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Events in a digital product agency: the what, the why and the crisis

It's a strange time to be an Events Producer, with many of ours being postponed or moved to an online alternative. Amy's taken some time out of this transition to tell us about her work at Kyan, the events that we produce, and the challenge that coronavirus has presented us with. Over to you, Amy.

The Kyan ‘flavour’ of events management

My role at Kyan is different from my previous roles, with my only client being ‘us’. This means I can be entirely focused on our business goals rather than servicing multiple clients’ events. It’s also different in that I am an Events Producer rather than an Events Manager. I am not just delivering an event, but also creating briefs, developing concepts and following the strategy and goals set by the Growth Team (me, Ben, our Marketing Manager and Olly, our Head of Partnerships) and also our founders too. This is all whilst keeping Rich happy. He’s our Head of Finance and Ops, and is there to help us execute our plans and keep a beady eye on our budgets.

Events have only been part of Kyan’s primary strategy for about three years. After a few experiments and adaptations, we have now hit our stride and are delivering well-executed, informative events to help educate and entertain our attendees. I see the next few years as a really exciting time for our Kyan events programme, with everything moving up a gear. So watch this space.

Life before Kyan

I’ve worked in agencies since 2000, starting out as a Studio Traffic Assistant before moving into a sales and marketing team. I actually fell into the events industry by accident after joining an agency as an Account Manager and it just so happened that my client asked us if we wanted to pitch for a launch event. We pitched and we won it!

So I had to learn pretty quickly, and after a few sleepless nights we delivered a two-day carnival in Central London with celebrity chefs, live music, food stalls, children's entertainment, stilt walkers and even, wait for it, a 24-foot-long moving caterpillar. 

That is when I fell in love with events. I loved the importance of the pre-event organisation, the challenge of selling the idea and then the excitement of delivering the vision. The adrenaline rush of a live event and the sense of achievement (and relief) when the final part is delivered is great.

 

 

Kyan’s event family

We have a diverse family of events at Kyan, reaching out to many different audiences and sectors.

 

Toast

We wanted to create an event that was an alternative to the boring, stuffy breakfast networking meetings we’d seen. You know the ones... lukewarm coffee, dried-up croissants and a stark hotel conference room. 

Networking should be fun, a chance for you to meet like-minded people and talk about how you may be able to work together. We created Toast as a place for this. Guests join us for breakfast in our cool and bright bar area, where you can enjoy our 280º elevated views of the town and have a choice of any number of teas, freshly brewed (and recently roasted) coffee, and a variety of toast and topping options. There’s also a 10-minute lightning talk from a Kyan speaker or a guest speaker. So far we've welcomed including business owners Alex of Air Social and Jon of Overdrive Digital.

More about Toast

 

Our first Glug Guildford at Tudor Antiques.

Glug

We co-collaborated on the launch of Glug Guildford back in March. We’re doing this in partnership with Katherine at Own Marketing. Glug is on a mission to champion creative communities in towns and cities like ours, and is based around a series of talks and informal networking. Glug has become one of the most exciting, credible and well-attended creative events around the world and we were very excited to help to bring this to Guildford. The launch event was a huge success with a NPS score of 10! 

More about Glug

 

Campus

Campus is our educational series of events. It’s seen a few formats over the years, but Campus for 2019 and 2020 has been a series of two-hour workshops covering subjects such as design sprints, problem framing, solution framing and growth hacking. These take place in Central London and we have about 30 free places for each session.

Our objective is to share our knowledge around how we design and build digital products from a strategy point of view. We developed our own fictional product for these sessions — ‘MoveIn’, a vetting app for tenants and housemates. The workshop acts as a vehicle to develop ideas and solutions for the product the same way we would with real clients. I talk a little more about how we've adapted this event later on in the article.

More about Campus

 

WXG

WXG was the only event on Kyan’s roster when I joined and it’s now in its eighth year, with each conference getting bigger and better as it evolves. Our purpose with WXG is to bring together businesses, agencies, startups and freelancers to hear fantastic stories from their industry peers. We are very excited about the eighth WXG, with speakers from ASOS, Amazon, HSBC, Autotrader and Octopus Energy to name just a few.

Last year, we moved from the Harbour Hotel to the Electric Theatre. This venue feels like a return to our 'grass roots', with a more community-centred vibe. Over the years we’ve been proud to welcome speakers from Monzo, WWF, Head, BBC and many more cool and creative brands.

More about WXG

 

Crafted

Crafted is a brand new event for Kyan and our first large-scale event in London. It’s due to take place in Spring 2021, and will be a split day of talks and workshops. As a conference for design thinkers, product people and anyone producing digital experiences, it will explore the rapid evolution of design thinking, encouraging attendees to think differently about how they build their digital products.

This event is essentially an up-scaled version of Campus. We’ll share our design thinking around sprints, problem framing and growth hacking whilst welcoming industry experts who’ll bring 'stories from the field'. We can’t say much more right now, but we’re working hard behind the scenes to make this a great day for the London design community.

 

Events are an essential part of our strategy

Events are a huge piece of Kyan, so much so our entire marketing strategy is built around them. They are a such an multifaceted tool and help us to:

  • Share knowledge through thought leadership events

  • Showcase our agency skill set 

  • Add additional touchpoints for our existing clients

  • Build and strengthen partnerships, relationships and sponsorships

  • To engage with new audiences locally and nationally 

  • Expand our network by speaking at non-Kyan events

Events also give us great content. With every event comes its related coverage, blogs and videos. Whether that’s a 30-second wrapup clip or an entirely live-streamed workshop, we try to leverage any content opportunities presented to us by our events and fill the space around them with plenty of digital takeaways for our audiences, with their own individual social media strategies.

 

 

The unique challenge of COVID-19 

COVID-19 was like a huge wave crashing down on the entire events industry, and the knock-on effects are huge, especially in a sector where a large percentage of our peers are freelancers. 

So my worries, in comparison, are small. However, it has still been a challenging few weeks for the team at Kyan and for me in my role. 

We have had to slam the breaks on our wider event program and rethink how we can continue to deliver to our audience. Some are simple fixes, such as WXG, which we were able to postpone. Crafted has also been moved to the Spring of 2021. Toast and Glug; we will just see how everything unfolds over the next month or so. Those were the easy bits!

 

 

Our biggest challenge was Campus. How do we take such an interactive, fun and engaging event which relies on human presence, and make it an online offering? As you can imagine, this was our number one topic of conversation for the initial few days of lockdown. Thankfully, we were able to create a free, online version of Campus fairly easily. Our host (and Head of Product Strategy) Harry, was able to turn his facilitation skills to Zoom, and with a clear structure and well-design presentation, Campus ‘Online’ was born. We’re keeping it pretty simple to start with; 30 mins on a Wednesday and a Thursday, focusing on Design Sprints, Problem Framing and Growth Hacking, all followed by a Q&A session and the assets available to download afterwards. If this sounds interesting to you, keep your eye on our Eventbrite page for the latest.

 

Reflecting on all of this, my role has had to change. I’ve gone from working solely on events to having to adapt my skill sets to other areas, such as digital marketing, as I will be looking after our online Campus content from a production and marketing perspective. We're grateful to have such a flexible team and the positive support of our attendees. This is certainly the most unusual time I've seen during my events career, and I'd be keen to hear your stories, challenges and solutions if you run events in your company or agency!

Keep up with Amy on LinkedIn.