Hi Lovie Awards judges, this is the case for DEPT® Fest 2021
The return of a legendary festival and the chance to be back together again.
For five years, DEPT® Fest brought together thousands of employees, clients, and guests from all over the world for a weekend-long celebration of all things digital, from data to creativity to technology. What started as a small event quickly became a flagship part of DEPT® culture and a much-anticipated tradition.
After the pandemic prevented us from delivering the unbeatable in-person experience of DEPT® Fest in 2020, it would be an understatement to say that we were thrilled when the rollout of vaccines in 2021 meant that we could finally revisit the festival that had played such a pivotal role in our culture.
We successfully brought DEPT® Fest back, in a big way. With a singular festival broadcasted and celebrated simultaneously to venues across four countries and three continents. Not to mention a livestream to a DEPT® Fest 2021 website that made it possible for anyone, anywhere in the world to be a part of this extraordinary shared experience and to finally, FINALLY be back together.
An unbeatable hybrid event
Our challenge was to embrace the chance to bring our Deptsers back together again and create a hybrid event that would successfully scale on a global level.
To do this, we created a one-of-a-kind live talk show, featuring a lineup of guest speakers that included a newly minted female astronaut, a pioneering entrepreneur, and the legendary Jane Goodall. We even planned for our own interactive Squid Games.
And we didn’t stop there. Part of the unique experience of DEPT® Fest is the celebration. We ensured our four in-person festival grounds shared the same vibe, at a cellular level. To accomplish this, we styled the venues with unique motion & print graphics and packed in cool extras to ensure that the atmosphere was synced across all four.
With this simultaneous offering, we were able to recreate the DEPT® Fest experience on a global scale and ensure that our Depsters, whether they were at one of our four in-person events or tuning in from their couches, would feel valued, inspired, motivated, and, most importantly, connected.
Creating a one-of-a-kind talk show on a global scale
In creating a hybrid event, the traditional elements of an in-person festival would not have transferred to an audience of both in-person attendees as well as folks tuning in from their homes. Moreover, we had to take into account that our in-person attendees were spread across four different venues. The talk show format we decided upon enabled us to connect all of these dots and engage with our audience in the moment, regardless of where they were.
Once we decided on the format, we got to work conceptualizing our three-hour event. The talk show would be produced and broadcast live from a studio in Amsterdam and divided into four portions, three known guests plus a fourth mystery guest.
Each of the first three guests–astronaut Sian Proctor, entrepreneur Azeem Zaer, and the one & only Dr. Jane Goodall–would give an educational presentation followed by a brief Q&A period with our audience. The fourth mystery guest represented our take on Squid Games. For this portion of the talk show, audience members would be asked to complete three Squid Games-inspired challenges using their smartphones, with the eventual winner calling in to the talk show to receive their prize–a ticket to SXSW 2022–live on the stream.
At the same time, we were organizing the massive event. Or, rather, events. We worked with four venues in Amsterdam, London, New York, and Argentina to create separate event spaces that felt as though they had been cut from the same cloth. We synchronized art direction, with unique motions, graphics, and eco-friendly apparel designed around DEPT® Fest 2021’s theme of finally being back together. Additionally, we ensured each venue followed COVID-19 guidelines so that attendees could party safely.
For virtual attendees, we designed and launched a website for DEPT® Fest that matched the art direction of the in-person events. We also added a Slack integration so attendees could participate in the Q&A sessions for each guest speaker as well as egg each other on during the Squid Games. The hype during the event was palpable, even online.
A culture connected across the globe
In less than two months we planned four in-person parties across four major cities, designed and launched a website, and produced a live three-hour talk show jam packed with amazing speakers and interactive games. All of which felt connected under the umbrella of a singular festival.
More than 2,000 Depsters came together to attend and enjoy DEPT® Fest 2021. That’s more than 80% of our total employee base! Additionally, we received rave reviews of the live talk show and all its guests, including the surprise Squid Games.
Most importantly, we succeeded in bringing together an audience of virtual attendees and in-person attendees scattered across four different countries. This was best represented by a very special shared moment to cap off the festivities: a simultaneous champagne toast streamed online and across the four event locations, demonstrating a culture connected across the globe.
The world has changed since the pandemic began two years ago. We’ve seen unprecedented digitisation across industries, illustrating a fundamental shift in day-to-day life across the globe. DEPT® Fest 2021, as a hybrid event, is representative of how the world has changed from in-person, to digital, to somewhere in between.
More importantly, however, the success of DEPT® Fest 2021 is testament to an exciting new future for events. Hybrid events allow for the best of both worlds. Folks can enjoy the energy and excitement of an in-person event, but the addition of a digital offering makes it possible for people anywhere in the world to connect and share an experience or cultural moment.
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