of contingency planning was phenomenal. Every minute was pre-recorded, so if a link had gone down, we would be up and running again within two minutes.”
Anna Valley beat some stiff competition to get the job. “We were looking for the best partners to pull this off, and it became very apparent that Anna Valley were the best partners,” says Allen. “We admired their technical capability, the fact that they had everything on-site and had repurposed their offices into studios. But above all they really understood what we were creating. They understood that the way we were using this technology had never been done before, and that testing was critical. There was a real synergy around the level of perfection we’d need to make this happen.
“This was a business-critical project. The pioneering spirit of designing a new solution that was on brand, but equally it had to work. Anna Valley got that, and they really delivered.”
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