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Building a New Business in the Middle of a Pandemic

The Influencers 63 Add to collection

ITN's Richard Lawson discusses how the company leaned on its 65 years' production experience to set up a live conferencing and event offering in the heart of the capital

Building a New Business in the Middle of a Pandemic

Alongside the feverish live speculation on the progress or otherwise at Boris Johnson and Ursula Von Der Leyen’s dinner on Wednesday night, there was also detailed dissection of what was on the menu. Were the fishy starters and mains a deliberate reference to one of the negotiation’s biggest sticking points?

So, I thought I’d start this article by reporting that I had a very nice chicken, ham and leek pie for tea last night, thanks for asking.

And before I did so, I watched our latest virtual event web-stream, with ITN Productions as production partner for ITV’s Palooza online broadcast - a 2021 presentation and preview to all of its advertisers and agencies. In previous years, Palooza has been a huge extravaganza at the Royal Festival Hall, including red carpet arrivals for a vast array of ITV talent and the obligatory champagne reception and after-show knees-up book-ending the auditorium presentation.

This year needed to be different, for obvious reasons. And that’s where we came in, utilising our custom-built set and broadcasting infrastructure at ITN HQ.

‘Agility’ is one of ITN’s core values and this has come to the fore in 2020 in the way we’ve launched an entirely new business from scratch – virtual events and conferences.

The impact of the pandemic on the events and conferences industry has been well documented. A lot of businesses suddenly needed to work out how on earth they were going to switch their annual events from in person to online.

We realised we were uniquely positioned to answer that for them.

For companies wondering how to pull off a livestreamed event for the first time, ITN’s 65 years of live broadcasting experience makes it a production partner they can trust. ITN also understands how to make engaging telly and video content, and we’ve used that know-how here too. The trick with virtual conferences is not to treat them like a real-world conference plus a webcam, but rather to recognise that they are being consumed by viewers in an entirely different way.

This means creating something that feels as much like a live TV show as a live event – keeping individual segments short and pithy, snappily editing live on multiple cameras throughout, creating introductory films that break up the on-stage content, sometimes segmenting the content over a series of days as individual episodes, cutting between multiple locations, and so on.

Alongside these elements, we’ve also had to find ways of capturing the energy of a physical conference – using message board technology to facilitate Q&As, creating break-out chatrooms in which delegates can network, providing opportunities to meet the sponsors, etc.

Change might have been born of necessity but it has provided new opportunities for clients such as the CBI, Ofcom and ITV – the aforementioned purpose-built set in ITN’s atrium; the ability to pre-record and edit entire segments in advance all in house and then stream them ‘as live’; both speakers and viewers now able to participate from anywhere in the world.

And the signs are that this way of doing things is here to stay. Even in a post-vaccine world, people will be travelling less and continuing to embrace the benefits of doing things virtually. We already have multiple events lined up for next year, though the expectation is that these will evolve over time into ‘hybrid’ events, with a mix of digital and physical attendees.

Whether a post-vaccine world will also contain a Brexit deal is another matter. But at least Boris and Ursula ate some excellent scallops on Wednesday night.

- Richard Lawson, director of commercial production, ITN

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Genres: Visual VFX

Categories: Media and Entertainment, Streaming Services

ITN Productions, Fri, 11 Dec 2020 17:23:14 GMT