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Utah Business

Three things you learn when your industry pauses

We recently caught up with Melanie Robinson, CEO of WEBB Production, a large-scale event production company headquartered in Salt Lake City to find out how a company in the live events space managed to survive the past year while live events were on pause.  

To set the stage, it was one year ago that live events were ceased and two weeks later when WEBB launched their first virtual event. Since then, they have produced hundreds of virtual events for their clients, many of whom are Utah companies but also others throughout the US and even international. We were curious to hear how they made the transition so quickly and what Robinson and the team have learned since. Summarized below are her primary takeaways about surviving and thriving in a surprisingly difficult situation:

The team you have is your greatest asset

When the bottom drops out, you won’t be hiring and instead you will need to lean on adaptable employees and secret skillsets that might be under the surface. Some of our employees had a previous background in website building or in virtual broadcasting. Other employees had an aptitude to envision how virtual events could replicate the experience of live events. These employees became essential in pushing us forward with virtual events as our primary focus. One of our core values is “We face challenges with optimism.” 2020 certainly put that value to the test and the team proved it truly is part of our company DNA.

Don’t hesitate to adapt

When COVID first hit, we thought, “this is a short-term pause. We just have to ride it out.” But one month later, we made a bigger leap and it’s good that we did. Our new theory predicted the impact on our industry would continue for at least a year. We needed to adapt and be ready. We already possessed the capabilities to capture and develop filmed content with our clients, but we needed a solution for clients to stream their message to their audience. For the next couple of months, we deeply vetted dozens of virtual streaming platforms and developed partnerships with those we found optimal. And through a moment of necessity when our planned filming location shut its doors, we realized we needed to control the venue as well. Two days later, we were building a full scale production studio inside our warehouse. (Again, your team is going to make you or break you during these times – those who can think outside the box and move quickly will make all the difference.)

Today, we are continuing to evolve our approach to stay ahead. We have streamed over 2,000 sessions from our HQ for our clients, with each show being unique and customized to the client, while building on the learnings of the previous events. Our streaming platform has added features for better recognition, interaction, and user experience. We built a second studio and we adapt the stage sets in new ways for each show. Our next step is planning hybrid events, and considering how the virtual and live components can interact in an even more powerful way than when separate. Virtual events are sticking around, but live events are also returning, and we are ready for that reality.

Discover new motivation

Most of our employees are on the team because of a passion for live events…the thrill of pulling off a major event, the challenge of ever-changing venues and stages, the creativity of designing for all five senses. Shifting to virtual was a challenge not only in the actual technical components required but in morale as well. Employees had to tap into a new motivation. For some, they found excitement in the challenge of transforming attendees’ desire for connection into a virtual solution. For others, primary motivation came from our close relationship with our clients and partners, and the desire to help them through the unknown. For many, if not all, the main motivator was the comradery of the team. Once again, the team you have is your greatest asset.

Utah Business provides award-winning, in-depth journalism on the tech and entrepreneurial businesses at the forefront of our nation's economy. Our print and digital publications reach millions of executives across the state and our live and in-person events provide deep-dive access into the industries shaping our future.