A new, different way to hold events

Digital platforms were not the go-to platform for events but the COVID pandemic has seen the industry think different, be different.


03 Sep 2020 . 4,961 Views

When Covid-19 hit, being within less than a metre of someone else in public became an abomination.

David Kibera, a member of the Brand Experience team at Safaricom tasked with hosting Safaricom events, initially thought the ‘problem’ would go away quickly.

Events are a big part of life at Safaricom and the thought of everything coming to a standstill was unprecedented.

“It was a real shocker, and we initially thought things would be back to normal within a month or two,” he says.

Globally, an industry that was valued at $1.1 billion in 2018 with a growth rate of 10 per cent per year was suddenly stagnating, with economies fast heading towards recession.

To brave the new challenges, the Brand Experience team knew they had to adjust to overcome the drastic shift in the industry.

“In our Department meeting our Manager Zaheeda [Suleman, Head of Brand Experience at Safaricom] reminded us that how we come out of COVID will be important; that it was our responsibility to shape our future experiences for our Customers,” added David.

His lightbulb moment came from an unexpected place: an online video game called Fortnite. He had come across American artiste Travis Scott’s live virtual concert on the platform. Scott was portrayed as a hologram teleporting across the video game’s landscape to an audience of 12 million players, logged in for the concert, across the world.

This triggered a spark of creativity in Kibera shifting his mindset.

Over the past six months the Team has executed numerous online events such as Company Cascades for over 4,000 pax, Crossfit challenge, Safaricom’s AGM, and Launch of the Lipa Mdogo Mdogo product.

Here is a guide, developed from the Brand Experience team’s work, that you can use to prepare to host  events online.

  1. Get the right partners

Ensure you get the right partners for each brief. In this time where we find ourselves doing numerous digital events, the right production team is important.

The Brand Experience team engaged a production house to facilitate the seamless live-streaming of events such as the Full Year Results announcement and AGM on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the corporate website. The production crew used multiple cameras for a variety of angles of the speakers, an audio-visual mixer, and professional sound and lighting. The team had a minimum of two people to coordinate each event.

  1. Back – up, Back – up, Back – up!

Just like any part of your life, always have a Plan B.

When the stay-home directive was issued, David and the team initially tried to facilitate the online events from home. However, with unexpected power outages and fluctuating internet speeds, this proved problematic.

They moved their operation hub from home to the Safaricom Headquarters where they were guaranteed a dedicated source of power and reliable internet connectivity.

Zaheeda Suleman, Head of Brand Experience at Safaricom, also advises having an alternative online event platform and event link on standby should the primary platform experience a hitch. In one instance during a staff event, the primary platform went down just minutes to the start of the event. The team had to quickly switch to avoid delays or losing the audience that had already started logging in for the session.

  1. Choose the right software

The capacity of the hosting platform selected should sufficiently cater for the numbers expected to attend the online event. The Brand Experience team experimented with various platforms including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans or Google Meet. Platforms such as Zoom also allow you to stream your event on YouTube, Facebook or custom live streaming to broadcast to an unlimited audience.

The team also realised that for events requiring multimedia support, one must make use of streaming software such as Open Broadcaster Software to ensure seamless video playback when videos are streamed via the hosting platform.

  1. Build Experiences or face “Death by Webinar”

To break the monotony of online sessions, integrate entertainment and engagement tools into the live events. The team made use of music, online quizzes and feedback tools to keep the audience entertained. They made use of tools such as Mentimeter and Kahoot! for online quizzes and feedback from the audience during the virtual event. For events such as Annual General Meetings where shareholders must cast votes for proposed motions, the team facilitated this through a USSD code and online platform to tally the votes and display the results to all.

  1. Review the security features of your preferred platform

Ensure the hosting platform settled on for the event has robust security features that will guard your online event from hackers who may disrupt your event and spam your audience with undesirable content. The Brand Experience team consulted Safaricom’s IT department, who conducted rigorous security checks on the platforms before giving the green flag. Cybersecurity has been top of mind for Safaricom over this period and Safaricom Secure Net has bolstered internet security for customers to safely work and learn from home as well.

  1. Do a dry run

It is important to have a simulation of the live-stream before the actual preferably a few days before the event. The Brand Experience team conducts dry runs for each event characterised by a checklist for all content required during the event such as presentations, videos or images and a run through of the programme of the day, with a time check for each segment of the programme to ensure the event is within the time limit designated for it.

Everyone involved also takes the opportunity to establish what they will need for back-up.

Zaheeda concludes: “In the next year or so, it won’t be so much about translating on-ground events to virtual online events but rather re-imagining the whole experience. How we integrate the best parts of physical and virtual experiences into hybrid events will be key, an industry re-imagined is an industry re born.”

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