A few weeks ago, we embarked on a mission that was both exciting and challenging, and which opened up a whole new space for us as an agency. At one of our X-NIGHTS, our monthly series of events in virtual reality, we met Carsten Senz. Carsten, Head of Corporate Communication at Huawei Germany, and his team had come to learn about the possibilities of social VR.
As it turned out, the delegation from the Chinese technology company was looking for a special event concept for the grand finale of this year’s DIGITAL SEEDS program. In the course of the so-called “IdeaThon”, hand-picked student teams with high potential were to be given the opportunity to present their start-up ideas to a top-class jury.
What the Huawei team experienced that evening at AREA X seemed to convince right away. Our mix of a presentation on a virtual event stage followed by a party and a live DJ set seemed to be a suitable setting for their own project. In the end, the decision to hold the IdeaThon in a VR environment rather than to run a videoconference was immediately made when the team gathered around our virtual campfire.
And that’s when the challenging part of our mission began, because the event for Germany’s digital thinkers of tomorrow was only scheduled three weeks later. What would probably have been impossible for most German companies, regardless of size, simply because of long decision-making processes, appeared to be absolutely no problem for a Chinese global corporation.
The reasons for this may be deeply rooted in culture. Francois Jullien, referring to the Eastern wisdom tradition, in this context speaks of “recognizing and perceiving situational potentials”. In his writings, the French philosopher with focus on sinology elaborates on differences between Eastern and Western thinking and includes the field of strategy in his works.
“Situational potential could renew itself at any moment, and the art is to recognize it and – effortlessly – turn it into one’s own advantage, to transform it,” Jullien states. Chinese strategists are not starting from a situation they had previously modeled, but rather from the present situation they are in, trying to identify where the potential is and how to exploit it.
The past year and a half has made painfully clear how quickly plans and models can become obsolete. At the same time, strategists in the West were challenged to practice Eastern thinking, to recognize and explore the situational potential created by the pandemic, and to move forward with their companies into new spaces. However, considering the unlimited possibilities, especially in the event sector, the possibilities of VR remained untapped for a long time.
It is significant that in the end it was a Chinese company, that was the first to recognize the potential of social VR and decided to use the advantages for its own corporate communications. So, exactly one year after our move into virtual reality and based on our experience with planning and executing events in social VR, we had the chance to prove our expertise for one of our clients for the first time.
Part of our mission were two innovations that we utilized for the IdeaThon. For example, we developed a system with three cameras and video direction that allowed us to stream the event live from VR on Facebook and therefore created an engaging screen experience. We also enabled the pitch teams to use digital objects on stage as part of their presentations.
The partly euphoric feedback of the participants shows that our mission was a great success in the end. We would like to thank Carsten Senz and his fantastic team at Huawei Germany and look forward to the next adventures in virtual reality together. Special thanks go out to Björn Ognibeni, who put us in touch.