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Keeping an international conference on track during the London train strikes.

Keeping an international conference on track during the London train strikes.

The annual Everyday AI Conference by Dataiku celebrates the use of artificial intelligence in day-to-day business across the world. Launched in 2019, the international conference features a series of events in major cities worldwide which, in 2022, included London, New York, Bengaluru and Paris.  But the flagship London event was almost derailed when, just ten days before the conference, the biggest railway strike in 30 years was announced to coincide with the event.

Despite its name, the Everyday AI Conference is not just about data.  The event showcases how human interaction advances AI capabilities, and the conference has a strong personal element to it, with a focus on storytelling, networking and face-to-face engagement.  After a two-year hiatus, the 2022 event was seen as an opportunity for Dataiku staff, partners and the broader industry to connect in person again.  Dataiku and brand experience agency, Clive, knew that this would be impossible to achieve in London in the midst of a train strike.

“Dataiku had loads of calls and emails from guests and partners saying it would be impossible for them to get to the event,” explains Clive account manager, Alex Tzanis. “It created a huge disruption, to the point where we were nervous about the existence of the event and considered postponing it to a date later in the summer.”  Eventually they turned to event technology partners, Anna Valley, with an ambitious proposal to avoid the disruption caused by the strikes by moving the event date forward. But, as Tzanis recounts, changing the date so close to the event would not be easy, “Moving the programme earlier had massive logistical implications – we had two crisis calls every day, at one point we couldn’t get any furniture – it was definitely no mean feat. I don’t think I need to impress upon anyone – in the industry or not – how much of an ask it is to do something like that!”

Within two days the decision was made and the teams from Clive and Anna Valley set about delivering a conference that would make London proud.

Dataiku international conference at Tobacco Dock

Dataiku conference AV by Anna Valley

Relationships forged in fire

This was not the first time that Clive helped Dataiku put the Everyday AI Conference together.  The London-based company, which is part of the global brand experience agency, First, also worked on the event in 2019.  Both the 2019 and 2022 events were also hosted at Tobacco Dock.  But the 2022 event was the first time that Anna Valley would supply the technical elements for the show – and the first time that Clive would work with the AV company on any event.

Despite never having worked with Anna Valley, Tzanis was confident in their ability to deliver.

Anna Valley has fantastic credentials and would come out on top nine times out of ten in our normal supplier selection process.  Having a venue’s preferred supplier is also always advantageous to us.  Tobacco Dock is an old venue, and I can’t imagine it’s the easiest place to work in from a technical standpoint, if you don’t know the space. So, there are distinct advantages to having a team that works there day in and day out.

Alex Tzanis, Clive account manager

Anna Valley was responsible for all technical elements for the conference – including scenic, exhibition and audio visual – and collaborated with the Clive team to deliver their creative concepts and provide the impact that the client expected from the event.

Dataiku stage

Delivering impact on a deadline

Dataiku wanted their guests to be “blown away” when they entered the main plenary room in Tobacco Dock’s Great Gallery.  To this end, Anna Valley was tasked with setting up a 30m-wide bespoke set at the front of the room.  The set featured a 3D backdrop with gauze, wood and perspex panels, in brand colours, that appeared to float in front of the wall, and three enormous video screens to playback custom content created for the event.  The combination of the set’s scale, impactful content and the addition of dramatic lighting and visual effects delivered the desired effect but putting this all together in a Grade 1 listed venue required careful planning.

The supersized set had to be precisely positioned – to within a 1mm space – in order to fit into the Great Gallery.  It was delivered to the venue in 1m long sections, put together on site and it took fifteen crew members to lift the wall into position.  The video wall elements were created using projection, but this was complicated by the enormous width of the main screen, the need for presenters to be able to walk in front of the screen and the load bearing capacity of the beams that make up the roof at Tobacco Dock.  The solution was to create a four-projector blend using ultra-short throw lenses and a complicated rigging setup which saw the projectors hung upside down from trussing.

Another element that delivered the wow factor was the ‘interactive wall’ display in the Little Gallery.  For this installation, Anna Valley built a triangular wedge using 4m x 2.4m set flats with a graphic wrap which depicted three different stories from different areas of the Dataiku business.  Visitors were invited to press buttons on the wall which triggered projected animations overlaid onto the printed graphics – so it appeared as though the graphic illustrations were animated.  Once again, the team used projectors with ultra-short throw lenses – which had to be precisely aligned with the printed graphics – to achieve this effect.

In addition to these feature areas, the Anna Valley team also delivered two breakout stages which were smaller versions of the plenary stage, bespoke exhibition booths for a handful of partners and also provided cameras and live editing for the online event stream shared on Dataiku’s LinkedIn page.  All with only eighteen hours of on-site setup to deliver the show a day earlier than originally planned.

Dataiku interactive wall

Dataiku smaller stage

The results

There was never any doubt that attendance at the Everyday AI Conference in London would be affected by the train strikes but moving the event a day earlier drastically reduced the potential impact of this disruption.  The feedback from the client was nothing but positive and, from an attendee perspective, the event was spot on.

As far as working with Anna Valley goes, Tzanis has nothing but praise for the team saying,

They’re a credit to themselves, nothing was ever too much to ask.  With the strikes and time pressures it would have been very easy for everyone to lose their heads, but they just got on with it, which makes our lives easy and, in turn, makes the client comfortable.  It really was a case of one team, one dream.

Get in touch with the Anna Valley team to discuss your next event

Photography by Dominic Martin
www.dommartin.co.uk | Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/domdommartin