Today we are interviewing Pietro Urbano Mimmo, Vice President Innovation & Marketing at Sirti S.p.A., a leading firm in the design, construction, and maintenance of technological infrastructures and systems, as well as in the creation of smart and sustainable solutions for the telecommunications, energy, enterprise and public administration markets. We organised Sirti’s Annual Meeting in 2021, a hybrid event, which is now known as “phygital“, i.e. halfway between physical and digital, with over 1500 remote users.
In 2021, the first partially virtual Sirti Annual Meeting was organised. How did you approach this new type of event, halfway between physical and digital, for the first time?
When we were designing the event, this was not an automatic choice of format. In fact, there are many new aspects to be considered in the transition from a traditional event to a digital or hybrid one. Initially, the company was leaning towards a full digital formula, whereby speakers and the audience would attend remotely and the event would not take place in a physical venue. This option was considered more attractive than the hybrid formula because it was easier to manage and less expensive. The hybrid format, on the other hand, involves holding the event in a physical location like a live television programme, with all the complexities, contingency risks, but also the excitement that comes with this type of scenario. I was convinced that choosing the full digital format would save us money, but we would lose a lot in terms of our ability to create engagement. In the end, the desire to innovate and the energy and enthusiasm of our team led us to take on the challenge of implementing this new format.
What surprised you about this new way of holding events remotely?
The feedback we received, which was extremely positive even though the physical dimension of the event was reduced compared to a traditional one.
Tell us about the relationships you had with the people you worked with on this innovative project. Were they all enthusiastic or were there sceptics among them?
As you might expect, there was no lack of scepticism at first. The complexity of the format and the higher costs involved compared to a full digital formula were not, at first glance, intuitively associated with an improvement in terms of impact/engagement and event performance. The decision-making process took some time, but the desire to raise the bar prevailed in the end.
What does creative problem solving mean to you?
It means always being mentally flexible and seeing solutions and opportunities where others see only problems and complexity.
Innovation and inclusion are the pillars of this new way of creating events. What is your opinion on this?
In a well-constructed hybrid event, innovation and inclusion are in fact pillars: the former because the event has to be completely reinvented, it cannot be the mere digital transposition of a traditional one. The timing of the scene and the methods of interaction are completely different and if these fundamental aspects are not taken into account, the risk of failure is just around the corner. The latter, inclusion, because if the event is well thought out, you can reach out to a potentially much larger audience than with traditional events and provoke intense emotions and widespread participation through the use of modern tools and applications that allow real-time audience interaction and engagement.
Do you think this kind of event can strengthen your brand image?
I think so, for various reasons: our company has gone through a major digital transformation in recent years, in the way we work and in our market presence. An event of this kind is a natural expression of how the way we communicate and generate engagement in people can be rethought from a digital perspective. On the other hand, carrying out such an event well demonstrates the ability to master complexity and to turn something entirely new and unknown into an accessible experience.
What feedback did you receive from remote attendees?
Surprisingly positive feedback from a very high percentage of people, at all levels of the company’s hierarchy. There has been no shortage of criticism, of course, but there is always criticism regardless of the method, and when it is intelligent and well-posed, we like to consider it a drive for constant improvement.
How much do you think it has helped you to have a professional director guiding the remote connection of 1500 users?
This format cannot be implemented without a staff of experienced professionals. The technological complexity to be managed, unplanned incidents that happen within the team or that are due to external contingencies may jeopardise the entire broadcasting, and therefore require timely intervention, great flexibility, and also the ability to improvise.
Would you consider, once the health emergency is over, creating more hybrid events for your company?
Yes, this format makes sense regardless of the state of emergency that made it impossible to run traditional events this year. Many of the comments we received after our 2021 Annual Meeting suggested that we keep this formula as the new standard to be placed alongside the traditional ones to benefit from both models of interaction.