Overview

BACK TO LIVE IN THE U.S.

Six questions to Richard Stewart, Managing Director VOK DAMS North America

VOK DAMS: The demand for live events is growing. After a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency for events and live-marketing VOK DAMS is again registering a strong increase in demand for live events worldwide.

How did you experience the pandemic personally? Did it lead to any lifestyle changes?

[Richard Stewart]: Experiencing the U.S. pandemic response and its aftershocks has been interesting, to say the least. I suppose being a natural homebody make me uniquely equipped to tackle the challenges of market disruptions such as shelter-in-place. Watching my 12-year-old daughter go from a nearly computer illiterate middle school student to a skilled content creator / virtual learner astounded both her mother and I. Following the pandemic, I’ll continue leading a virtual first office, exploring new running trails near my Pennsylvania home and discovering the joys of both cooking at home and purchasing Seneca Apple Chips in bulk.

What tips can you give fellow event organizers for planning live events post COVID?

[Richard Stewart]: We encourage event organizers to embrace the need to respond to change, focus on value creation and be agile by design. Agile event management in particular will pay major dividends in the post-pandemic world. VOK DAMS North America produced a global conference for a corporate brand in early 2020, just before a lockdown was imposed in the U.S. Since some overseas participants were unable to travel to the U.S. for the event, we transformed the conference into a hybrid event by necessity, connecting remote guests to keynote presentations, breakouts and awards gala content in real-time. This format now defines our hybrid event model, where some participants attend an event live and others attend virtually but all have the same quality of experience. Agile inspires continuous innovations.

What are currently the most popular event formats that your customers are asking about?

[Richard Stewart]: Our clients seek multichannel marketing solutions that enable their brands to meet brand stakeholders where they are and in ways they prefer to consume content. The VOK DAMS Brand Experience Hub offers an innovative approach to this requirement: an enterprise-wide digital engagement platform that combines on-demand and live event marketing content under one user friendly, cloud-native roof. This has encouraged many clients to think strategically about their event portfolios and live communications. And the fact that the platform runs on IBM Cloud architecture with built-in AI capabilities is “next level cool.”

What are currently the most frequently requested digital tools within events and what are they used for?

[Richard Stewart]: In December 2020, we launched VOK DAMS Global Virtual Solutions USA, a collective of event and technology specialists and tools dedicated to virtual and hybrid events. Global Virtual Solutions USA features fully integrated best-in-class virtual event registration, live streaming, content creation and studio broadcast tools for virtual meetings and conferences, workshops and training, panel sessions, product launches, galas, exhibitions and consumer experiences. For digital tool developers, our big ask is for a nextgen tool that offers seamless, dynamic two-way engagement between speakers and event attendees. Live conversations, real-time collaboration, and other forms of audience engagement are vital to impactful brand experiences. Without this capability, it’s questionable whether or not a sustainable hybrid event model can be developed.

What developments have been kick-started or intensified due to the pandemic and are now part of the industry?

[Richard Stewart]: COVID-19 has accelerated the potential for more effective digital engagement, sustainability and cultural diversity in events. We’re investing in each of these areas and view them as opportunities for growth. <br/>At the same time, industries that have boomed during the pandemic have created pockets of new potential customers with innovative ideas about what live-marketing is and how it can be deployed to connect brands and people. We look forward to being part of the ongoing discovery about the new power of live.

What major topics do you see that will have an impact on events in the medium to long term?

[Richard Stewart]: In the U.S. market, there are currently two different camps with competing views on the medium to long-term future of events: 1) traditional live events will be coming back, and coming back with gusto or 2) the nature of live events has experienced a permanent shift, and agencies of the future will be value creators who invest in digital, develop innovative hybrid solutions and redefine the meaning of the term “brand experience.” We are firmly on the second track, but we’re also keeping an eye out for the first