Visions CEO, Chris Norman chats to Mike Fletcher about growth via acquisition and the importance of production for effective hybrid events.
Chris Norman, CEO of Visions is working from home in a converted pottery mill on the edge of the Peak District when we speak. His Cockapoo is curled up on the chair opposite and his eight- month-old daughter is sleeping peacefully.
“We were supposed to be getting married but Covid put pay to that notion for the time being so we had a baby girl instead,” he exclaims. “We’re just getting used to the clocks changing but she sleeps through the night so I can forgive her for waking at 5.30am instead of 6.30am.”
Norman is probably due a paternity leave break after a 12-month period that has seen his holding company, The Event Technology Group, take-over not one, but two event suppliers that had succumbed to the knock-on effects of the pandemic.
In November 2020, Norman extended his role by becoming CEO of the renamed Fisher Productions London. Just two months before, he’d had a bid accepted for sound technology supplier, Dobson and subsequently launched Hybrid Presentations, with studio facilities in London, Reading and Manchester.
“Dobson has enabled us to enhance our streaming and virtual capabilities by combining the creative and technical knowledge expertise from within our family group of companies. Hybrid Presentations is set-up to use multiple platforms to suit the customers needs and we’re producing events using a wide-range of streaming options including break-out rooms and sponsor pods to maximise audience engagement,” he says.
The takeover of Fisher sees Norman expand into the London venues market, completing the Visions production portfolio of outdoor, in-person, experiential, virtual and hybrid activity.
Visions’ hybrid pedigree dates back to 2012 when Norman led on a ‘world first’ for BMW Group, which saw social video streamed onto a Mini Cooper as it drove around London’s West-end whilst being filmed by another Mini and streamed back to the internet for eight-hours each day over a two-week period.
“It was the reason for buying our first TriCaster for mixing cameras,” Norman recalls. “We then produced a hybrid solution for Panasonic so that online viewers could post questions onto its stand at IFA, the consumer electronics show in Berlin. These were then used for live streamed product demonstrations. Between then and the pandemic, we’ve been investing in kit and producing virtual and hybrid events for a range of predominantly financial services clients.”
For hybrid to be a success, Norman believes that planners should invest properly in the production and plan for two separate experiences.
“There needs to be a better understanding of what drives virtual attention and the type of content and delivery formats that will keep viewers engaged,” he says. “Errors within content streams or virtual presentations just aren’t tolerated anymore so planners need to partner with experienced suppliers that can provide solutions around lighting, camera angles, mixing and editing.
“Many of the agencies that made space in their warehouses to set-up green-screen studios are now finding they need the warehouse back as in-person events return. As the hybrid model matures, clients need to understand that more production equipment and cameras may mean less seating. But production is an important investment. Organisers need committed suppliers with a track-record and production expertise so that they can properly justify the additional expense and build effective hybrid programmes for the future.”
It’s time to end the call as Norman has a meeting with a potential client to talk about two cross Atlantic events taking place in New York and London with contributors being streamed live. It’s sure to be another exciting and technically challenging project for the Visions team to be working on.