In November 2020 we had the pleasure of meeting the CEO of Shift Business Festival, Sini Toivonen. Liveto’s Linda Nilsson had an interesting time discussing about B2B events with her and what the exceptional year had taught to the skilled organizer about virtual events.
Sini Toivonen and SHIFT
Toivonen herself has gained considerable knowledge and experience from event organizing and the event industry throughout the years. She has graduated from business academy and was arranging events during her studies. In 2015 in Turku, Finland, she was part of the group which decided to start creating a B2B event called SHIFT Business Festival. Toivonen had lived and worked in San Fransisco, USA in the past and has now settled in Helsinki, working as a CEO at SHIFT.
SHIFT specializes in future and new technologies in its industry. The festival desires to be the forerunner in the field and is therefore willing to take the latest opportunities to use that come in its way. Due to COVID-19 SHIFT faced a question of either to cancel the upcoming event or somehow change it. It was clear that the cancellation was not an option. The 2020 event needed to be organized differently – virtually.
Toivonen applauded the working team: without their ambition and contribution, the event could not have been turned into a virtual event just like that. The change demanded readjustments from the whole festival. The team can be proud of what they achieved.
SHIFT decided to go beyond normal virtual event and added 3D elements to their festival. The event wanted to be creative and adventurous, so SHIFT decided to approach Californian VirBELA: virtual platform that is made for engaging events. Participants could explore around the platform as virtual avatars and experience unequalled forms of virtual reality. With VirBELA, SHIFT could enable much more than just Zoom meetings and streams in the event.
What does organizing a 3D event require?
To organize a virtual event you need more than just switching on the camera and begin streaming. As well as a physical event, virtual events need planning and producing as well. To organize a 3D event, it also takes courage. According to Toivonen and her experiences a 3D event is not just challenging because of its platform but its spirit. The event organizer must outline what their actual concept is and what are the goals they wish to achieve before diving into the deep end. When SHIFT had their concept together and goal clear, they knew they could achieve what they wanted.
“We have the engagement; we are the forerunners. We are the “new technology” people and we go for the 3D!” Sini Toivonen, SHIFT
Changing from physical event to fully virtual execution the participants and other stakeholders needed to be informed well. Toivonen said that altogether the change was taken well, even though some of the performers were nervous about speaking online and some companies had their doubts about the security and safety. Those doubts were proved wrong with well-timely conversations and comprehensive information.
One difficulty they faced was that the 3D-event could not be participated through a browser. To join the event, participants needed to download the VirBELA software. Some of the partners with strict demands from their IT department therefore could not download the software to use the platform. The solution was to join the event through live streams that SHIFT’s partners enabled.
What does the future of SHIFT look like?
Virtuality has come to stay as a permanent part of SHIFT. Even though 2020 brought affliction along, Toivonen believes that lessons will be learnt. Digitalization has taken huge leaps forward and SHIFT cannot wait to take all the opportunities it offers.
SHIFT's concept is all about the festival spirit and face-to-face meetings between people. Toivonen personally hopes that SHIFT Business Festival 2021 can be organized as a real event but includes virtual aspects that enrich the big picture.
Virtual platforms are appreciated because of their adaptability. In the event industry it is a great advantage to be able to also produce virtual events. Some companies however do not have the resources needed. Nilsson and Toivonen both agree that fortunately there is help easily available. If your own capability and creativity do not go far enough, event organizers can always turn to experts like Liveto.
Three tips when creating a 3D-event
Communicate – tell your visitors what is on the way and what to expect
Encourage – convince both your team and clients to try new things
Don’t cancel it, organize it – think about other options, if plan A does not work out