Will's Week

In your face or in your phone? That is the question!

In your face or in your phone? That is the question!

Years ago I vividly remember seeing the MD of a large experiential agency standing in front of an audience declaring that sustainability for events was a fad, a farce and, in itself, financially unsustainable. Today this MD positions himself as a pioneer of sustainable events without any sense of irony (or reference to his initial opinion). Still, this isn’t nearly as bad as what I did when I was eight years old when I changed from Liverpool to Man United for no particular reason (by 1999 I was so glad I did though, despite the deserved abuse!).  Or the time that I ditched Apple in favour of the brilliant Samsung Galaxy S4 (last week!) Anyway, I digress. The point is that this ‘reformed’ character wasn’t entirely wrong in the first place (although, in my defence, supporting Liverpool is never right)...

If you think about it, ‘Sustainability’ needs to be viable. Not just financially but also in terms of sustainability itself and some of it is cynical and, dare I say it, pointless. I had a meeting with Crystal Interactive earlier this week who, in many ways, pioneered the whole delegate engagement and interaction thing which is, nowadays, a fundamental pre-requisite of any live event. Of course, Crystal Interactive have evolved too and now offer an amazing range of experiential solutions having moved on from the hardware based ‘voting’ systems of a few years ago. Now they offer own-device interaction – ‘my notes’ (a cool way to make notes throughout presentations and then have them automatically formulated and emailed to you at the end of the day), live voting, networking with other delegates, submitting questions, floor-plans, mini profiles, agendas etc all combine to enhance the delegate experience and, for organisers, it provides a fantastic real-time market research opportunity. In fact, they can build an entire app (native or web based) for conferences and events which can be accessed by any smart phone or tablet, whether it’s the delegate’s own, or an ipad mini provided by Crystal. The point is, it’s simple, seamless and doesn’t even need to be pre-loaded with anything.

The over-riding ethos, though, is that tech needs to support the event experience as opposed to complicate it, as so much of it ultimately does! Likewise, event tech often claims to be ‘sustainable’ and is often used to tick that (sometimes unnecessary) box and I have a great example!

Events are sometimes proud of being ‘paperless’. In fact, entire businesses are, and at the footer of most people’s emails you’ll see a sentence about ‘not printing off the email unless it’s absolutely necessary’.  Well, it’s rubbish (excuse the pun!). If you think about it, paper is one of the most sustainable products in the world. It’s all recycled several times and is therefore quite a ‘green’ product.  It’s also very useful and efficient. Although it doesn’t adapt in real time (how weird is it that just a few years ago the moving news images on the newspapers in Harry Potter seemed like far-fetched fantasy and now I only ever read the Sunday Times on an ipad!), paper agendas, menus, notices and especially name-badges still have their place and they’re not even that un-sustainable. I suspect it’s because they’re the equivalent of ‘push’ marketing as opposed to ‘pull’ or, put more simply, they’re in your face as opposed to in your phone!  Of course, the simpler and more intuitive apps get, the more we’ll gravitate towards technology because it’s in real time and, in theory, more efficient.

It’s a bit like that Toyota Prius story (which may be an urban legend started by Jeremy Clarkson but it supports my point so I’ll go with it!). Although the Prius is billed as one of the world’s most sustainable cars, the emissions produced to assemble and ship parts from all over the world far outweigh the benefits of the carbon neutral (almost) effect of running the car.  Plus, without falling into the same trap as that experiential MD I opened with, because of the ’wobbling’ axis of the earth, we’ll slip into another ice age in a few thousand years no matter what we (or China) do in the meantime anyway.

And if you really want to put things in perspective, read the most powerful prose ever written (actually spoken) by the legendary astronomer Carl Sagan, about the significance of our planet in the Universe – The Pale Blue Dot. It’s spine-chillingly awesome. “Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors who became the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot, a speck of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” 

Anyway, I’ve clearly taken the sustainability debate too far! There is no question we need to be sustainable, it’s just that sustainability for the sake of it, just like tech for the sake of it is counter productive and a waste of everyone’s time. Efficiency and productivity, without being damaging or pointless, has to be the way forward, and, funnily enough, that’s what LiveTech on the 28th November is all about!

Back on earth (aka the pale blue dot) I discovered another really cool place this week. Not only is in an immaculate series of event/party spaces, but it’s also packed with great ideas for events and parties. From the ‘caged’ up-lit bar compartments (where bottles can be replaced with products for launches, branding exercises etc) to the Victorian carousel horse in the entrance (a great photo opportunity every time!) and, best of all, their black-light subliminal messages daubed on the walls (see photo).  The coolest thing, though, is that you can paint whatever messages you like on the walls before your event and either have the UV lights on or have them flashing to reveal the messages sporadically. It’s so simple, yet so effective and it’s something I’ve never seen before. Just a brilliant way of branding an entire venue in an uber-cool and interactive way! It’s so ‘tweetable’ too of course! This venue is run by the coolest ‘Clubland’ guys in London who were behind the infamous ‘Republic’ before their Chelsea neighbours lost their sense of humour. Anyway, the King’s Road’s loss is the Fulham Road’s gain and you’ll be able to discover Duke Box on Londonlaunch.com imminently!

Dukebox Fulham Road

Duke Box, Fulham Road 

Talking of the Fulham Road, Etonians are everywhere! I discovered last night that, as well as James Palumbo of Ministry of Sound fame and my friend Jules of GSP fame, it was also an old Etonian who founded my favourite late night haunt – Vingt Quatre on the Fulham Road. The best all day breakfast in the world (actually, except for brunch at The Hyatt Regency in Grand Cayman but that’s another story)…