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Taking Digital Transformation World full circle

Taking Digital Transformation World full circle

Back in early 2020, TM Forum were ready to make some dramatic changes to their annual Digital Transformation World (DTW) conference. Then the pandemic forced the organisers to hit pause on their plans and pivot to digital instead. When the event finally came full circle and returned to live two years later, it was almost unrecognisable, save for the teams at Common Ground and Anna Valley who were entrusted with reinventing the conference time and again.

An already evolving event

TM forum is an alliance of over 850 global companies who work together to break down technology and cultural barriers between digital service providers, technology suppliers, consultancies, and systems integrators. Every year, the company hosts DTW – an opportunity for these industry leading members to gather together, solving the problems of digital transformation and advancing innovation in the telecommunications industry.

DTW has historically been held in Nice, but when it was time to get the wheels in motion for the 2020 iteration of the conference, TM Forum were ready to transform the event. The conference was set to make the move to a bigger venue in Copenhagen, and both their creative agency, Common Ground, and technical partners, Anna Valley, were deep in the process of helping them bring this new evolution of the event to life.

We didn’t want to just move the event – Copenhagen was a chance to reinvent the conference.

Jeremy Oldfield, producer and managing director at Common Ground

But as lockdowns and restrictions came into play during early 2020, these plans couldn’t come to fruition – yet. “Lots of clients thought the Covid cloud would pass quickly, but TM Forum made the decision to take out the guesswork,” adds Oldfield. They moved full speed ahead with prepping a virtual event. The teams redesigned the conference as a current affairs, TV-style live stream, broadcast from a three-camera, purpose-built studio at Anna Valley’s headquarters, with live and recorded video contributions made via OBS software, video conferencing and Quicklink feeds. The result was the biggest gathering of TM Forum members in history, and the organisation opted for a similar broadcast-style event in 2021.

Reimagining DTW once again

After two years in the digital sphere, in 2022 TM Forum were ready to return to live events – and deliver the DTW conference they had originally envisioned for Copenhagen. “When we looked at the event back in 2020, we wanted to refocus it to centre around conversations and interaction,” says Oldfield.

The theme of informal collaboration extended throughout the event design – exhibition stands were more intimate, designed to generate conversation rather than just host presentations. They mimicked a café environment, giving attendees the chance to sit and chat over coffee. The central atrium acted as a huge networking environment. Dubbed ‘the Park’, the aim of the area was to create a vibrant, interactive experience and with activities like crazy golf and table tennis to help attendees connect, as well as a DJ and food served around the clock, the area had a festival-like feel.

But the organisers faced a new challenge in 2022 – the industry now had the capabilities to deliver incredible content in a virtual format and they needed to give people a compelling reason to attend the event in-person. After all, why would visitors travel all the way to Copenhagen when they can watch the same content at home? “If you could deliver it over Zoom, then it wouldn’t cut it for conference”, says Oldfield of their new proposal.

A keynote theatre with a twist

Possibly the most dramatic application of this in-person, collaborative approach was the move away from the traditional conference presentation style in the keynote auditorium, Studio 1. Inspired by the success of their digital events, Common Ground encouraged TM Forum to abandon the typical keynote stage and instead create an intimate studio environment that would host a small but highly engaged audience for multiple sessions throughout each day of the conference. Oldfield explains, “We completely reconfigured the event – instead of the traditional conference-style with a speaker on a large stage, we made the sessions smaller and more interactive. It was about workshops, Q&As – and real conversations.”

Anna Valley was tasked with taking care of all of the technical production elements for Studio 1. The video system included manned and remote cameras and vision mixing for broadcast-quality coverage of the presentations, with playback in the room via 2 x 21K projectors and a series of comfort and relay monitors. Audio and lighting design was also taken care of by Anna Valley to accommodate production as well as set-dressing and wayfinding requirements for the live audience.

While the studio audience was limited to only 300 attendees to create a collaborative space, it was also important to make the keynote content accessible to a wider audience. To achieve this, an NDI feed of the sessions in Studio 1 was live streamed to screens across the venue for attendees to watch from various informal locations. They were also recorded so that TM Forum could drip-feed these presentations to their members after the event, and to make sure the video coverage made for compelling viewing, the production value needed to be of a broadcast standard.

A question of trust

While the move to Copenhagen represented an all-change moment for the event, Oldfield is adamant that one thing that would remain unchanged was who Common Ground would entrust with technical production for the all-important keynote theatre, “We used a lot of local suppliers, but when it came to the keynote, we needed the consistency and trust that we’ve built from previous years working with Anna Valley.”

The keynote was the most technically complicated and high-profile part of the conference, and Common Ground knew they could rely on Anna Valley to deliver. “Screens and audio can cut out in the conference rooms, and attendees can be left a little disappointed – but errors in the keynote room are much less forgivable. You have incredibly high-profile speakers and just one opportunity to get it right” Oldfield explains.

That’s why, for us, it had to be Anna Valley. It’s the most visible part of the event – it’s recorded, broadcast, and will be shared online. You can’t cut corners, and I knew the team at Anna Valley would get it right. It’s about trust – plain and simple.

Jeremy Oldfield, producer and managing director at Common Ground

Rising to the challenge

Ironically, had it not been for the two-year delay in moving to Copenhagen, the keynote theatre would not have been reinvented in this way and the new DTW conference may not have been quite as resounding a success. “When we regrouped after 2 and a half years, we were in a better place than ever to roll the event out,” Oldfield adds, noting that TM Forum’s work during the pandemic was key in maintaining and building their audience, “TM Forum never dropped the ball – they stepped up and delivered strong, engaging content. Many other organisations couldn’t rise to that challenge.”

The TM Forum DTW 2022 show saw over 3000 delegates head to the Bella Center in Copenhagen – and they loved the new format of the event. “They were some of the best reactions to a show I’ve ever seen,” comments Oldfield, adding that every session in the keynote theatre was jam-packed for the entire session, “People really understood what we were doing by creating a community approach and had a much more engaging and interactive experience at the event because of it.”

Get in touch to chat to the Anna Valley team about technical production for your next event.