365 Days on the Virtual Stage: What difference can a year make?

The events industry is said to be the last industry to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we did not wallow and wait for the virus to be gone. Together with the problem-solvers and leaders of the events industry, we were able to transition and adapt to the new normal. In the most difficult year, we rose above the challenges of being cooped up in our homes.

A year ago today, Stratminds plunged and pivoted to the virtual stage. Now that we are halfway through 2021, we can say we are still far from the end of the tunnel. But of course, the show goes on.

Events on the Virtual Stage

Pivoting to digital wasn’t an easy step for Stratminds. There was a lot of unlearning, researching, and exploring before we were able to dip our toes to Virtual Events.

Mounting our first virtual event was like doing events for the very first time – we treated it delicately; every component was simplified to lessen the margin for mistakes. And just like beginners hungry to learn, we magnified each decision to evaluate what worked and what needed improvement.

When we did the media launches for Smart Communication’s international endorsers, it was clear to us that delivering the brand’s message without technical glitches was our main objective. No fuss, no added extra flair, plain and simple – get the message across without a hitch. We pre-recorded all the speeches, rehearsed the live segments multiple times, and hoped for the audience’s best viewing experience. Being cautious paid off.

Elevating the Online Experience

As restrictions eased, we were able to explore different approaches in mounting virtual events. We try to come up with a unique experience every time and collaborating with the experts opened our minds to more possibilities.

The experimentation started gradually. We had chroma backgrounds sent and assembled in our speakers’ homes for a seamless 2D background. Eventually, we were back on the live stage. The challenge then was translating the event stage we were used to into a screen-friendly design. Inspired by the performances in the international awards shows, our virtual concerts mimicked music video productions. Director of Photography became a staple in our events. Pre-pandemic, we experiment on different onground audience engagement activities. Now we explored camera angles, TV lighting, and changing stage design to elevate the show.

There is a lot of new technology that can be explored in creating a unique online experience. Thanks to our clients, Stratminds was able to add 360 video production into our portfolio. This was truly one for the books. The team went out of the box of our comfort zones in conceptualizing the stage design and visuals, performer line-up, and the treatment of the whole show. Our wits were tested and for that alone, this is a 2020 favorite.

Everyone misses the fun chaos of being on the music festival grounds. To recreate the music festival experience online, we collaborated with HIVE, a customized virtual event ground with multiple activity hotspots. The games, photo booth, and in-concert engagement activities were a hit to the attendees. Even for a brief time, we were able to bring the “outdoor concert experience” right into their screens.

Where are we headed?

One thing 2020 reminded us of is that safety shouldn’t be taken for granted. Events is a demanding industry, and often than not, we tend to sacrifice our health and time to perfect our projects. The year forced us to slow down and re-evaluate how we work.

We in Stratminds acknowledged the fact that if we want to survive and thrive in the new normal, change in our work culture must be done.

Our team developed our health and safety protocols following the guidelines of DOH, DOLE, IATF, FDCP, and NLEC PH. Internally, our event managers took seminars for Safety Officer certification.

Despite all the efforts of the industry in ensuring a safe working environment, reopening live events is still down the line. The team’s unwavering hope to be back out there with the live audience fuels us to refocus on how we can better our health and safety guidelines.

By the end of the year, we can foresee the gradual easing of the restrictions, specifically on holding events outdoor. This might be the time that we can do hybrid event productions. We can accept a limited number of live audiences on-site and still have audiences virtually.

A year of experimenting on the virtual stage reminded us why we do events and why our industry is important. The pandemic has surely limited our interactions, but it did not stop us from creating communal experiences. We are excited more than ever to be back on our playground, only this time more strategic, more creative, and more careful.