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"I want something digital"

Last updated April 8th, 2014

Over the past three years I’ve found myself working continually for clients who say; “I want something digital” as part of their marketing or events experience. It always seems kind of crazy that the decision makers of large international organisations are still playing catchup when it comes to technology, but it’s true. They often come to me with that statement, but with no idea what digital something they actually want, or without the ability to envision what might be worthwhile.
The problem comes in the shape of digital disillusionment. With large multinationals, I’ve often found that they’re so swamped with outdated technology (walk into a government institution for instance and you will find yourself surrounded by tired Windows XP machines) that it has become difficult to see the wood through the trees. To those working with clunky, old, hard to update technology, ‘digital’ becomes a required burden. They must be seen to be contemporary and progressive, but are totally resistant increasing their tech-induced headache.
Partly it’s a language problem. Technology providers often come at these CEO’s and managers with questions about hosting, bandwidth, security, SSLs, browser versioning et al and catchphrases such as responsive design, mobile-first and parallax scrolling – and when you don’t work in that industry, all of the jargon becomes tedious and overwhelming. I find that the best solution to this is to suss out who their tech-person is (IT Manager, Technical Director, Tech Support) and liaise with them directly about all of the implementation stuff and stick to ideas, vision, goals and metrics with any non-tech stakeholders.
The thing is; digital is a powerful tool, and most people do recognise that. These companies want you to come in and make their jobs easier. The events space is no different. With digital tools like YouTube, Vimeo, Google Hangouts and Livestream you can extend the reach of your conference beyond the boundaries of physical space and broadcast it live (and cheaply) online – either in realtime or post-event. For internal training events, we’ve historically provided livestreaming services to the company’s international offices so staff who couldn’t be there on the day still don’t miss out. We’ve also captured key presentations and embedded them into online learning environments to help managers track employee engagement post-event.
It’s not just video either, last year I brought a physical, digital voting booth to a banking group as part of an employee engagement event so that they could interact with something real in their space – and managers could see the results come in online.
I’ve often found that when a client wants something digital, what they actually want is something impressive and practical; something attendees and audiences won’t forget, but also makes their lives easier. The voting booth did both of those things, providing the audience with something fun and frivolous and the stakeholders with important data. Livestreaming can be a great experience for those unable to attend; but what useful information can you deliver back to the stakeholders? Can you take viewer locations, demographics, engagement time? – The answer to all of these is yes by the way, but it’s these key questions you need to ask yourself when you’re being tasked with managing a digital project for an event.
Some of my favourite digital experiences have come from a combination of savvy marketers and digital artists; for instance when Brighton Digital Festival used Seb Lee-Delisle’s PixelPyros digital fireworks as part of their opening night celebrations. Talk about an engaging experience! Or when Grolsch commissioned a digital agency to bring their Swingtop Challenge Game to virtual life; hacking an Xbox Kinect to allow a computer to detect player’s gestures and movements.
Check out the videos below.

PixelPyros official video from Seb Lee-Delisle on Vimeo.

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