How did we build a space station in a week?

How did we build a space station in a week?

Bence Buzási, Ph.D. Creative Director 16/03/2021

Creative Director

Well, it is not entirely true, as the building itself took only 1 week, but the planning required 2 months of hard work beforehand. But let us start at the beginning. The whole story started with multiple initiatives running alongside one another, and we just couldn’t wait to connect the dots …

In the autumn of 2020, Provident invited us to a pitch. The task was to organize their most important meeting of the year, the annual kick-off event. Due to the planned date, besides the traditional event concept we also prepared a plan “B” to achieve the same objectives as a live event in a digital environment. Upon the announcement of the autumn COVID restrictions, the project clearly turned in the latter, digital direction, and when our concept was awarded with a contract we immediately started to work on perhaps our most complex virtual events so far. With more than two dozens of different event scenarios and styles of virtual events behind us, we knew that the most important pillars of engagement were communication, interactivity, and the creative platform. If we coordinate these three items well, as a result the invitees just cannot wait for the start of the event while we must also ensure that we do not loose them throughout the program - which is one of the biggest challenges of virtual events.

At Progressive LAB we have been working on the method of leveraging the XR studio technology at our events since 2019, which was is still a pioneering effort in the global industry. The two most important features of the technology are that everything takes place and remains visible in the studio in real time, while the other is that the event is scaled to Hollywood budgets. The upside of this solution is that we do not loose precious time with working on the green screen background in post-production, and that presenters who have little stage routine become familiar with the digital space almost instantly, within minutes, which are very attractive benefits that take digital and hybrid live events to the next level. We worked with the best available Hungarian technical service providers and software developers, and adding our expertise we developed a cost-effective and rock-solid solution that we can use at important events, like Provident’s annual kick-off meeting. The solution was finally delivered by XRoom Studio late last year. And now the dots were connected!

The objective of the event was to improve the commitment of all Provident employees, to energize them, and to keep the large and very heterogeneous team together, in addition to presenting the annual plan and expectations. The nearly 1,000 invitees came from all over the country, from very different positions and age groups. The biggest challenge was to deliver numerous key messages to such a diverse target group.

1. Communication

We developed an intensive communication campaign for the event. Our goal was to gradually increase the attention span of invitees before the event as much as possible, then step-by-step let their concentration ease in a way that all key messages remain with them in the long run. To do this, we built the activities in the teaser phase on the creative platform and dived deeper and deeper into the topic. We developed internal communication activities and provided the participants with custom made applications, who then competed with each other with their own content.
A few days before the event, each participant received a physical package full of thematic surprises, that could only be opened before the start of the event.

The creative summary of the event was later distributed among the participants and we are using it to support the business strategy throughout the year.


2. Interactivity

Interactivity is a strange thing. One would think that at COVID home office times one would rather not hear the ringtone of phones, beep of emails, calendar notifications or conference call alerts. (Who writes these ridiculous melodies anyway, that replace normal ringtones? Is there any research on how many of these melodies are needed to cause permanent mental damage?) While technology overwhelms us during the day, in the evening we go on with watching our favourite reality show on TV while chatting, voting, posting on the phone. In such an environment, how can we possibly expect our target group to stop fiddling with their gadgets during the event organized by us, and why should we bore them to death by forcing a stream upon them that equals the stimulus level and dynamics of a parliamentary broadcast?

During the preparations, most of our resources were devoted to building an appropriate program structure that results in a tight schedule, well-planned host activities and interactions. Every second of the two-hour event was pre-planned and tested. The show was hosted by András Stohl, who, with his fast-paced host style and the use of dialogues, greatly contributed to making the dynamics of the program exactly as we planned it. It helped a lot in the planning phase that we worked directly together with Provident’s management. We created the content together and agreed on the interaction points that were to take place between the host and the audience. Thanks to our previous LAB innovations, we were able to involve nearly 1,000 people in the conversation at the event in a way that they received instant feedback - as if they were all at the same place.

3. Creative platform

Which is more important: content or the form? Without the intention of using commonplaces: even the best content is worthless if it is not presented in the right form.

In 2020 Provident embarked on a spaceship communication theme within the company, which Progressive developed into a coherent narrative. Based on the spaceship narrative a creative platform was created to convey the communication strategy’s messages in a simple, tangible, understandable and lasting manner. The visual world of the space narrative provided plenty of opportunities for the design team to unleash their creative minds and use all possible campaign tools. However, the highlight was clearly the live stream, the live event where the participants walked through the Provident Space Station - the one that we finally prepared in one week.

Instead of the usual stage elements of traditional conferences, we had more opportunities to convey visual messages. The biggest difference was that we created virtual space. This meant more room for manoeuvre in the first place, but the real experience was that we were able to try and test it on the go. The combination of design and technology creates fantastic new opportunities! The venue of the event, the XR studio, is a real “holodeck” - a hybrid space where we experience as if the environment was really live with the LED walls of the room around us. The Provident Space Station is a six-floor virtual structure, that was built to life-size on just 20 square meters.

The three pillars were combined into the Progressive event platform.

The Progressive event platform

The Progressive event platform is an integrated, fully customizable and scalable system, supported by the best available business and streaming services. There are no limits, no fixed “logo placeholders” and there are no such components that we simply replace from event to event. We have complete creative and communications freedom, and the visitor sees things as it is required by actual needs (and the brand book).

The system is designed and operated by Progressive, i.e. professional event organizers, communication and creative professionals, who have 20 years of organizational, communication and creative experience. The development is coordinated by Progressive's digital team, while the implementation of innovations and system integration is the responsibility of LAB.

The platform provides our Customers with a unique, 360-degree service to organize their digitized event: seamlessly and efficiently connecting the dots that provide a firm basis for live communication events. What are these elements? Location, content, design, services, interaction opportunities, customizability, measurability, and the fulfilment of communication goals.

Final results

The Provident conference was the most exciting challenge of the year so far. I am sure that such high-quality virtual events will have their place among professional services, even when live events cannot be held, because they are at least as effective in many areas as in-person events, and there are areas where they perfectly complement each other. The Provident Space Station live stream was followed by more than 90% of participants until the last minute, and the activities were attended by an extremely high proportion of the audience, 88%!

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