Originally published in Engage Magazine, download your free copy here.
What: Google Cloud NEXT conference
Who: WONDER London and Blitz by GES
Where: ExCeL London
When: 3rd - 4th May 2017
What are the challenges of putting on a B2B event for a consumer giant?
When it comes to big brands, it doesn’t get much bigger than Google. Late last year, event production agency WONDER London won the pitch to put on seven Google Cloud NEXT conferences for the internet giant in EMEA in 2017.
“They were interactive events for the Google Cloud team,” director Ben Turner tells Engage. “The audience was made up of IT decision makers, developers, marketing people and sales people within the companies Google attracts with Google Cloud products.”
The events, unlike the main Google brand, were B2B through and through, which required WONDER to rethink and reimagine the iconic Google branding in a business context.
“You can be a lot more flexible with the Google search engine brand,” explains Turner. “With Google Cloud it’s a corporate sector that they’re working in, but there’s still a bit of flexibility. There are just more guidelines for the logo positioning and things like that.”
The brief from Google was this: reimagine the flagship Google Cloud NEXT conference in San Francisco for an EMEA audience.
“The San Francisco event is 12,000 people and takes place over three or four days, with a larger budget than the London event,” says Turner. “They made a creative and design for it and then it was our job to create our version of that event suitable for the EMEA markets in terms of audience size, venues and budget.”
Against the clock
While some of the planning could be done in advance, the WONDER team had to wait until the San Francisco event in March to finalise the design and content of the EMEA events. Since the first EMEA event – London – was set to take place at the start of May, the timing was tight. WONDER worked closely with audio visual production company Blitz by GES, which provided video, lighting and audio for the London event.
“It was a great working relationship,” recalls Turner. “Some of our team had worked with Blitz on big jobs before and it was a really good relationship. When you’re doing such a big job like that, under such tight time constraints, it’s great to have a supplier that backs you up with everything you’re doing.”
The event that WONDER created had to be easy transportable, as it was required to travel round seven EMEA venues throughout the year.
“Our job was to create a set of assets – stage sets, pods, exhibition stands – which could then go on tour,” explains Turner. “It’s logistically challenging doing all of those events, and not having visibility of all the locations and sizes at the start.”
WONDER London’s first task after receiving the brief from Google was to select seven venues around EMEA for the conferences to take place in. ExCeL London was chosen as the UK venue for the event, as it had room for the large stages plus the numerous plenary and breakout spaces required.
"The brief from Google was that they wanted to host a series of conferences which would ultimately create a pipeline for selling Google Cloud products,” Turner tells Engage.
“They did this via some keynote speeches, which were more sales-led, and then through creating breakout spaces, stages and content. These spaces allowed certain topics to go into a deep dive, covering the nittygritty information. They wanted the breakout spaces and plenary spaces to be available for people to pick and choose throughout the day, so it was more like a personalised event.”
Giving visitors an element of choice in the topics, speakers and partners they interacted with was an important part of gaining data and return on investment (ROI) from the event. Each attendee was given an RFID badge and would tap it any time they interacted with a partner or entered a session. The resulting data benefitted visitors and partners as well as providing valuable insights for WONDER and Google.
“It meant we could track where people went to gauge for future events what was popular and what people engaged in,” explains Turner. “It also meant that the delegates could get post-event material. If they were really interested in a specific breakout we could send them more information about that."
"Another thing it did was allow the partners who had spent the money to work out their ROI.When it came to partners exhibiting at the conferences, Google wanted to maintain brand consistency across all seven EMEA events. This meant that WONDER was required to create partner booths corresponding with silver, gold and platinum packages, designed to maximise visitor engagement during the events while remaining in-keeping with the overall Google Cloud brand. RFID became an invaluable component of that, as it could show partners exactly how many people interacted with their booth."
To maximise visitor interaction at the London conference, Turner and the WONDER team decided to think outside the box for inspiration.
“We get the most success from face-to- face engagement by focussing a little bit more on how a demo might look,” he explains. “Instead of having a plasma screen set into a wall and expecting people to go over and interact with the product, we would also bring in something physical.
“One example of that is a demo called Quick Draw, which is literally people drawing something on a plasma screen. It doesn’t sound that engaging just putting a plasma screen in a wall with some graphics round it, so we thought about what would catch someone’s eye and make them want to go over.
“We got 4,000 pencils and drilled pencil holes and then created the façade of the screen around the wall with lots of red and yellow pencils. It had that visual aspect and it was creative.” Creativity, says Turner, should be at the heart of B2B experiences as much as it is in the consumer world. “In a lot of B2B events the norm is done because that’s what’s been done before, whereas if the same brand is doing something public-facing in the consumer world then they are probably doing it in a different way."