HOW WE SURVIVED A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

The sweeping progress of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 had a profound and instant effect on the events industry worldwide. The world was paralysed overnight, with businesses, manufacturing, travel and education all grinding to an abrupt halt. The events industry was hit especially hard and events across the world were cancelled or postponed indefinitely as the virus spread.

Like so many others in the industry, we saw our carefully curated calendar of events – reaching as far as 36 months into the future – completely decimated. Whilst the first lockdown announced in the UK was initially billed to last just 3 weeks, it soon became clear that events as we knew them wouldn’t be back for a long time.

This initial statis, a complete veto on all live events in the UK, lasted for months. By October 2020, the press were calling it as it was, with headlines like:  ‘Coronovirus: business events industry faces devastation’ (The Times).  There was no denying it. The future looked bleak.

Evolving ways of working

As the pandemic raged on, resourceful humans from all walks of life found ways to work around the restrictions they faced. Event professionals were forced to adopt an entirely new way of working. We needed to quickly embrace entirely digital and hybrid (digital and in-person) solutions.

Here at First Network, we pride ourselves on our technological prowess and we had already been using some state-of-the-art virtual events tech. We quickly realised our future would depend on our ability to evolve, and we needed to embrace this in earnest. Our first action was to move events online wherever we could, live-streaming to delegates who were tuning in from home offices across the world.

In early summer 2020, we transformed part of our West London warehouse into a fully equipped recording studio and event venue. This meant we were able to offer our clients a covid-safe space where they could come to produce and record presentations either for live streaming or to pre-record to be accessed and viewed later.

Silver linings and unforeseen benefits

By last summer, we were starting to see the resurgence of some of the larger in-person events we were used to and in 2022 we delivered a busy, year-round calendar of large and small events, both in-person and hybrid. Whilst digitalisation cannot replace the in-person interaction of most events in the long run, it has become clear that both hybrid and purely virtual events do have their place. Virtual can offer big cost and time savings when compared to in-person events. There’s also the added benefit of a significant reduction in environmental impact when you remove travel and transport from the picture.

Changing perspectives

One of the lasting legacies of the pandemic has been a new, more flexible approach to our personnel. We have found that as things have restarted, many of our team prefer to work on a freelance basis, which keeps our core business lean and agile, and gives employees scope for more flexible working.

Now as we head into our third post- pandemic summer season, we can reflect on how the landscape has changed for the industry. Some of the new working practises are here to stay and there are certainly some silver linings. We have learned such a lot as we’ve improvised and evolved to meet the changing landscape.

It’s been a long road to recovery, but we are delighted to say that the future for the events industry is once again looking bright.


Burns Night

Burns Night Supper 2024

Burns Night Supper is an institution of Scottish life; a night to celebrate the national Bard, Sir Robert Burns. First Network were at the fabulous Merchant Taylor’s Hall on Thursday 25 January delivering this annual event for a global law firm client.

As befitting a company with Scottish roots, Burns Night has become one of the main events of our client’s annual calendar. The event, which has now been running in the city for well over 20 years, is an opportunity to bring together more than 250 colleagues and clients for a celebration of Scottish culture and heritage. Steeped in history and boasting a stunning oak-panelled ball room, Merchant Taylors Hall lent appropriate opulence and gravitas to the occasion.

The itinerary followed time-honoured tradition, and featured home-grown talent from among our client’s own employees. Senior partner, David Leckie piped in the haggis which was then addressed by the company’s managing partner for Scotland, Vikki Melville.

Following the traditional Selkirk Grace, guests enjoyed a hearty meal of ‘Haggis, Neeps and Tatties’. Musical entertainment included singing from Alison Tyler and a medley of Scottish tunes on accordion and clarsach, from musicians Frank and Jemma Hughes.

The event has become a regular feature of First Network’s annual calendar and we are very proud to have been delivering events services here for close to a decade. It is an iconic occasion in a truly magnificent setting, and is always such a pleasure.

We very much look forward to doing it all again in 2025!


First Network Delivers 3-day Virtual Event

THIS is happening in our studio today! It’s the final day of a 3-day event for a mobile tech company based in the US. We are live-streaming 4 live broadcasts across 4 separate channels.

Our vMix virtual vision mixing platform allows us to deliver video playback, dynamic lower thirds (credit lines for speaker name and title etc) and full client branding.  vMix Calls software enables us to bring in remote presenters easily and efficiently. We can stream live from any location whilst retaining full control over visual and audio aspects of the broadcast.

Our studio’s dedicated lease line ensures continuous and uninterrupted internet connectivity. We’re using LiveU solo encoders, to send the stream to the world with automatic fail-over. This means we can continue to stream, without being reliant on a single internet connection, offering additional peace of mind.

All streams are recorded using dedicated hardware based recorders,  so content can then be published for on demand post event access.

The participants of this particular event are mainly based in the US. Presentations are a mixture of live and pre-recorded, with speakers dialing in from their own homes and offices.

First Network can offer studio facilities for the recording of presentations or live streaming with all the benefits of professional backdrops and the accompanying uplift in production values.

If we pursue the studio set-up, clients can opt to travel to our West London Headquarters and record or stream from here, or we can set-up in a suitable event space or venue of your choosing. We can even bring the kit to you – whatever works best. Ask about our ‘fly pack’ kit which includes professional camera and mic equipment plus pop up green screen which can be easily installed at home to give a professional-looking set up absolutely anywhere.

What’s the User Experience Like?

Participants login to the event portal and from there they can then access a complete interactive event agenda, with links to appropriate supporting files as required. The event can either then be live streamed and watched in real time, or saved onto the portal for on demand access later.

We are able to work with whatever your preferred platform is.

We’re very excited about our new Virtual Event capabilities. We’d love to give you a demo and show you what we can do. Give us a call and let’s talk about how we can design your next event.


Could a Virtual Conference help your business?

The current situation has left conference organisers and event planners in a tough spot.  Whilst live events may have to be shuttered for now, the communication can continue as a virtual conference.

Of course, it is possible to deliver your virtual conference content from your own home or office with just a webcam and a video platform, and for some this might offer a viable solution.   But in many cases companies will need a more professional finish.  If you’re planning to move your conference online and are looking for professional production, First Network can help.

State of the Art Facilities

We are pleased to offer event facilities at our West London premises.

Our Ultra High Definition LED wall provides a striking, customisable and interactive backdrop.

Expertise

Our expertise will help you to take your virtual conference further.

Make it a multi-camera shoot with custom, picture-in-picture layouts and dynamic content scrolling through our LED backdrop.

Dedicated video encoding equipment gives a seamless professional edge. Customised seating, lecterns and branded collateral can be added as required.

Pharmaceutical Product Launch

Live-Stream or Pre-record

Presenters can record in person at our studio, whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Or if you prefer, we will build a set at your own venue and supply all the necessary equipment and team to you.

We can either live stream your virtual event or record and publish it to a content delivery network (CDN), enabling your delegates to watch at their own pace.

TALK TO US TODAY TO FIND OUT HOW WE CAN :

  • Deliver your sessions online and engage with audiences in the same way you would for your in-person events.

  • Get your virtual conference off the ground with a free consultation.

  • Let us talk you through everything you’ll need to get your event up and running.


Video-conferencing, Live Event Streaming and Virtual Meetings

Don’t let unforeseen circumstances impact your business. Stay connected by scheduling a VC meeting from anywhere.

If you need to rethink your event plans, First Network can work with you to find creative solutions. We can get you set up with live streaming and video-conferencing facilities in order for your workplace to continue to function as smoothly as possible.

In the current climate of uncertainty, First Network are focusing on teleconference and video conferencing capabilities. We aim to ensure our clients can continue to operate effectively during any period of travel restriction.

Give us a call to see how our experienced production team can help you to find alternative ways of working.


New Year, New Equipment! Introducing our New Range of Digital Signage

We’re delighted to announce the arrival of our new Ultra HD LCD Digital Signage.

We’ve had some exciting new arrivals in our warehouse this month. A new range of UHD 4K LCD digital signage and it’s available for hire right away. The range offers both 16:9 and 32:9 extended wide screen formats. These cutting-edge products have exceptional anti-glare screens which make them ideal for use in an events setting.

16.9 Samsung QM55R LCD Display

The deeper option is the SAMSUNG QM55R EDGE-LIT LCD DISPLAY . This top-of-the-range screen delivers exceptional 4K UHD non-glare picture quality. Samsung’s ‘Dynamic Crystal Colour’ technology uses up to a billion colours to deliver crystal clear, lifelike colour.
The displays are slim and easy to install and are fully compatible with Cisco WebEx® Room Kit products to provide the ultimate conferencing solution.

They are able to deliver UHD quality even with lower resolution content through innovative UHD upscaling technology and unique picture-enhancing features.

32:9 LG 88″ BH7D

For a full stretch option, at 32:9 format the Ultra-stretch LG 88BH7D delivers super-widescreen aspect ratio in Ultra HD 4K resolution.

We’re looking forward to engaging delegates like never before with the dramatic effects achievable with this exciting new bit of kit.
Here are just some of the reasons we love it!

  • Content can easily be switched from portrait to landscape, thanks to cutting edge image rotation software
  • Ultra HD Resolution and 32:9 extended wide format
  • The UHD display delivers an immersive viewing experience
  • Dynamic content can now be delivered on a single screen as Picture-by-Picture (PBP) tech delivers up to four sections in one display without calibration.

Follow the links above to see the products on our HIRE pages,  or give us a call to talk about how our display solutions can really bring your event to life.


Pole Position - Private Equity Dinner at Studio 434

We were delighted to be back at Studio 434 this month, working on an event for a Private Equity client.

Created and owned by businessman Rodger Dudding, Studio434 is one of the most extensive, privately owned classic vehicle collections in the UK.

Today Studio 434 is more than a home for a cherished car collection. Now divided into two buildings, it is a museum, a secure vehicle storage facility, a classic vehicle hire company, a film and photographic studio centre and a unique event venue. The venue features two refurbished double-storey event spaces with wooden floors and views of the car collection through a glass wall. Event organisers can specify the vehicles they’d like on display or even provide their own entertainment through the glass.

It’s perfect for a dinner event with a difference and a must for any car enthusiast.

First Network worked closely with the venue to provide dramatic lighting designed to fully highlight the beauty of the collection. A full audio system ensured that speakers and music were crystal clear.

What started as one man’s private car collection fifty years ago, is now conservatively valued at £40 million and includes the world’s largest private collection of Aston Martins.  This year the theme of the dinner was ‘100 Years of Bentley’.

It was a real treat for motor enthusiasts, both clients and crew alike and we look forward to working at this unique venue again in the future. Many thanks to everyone who worked hard to ensure the success of the event.


Halloween Ball London

A stylishly spooky turn out for The Unicef Halloween Ball

A host of Unicef UK Ambassadors and high-profile supporters led last week’s stylishly spooky turn out for Unicef UK’s Halloween Ball. The evening raised a phenomenal £250,000 to support Unicef’s life-saving work for children in danger around the world.

We were honoured to play a part at the event, which saw stars like Keeley Hawes, Anne-Marie, and Laura Whitmore descending on One Marylebone, London for a Halloween experience like no other. The event featured an an interactive “haunted house’ drinks reception and an elegant baroque themed dinner, provided by event caterers Dish.

Entertainment included stellar performances from chart topper Anne-Marie, Unicef UK Ambassador Jessie Ware, and legendary musician Jools Holland.

Dinner guests heard from Unicef UK supporter Levison Wood who spoke about the vital work made possible by generous donations, having recently arrived back from Democratic Republic of Congo where he saw first-hand Unicef’s live-saving work.

Guests pledged their support at a money-can’t-buy auction – with lots including diamond earrings worn by Olivia Colman at the 2019 Golden Globes, a brown suede jacket worn by Roger Moore in Octopussy (1983) and a once in a lifetime velodrome cycling experience with Sir Chris Hoy.

Guest performer Jools Holland said: “It’s been such a privilege performing on behalf of Unicef UK tonight and I know the money raised this evening will help children around the world stay happy, healthy and safe. From the spooky costumes to the incredible auction lots the whole evening has been spectacular. A massive thank you to everyone involved.”

Douglas Alexander, chair of Unicef UK, said: “Since 2013, the Unicef UK Halloween Ball has raised nearly £5 million which helps protect children in danger around the world. Money raised from tonight’s event will help us continue vital work to ensure no child is forgotten – especially those at greatest risk and in the hardest to reach places. A huge thank you to everyone who bid at the auction, bought raffle tickets or donated during the pledge moment. We couldn’t support the world’s most vulnerable children without you.”

Our crew were delighted to be a part of the team of consummate professionals who came together to ensure the event’s success. The money raised at Unicef UK’s Halloween Ball will help Unicef, the world’s leading children’s organisation, support children in danger around the world. Since 2013, Unicef UK’s annual Halloween Ball has raised nearly £5 million to support Unicef’s work.

We were so glad to have been involved in such an important – and fun – evening.

To find out more, visit unicef.org.uk


First Network Investment Forum

Annual Investment Forum at The Rosewood London

We were really pleased to be asked to deliver this annual investment forum  once again on behalf of an Investment Bank client.

Its central location and immaculately restored Edwardian Grade II-listed building made The Rosewood Hotel an ideal venue choice.

150 delegates were seated in cabaret style in the main the ballroom. First Network erected an 18m x 3m Absen LED wall surrounded by a bespoke stage set complete with back lit lettering.

A nice touch was the service provided by London-based company  Candy Mechanics who specialise in bespoke chocolate products. Delegates were invited to ‘Treat Themselves’ to a custom-made chocolate lollipop of their own head.  A short video impression of each guest was taken and then this was used to laser carve a 3D chocolate lollipop in their image.  The lollipop packaging was custom-branded making it a novel and fitting parting gift with which to remember the day.

2019 is the fifth year running that First Network has been asked to deliver this investment forum. We are grateful and proud that a large number of our clients continue to work with us year after year. We believe that it’s a great testimony to the high standards they can expect from our team.

Well done everyone.


Pharmaceutical Product Launch

'All Hands on Deck' for Pharmaceutical Launch Event

It really was ‘All Hands on Deck’ at this outstanding event at the St Ermine’s Hotel this week.

 
The nautical themed event marked the launch of two ground-breaking drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and IBD respectively.
Their development is the result of a dedicated partnership between two Global Pharmaceutical Companies.
 
140 delegates attended. We occupied two rooms within the prestigious venue: The Ballroom and The Cloisters Suite.
 
In the Cloisters main room First Network provided a 12m x 4m display with Watchout and Barco E2 control. Set-up also included full audio system with Catchbox mics, multiple tie clip and hand held radio mics.
 
The Ballroom set up featured a smaller 6m x 2m high resolution LED display,  Barco S3 video control, video playback via Mac computers and laptops for Powerpoint.
 
Lighting comprised of multiple LED uplights, Martin Professional Mac 700 moving lights and projected #Gobos.
 
The event was a huge success and we were really pleased to have been involved. Well done to everyone who played a part.