The House of Beautiful Business, a global think tank and community based in Berlin, recently hosted a hybrid event—a business festival called The Great Wave.
Held from Oct. 16-19, the worldwide gathering featured a diverse array of programming including both virtual sessions and offline experiences—from Zoom discussions to musical performances to a cloud-based 3D virtual world—that covered a range of topics such as Universal Basic Income and the hybrid workplace. Attendees could also gather IRL at more than 30 local hubs around the world.
Founded in 2017, the House of Beautiful Business aims to bring together business leaders, founders, technologists, artists, philosophers, and scientists as "residents,” serving as a forum for sharing new ideas. Its annual flagship event usually takes place in Lisbon, Portugal, in November, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the organization to test out this new hybrid format.
The House of Beautiful Business partnered with Stadiumred Group, a collective of specialist agencies in marketing and advertising, to develop and execute The Great Wave.
Since virtual meetings and conferences have become such an integral part of doing business, it makes sense that the think tank would experiment and try to shake up what has already become a staid experience for some. Here, learn the creative ways organizers of The Great Wave made the wide-ranging event engaging for a global audience:
1. Develop an event narrative.
Like any well-thought-out event, The Great Wave featured a cohesive theme (the concept of waves) that was carried throughout the programming and visuals and spoke to the current moment in time. “The decision to have the narrative arc follow the movement of the wave is reflective of the massive change we deem necessary in today’s business world,” explained House of Beautiful Business co-CEO and founder Tim Leberecht. During the first main session, called The Anatomy of a Wave, speakers discussed topics in relation to the theme such as the pandemic, actual surfing, quantum physics, and social movements.
“A movement that starts with small ripples of personal stories, grows into cascades, and then becomes a Great Wave, potentially growing to thousands and thousands of people,” said co-CEO and founder Till Grusche about the overall inspiration.
2. Create easy ways for attendees to interact.
Via WhatsApp, attendees were able to join “Mystery Ripples” (where organizers match up attendees with like-minded folks) or “Anchor Ripples,” which discussed a single issue like the upcoming U.S. election and were hosted by an expert. Leberecht explained that these curated social circles allowed attendees to “reflect on the content and deepen the conversation” outside the festival schedule.
3. Mix up the programming content.
In addition to Zoom chats, the festival programming also included audio content that was hosted on SoundCloud. This included episodes of the House of Beautiful Business’ Next Visions podcast series, which is presented in partnership with Porsche, as well as audio journeys where attendees were encouraged to get outside and listen—a sort of group “field trip.” Attendees could also sit quietly during a silent hour, take sound baths, and watch dance and musical performances.
“From an event-planning standpoint, the number-one priority is making sure attendees are stimulated and engaged,” Grusche explained. “In the current climate, simple shifts to virtual events can feel cold and uninviting without the opportunity to engage in dialogue with other attendees. We designed The Great Wave specifically to have guests feel like they were part of a larger experience with others, and audio, visual, and digital content plays a significant role in that.”
4. Incorporate something cool.
The festival’s 3D world, known as Journee and created by Berlin-based multi-product lab Waltz Binaire, served as a separate space featuring “installations” with 2D pieces; virtual settings like beaches, piers, and forests; and experimental videos. “It will be like walking through a museum, where each exhibit acts like a door to a completely unique room where you can experience the artwork just how the artist intended it to be viewed,” Leberecht said.
In contrast to virtual events that take place entirely within a 3D environment like Fortnite, Journee was only accessible to attendees during certain times through the four-day festival.
5. Add IRL events strategically.
In addition to the online programming, attendees were also able to sign up for events (which were included in the ticket price) in 36 local hubs in cities such as New York, Lisbon, London, and Sydney. Hosted by community members, the varied local events included dinners, panel discussions, and more, with select sessions being broadcast within the global program. As for adhering to global safety measures, Leberecht said most of the in-person events were hosted outside or in areas where there was the opportunity to keep enough distance between attendees, and that the ground teams at each site adhered to the guidelines provided by each host city.
See more from The Great Wave below.
This story first ran on our sister site BizBash, here.