A year ago…
I departed with my family for a pre-March break trip. As we left Toronto, public officials assured us travelling was safe and this little-known virus was contained. Days later, the WHO declared a pandemic, and the world in which we knew disappeared in an instant.
I remember the last day in the office before we left. It was the last time I saw my team without masks and six-feet apart – symbols and actions that now represent this period in our lives.
A year ago, the foundation of our business, which we worked as a team to successfully grow, received an enormous blow and the weight of the organization we had built threatened to collapse it.
In a period of approximately 72 hours, every in-person event we had scheduled for the next year was either canceled or postponed. Our office was immediately closed, and the future of Bespoke Audio Visual was unknown.
As the days passed, I, like many of my team, watched the news and tried to understand the ever-increasing implications on our business. In the weeks that followed, we would make some very difficult decisions. These decisions impacted the lives of our staff, their families and the community we worked to build at Bespoke. For me personally, I ran the gambit of emotions; I was really mad that this could happen, I couldn’t believe that it had gotten so bad, so quickly, I was sad that everything we had built was crumbling and I was embarrassed that we couldn’t find a solution to avoid the losses.
Eventually, I became driven by the challenge to bring our team back and inspired by the determination of our remaining team members to overcome this challenge. The pivot was quick, we got to work, and we made fundamentally different choices than some of our colleagues in the industry. We immediately abandoned our traditional business model of commoditized rentals and pivoted to a service model.
Our clients needed creative solutions to solve their problems. We trained our staff on every video conference platform that existed; we consumed training opportunities that were being offered by the virtual event platforms; we researched and perfected how to move enormous amounts of information over the internet in virtually real-time.
As a team, we had a lot of fun and we became really good at manipulating these tools so that they could be used to achieve what our clients needed.
And then one day, it started to work. We saw the business return, we brought our staff back, we opened our facilities, we dedicated enormous resources to keeping our team safe and we got back to work.
Today, a year later…
Imagine a live event being produced and streamed from one side of the country with talent on the other side and information moving back and forth faster than the speed of light. Bespoke did.
Imagine 100 video conference rooms, each with 100 participants inside of them, all networked together and experiencing the same broadcasted content while being able to network and interact with one another. Bespoke did.
Imagine a conference where the attendees can see plenary content, collaborate with their colleagues, attend a social event, securely vote for a change to a bylaw and do it all from their smartphone, Bespoke did.
And we continue to do so. Our clients have found new engagement and revenue streams, others have found ways of expanding their content offerings and still others are finding creative ways to entertain and delight their remote audiences.
Looking forward to the future…
While our team at Bespoke continues to find solutions to assist our customers, I have turned my attention to the future of our business – post-pandemic. It’s clear that there will be significant opportunities in our sector.
First, events with entirely remote audiences are not going away. Whether because of a resistance to in-person events or because of the reduced travel and lost productivity cost or simply because it’s fun, I see a number of our clients continuing to offer their events entirely online. In order to service these clients, we are making both staffing and real estate changes to accommodate a stream of business entirely focused on remote audiences.
Second, there will be an expectation from audience members that they are able to participate with their content online. No longer will it be acceptable to simply stream in-person event content to a remote audience for consumption. In-person and remote audiences will need to be equally compelling experiences. Bespoke is working on ideas and technology to help provide unique opportunities for both of these audiences and across both platforms.
The pandemic has proven what we have known for centuries, we are social creatures, and we crave engagement. We thrive on non-verbal communication, and we are happier when we are together.
We will meet again; we will have concerts and cocktail receptions and awards ceremonies. We will have press conferences, scientific conferences, and comic book conferences. We will have all of these things and more by embracing what we have learned in the past twelve months.
I believe our job as live event professionals has remained the same throughout the crisis. It is our job to figure out what is important to our clients, assist them in achieving their goals and ensuring that their event – whether their audience is in-person or remote – is successful.
I, for one, am hopeful and excited for the future.