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Spice up your virtual events for networking success, says Somersault Agency

Some of the Somersault Agency team in the Sawston studio. Picture: Benjamin Piper
Some of the Somersault Agency team in the Sawston studio. Picture: Benjamin Piper

The virtual networking experience is only going to get better as new features and tools are added to the mix, says Colin Miles, managing director of Somersault Agency.

The Sawston-based company, which has worked for Form The Future, Think Sponsorship, Speechmatics and Lifeplus among others, has developed its in-house studio facilities to meet demand for its conference services.

“Before Covid, 90 per cent of our filmed work was on location,” says Colin, “and the space here in Sawston was not set up as a studio space.

“Then, last March, the existing locations for our clients – including in the US and India as well as Europe – were put on hold, but clients still wanted to be providing content.

“What we then saw was the very quick emergence of virtual events and we noticed a lot of making-do: we felt there was a higher standard that could be offered to make the virtual experience more engaging, interesting and professional.

“Some of our team have backgrounds in live television so we took that and added it to a pragmatic idea of what streaming can do.

“There’s half a dozen companies like Zoom, each with different tools and features, so it’s a different experience if it’s 20 people in a private setting, than if it’s a public broadcast with perhaps hundreds of people attending.”

The virtual experience has challenges, of course.

“You can leave a virtual event at any point,” says Colin, “unlike a physical event where getting in and out is a process in itself. So you have to work hard to keep people, and we can build in live feedback, have a poll where people can answer A, B or C and then give the answers – the presenter can integrate the data straight into the live stream, which makes it far more conversational.

“The content had to be good, and the presentation has to be slick – it needs to be to get people to stay.”

Having successfully adapted to this thriving new B2B marketplace, Somersault has made new friends.

Colin Miles, managing director of Somersault Agency. Picture: Benjamin Piper
Colin Miles, managing director of Somersault Agency. Picture: Benjamin Piper

“In the last 12 months our work with big clients has increased and we developed a significant new relationship with Fujitsu, and late last summer they appointed us to a key project around their new Covid positioning.”

Other recent clients including “high-ambition scale-ups” Bubble Software, Speechmatics and Digital Anarchy.

Somersault Agency was incorporated in 2012 and currently employs 13 people. The company moved from the centre of Cambridge to Sawston in 2017. Colin and commercial director Simon Mills have been working together since 2009, but the pandemic has allowed them to expand their business repertoire, with more improvement to come.

“My personal view is that virtual events are here to stay, because previously people were travelling to events which they now don’t need to.

“The events sector is not a dead industry – it’ll come back stronger, but the era of hybrid events and virtual events is what’s ahead for us and that can be very exciting, even down to how my children are being educated.

“It could become a whole different experience.”

One of the next things Somersault is aiming to achieve – which will appeal to a Cambridge audience experiencing networking withdrawal syndrome – is to create little mini-experiences within an event for meeting fellow attendees.

“We’re looking at a summer event where there will be holding rooms before the event starts,” says Colin, “so in the 20 minutes before an event, rather than a holding screen, we’ll be dropping people into small groups.”

Any online event has a potential global audience within easy reach, so the virtual experience is only going to improve and become more network-friendly.

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