We were lucky enough to sit down with Brian Ranson, Internal Communications Manager at Virgin Media, and long-time friend of Top Banana’s, to talk about their virtual events and experiences during the global pandemic and discuss what role hybrid events will take in the future.
How successful have virtual events been within VM/VMB during the global pandemic?
Virtual events have been critical to ensuring our people stay informed, connected, recognised, and celebrated through this period of uncertainty. They have also allowed us to visually bring to life the vital role our business (Virgin Media and Virgin Media Business) has played in keeping the UK connected, be that families keeping in touch with each other or helping UK businesses and their employees continue to thrive in this new every day.
Not only this but virtual events have helped us explore technology and ways of communicating we never would have before and accelerated how we embrace new platforms. It’s been a real eye opener for us as a team, however it’s also given wider teams insight into some of the challenges we face in Internal Communications. The view and value of communications has never been stronger, and I do think our ability to host virtual events successfully has played a pivotal role in that.
Do you think you’ve managed to maintain the same level of engagement and experience? How have your employees responded?
Although we have tried our hardest to use virtual events to their full capability, I do feel nothing will ever replace face to face human interaction. But this doesn’t just apply to events, it applies to the whole working environment, those ‘water cooler moments’ so to speak. However, I do feel we’ve learnt so much through the year of covid with virtual events. Be that how important it is to bring our people into the experience, ensure two-way engagement is at the heart of everything we do, and that people have fun along the way. Our people have responded really positively to our virtual events. However, I know many of them, like me included, can’t wait to get back into a venue and have those engaging, human interactions that we’ve all been craving for so long…and have a good party to celebrate our successes.
“I thought the format of the event was excellent given that we were all remote. Personally, I felt connected to the event and not like I was sat at home alone and in a certain way I could pay more attention to the speakers than at a face-to-face event.” (see more delegate feedback here)
Do you see hybrid events taking a role in the future of VM/VMB – if so why/what benefits will it bring to you?
At Virgin Media we have a strong belief in Belonging – If the past year has taught us anything it’s that going forward, we really need to embrace technology to ensure everyone feels included and can work in a way that suits them. Hybrid events really gives us this opportunity. For some, large scale social events could be very daunting, also some may be carers or single parents which mean attending a 2 -3 day conference could be a real challenge.
“Brilliant format – is this the format for going forward? Not having to travel and be away from home for 2 – 3 days was a highlight.”
The pandemic has made us realise as an organisation that not all our employees like to be communicated to in the same way and we’ve tried really hard to listen to them. Moving forward we will definitely consider ways we are able to give our employees more choice around how they experience our events, whether that’s live or hybrid events, and provide the opportunity to have a positive work/life balance.
What do you think the future of events will look like for VM/VMB? Has the global pandemic effected the way you do things going forward?
I do think going forward we will embrace a hybrid approach. However, I think the future is bright with events. I’m excited to take the new skills, new technology and feedback from our people and look at how we can create incredible new inclusive experiences. I also feel there will be a new level of appreciation for in person events, and those who had attended 20+ years of conferences will find a new fresh love for them.