Event expert Michael Kremnitzer: „This is the digital Wild West“
New York, Tokyo, Madrid, Beijing, Stockholm, Vienna – no matter where we look, the Corona pandemic has accelerated digitization worldwide. Work organization has shifted toward home office, online commerce has seen high growth rates and trade shows, conferences, business meetings and even team-building events have been transformed into the virtual world. Within a very short time, a new digital habitat has thus developed with new rules to which one has to adapt anew. An entrepreneur who has reacted promptly to these changes is Michael Kremnitzer from Korneuburg. With his agency Event Partner Austria – known for the development of entertainment formats such as Dinner & Crime® or City Hunt – he has taken on the challenge of successfully digitizing events. In our digitalization talk he reveals how he succeeded, how he uses presono and gives an insight on what the future of the event industry looks like.
Since the beginning of the Corona crisis you have been working to ensure that event organizers are better positioned digitally. What was the biggest challenge for you in transforming your events from the analog to the digital world?
We are currently operating in the digital Wild West – a land that no one has yet fully explored. Some have already forged ahead, others have suffered broken axles. Those who are now left behind will probably disappear forever. Our biggest challenge was therefore to get an overview of the market as quickly as possible. Whether it's a video conferencing solution or tools for gamification, matchmaking or networking, this always goes hand in hand with getting to know or learning about the relevant tools. After all, with customer events, it's always a matter of figuring out what's necessary for the event at hand to enable the customer's wants and needs in this parallel world. This process was insanely demanding. Consequently, it was essential to identify what actually works. If you look at the digital twin that you are trying to map in the first step, you quickly realize that it's no good copying events 1:1 into the virtual world. The length, the dramaturgy, the processes, everything has to be adapted and narrowed down accordingly.
What are the most common mistakes?
Currently, many organizers make the mistake of planning too long sessions for their events. They forget that the eye – and consequently also the human being – tires more quickly when looking at the screen. Furthermore, it is extremely important to always keep an eye on sales and marketing. There is no use in organizing the most amazing virtual events, when nobody knows about them. For this reason, we have not only put a lot of energy into product research, development and design, but also into finding new customers and strong cooperation partners – and one of these partners is presono.
With your wide range of digital events you also cover the area of training seminars. For this purpose, you enable companies to implement virtual exhibition stands with the help of presono, which can be visited during the webinar breaks. Which features are particularly useful for you in this context and which aspects of our software might be particularly useful for you in the future?
presono offers an optimal symbiosis of interactive presentation space, website and animation. This solution thus generates a completely new and much more aesthetically pleasing form of presentation of personal content than has been possible with other tools to date. The design service that presono provides with the individual creation of our digital trade shows is a big plus. Furthermore, the analysis function solves a ubiquitous need.
Besides presono you have scrutinized a variety of solutions. Apart from ours, which tool really excited you for the first time?
In the first step, we were looking for the best affordable video conferencing solution. There are a few premium products here that cover everything from webinar format to web meeting format – the rest of the tools are designed primarily for meetings. For pre-production or post-production of our webinar formats, the ability to record them was particularly important. Because of this, Zoom emerged as the best choice. Unlike all other solutions, it allows you to record both audio and video and then edit these components separately in the subsequent video editing process. However, this high level of usability and the resulting "Zoom" boom led to a lot of headwind from big players like Microsoft and Cisco at the beginning of the pandemic. In the meantime, everything has settled down and, in addition to "Zoom", we also use GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar, depending on customer needs.
The event industry is extremely diverse and covers a wide range of areas, from concerts, theater and trade fairs to continuing education. In which areas do you think the use of digital tools is the most advanced and why does digitization work particularly well here?
Currently, we actually offer everything in terms of events. For this, we create three-dimensional, virtual, walk-in worlds in which visitors can visit a wide variety of digital spaces, from roadshows to showrooms to trade fair booths. Using our comprehensive event management platform, we can map everything from landing pages to ticket sales and attendee management to parallel events where visitors can move freely anywhere. However, digital solutions work particularly well when working with text-based content and conveying knowledge. As soon as haptic or olfactory components are added, you quickly reach your limits. But of course we don't let that stop us and rely on smart workarounds that allow us to create holistic concepts. For example, we also have organized wine tastings and baking workshops. But it really works well for knowledge transfer, education and digital speed dating, which quickly provides valuable networking and matchmaking opportunities.
Which digital tools should definitely be acquired for this purpose?
We digged really deep into this topic – the majority of people, however, are less digitally savvy. That's why we no longer show our customers which tools can do what or how they work, but instead focus on finding the exact solutions that meet our customers needs. In doing so, we create the appropriate digital environments and implement the necessary, optimal features to e.g. be able to network, present, inform and sell in sales. This saves our customers not only time and money, but also a great deal of stress.
The topic of digitization is not only extremely present at the moment, it also affects almost everyone. A year ago, we would probably have met in a café for this interview, but now we're sitting in our home office and talking via Zoom. Why do you think are there still so many companies that are reluctant to transform their operations into the virtual world?
The first major hurdle is the lack of the necessary digital tools – and as we know, the unfamiliar is usually pushed away at the beginning, possibly even evoking fear. However, many companies have been forced to move and still had to deal with the issue. At the beginning the general "we'll sit this one out" tenor was prevalent in the pharmaceutical or even energy sectors. A short time later, the first company delivered digital content and suddenly the rest of the industry became active as well. One webinar followed the other and the initially very poor technology was improved bit by bit. However, this still has nothing to do with true digitization. Because if you want to digitize a company, that means you have to change processes in the company and establish new ones. Unfortunately, this is where the majority of people encounter rejection, resistance and skepticism. Because until now, the urgent need has been missing and people are not yet willing to bow to Corona. However, I believe that what is happening now is irreversible and that digitization is unstoppable. That's why I continue to rely heavily on our digital distribution.
What do you think the future of the event industry looks like?
I think it will always remain a hybrid world and there will always be a parallel offer. Perhaps before, during and on demand after an event. We would be stupid if we didn't take advantage of the temporal and geographical dimensions we can expand in the virtual world. In addition, I could imagine the analog event becoming a kind of "VIP area" in the future. Possibly everything will become even more intensive at on-site events, the clientele even more cared for. I don't think that everyone else will be excluded, but that they will perhaps be able to participate from the second, virtual level. That would of course enhance the analog event and make it something really special again. When I think of the issue of climate change and the carbon footprint, event digitization has real relevance anyway.
The cancellation of numerous trade shows this year is particularly painful for many companies. How important is the expansion of digital trade shows and what should companies pay particular attention to?
This is a question that all companies, regardless of size, should answer for themselves first: Is my digital trade show booth or area a stop-gap solution, or do I want to make my exhibition playable and visitable 365 days a year, 24 hours a day in the future? Depending on this, you should look for a suitable solution. The advantage of a permanent online exhibition is, that all the necessary information can be stored here, so that sales staff can provide comprehensive support to customers regardless of time and place. With this strong idea, a change from exhibitor to organizer is also taking place at the moment. Until now, an analog trade show organizer had the great advantage of an exhibition hall and a lot of space. In the digital world, however, it is suddenly possible to bring 50,000 people into your own building, hold several events at the same time and then evaluate and analyze the data generated much more easily.
And that's exactly what presono is the perfect tool for, because with our software you can evaluate exactly which trade fair visitors looked for how long at which products or services. If you could wish for one function or solution in the world of digital tools that doesn't exist yet, what would it be?
The motto of our company Event Partner Austria is "successfully creating emotions". This is not just a slogan – we see it as our mission to convey emotions. Therefore, we are intensively looking for ways to establish these emotions in digital events as well. As mentioned earlier, digital events work particularly well for knowledge-based events – however, emotion often falls by the wayside here. So we also looked for new formats that are rich in emotion. It's not primarily about the technology, but about the content that is conveyed. Think of elections or auctions which, for example, always evoke strong emotions. Both can already be reproduced very well online. Now we're going one step further and following the Asian model, we're moving into a virtual live online shopping world. This is a symbiosis of a TV show and interaction with the audience, who can ask questions about products live and also buy them directly online – including surveys and raffles. The pure emotionalization of the online shopping experience!
How well has this been received in Asia and what can we possibly learn from it?
In Asia, this form of online shopping has been booming for about five years with unimaginable sales numbers. The concept has also been implemented in the US for a year – but not yet in Europe. We have already completed the development of this shopping experience, will begin beta testing before Christmas and hope to be able to launch it in January 2021. We are looking forward to bringing emotional experiences into everyday digital life and are excited to see how it is received in our latitudes and what cultural differences may still come into play.
What else can we expect in terms of digital experiences in the next few years?
What's still to come is 3D glasses. We can already show our digital trade shows in 3D, but very few visitors have the right equipment yet. But that is definitely the next step. Everyone already has a smartphone and at some point everyone will have their own data glasses.
Keyword data: The issue of data protection is certainly a major challenge in the digital event sector. What are you confronted with here and what is your tip for digital event organizers?
With large companies, this is an overflowing topic. Before it comes to the scope of functions or the cornerstones of an event, the first question that often comes up is the issue of data protection. Where is the server? Who looks after the data? It is therefore essential to think about this topic and to have an expert on the team.
Let's take a look into the future. What else can we expect from "Event Partner Austria"?
We have several projects in the drawer, all of which have to do with immersive products. In doing so, we would like to focus more on the content again. In my opinion, the point has been reached where everyone has seen everything. There is no even bigger fireworks, water stage, light or laser show – it's maxed out. The sensation-hungry consumer can hardly be enthused anymore. The reason for this is that the valuable content is simply missing. Without pointing the finger, I would therefore like to focus more on events with value in the future. I like to think back to the time when we produced opera formats – this music has worked for hundreds of years because it is simply good. So my tip to anyone developing new digital events: When designing the event, make sure that the value of the event is at the center of everything you do.
What other aspects should not be ignored besides value and meaning?
The topic of loneliness has been a very big one for quite some time. Being alone is a horror scenario, a space without an exit. To counteract this, we have developed an analog game that enables people to engage in respectful exchange. We have now brought this game into the digital world, where we have been able to reproduce it very well. The fact that we can use digitization to bring people together and also help them a little, make their lives easier and maybe even make them a little more beautiful, is an incredibly great enrichment for me personally.
In conclusion, what are the most important insights and lessons you have learned from the last few months?
You have to remain flexible to the maximum. So much more is possible in the digital world than in the real one. Trade show booths, for example, can be expanded here without limit, after all, you're not tied to any fixed square meters here. Colors can be changed every minute and functions can be added seemingly endlessly. Thus, every project has an enormous life potential, which on the one hand has to be exploited, but on the other hand also has to be limited in an intelligent way. Anticipating customer wishes can also be very useful here.
You can find more exciting posts in blog and podcast format on the topic of digitalization here: #1 Internal Communication, #2 External Communication, #3 Marketing & Sales, #4 E-commerce, #5 Online Training & Webinars, #6 Internal Organization & Collaboration.