Our world is changing faster than ever. COVID has taken away our freedom to travel and connect. Black Lives Matter has revealed how entrenched systemic racism remains. And Western hegemony keeps declining as other parts of the globe claim their rightful places. And yet, most of the stories we feed ourselves about ‘them’ are still made by ‘us’. Makmende Media has always understood this problem, seeking collaborations with media professionals in so-called underdeveloped parts of the planet since its inception. And now, with a pandemic that keeps on raging, Makmende is letting go of the Western gaze even further. In its hybrid events, which combine the best of the offline and online experiences, people from across the globe create magic together.
Nils Elzinga | August 1, 2021
In early March 2020, Willem Redert visited the city of Madrid, to prepare for the 10-year anniversary of The Regional MSME Investment Fund for Sub-Saharan Africa (REGMIFA).
Stakeholders of the fund would fly in from across the globe for a weekend full of festivities. Redert was really, really looking forward to it. And he wasn’t the only one.
“I was also blissfully unaware of something called corona”, recalls Redert, the Marketing Director of Symbiotics Group, which manages REGMIFA from its base in Geneva, Switzerland. A mere few weeks later, the escalating pandemic wiped the whole event off the table.
In the summer, as the first wave of infections was subsiding, Redert decided to explore alternative ways to celebrate the anniversary after all. Redert: “The question was: how? Most of all I knew what I did NOT want: just move the whole thing online and create yet another boring online event, with viewers falling asleep watching an endless series of long-winded speeches and PowerPoint presentations.”
When touching base with Makmende Media, Redert was introduced to the idea of a hybrid event: part online, part offline. “Most of all, we knew the event had to be an engaging ride for viewers”, says Flore Deroose, Creative Business Developer at Makmende Media. “So instead of talking heads, we devised a fast-paced cocktail of ingredients.”
“MAKMENDE added the much-needed emotional layers to our event, the human element so to speak. Plus, they engineered a rhythm that kept people watching.”
Central to this was a lively host, filmed in a studio in Amsterdam, who would lead panel discussions – for example with the CEOs of financial institutions in South Africa, Ivory Coast and Kenya. “Then we added polls, quizzes and pre-recorded interviews with entrepreneurs supported by REGMIFA. We even had a live band. The few broadcasted speeches from high-profile investors and other stakeholders were no longer than 3 minutes each, so as not to lose any momentum. In short, the whole 3-hour thing had to have the look and feel of a live TV show.”
And it did. Redert: “Makmende added the much-needed emotional layers to our event, the human element so to speak. Plus, they engineered a rhythm that kept people watching.” The numbers proved it: some 77% of the audience – over 120 REGMIFA stakeholders throughout the globe logged into Zoom – stayed for two hours or longer. That’s an exceptional percentage in the online space, where all it takes for viewers to leave is one simple click of the mouse. Deroose: “Again, the secret is that we kept the audience engaged. For example, they really participated in our polls and quizzes.”
Not bad for a pioneering format that was never attempted before. “Very special indeed”, says Willem Redert. “Especially as the event was held during office hours.”
“I don’t think there’s ever been a Swiss financial fund that has celebrated something in such a spicy way”, jokes Makmende’s Flore Deroose. “I have to give Willem and his colleagues credit for trusting us this way.”
This trust, says Willem Redert, was earned. “I haven’t had a single moment of stress in three long months of preparing together. Sure, there’s been some healthy time pressure here and there, and we all worked hard on this project, but I never had the impression that anything could go seriously wrong. Makmende just organized everything very well, even though we never met in person.”
“It has felt very good to create something so new and innovative together.”
When event day finally arrived and Redert and his colleagues watched the show, they knew they had created something original and refreshing. “I particularly enjoyed the host, who combined a perfect tone of voice with huge knowledge of our sector – quite a rare combination.”
“The resulting videos were good, too”, Redert continues. “And I can tell you from experience: that’s not always the case. We now use the content across our communication channels. But above all, it has felt very good to create something so new and innovative together.”
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