Jumping into Event Production with Webex Meetings and Events
Part of being an event planner is being flexible and knowing how to handle the unexpected. From last-minute cancellations to technical difficulties to 11th-hour changes, you have to be ready to gracefully turn hopeless situations into amazing experiences.
No one, however, could have been prepared for the global pandemic. Even the best event planners were left without answers or direction during the spring of 2020, as conferences and trade shows were unceremoniously cancelled. Of course, we understood the reason for the cancellations, but that didn’t make the fallout any easier.
But due to our experience, event planners came to improvise in a way that few other industries could. And for modern and creative agency , the pandemic provided a chance to completely reinvent ourselves through the world of digital events.
A 15-Year History of Event Planning and Activities
CEO Javier Caro began Otracosa in 2000 to help global corporations with their events and for a wide range of activities. Creating impressive display stands that provide all of the necessary tools to optimize a company’s presentation is one of our most sought-after services. Our specialized team of carpenters and designers help to make projects successful, whether those projects are for existing or potential clients. Given the nature of the business, our teams are also adept at adjusting to those last-minute changes that seem inevitable for every project.
Those skills were tested in the spring of 2020 when in-person events suddenly stopped. We had no idea how long the pandemic would last, and Javier wasn’t about to sit on the sidelines and wait it out. Instead, he considered the different ways that the company could recreate popular in-person events in a digital setting. He figured that many in-person conference experiences could be reproduced using multiple cameras, and that footage could be shared via a digital conferencing solution.
The problem was that no one on the team had any experience with this type of work. This was a completely new and unplanned direction, and no one was trained in technology solutions. We had, however, a lot of in-house expertise in other areas and a commitment to surviving the transition. In the end, that’s what mattered the most.
A Sudden Career Change and Relocating the Company
About a year ago, I received a call from Javier, who asked me if I was interested in joining Otracosa in their new venture into the virtual realm. My background is in finance and economics, so this was a completely different direction for my career, but it’s been an exciting one. My first priority was to develop a website for Otracosa’s virtual events, and spread the word of our new offering.
At the same time, our team decided to close our office in Madrid, Spain. We had a warehouse on the outskirts of the city that was perfect for the new world of isolation. This would help cut costs and give our team of around 10 people a safe place to continue working on stands and settings for our new virtual events.
A New Offering for the Virtual Space
The biggest challenge wasn’t coming up with event ideas, but in cultivating a fresh experience via video conferencing. Within a few months of the pandemic restrictions, people were already growing weary of video calls and the limitations of on-screen interactions. To make our customers interested in the events in a way that was similar to what we offered in person, we had to bring something different to the table.
At the time, there was nowhere to look for inspiration, or to see how things could or should work. There was no support for what we wanted to do. We were forging into new territory, both for the company and for the industry. The one thing we knew we could count on was .
As the agency for Cisco in Spain, we have a close working relationship with the company. We already used internally, so the video conferencing platform was a natural choice, giving us some control over how things worked. We already knew that it was an incredibly reliable and secure platform, so we felt comfortable moving ahead.
From Trial Run to Booming Business
Our first event was a wine tasting that occurred in late spring 2020, and we have grown so much since then. Since that first wine tasting, we've launched more than 100 events with groups ranging from 5–500+ attendees.
We rely on Meetings for more interactive events so everyone can see each other, and so we have ensured we have the necessary licenses to keep the events going smoothly. For corporate and more formal presentations, we use . For these, has been instrumental in providing an interactive element. We have learned to do a lot of prerecording, and Slido provides a live element to the show that makes the events more engaging.
A few event highlights:
- For the Project Management Institute (PMI) event, Otracosa organized 17 webinars in one week. Speakers from different companies and attendees from around the world attended using Events, and Otracosa created a landing page, monitored invitations, and handled Q&A sessions throughout the sessions.
- During Summer 2021, Otracosa hosted the annual event for Ikusi, a Cisco distributor based in Spain. We hosted the three-hour event from our studio and delivered it via Events to around 400 attendees. The chat and Q&A functions were very active, and after the main event, we used Meetings so exclusive members could have 1:1 conversations with presenters.
- Another Summer 2021 event was for Ingram. This was one of our largest events through Webex. It was a big feat logisctically, as it involved prerecording in multiple European locations and compiling those recordings to create holograms and other visual assets to use on stage. This was hosted from Otracosa's studio in Madrid, but featured Cisco directors from around the world and was delivered to more than 500 guests using Events. As with other events, we took advantage of the Q&A feature and relied on Slido for easy engagement opportunities.
- For Cisco’s internal All Hands event, we moved our entire studio setup to Cisco's headquarters in Madrid. Guests and speakers came to Cisco´s offices for their presentations, and we broadcasted everything through Events for people to see at home. This was a really fun event because for every speaker, every shot was different. And at the end, the event featured a video that welcomed everyone back to the office in Madrid.
Clients love Meetings and Events. They’re easy to join, even for people who don’t use the Webex portfolio. One of the best things is that people can use various web browsers, so they don’t have to download anything new to join us in a virtual space.
As Many Events as You Can Imagine
Perhaps the best thing about the virtual events is that there are an unlimited number of ways for attendees to interact and engage with each other. Wine tasting and other similar types of more passive methods of interacting quickly became “the norm,” leaving people less interested in the events within a short period of time. Otracosa has remained a vendor of choice because we continue to rethink ways of engaging people.
Probably the most popular launch was our cooking show, which we started in the fall of 2020. All registrants receive a box of ingredients prior to the start of the event. When they call in, we have a chef in the studio to guide them through the steps to cook the dish. People cook along from home, so everyone gets to be engaged and taste the results of their work.
On our end, we do a lot of work to prepare the studio and deal with vast amounts of data management. We manage all of the address and contact details, and ensure that people have what they need before the event begins. It’s pretty similar to what we do leading up to the in-person events, but with a much greater emphasis on the technological needs.
We have put a lot of effort into our technological setups, including LED screens and multiple cameras. We can crop the attendee gallery and place it behind the presenter on the LED screen so people can see themselves, too. Just as the presenter can interact with individual attendees on the screen in front of them, attendees can communicate with each other as well. This all enhances the human element during a time when there is less human interaction.
Soon after the launch of our cooking show, we began to explore other ideas, such as quiz shows, complete with prizes. We have essentially jumped into TV production, but with Meetings as our broadcast platform.
Coming Together with Webex Messaging
OtraCosa’s internal use of is instrumental when coordinating these digital events. We use it for everything because it provides an easy way of collaboration that is more efficient than scheduling a conference call. We can communicate with each other and with clients as easily as talking to each other in person. It has become an essential tool of our daily operations.
Our team is smaller now than it was at the beginning of the pandemic, but as we’ve started to have in-person events again, Messaging and Meetings have become even more vital in helping us organize and manage logistics for both our virtual and growing number of in-person events.
We’ve Seen the Future, and the Future Is Hybrid
I expect that we’re not alone in taking a hybrid approach to future events. The digital elements that we’ve seen work well throughout 2020 and 2021 are not going to disappear. The hassle, costs, and time required for travel is one reason why a lot of companies will continue to opt for a digital event instead of an in-person one. While there are definitely times when in-person events will prevail, digital events have too many benefits for companies to simply go back to the way things were before.
Today, the synergy of our team is better than ever, especially as we’ve learned together throughout this experience. Meetings, Messaging, and Events helped us stay alive during the pandemic, and to build a new niche where we can push the boundaries of what we can offer. With these solutions, we can continue to grow our business, and that’s the best result of all.