A virtual ‘International Rose Garden Festival’

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This case study demonstrates how Latrobe City Council’s ‘International Rose Garden Festival’ transformed the traditionally in-person festival into a virtual experience for guests to enjoy from the comfort of their own home.

Background:

The International Rose Garden Festival is an annual celebration of award winning rose arbours, garden beds and trees transformed into festival by lighting, performance and sound held in Latrobe Valley for its third consecutive year. As a food and wine fiesta, this event is traditionally run as an in-person community stallholder event in which producers showcase amazing produce from the Gippsland region. Visitors typically enjoy a relaxing picnic-style setting amongst the main attraction of the rose garden itself, underscored by musicians, international presenters and performers over the course of three days.

As the limitations of in-person festivals were realised, Latrobe City Council enlisted the help of global events agency Alive Events to move this festival into a virtual tour environment. The 2020 festival was a hybrid style event encompassing a light installation in the rose garden and an online virtual live broadcast on the 14th and 15th of November. The virtual event featured many of the previous festival’s elements the audience knows and loves. Such as talks, workshops, stall holders and children’s entertainment, however, the virtual experience was interactive for viewers. Attendees were able to engage with the presenters, post questions, and take part in polls, live chats and workshops all from the comfort and safety of their home, anywhere in the world.

Objective:

The key objective of the production was to convert the traditional community festival into a quality, accessible virtual event where the client could produce and stream a well-paced, informative and engaging program for an audience ranging from children to seniors.

It was imperative to have the event available to all attendees wherever they were located around the world, on a mobile, tablet or computer. The client’s aim was to do so by collating content from Rosarians and entertainers from Latrobe, USA, UK, Sydney and Adelaide to have the virtual event play out as it would traditionally in person, and thus highlight the hard work that the volunteers do to maintain the garden each year.

The main attraction of the event, being the rose garden tour, was of course adapted by creating a virtual 360-tour environment of the Morwell Centenary Rose garden, which attendees can virtually ‘wander’ through. In addition to this, shoppable online stalls, live Q&A panels, speakers and workshops were to be filmed and streamed live for viewers to engage with through a 2-day period at certain time frames. All of which ertr managed by Alive’s external web development and content production team from creative ideation to premiere, to ensure all aspects of the physical event could be replicated for maximum community engagement in a COVID-safe manner.

Strategy:

With the challenge of a countrywide lockdown beginning in March, the Alive team and IRFG group organised a handful of virtual meetings to discuss the virtual event offering and the ways to host this community staple. 

The challenges of lockdown restrictions meant the remote direction of pre-recorded content and outsourcing a lot of production to local Latrobe contacts. Managing remote broadcast, multiple live linkages and moderated chat through the two-day event were also core hurdles faced by the client being new to virtual events. Alive’s external contracted specialist’s 360South & Show Division worked through any technical challenges on a tight deadline – especially the final turnaround of the virtual tour, as photography had to wait until the gardens were in bloom. 

Over the course of just 10 planning weeks and with a significantly smaller marketing budget, media and promotion had to be reduced. To overcome this, the team enlisted the aid of Destination Gippsland – the local tourism body to generate as many virtual registrations as possible.

Destination Gippsland was instrumental in securing media interviews and promotional opportunities including an article in The Age, ABC radio interviews and features on influencer blogs. The team opted to ramp up the above marketing efforts in the 4-weeks leading up to the event, and the fact that people didn’t have to travel to attend meant advertising lead time could be reduced which worked with budget limitations. 

Execution:

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In order to be as accessible as possible, the event needed to maintain high readability, and be inclusive to all members of the community with the incorporation of Auslan interpreters for pre-recorded and live presentations on the main stage. To execute the many different offerings included in the festival, the content was first filmed, and a custom website was built, in which media was streamed via YouTube in order to allow for a public chat.

The festival ran over two days, Saturday 14th November from 3 – 4pm to Sunday 15th December from 12 – 5pm. VR was not used in the main Rose Garden attraction tour, and instead was created using 360-degree photos and stitched into a virtual map environment.

Pop-ups with information and images of roses were strategically placed throughout the tour, of which the footage will become the legacy from the virtual event that will be utilized for many years to come, and become the marketing tool to promote the Latrobe Valley region. The virtual tour will be implemented into the existing festival website and Visit Latrobe website in the future.

Through the above-mentioned streaming technology, the festival comprised of a live host, introducing guest speakers from David Austin Roses and the Royal Horticultural Society. Workshops on terrarium creation and bee hotels, food and cocktails master classes, as well as rose talks by Costa Georgiadis, streamed live for the participation of attendees.

Live chat interaction with these presentations was facilitated using YouTube. Sponsors and local vendors were provided with a virtual stall platform from the custom website in which guests could shop products to then be delivered to their home. Lastly, live artist painting, and art activities could be downloaded in addition to music and videos that could be enjoyed on-demand. 

Results:

The objectives of the festival were met with strong audience engagement and exceptional client feedback for the Alive team. The efforts for pre-registration to the event garnered 800 registrations and around 750 opting into the IRGF newsletter – this will serve as a valuable marketing tool for future events. The virtual event site retrieved 27,000 page views, and 11,000 main stage views. This production ran flawlessly over 2 days despite tight turnaround times and encountered zero technical difficulties.

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash.



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