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Virtual communication: Welcome to the ‘new normal’

Jaie Genadt, UK Chief Technology Officer at Momentum highlights how brands must leverage the mass-adoption of technology that lockdown has necessitated when it comes to virtual communication.

Jaie Genadt, Momentum Worldwide

UK Chief Technology Officer

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We are in the clutches of a global pandemic. Its impact reverberates around the world, and daily life has changed beyond all recognition as people adhere to strict lockdown rules to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

We have unwittingly found ourselves, through necessity, in the most significant, global social experiment of a generation. It has undoubtedly spotlighted the fact that we humans are physically social beings. And as we grapple with fulfilling this fundamental need, consumers and brands both find themselves in a predicament: right now, we can only communicate through technology. For some, this is already second nature, and those connections and relationships remain consistent. However, for a large portion of the population, many of whom have feared technology up to now, there has been a dizzying learning curve to communicate at even the most basic level using video-based tech platforms.

With 80% of economic growth likely to hinge on digital offerings and operations by 2022, brand leaders must continue transforming how they operate digitally. But now they must also leverage this mass-adoption of technology that has emerged out of a need to stay connected even though we are physically apart. 

Consumers and brands both find themselves in a predicament: right now, we can only communicate through technology.

Jaie Genadt

Innovation within virtual communication

Another certainty is that restrictions on brands communicating in the physical world means the need for innovation and investment in virtual communication is vital. Without it, brands will fail to build genuinely engaging experiences or future proof their businesses.    

They say necessity is the mother of invention and, with cancellations hitting physical events and experiences worldwide, we see that in action as many brands pivot from physical to virtual. The first major conference to cancel due to safety concerns was Mobile World Congress, the annual gathering of electronics makers. Google Cloud Next ’20 also became Digital Connect and promised that what was once a three-day conference would become a “free, global, digital-first, multi-day event” using Next ’20 content. 

In the sporting world, Formula 1 launched a new F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series, featuring many different drivers. The series allows fans to continue watching Formula 1 races virtually, despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation, with virtual races running in place of every postponed Grand Prix. 

The next step in virtual experience innovation is leveraging Extended Reality (XR) technology. HTC’s Vive V2EC conference is a great example. Using a collaborative VR app, attendees were represented by 3D avatars and were seated in an “outdoor” amphitheatre, creating a sense of community. With multilingual support, spatial 1:1 conversations and a server capacity allowing up to 5,000 live VR users, V2EC raises the bar for how industry events will be in the future. 

However, to get to a place where we have the low latency, data volume, and throughput capabilities that these platforms require to run smoothly, adoption of 5G connectivity by consumers and hardware suppliers will need to accelerate rapidly. 5G has the potential to transform how consumers experience virtual communication and the ‘new normal’ of hybrid events hosted around the world, which underpins how fundamental advances in technology are when it comes to keeping us connected.   

The virus outbreak has pushed brands and organisers to think differently to provide compelling alternative options in the interest of keeping our communities safe.

Jaie Genadt

Creating better virtual interactions

The events industry is worth a trillion dollars to the global economy and is a critical way of exchanging ideas and building professional relationships. Many businesses are looking to bridge the gap between physical and virtual events with platforms that combine video, networking and more, capturing both the benefits of networking at physical events and the content and tech provided by virtual tools.  

The virus outbreak has pushed brands and organisers to think differently to provide compelling alternative options in the interest of keeping our communities safe. This push could also result in innovations which will live on well into the future after the pandemic is a distant memory, that allow people to meet and interact better virtually. Brands that continue to invest in innovation within their virtual, experiential strategy, while balancing short-term efforts with long-term measures, will emerge from this pandemic agile and active. They will be the brands that thrive.   

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Guest Author

Jaie Genadt, Momentum Worldwide

UK Chief Technology Officer,

About

Genadt is the front of Momentum’s technology experience offering, ensuring that the most entertaining, impactful and creative technology is used to drive brand performance and engagement. From digital strategic thinking to delivery, he inspires and challenges every client touchpoint across experiential, shopper and sponsorship. Genadt works with brands including American Express, Microsoft and SAP and is responsible for ensuring the agency maintains its edge in the latest innovations in experience led technology such as the use of sensory tech, holographic computing, AR, VR and digital display. His overriding aim is to help brands create the most iconic and unforgettable experiences through the application of cutting edge technology. He has previously been a Partner, Managing/Technical Director & Board member of award-winning studio Immersive.

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