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Key takeaways from our panel discussion about the role of technology providers in reopening & reimagining venues

We gathered leaders from the technology providers to the cultural sector to take part in our panel discussion. We talked about a range of issues affecting venues and organisations during Covid-19. It became an interesting webinar! Find our summary in this blogpost.

The last few months (we can’t bring ourselves to actually write the number) have been strange, we think we can all agree on that! The media have been full of awful stories, but hopefully you will have seen many stories of hope, cooperation or innovation. Some of these stories have been either from venues or from technology providers to the cultural sector. 

As we start to plan for life this summer, the roll out of vaccinations and hopefully an end to the disruption of 2020 we brought together 3 technology leaders from across the European market. They shared their insights during our panel discussion that took place on the 3rd of December. We recorded it, so you can rewatch the panel discussion!  

Joining us were:

  • Einar Sævarsson - He is CEO of Activity Stream, an AI powered marketing and engagement platform delivering insights and actionable data to the entertainment sector. 
  • Ellie Griffiths - She is Business Development Manager with the Tessitura Network, a leading Ticketing and CRM tool used at over 700 organisations worldwide. 
  • Wouter Vermeylen Wouter is CEO of Yesplan a leading venue management tool used in some of Europe’s most prestigious venue.

A few of our key points of discussion

1. Flexibility in Pricing 

We have all, no doubt, been watching our personal as well as business spending this year, looking to cut back or save money by either stopping the use of systems, or reducing the level we use it. 

The panel all had direct experience of being asked by customers for alternate payment options or levels. Whilst it is true that venues themselves have been closed, many examples were given on how the use of the data or tools in the systems continued to be used.  

“Sorry to keep banging on about it, but we need to put customers at the centre of our thinking.”

- Ellie Griffiths

It is not unsurprising to hear that the system providers have continued to charge for their technology, but have been sympathetic to venues struggling financially, with deferred or alternate payment plans seemingly proving agreeable. All three leaders felt that running a stable business, either holding strategic reserves or having investors committed to culture had helped their business be able to support their customers

2. Balancing COVID specific Development

Many of us who did not know what Zoom was at the turn of the year, but we have no doubt seen that one platform evolve, with new features, security options or integrations. 

Whether it was refunding ticket sales for shows, rebooking artists for rearranged performances or moving to digital distribution of content, this year saw an explosion of new feature requests and upgraded tools in cultural technology platforms.  

“I am extremely proud of our product and engineering team who continue to develop and deliver new tools in the ever changing COVID landscape.”

-Wouter Vermeylen

The balance all suppliers are having to make is whether to continue to invest in very specific COVID tools, or focus on rebuild / reopen tools. Of course, the real upside most suppliers are striving for is tools that can be used in the current, the recovery and the post Corona landscape.  

3. Leading the Way in Recovery

Tech suppliers can sometimes want to take credit for the innovation, creativity or execution of activities by their clients, even if they played just a minor role. Our panel shared what they saw as stand-out successes of cultural venues, whichever tech they used.  

“We exist to make our customers’ organisations successful.”

-Einar Sævarsson

Some great examples were given of both venues finding alternate uses, such as Birmingham Hippodrome(UK) operating as an art gallery for a Van Gogh exhibition instead of a theatre. A really good example from Denmark given by Einar was the theatre using its staff to help volunteer organisations providing support and shelter to young people.  

4. Accessibility, Environmental and New Normal Questions

The questions and answers section of the webinar was full of topics on sustainability, change and ethical practices. 

A large discussion was had on the environmental impacts of a move to digital meetings and streaming with one article being quoted: ‘Ditch high definition and new tech to fight climate change'

Questions also came in from attendees asking if accessibility was an issue they had experienced with moving to online tools and learning. Some attendees gave examples of how they delivered virtual training to people with learning difficulties that they would not have been able to do as their building was closed, but some of the participants struggled to use the technology.  

“2021 cannot be any worse that 2020, can it?”

-Einar Sævarsson

“Is 2021 going to be normal?” asked one participant. The feeling is no, and even 2022 may not be either, as we rebuild demand, productions and our audiences.  

What did we learn?

The experiences and decisions made by our leaders and their respective companies have clearly been focused on helping organisations cope, react and respond to the ever evolving crisis. 

It was interesting to hear of the human input into finding successful outcomes, with the use of remote teams and online learning being key tools used.  

“The legacy of this is going to be new ways of working, one of which is the move to digital.”

-  Ellie Griffiths

Suppliers of technology also had focused much more on the human and mental health of their staff and customers rather than just profit or adding new features. This was heartwarming to hear. 

We have a long way ahead, but as an industry and individuals we have reacted well and weather a lot of the storm, we now need to make sure that we use what we have learned to come back stronger than ever.  

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