As the year opened, Open Audience were busy congratulating themselves about their bullish sales line and targets for 2020. Finally, a year where they would deliver their true potential and achieve global domination!? The best in class engagement platform on the planet!
We caught up with Leslie Robertson to shed some positive light on the future through recent adversity. Here’s what he had to say:
Leslie Robertson - Founder and CEO
We had physical and hybrid events on 6 continents planned, pre-work underway, a team in place and were working with the best-known names in Healthcare and Financial services. Plus, a plan to deliver even better, smarter and feature rich audience engagement solutions built in collaboration with some brilliant clients.
Then it happened! Covid-19. It goes without saying that the impact on our team like a number of those reading this article changed everything. Postponements initially, then cancellations and then silence as each event, conference, congress, and meeting went into ‘lockdown’ as teams battled with the known and largely unknown consequences of the virus.
To us it was like our barn that we had lovingly planned and built, had burned to the ground.
What on earth should we do? Furlough, hide, worry (yes, we did a bit!), panic (just a little!) or give up? In the end we took stock of what we were good at, how we were used to working as a virtual team, how we were positive about collaborating with many clients and supportive agencies and then thought through how we keep ourselves, our families and the business we had loving built safe.
Then we started reaching out. Finding out what we could do to support our agency partners and corporate clients. Trying to understand what pressures they were facing to ‘keep the lights on’ and still deliver positive business outcomes. Then we collaborated, found teams who were expert in what they do, found individuals who were specialist in delivering things that we weren’t and then we repurposed and re-tooled and then we set out to be busy and positive!
It’s not ‘rocket science’ to re-engineer your business in the face of a global crisis in the events industry but you do need a great team who can be adaptable and demonstrate a bunch of skills that we did not originally recruit them for! We were and still are the audience engagement experts. We just did not appreciate how transferrable our skillsets were to transform from physical, and hybrid delivery to fully virtual.
From travelling the world physically, we are now travelling the world virtually (46 countries and counting), turning passive delegates into active participants across a broad range of virtual events, new meeting formats, new clients and embracing new technologies. Who does not like a fully tooled and high production value Zoom meeting with some smart plug-ins!
We have not rushed out to buy new platforms, we have not changed the ethos of strong customer centric support and keeping clients safe and we haven’t lost the art of adding value to each and every event we support.
What we count as a success is that early on we did recognise that we are not expert in everything! What has been a major positive for us has been the fact that Covid-19 has given us time and an opportunity to talk with many competitors, clients and complementary agencies and teams who have been generous with their time and support. For this we will be forever grateful.
As we start to dream of the end of lock down, we are not quite in a financial position to fully rebuild our barn, but the good news is that we can now see the moon!