Ralph Cochrane, founder of video production company Creative Grid, is normally found live-streaming at events around the world or editing corporate videos and working on documentaries. All that changed a few weeks ago when the event industry became one of the first to go into lockdown from early February 2020.
Rather than sit still, Ralph and his team set about pivoting their business. He’s launched a new brand event.video – a virtual event agency, providing high quality video content and a virtual event platform that includes delegate networking, sponsor virtual booths and everything you’d expect to see at a real event, only online.
We caught up with Ralph to learn a little more about him and how his business has adapted over the last few weeks.
Tell us a little bit about your business?
The Creative Grid is about ten years old and before this crisis we were a traditional video production company specialising in international events and corporate video.
Last year we worked at events on five continents and travel was a hugely enjoyable part of my job. That came to a grinding halt, but since the crisis we’ve created a new string to our bow called event.video which is a virtual event agency.
How have you adapted to these uncertain times?
At the start of February 2020, the event business – in terms of filming – stopped. We could see it happening, like a domino effect.
I think what was harder was having to go through the motions for other clients who hadn’t yet made the decision to cancel. In our industry, you only get paid when you’ve completed the job. Conference calls about ideas for an event don’t convert to cash in the bank unless the event happens!
In uncertain times I guess you do two things: you talk to your friends and you look to your strengths. There’s only so much online yoga and fitness classes you can do!
We operate globally and have a great network of freelancers who have been hit hard in this crisis, so I’ve been able to pull together some of the brightest people I know and focus on a new business idea, event.video.
We’re cloud based, like Xero, and that gave us a huge advantage because we already have the equipment and connectivity in our homes to carry on working. Maybe geeks do rule the world after all.
We have a lot of footage that we’d already filmed, so I was able to talk to clients about re-editing content in a new way and creating new marketing campaigns.
And finally the lockdown gave me the time and space to think, which if I’m honest I haven’t had normally. It also gave me time to talk to the team who are scattered around the world as well as talk to our clients, often at a very senior level, something else that wouldn’t have happened before. Suddenly we are crucial for their business rather than being a nice-to-have.
How did the big idea to pivot come about?
Our big idea came from another of our strengths. Creative Grid is known for live-streaming from some pretty whacky places like Africa or Russia. We’re the kind of company you ask to go somewhere and glue together WiFi plus a mobile connection to live-stream a cycling event and we’ll get it to work, so we started to think a lot more about live-streaming.
We could see that although conferencing apps like Zoom have helped to connect people in these uncertain times they also have their limitations. Often people are shouting at their laptops or talking over the top of each other and the experience just isn’t great. That was the first step towards creating a new proposition: a virtual event agency.
We started to talk to platform providers, who add a layer of interactivity. For example being able to ask questions or interact with a speaker. Provide for sponsors, pay for tickets and even conduct video speed-dating so that delegates can make new connections. The human need to build and innovate hasn’t changed, but we’re all having to do it remotely online. There has never been a better time to build and engage an audience online. Imagine if this virus had hit 15 years ago!
By utilising our technology and live streaming experience, we’re now hosting virtual events for high profile clients in the banking, broadcast and even travel industry. Our virtual events are hosted with professional presenters and produced and mixed live within our homes.
How do you differentiate your virtual events from others?
The team is scattered across the world. Mike is based in Columbus in the USA. Jack is in Dubai. Gee in St Albans and I’m in East Anglia.
The cloud means we can all communicate easily and if anything we’re now focused on the tasks that matter and not endless meetings.
The key differentiator with our virtual events is that they’re interactive – you can chat online and conduct polls. We can also take your existing video content, re-edit it and mix in some pre-recorded content as well. We’ve become really efficient at running high quality online TV shows. I even have a virtual studio using a green screen set up in my lounge. I’m not sure what my neighbours think!
What are you doing to look after your wellbeing?
Wellbeing for the team is important because we spend a lot of time staring at our screens.
We’ve all noticed that we can work for long periods of time on event.video, but then we need a break. I actually think there’s a greater understanding of each team member’s personal circumstances, like those who have children, as well as making sure we all get some rest or have a day off. It’s been really good that way. I’m not sure I ever had those kinds of conversations before.
What else? My garden is in the best condition it’s ever been and I’m planting vegetables which my mother is extremely proud to hear of! Waste not, want not. I love hiking and I’m lucky enough to live in the countryside so I go for my one walk a day. In fact that also gave me an idea and I’ve created a new Youtube channel for hiking called “A Country Walk” or @acountrywalk on Instagram.
I’m also live-streaming fitness workouts for the local community. Mostly yoga and Crossfit and it’s nice to give something back as well as try to help local businesses stay afloat. They’ve been really well received, although I’m finding it hard to mix a live-stream and actually do the work out. That’s my excuse anyway.
Since going into lockdown, I’ve been able to work on some of my passion projects and there’s always videos to be edited. Technology has meant that I can stay in touch with friends around the world. It’s a tough time for everyone but we’re all in it together so hopefully we can continue to come up with good ideas and make our new venture a success.