Intrado Digital Media, a provider of virtual events solutions as well as a broader range of marketing, public relations, internal communications and investor relations tools, has entered into a strategic partnership agreement with global event-production company Encore. The partnership, designed to facilitate the production and execution of large hybrid events, is the second such deal for Encore, which recently announced a similar agreement with Cvent.
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As with with the previous deal, this collaboration speaks to the complexity of pulling off such events as well as the need to create economies of scale, providing each company's clients with access to the labor force, technology and expertise of the other. I sat down with leaders from both companies — Encore's president and CEO Ben Erwin and Intrado's president of digital media Ben Chodor — to discuss the significance of the deal and next steps in the evolution of hybrid events.
Intrado's solutions include the virtual event platform previously known as INXPO, which was acquired in 2018. INXPO has a relatively long history in the world of virtual and hybrid events, and was a player back in 2008 and 2009 when the recession and a backlash against live events brought on a similar call for the necessity of hybrid gatherings. Intrado's streaming technology shares a similar pedigree.
"We built our virtual business on that hybrid model," Chodor pointed out, "and we grew up as a company to get to the size we are by doing or being at physical events." In part, that means Intrado and Encore already have a history of working together.
"Lots of times we were taking video feeds or production feeds from Encore," Chodor explained. Plus, the global reach of each company provides a natural opportunity to scale quickly: "I have offices in 17 countries around the world and Encore has offices in 20 countries. We know our clients want to get back to physical events as well as continue with virtual. Who better than Encore, then, instead of us signing partnerships with 60 A/V companies around the world?"
From Encore's perspective, while they will continue to work with whatever virtual platforms their clients so choose, being able to offer consistent support and enhanced expertise on Intrado's (and Cvent's) platform should serve them well.
"While our customers rely on us figuring out the required technology each time, there is value in being trained to standards," said Erwin. "So in the case of Intrado, instead of our teams having to solve any challenges each time, or our planners having to navigate their own paths uniquely, this lets us set up a consistent approach. It's all around leveraging the scale of Intrato and the scale of Encore, and developing a consistent understanding across our team member base. So when our planner customers come in, they're benefiting from the collective wisdom of the teams that have come before them."
Encore will continue to sell its own Chime Live platform, Erwin added, but this deal with Intrado speaks specifically to providing a solution for large, complex, custom hybrid events. "We won't be selling 20 other platforms that somebody can use," he said. "Our view is that for this meeting type, and these objectives, Intrado is the best solution, and that's what we want to recommend to our customers and be able to deliver seamlessly. Obviously it doesn't prevent us from working with others; but this will make it easier for customers with those requirements to get that end-to-end solution."
Consistency in Platform/Production Pricing
Navigating the gap between technology platform and event production continues to be a significant challenge for many planners. For starters, it can be unclear, especially to those just starting to plan hybrid events, where the platform support ends and the on-site production requirements begin — and then there is the matter of pricing, and having to account for everything that is required on both sides.
With this partnership, "my global salespeople and our 1,400 global employees that support our business can actually have one place to look and to give pricing for clients and know where we can support them all over the world — and really, to have consistency," said Intrado's Chodor.
That consistency extends beyond pricing, theoretically to most facets of the hybrid event experience. Particularly for a multihub event, where people may be gathering in different parts of the world, maintaining some degree of control over the on-site production is a major challenge. If Encore is handling production duties in multiple international cities, for instance, and they support the virtual platform you're using as well, that could remove some of the variables around the multisite experience.
"Planners are talking about how hybrid essentially means they're having to create two events, and there is some truth to that," added Encore's Erwin. "We want to make it as easy as possible; where it may be two events but it's just one team that you're working with, and that team can handle those two sides of this."
As large, complex hybrid events can be mightily expensive undertakings, both Chodor and Erwin see opportunities for hard savings as a result of the partnership.
"It used to happen all the time," recounted Chodor, "where a production company would be set up in a room and someone hired us for the digital element, and we'd be duplicating equipment and duties. Maybe we added another camera just for the Internet, or we had another guy who was encoding video — but you already had someone in the back of the room who was running the board anyway. I actually think this partnership brings down the cost. Now you can just add to the production; you don't have to reinvent what's going to go on in the room."
Encore's Erwin is a strong believer in those efficiencies and potential savings. "If we're in those rooms, we want to know how we can offer more services and make them more cost-effective for our customers," he said. "This is a way to bring them a more consistent solution that should be priced more attractively."