Adapting an Annual Meeting to Fit a Client’s Needs

Costs can add up quickly during a multi-day conference. Large General Sessions, numerous breakouts, catering, lodging, and travel expenses all need to be taken into account when budgeting for your event. Without compromising on content quality and attendee engagement – all while lowering costs – Gravity Productions has worked with several of our clients, including Ryan LLC, the world’s largest privately-owned tax and accounting firm, to produce their all-employee meetings in such a way as to suit their evolving needs.

Gravity’s twenty years’ experience in event production and team of highly skilled audio/visual production professionals helped to take Ryan’s meeting virtual and global to both reduce cost and allow for deeper connections between executives and international employees.

2014-2015: The classic conference

Gravity Productions has been partnering with Ryan, who is based in Dallas, on their Annual Firm Meeting since 2014. At that time the company would fly in the majority of their employees to a large hotel in Dallas and host a traditional multi-day conference featuring a large general session and numerous breakouts. During that time the company grew tremendously both domestically and internationally. As a result, flying so many employees in and putting them up in a hotel for multiple nights became a budget challenge, necessitating a paradigm shift.

AFM 2014 at the Hyatt Regency Dallas

2016-2018: going virtual

The original strategy developed in consultation with Ryan to reduce costs was to transition to a smaller, shorter in-person meeting in Dallas. By filming the General Session presentations using a multi-camera (TV style) approach we were able to facilitate a more engaging and interesting viewing experience for their employees who might not have the opportunity to attend the event live. Those employees would then watch the recorded meeting within a couple of days of the actual meeting either at a movie theater, conference room, or just on their laptop. By shortening the meeting to just one day and only having local Dallas employees attend, travel costs were cut to almost nothing and hotel rooms were not required at all. This also allowed the event to take place in more singular venues rather than a hotel ballroom, which proved to be more exciting for both the in-person attendees and those employees viewing the re-broadcast later.

Multiple Cameras Greatly Enhance Recorded Presentations

On similar corporate events we typically only have two cameras as most live events generally don’t have the need or budget for more. But when the majority of your viewing audience is watching a recorded version of the meeting, having more cameras (four in this case) greatly enhances the experience by allowing the recording to cut between different camera angles to capture more action and context depending on the situation, making viewers feel like they are getting an experience more akin to the live audience. 

• During speaker transitions it is nice to have a camera angle that captures more of the stage and set.
• Mobile cameras can capture audience participation.
• Jib cameras allow you to capture entirely unique angles and context that no other perspective can attain.

AFM 2018 – Here you can see the jib camera capturing the audience when they were asked to take a selfie.

Maximizing Efficiency of Resources

In addition to this, during the live meeting we also have an extra video tech doing a supplemental switched recording that will be the basis of the broadcast to the remote viewers. This tech’s switched recording never goes to screen live, but they receive all of the cameras and content live. With a Ryan employee directing them to ensure that all key points are highlighted when and where appropriate, this recording, in addition to the four camera records and the content record, dramatically decreases the amount of video editing needed after the meeting. This is essential because Ryan likes to have some employees view the meeting within a day or two of when it is filmed.

However, as successful as this strategy was/is, the company continued to grow very quickly internationally during this time and Ryan eventually determined that they would need to have in-person events for some of their international locations beginning in 2019 in order to prevent these employees from feeling neglected and to further focus their messaging by region.

2019-2020: A Hybrid Meeting

Fortunately, because of the changes made in 2016-18, it was a logical step to take the Annual Firm Meeting to a global audience. Without changing any of the technical aspects of the headquarters meeting in Dallas, it mostly became a question of logistics in terms of when to have the international meetings and which executives would be able to attend which meetings and present in person. Since implementation, the international employees have appreciated the executives coming to their locations and participating in person, versus a select few employees from each location being flown to the US. But for any instances where an executive is not able to travel and present live, we have the option to play the recording of their section from the Dallas meeting.

AFM 2019 in Toronto, Canada

Our International A/V Experience Provides Value

In 2019 we assisted with the local meetings in both Canada and India. We researched, hired, and oversaw local A/V partners in both locations, handling everything from specifications to technical direction. Having our expertise and management skills on board greatly reduces the workload and stress for Ryan’s internal meeting planners, allowing them to focus more on the venue requirements, content, catering, travel logistics, and other meeting-related details. In 2019 Ryan also had a small meeting in Europe and chose to use in-house A/V at the hotel they were staying at, leading to headaches and disappointing results. 

As a result, in 2020 we were involved in the international meetings in Europe, Canada, and India. We were able to find a solid local company in Portugal to partner with. This resulted in a much more polished and professional meeting for all the attendees from Ryan’s European offices. In Canada and India, we were able to partner with the same local companies we used in 2019. This facilitated even more comfort and familiarity between ourselves and the local crews we used.

AFM 2020 in Porto, Portugal

A Personal Touch For A Technical Business

In both 2019 and 2020 our Senior Engineer, Jeremy Lorang, was at all locations of the meeting that we assisted with. This sort of human continuity between events helps to ensure that meeting planners, executives, and presenters feel comfortable working with a known entity, and that all content and aspects of the meeting are extremely familiar to that person. We always strive to reduce as much stress as possible for our clients and having the same face at every meeting is one of the best ways to achieve that.

AFM 2020 in Dallas at the Cowboys’ stadium

the future: ???

As Ryan continues to expand globally, we look forward to assisting them with whatever their needs may be, whether it’s in Australia, Denmark, or here in the USA. Right now, the meeting is a hybrid of virtual and in-person meetings, but in the future, it could change to a totally virtual meeting or something else entirely. Regardless, we’ll be here, ready to adapt to all of our clients’ desires and ideas. At Gravity Productions, we experience our greatest success when we are able to facilitate our clients’ success!