Interesting June

Google I:O

Google revamp their I/O Developers Conference, TED’s outrageous goodie bags, ASICS experiential run and some good news for event professionals. All this and much more in June’s edition of That’s Interesting.

Attract with content. Keep with experience.   (3min read)
Nicely articulated call to start your event planning with a clear idea of the type of experience your audience will most value.

Google I/O’s town planning approach to delegate navigation   (3min explore)
There’s a lot of good stuff in this report from Google’s flagship user event, not least the passing mention of 3million people joining remotely.

Do your slides pass the glance test?  (3min read)
A great way to think about content design and a useful tool to put theory into practice.

How TED do goodie bags  (3min read)
In the era of peak stuff, goodie bags feel incongruous and wasteful. TED have come up with a ‘swag bag’ experience that at least lets people choose things they actually want.

The Big Chase – How Asics re-imagined the 5k city run  (1min watch)
Wonderful idea skillfully executed.

Something to go to:
Serpentine Summer Pavilion – Every summer there’s a temporary structure designed by a top architect. Check out the programme of evening events, pack a picnic and head to the park.

And, some good news to finish with. If you work in events you’re very unlikely to be replaced by a robot.

If there’s something interesting you think we should include next month, please share it via

Best wishes
The Live Union team

Interesting March

Robot Head
Sophisticated chatbots, synchronised robotic screens, presentation tips and 3D chocolate lollipop heads! All this and much more in the March edition of That’s Interesting.

Incredible synchronised robot screens   (2min watch)
If it’s spectacle you’re after this is hard to beat.

SXSW chatbot takes event apps to next level   (2min read)
A powerful example of how a new generation of event apps are adding real audience value.

Looking for a venue? Check out this temporary structure  (3min explore)
With lighting and sound built in and room for up to 400 people, The Mix is definitely worth knowing about.

Humans to replace robots at events   (3min explore)
We used Double Robotics at Interesting Breakfast, it seems we were a bit behind the curve. There’s a lot of fun to be had with a telepresence human.

Doing a presentation? (10min explore)
Useful advice on putting together presentations, including how much time you’ll need to do it well – an hour for every minute of presentation.

3D printed chocolate lollipop heads   (2min explore)
Is there a reason not to have this at your event? We can’t think of one.

A venue to check out:
Collins Music Hall – incredible hidden north London space. Download the pdf to see some amazing photos.

If there’s something interesting you think we should include next month, please share it via

Interesting Breakfast

The commitment we made to the audience at Friday’s breakfast was not simply to be interesting but to be useful. To share tangible ideas and innovations that they could use in their events.

We chose five topics, introduced them with speed presentations and then had time for people to get hands-on and explore further. The topics were:

  • Mixed Reality – VR & AR at events
  • Evolving the hybrid model
  • Innovations in screens and screen content
  • Next-gen event apps
  • Re-imagining formats

Below is the top-line of what was shared by our presenters. If you’d like to go a bit deeper we’d be happy to share more.

Mixed Reality – VR & AR at events

VR & AR are red hot topics within event production, but no amount of immersive roller coaster rides can disguise the fact that putting on a headset is an isolating experience. Harriette shared two great solutions.

With Microsoft’s HoloLens the user sees both the virtual and real worlds at the same time. An augmented experience meaning people can interact with one another and move through an event space whilst also experiencing holographic content.


360 projection domes are increasingly popular. A truly communal way to enjoy immersive content.

A really clever use of VR is as a speaker rehearsal tool. Virtual Speech transports the presenter to their actual venue.

Evolving the hybrid model

Steve & James gave live demonstrations of three technologies that help bring together audiences in different physical locations.

Mevo is a tiny low cost robot camera removing the need for a dedicated operator. When used in tandem with a streaming service, such as Facebook live, it allows any location to share video. This practical easy to set-up solution can dramatically reduce the cost of two-way video between venues.

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 09.22.18

Snapchat Spectacles, stylishly modeled by James, contain the world’s smallest wireless camera and are a great way for delegates to share questions, ideas and feedback.

Double Robotics allows the leadership team to be in two places at once and hold personal two-way conversations. A highlight of the morning was Steve presenting via his robot double.

Innovations in Screens and Screen Content

LED screens are fast becoming bigger and cheaper. The ability to use them in bright locations means they’re opening up a huge range of new venues whilst greater resolution means audiences can sit closer to them.

For years PowerPoint has been the default software for presentations, but Ventuz offers a paradigm shift in screen content. Paul outlined the benefits, and the guys from Ventuz gave live demonstrations. In short, Ventuz has the dynamism of 3D animation, but without the lead times and cost. Changes can be made on site and live data – such as audience voting – can be integrated. Creatively it’s an incredible next step in the evolution of presentations.

All our presenters used Multitaction’s touchscreen functionality, swiping to change slides and enlarging images, but Paul and Sophie really put it through its paces. They showed how the touchscreen can be used by multiple people taking notes, sharing post-its, showing video, sharing ideas.

Next Generation Event Apps

A new breed of event apps that use artificial intelligence are offering functionality that precisely meets delegates’ needs. Harriette shared two great examples.



Eva is the Siri of event apps. Instead of searching through lists of information in an app, delegates can send a message to Eva in the Event2Mobile app to find the information they need.

Grip is a smart way to get delegates networking before, during and after your event. It uses a well-known dating app as its model. Users input who they are interested in meeting and Grip gives them a list potential delegates. Users can then swipe right to suggest a meeting.

Re-imagining Formats

Whilst our previous speed presenters explored the merging of live and digital channels, Katie explored events that are ripping up traditional formats, re-imagining the physical experience.

Audiences are changing, traditional event formats don’t deliver the choice and creativity that they expect. Katie shared three examples of events that are getting it right.

Superdry re-imagined their global annual conference as an outdoor festival. The result was something that not only changed the style of engagement but brilliantly reflected the fashion retailer’s brand.

AGM’s are surely the most formulaic and archaic of all events. Not for BrewDog. They christened theirs the Annual General Mayhem and put on live music and plenty of beer.

International style publication Monocle approach their Quality of Life Conference as if it were a section of their magazine. The agenda includes ’60 sec recaps’ as well as sections dedicated to photography; brain-friendly ways to help people engage. Audience engagement and well-being is carefully considered. The day starts with guided runs around the host city and breaks include live classical musical.

Thank you so much to everyone who came to an Interesting Breakfast, we hope it was both interesting and useful!

Finally, a big thank you to London & Partners for lending us their wonderful meeting room of the future.


Interesting February

L’Oreal use snap spectacles at the Golden Globes, our learnings from Comic-Con, Edible Bubble volcanoes and more, in our February edition of That‘s Interesting.

Why are we here? When can we leave? (1min read)
Two questions to start every meeting and workshop.

L’Oreal livestream from Golden Globes using Snap Spectacles (30sec watch)
Snapchat’s Spectacles have gone on sale in the US – ours are in the post! The L’Oreal example is the first insight we’ve seen into their potential for personal streaming from events.

Origami for Events (2min explore)
The more hi-tech events become the more there’s an appetite for beautiful, crafted, real world design. We’ve been meeting some wonderful origami suppliers –  furniture & flowers.

What church services can teach us about designing events (4min read)
Things we can learn from the oldest form of event.

And, what Comic Book Conventions can teach us (3min read)
The scale of the Comic-Con phenomenon is staggering. You might not introduce cosplay to your event, but there’s a lot to take from this booming sector.

Edible Bubble Volcano (30sec watch)
We’re huge fans of Lick me I’m delicious this is straight out of Willy Wonka.

Venues to know about:
How about a forest retreat for your next event? (2min explore)

Something to go to:
The Rise of Multi-Location Hybrid Events – we’re excited to be presenting at tomorrow night’s IOIC event.

Death of Distance

A hybrid solution to communicating with a distributed workforce

Multi-location hybrid events have been around for a few years, but haven’t yet achieved a mass uptake. Some recent high profile examples suggest this is changing, that the benefits are becoming clearer to corporate communication teams.

One reason for the slow uptake of hybrid events has been confusion about what they actually are.

What’s a multi-location hybrid event?

In short, hybrid events are a combination of a face-to-face and a virtual event. Audiences in different cities or countries connected into a single experience. The key point is that, unlike virtual events, people are face-to-face as part of an audience and as such they experience the power of human congregation.

TED and Google go hybrid

Where TED and Google go others follow and both organisations have embraced the hybrid model.

This year there are three ways you can experience TED’s flagship event: buy a very expensive and hard to come by ticket and make your way to Vancouver; watch the talks for free online (and probably on your own); or join with other like-minded folk and watch parts of it live at your local cinema. For fans of TED such is the attraction of having a more communal experience that twenty London cinemas have scheduled content as part of TED Cinema.

Held in San Francisco Google I/O is the tech giant’s annual developer conference. Thousands attend in person, over 2million join the live stream, others come together as satellite audiences at over 450 venues around the world. Given that I/O stands for innovation in the open, and is all about collaboration you can see the attraction of having a communal experience. There’s a great bit of video (scroll to 4.10min) showing the satellite audiences being introduced to the main event audience.

Benefits of hybrid for employees

The above scenarios are obviously very different to an internal communications landscape. So it’s worth considering what the particular benefits might be of exploring a hybrid model for your organisation.

  • Most obviously, if you have a complex distribution of employees a hybrid model helps you bring them together into a single experience.
  • If your leadership team doesn’t have the time to take part in a roadshow this model reduces their time commitment.
  • If you want to run shorter sharper sessions hybrid events are particularly attractive. Traditionally the duration of an event is in part dictated by the participants’ travel times, often meaning events extend beyond what is necessary. Hybrid models allow you to be more fleet of foot.

Participative Experiences

The first questions people tend to ask about hybrid events are about the technology, but this is straightforward and well established. The questions people should be asking are how you achieve the degree of participation and involvement that the best employee events need to have.

Combining great facilitation across the different event locations with locally run presentations and existing or easily configured digital channels mean that you can achieve fantastic levels of highly active engagement. Having a number of smaller audiences rather than one large group actually helps the level of participation and delivers more brain-friendly personal experiences.


Hybrid events don’t solve your every problem. They still take lots of work to organise, they don’t necessarily cost less and they still require a lot of the people hosting and presenting. But if you want the power of face-to-face whilst overcoming the constraints of distance then you should test this model.

Interesting January


TED go hybrid, Yondr create a phone free event space and BizBash preview the tech trends of 2017. All this, and much more, in our first ‘That’s Interesting’ of 2017.

Still the Greatest Live Demo   (80min watch)
It’s ten years since the first iPhone. Check out Steve Jobs’ masterful launch presentation, in front of adoring fans. Would people still whoop like that for an Apple product?

Phone Locking at Events  (3min explore)
Ten years on and Yondr have created a fascinating way to create phone free space at your events.

Six Ways to Modernise your Exhibition Floor Strategy  (4min read)
Great ideas. Great Examples. We’re definitely seeing a trend towards more campus formats.

The Best Event Tech Trends Article We’ve Read  (10min read)
The heart drops when you see yet another article about tech trends, but BizBash have interviewed some really smart people. Interesting to see that we’re all tackling the challenge of how to make VR a social experience at events.

TED Goes for a Multi-City Hybrid Model (2min read)
It’s been a long time coming, but we’re predicting 2017 to be the year hybrid events go mainstream.

Harriette wanted one of these for Christmas but didn’t get it, and Claire missed out on one of these.

Two events to book:
The Story is a great place to discover new speakers and enjoy some truly generalist content.
Dinner in the Sky – fancy being hoisted 100ft in the air along with a chef, waiting team and sommelier?

Banish the inner goldfish

In our second piece on designing brain-friendly events, Rachel Shepherd looks at creating presentations that hold your audience’s attention.

You have the attention span of a goldfish. That’s not me throwing around insults for no reason…according to Time magazine, human attention spans have decreased to a mere 8 seconds. Okay, so this was in relation to web browsing, but you get the picture – the Internet is changing the way our brains work and we’re losing our ability to focus. Every day we’re bombarded by content across numerous devices. It’s impossible to escape. All this has made us pretty fickle; we chop and change between stories, videos, and messages at an alarming rate.

Even upon watching Beyoncé’s visual album ‘Lemonade’ for the first time, I found myself checking Whatsapp and browsing the web. If even Queen Bey can’t hold the attention of one of her biggest fans, then it’s no surprise that speakers are struggling in the battle for audience attention.

As event organisers we need to recognise and accept this. It’s vital we consider these changing audience attention spans and needs. It’s our duty to help our speakers design presentations which are brain friendly, engaging, memorable, and can cut through the distractions. Here are 8 ways you can do this…

1. Start strong

 Give your speaker the tools to grab the audience from the get go, and you will be far more likely to hold their attention throughout.

A moment of theatre will start things off with a bang. At a recent event we kicked off with a live demo of Google Tilt Brush, and we’ve used all manner of props, including a presenter arriving on a hoverboard, to get the audience’s attention. Clearly, whatever you do needs to reflect the speaker’s personality and set up their content. Starting with a personal story often works well.

2. Speed is of the essence

Make your presentations as short and concise as possible to ensure they are brain friendly and easy to digest. Whilst I’m not endorsing an 8 second presentation, aim to avoid any presentations that last longer than 15 minutes. (If it has to last longer, see point 4).

Putting extreme time constraints on a presenter will force them to value the audience’s time. Speed presenting formats are one way to do this: Pecha Kucha (20 slides, 20 seconds each), Ignite (20 slides, 15 seconds each), or 5in5 (5 slides across 5 minutes).

3. Make it look amazing

 Make presentations brain-friendly by keeping graphics simple and focusing on brilliant images and key words that enhance what is being said rather than distract the audience. If a presentation is packed full of information you’ll risk ‘Cognitive Loading’ – when unnecessary details use up our brain power and make it more difficult to follow and retain information. Keep it simple and visual, and your audience will find it easier to understand and focus on your content.

4. Don’t go it alone

 Encourage your presenter to share their platform and introduce guest speakers, video content, live demos or panels into their session. This will keep the pace high and a variety of visual and audio stimulus will keep the audience in the moment.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s keynote at this year’s CES showed just how effective this can be. He used multiple guest speakers, live computer game demonstrations, free-runners, drones and more. He was on stage for well over an hour, but each snippet of content was only a few minutes long, and completely different to the one before. This meant the audience were constantly being entertained and their attention never had the chance to waiver.

5. Entertain & surprise

 There should be an inherent excitement to experiencing a live presentation. Inject presentations with fun and surprising moments to entertain your audience, grab their attention, and embrace the power of live.

As part of an event for a global tech company we had a live band on stage throughout, they played all musical intros and stings live, and even interacted with presenters during their presentations. By adding live entertainment to the sessions it created a spectacle which was hard for the audience to ignore.

 6. Make it shareable

 Make sure your audience are only reaching for their phones in order to engage with your presentation by providing content that is easy to share on social media. Using great images is important, but try and work in some great quotes or infographics which can stand alone and have meaning for audiences beyond the auditorium.

7. Involve the audience

 All too often speakers will shy away from involving the audience for fear of losing control. However, your content will really come to life and have a lasting impact if you allow the audience to get involved.

There are many digital engagement tools you can use, but physical participation in the room often causes a stronger reaction than asking people to use a device. Group or paired discussions, voting with hands, or energisers that link to the content, are all great ways of keeping your audience tuned in and helping them to understand and remember your key messages.

8. Keep it simple

Keep content as simple as possible. One of the most common reasons presenters lose audiences is because they over-complicate things.

Make your speaker think about the key message they want people to take away, and why this is of value to the audience. Create a simple structure: introduction / three supporting parts / conclusion. Flesh out the content and think about how you can apply the above points to make it engaging and brain-friendly.


 So, being compared to a goldfish probably isn’t the most welcome news, but taking a more forensic and creative approach to presentation design makes for much better presentations packed full of much more value for your audience.

It’s an exciting time in the events world, and there’s no shortage of inspiration to draw on. Banish the inner goldfish and create highly stimulating, brain friendly, and memorable experiences using the points above.

Interesting November


An absurd moment at TED, a conference for emojis, an exciting event wearable, and some hugely useful tips for choosing the perfect event date and attracting your dream audience. All this, and much more, in our list of the most interesting event things we’ve seen recently.

Audience Wearable with Amazing Creative Opportunities  (3min read)
When it comes to event tech, ease and simplicity are key. Which is why we’re excited by Hurdl’s compelling text-based wearable.

Top Tips from the World’s Best Why Attend Event Pages   (10min explore)
Whatever type of events you organise this post highlights ideas from the Why Attend pages of some of the most famous (and expensive) conferences.

Massive Presenter Fail  (2min watch)
Both a speaker’s worst nightmare and a wonderful example of introducing absurdity into an event.

Google’s Solution for Next Gen Event Workshops  (3min explore)
Amazing interactive screens that produce new ways to collaborate in workshops. Jamboard is a Google touchscreen that links to their collaborative apps, helping people work together in a single space and across geographies.

Using Headphones to Create New Event Formats   (2min read)
Guided tours are a great way to orientate delegates and help prioritise content. Using headphones and programming micro-presentations adds a whole new dynamic. There’s also this example of a silent conference format and somewhere to hire the headphones.

The Event That’s Reinventing Networking  (2min read)
Great point about brain-dates based on asking people ‘what they’re looking to learn’ and ‘the knowledge they have to share.’

Fly Another Day (2min explore)
A really useful tool for choosing event dates based on other things happening or causing disruption at your destination.

Who knew emojis had their own convention?  (2min read)

Designing brain-friendly events

Comedian Mark Watson talks about the 40 minute lull you often get in a one-hour comedy show. He once addressed this by giving an audience member a stopwatch and asking them to chant LULL! LULL! LULL! at 40 minutes.

Comedians are the crack-unit of audience engagement, often having to single handedly hold an audience for an hour or more, typically with no slides or props – oh and be funny too. So they forensically think about the peaks and troughs of attention, how our brains link separate concepts together, what we do and don’t pay attention to.

Those of us designing events can learn a lot from comedians. Attention spans, along with how our brains best understand and remember ideas, are rarely discussed aspects of event design. It’s been shown that we typically retain only 10% of what we hear at a conference. So there’s a lot to play for.

The good news is that events are seeing incredible innovation, they’re being reshaped, re-imagined, ripped apart and reassembled to create smarter learning environments. Below are four ways to think about an event, re-imagining the experience to make it more brain-friendly.

1) Think Like a Magazine Editor

The Atlantic magazine has been massively successful at diversifying into events – running all sorts of big ticket thought leadership events in the US. What’s interesting is that they’ve adapted many of the formats that work to capture attention in print. Their agendas are punctuated with content sidebars ’60 second recaps’, ‘5 things I learnt’ and so on. Changing the pace grabs attention. Repetition helps people remember.

Another brain-friendly format, borrowed straight from the page, is their use of a ‘visual break’, a session in which photographers show their work and tell the stories behind the images.

Next time you’re programming an event spend some time thinking what it would look like if it was a magazine, website or TV show, you’ll uncover some brain-friendly formats.

2) Think Like a Teacher

We’re far more likely to retain ideas if rather than simply being told them we actively engage with them: discuss, stress test, apply them to our own worlds. Teachers call this active learning. The Flipped Classroom is an approach in which students are asked to absorb the information before coming to class, the face-to-face time is valued for the opportunity to debate and question.

When designing your next event try asking people to read or watch something before they arrive, then host a session that sees them actively participate in the topic. Of course not everyone will prepare, you can mitigate this by doing a short recap of the content. But, overtime you’ll shift your events from topping people up with information (90% of which they’ll forget) to landing ideas.

3) Think Like a Life-Coach

Every book ever written on ‘working smarter’, ‘creative thinking’ ‘living a more fulfilled life’, etc, shouts about the brain-friendly benefits of switching off and taking some form of exercise. Too many events squeeze breaks to short dashes for a coffee and a trip to the loo or, even worse, cram in some form of speed networking, before cattle pronging delegates back to be buried by another avalanche of information.

At the Monocle Quality of Life Conference, as you’d expect, they take their breaks seriously. The day starts with guided city runs and ‘coffee and international newspapers’ and during the day each break is programmed with a different classic music ensemble. TED Talks have social areas filled with beanbags, whilst other events are holding meditation sessions. Are you doing enough to help your audience re-fuel?

4) Think Like an Entertainer

You’re more likely to keep your audience’s attention if they’ve got a smile on their faces. We recently designed a business event that had live musicians on stage throughout the event. It opened up an incredible range of formats and ways to change the pace.

Disrupting the mundane is one of the easiest ways to earn attention. The good news is that conferences have traditionally been so formulaic that they’re easy to disrupt. We went to an event recently that handed everyone an agenda printed on a bar of chocolate. A session at SXSW (admittedly focused on the topic of design and happiness) put a smile on people’s faces by releasing labrador puppies into the room! How can you build surprise into your event combating lulls and gaining attention?

I suspect puppies might not be right for your conference, but designing brain-friendly experiences is essential to increasing the effectiveness of any live event. The events that are best at this are drawing inspiration from far beyond the traditional conference world, and in doing so are redefining what a live experience can be and do.

In our next piece, we’ll look at how you can work with your speakers to help them hold an audience’s attention. Chanting LULL! is optional.

Hat tips to Russell Davies and Velvet Chainsaw.

Four brand events dancing to a different tune

Businesses that are re-imagining their events to truly express their brand

Remember this? When Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz danced down the aisle they tore up years of tradition and spawned a craze that would ruffle the dog collars of vicars everywhere.

Weddings are just one example from the spectrum of live experiences that have been re-imagined in recent years: festivals, immersive theatre, art exhibitions – even cinema, which has been sprung from the multiplex to rooftops and secret locations.

It’s fair to say that businesses have been slower to re-imagine their employee and client events; tried and trusted formats being preferred to risky experiments. But the profile of events is growing as they demonstrate their ability to generate content and discussion that extends across digital platforms. With events moving to the heart of many organisation’s internal and external communication planning there’s increased attention on whether they’re really reflecting the wider brand. If innovation or customer insight or market disruption is at the core of your brand can the same be said of your flagship event?

That said, here are five examples of events that do an amazing job of expressing the essence of their organisations:

1) Adobe Max

Last year’s user conference saw 6,000 creatives descend on LA for an incredible immersive visual display. Revolving screens, programmed using algorithmic software, moved in sync with wonderful visual content. From the vital role of entertainment to the use of groundbreaking live graphics this feels like an event perfectly in-sync with the Adobe brand and it’s audience.

2) Superdry Global Annual Conference

How to bring the Superdry brand to life for 300 store managers? Other brands might have come up with a festival theme and decided simply to astroturf the venue’s lobby, not Superdry. This two-day event was held under canvass: accommodation was in tee-pees, workshops took place in circus tents and people danced the night away in their wellies. What a powerful brand experience this must have been for store managers travelling from all around the world to the event in Somerset.

3) Sapphire Now

For SAP whose vision is to use data to help the world run better, pioneering new delegate experiences at their user events is a must. The 20,000 customers and partners attending this year’s Sapphire Now experience in Orlando navigated the expo with the help of 1,000 iBeacons. The data this provided will help SAP continue to personalize the delegate experience year-on-year.

4) Punk AGM

AGMs are usually the least likely event in the corporate calendar to be shaken up. But then BrewDog aren’t your usual corporate. The 6,000 equity partners who attended the UK’s largest AGM were treated to live music, great food from local producers, table tennis competitions and of course lots of beer. And the BrewDog comms team uses their now famous AGM to their full advantage across social media.

Your brand might not be keen on turning its AGM into a hoedown, but a new generation of experience rich customers and employees expect more from your events. The good news is that there’s never been more inspiration to draw on. And, with many sectors being slow to innovate their events, there are real opportunities for businesses to develop event properties that build the brand and the bottom line.