Setting our direction – a virtual event for LifeArc

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Virtual event

LifeArc is an independent medical research charity helping turn promising early science into products that improve patients’ lives. At the start of 2021, the charity wanted to communicate its strategy and launch four new goals to all employees.

We have worked with the LifeArc Corporate Affairs team over several years. Our role has been to support various change and HR projects, intranet enhancements and internal events, including delivering a summer employee event in 2019. For 2021, we were asked by the team to help develop and deliver an exciting virtual event that could create engagement and a two-way dialogue about the new organisational goals.

Setting our direction – designed to energise and inform

While the 2020 employee conference had been cancelled because of the pandemic, LifeArc had transferred to virtual Town Hall broadcasts, increasing the frequency of these to share key news, progress and achievements and connect employees. Although these are well-received, the one-way nature of the broadcast made it difficult for employees to ask live questions and discuss their views with each other. For this event, the team was keen to provide a more participative environment.

The Setting our Direction event was designed from the start to energise and facilitate cross-team knowledge, idea sharing and teamwork as well as connecting and inspiring employees for the year ahead. Working with LifeArc’s internal communications team, our brief was to provide event management and communications, as well as speaker liaison. We worked alongside We Are Resource as the event production team supporting both the technical and the internal liaison side of the event. The challenge was to deliver an interactive virtual event in just four weeks.

A virtual, interactive platform

Redefining Communications provided the event staging, project management support, event communications writing and design. We worked with the team at We Are Resource to utilise the Airmeet platform to create a more engaging experience for employees and one that felt different from the normal virtual Town Hall sessions.

LifeArc wanted to use a virtual, interactive platform and the Airmeet platform allows for presentations, roundtable discussions and live Q&A chat streams. We had previous experience with the platform, but it was the first time LifeArc had used it, so we shared a pre-event explainer video to enable employees to familiarise themselves with it and advised them to log on early.

The benefit of being a collective consultancy means we can create the right team for the client’s needs. For LifeArc, this was Jenni working alongside Katie Marlow and Sarah Weston. Both have worked on the account before and we needed to bring in event management and content management skills from the team to bring the event to life. As the project evolved, we introduce Gill to the team, a designer who is also part of the collective, to ensure the content came to life on the screen.

Jenni focused on the overall event format and style, ensuring the employee experience was aligned to the event’s objectives. Katie created draft materials for the event communications. Sarah provided event management, coaching on presentation style and instilled confidence in the presenters, particularly important with the use of a new platform. Additional last-minute slide materials and design support also demonstrated the flexibility needed.

Prior to the event, employee packs were created and distributed by We Are Resource. The packs included a message from the CEO, details about what to expect and freebies to enjoy on the day. The whole process was very efficiently managed and following a dress rehearsal the day before, we were all set!

On the day, LifeArc CEO Melanie Lee introduced the event and was supported with short panel discussions, presentations from internal project sponsors and leads and real-time Q&As. We monitored the live Q&A stream and flagged the most relevant questions to be answered by the panel. Over the two-hour event, more than 100 questions were received, indicating a significant curiosity and engagement in the content.  These questions were all answered via the intranet after the event and accessed heavily.

Another presentation focused on a deeper dive into one of the goals and an inspirational video was also shown. The round table conversations in the virtual area were facilitated by table leads to guide the conversation, listen to employee feedback, embed the core messages and provide further context. Discussion rooms were kept open afterward to enable more casual interaction.

“When we realised our event production timeline was going to be challenging, we asked Jenni and the Redefining Communications collective to support us. The fact that they have experience of the Airmeet platform, event planning and design helped us bring this event to life.

Jenni’s input was greatly valued. The whole team were able to bring a sense of calm, with superb project management and bi-weekly catch-ups. It was great to have additional resource – and everything went smoothly on the day with impressive teamwork from everyone involved. We were delighted to achieve a much greater level of engagement than with previous virtual events.”

Interim head of internal communications, Alison Prentice, LifeArc.

Before the event, the employee pack helped to raise excitement about the day and an employee feedback survey showed that 87% of respondents said they found the pre-event communication, joining instructions and video guides easy to understand.

With lots to cram in, this was a fast-paced event. It received a 90% attendance rate and the majority of people stayed throughout. This was an immersive and engaging experience for LifeArc employees. The Airmeet platform received great feedback, particularly around the ability to hold useful discussions and the Q&As. It received 4.2 stars (out of 5) for ease of navigation.

Employees remained engaged and it was rewarding to see them embracing the opportunity for discussion, as well as demonstrating a curiosity and desire to know more. A follow-up event is currently planned for later in the year.

“We wanted to make sure we hosted something that felt different to the virtual Town Halls we had been doing during the lockdown. The Airmeet platform was perfect for this and working with the team at We Are Resource was an excellent addition for our employees. Jenni and her team never fail to make our lives easier. Their expertise, dedication, and passion for getting things done in the right way for us are why we continue to work with them on projects and events.”

Janet Morgan, Head of Corporate Affairs, LifeArc

If you’d like our support for a virtual or in-person event, please get in touch via info@redefiningcomms.com.

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