Over the past few months, we have faced challenges we could never have imagined. All of us, without distinction, have learned how to carry out our work in a completely different way than before, dealing with unforeseen limitations and restrictions. Despite the many obstacles we encountered, we can safely say that this whole situation led us to discover pools of resilience and creativity that we never thought we possessed. One of the most significant achievements in that sense, for us, was the organisation of the TopLegal Awards ceremony, for which we devised an entirely new format. We discussed this with Alessandra Virgilio, TopLegal’s Head of Communications, Events, and Marketing.
1. This year, a new format for the TopLegal Awards was needed because of the Covid pandemic. How did you approach the organisation of this event?
During the first lockdown, we had already had to turn a traditional event (the TopLegal Industry Awards) into a virtual one. For the first time, we had to venture into completely new territory we had no experience with; it was not easy, so much so that the organisation and set-up of the digital event took a few months. When we found ourselves, for the second time, with the two award ceremonies for the TopLegal Awards in Milan and Rome almost upon us, faced with the new and progressive worsening of the national health crisis, we made an immediate decision, based on the experience we had gained from the creation of our first virtual event. In order to act responsibly and protect all our stakeholders, we set about creating a single digital version of both award ceremonies. My team and I immediately started looking for a production partner who could support us in this new “adventure”, helping us create something even more innovative than what we had already achieved.
2.What did you expect when you chose to hold a virtual event instead of the usual conference? What were your hopes and fears?
I expected – or rather hoped – to create a completely new, high-quality production, providing entertainment for our audience. The TopLegal Awards – in their classic format that includes welcome drinks, a gala dinner with an award ceremony, and an after-dinner reception – have always stood out for their prestige. Our greatest concern? In this case, it was about overcoming the impossibility to network directly, which has always been an essential element to the overall success of our event, and indeed has always made the TopLegal Awards the most highly anticipated and prestigious events in the legal sector.
3. How was your experience with this new event format? What made you decide to live-stream a Virtual Production this year?
When it comes to organising any event, my ultimate goal is to try and raise the bar, constantly. But I have to be honest and say that this time we have really outdone ourselves. I would never have thought of organising Italy’s first Virtual Production live streaming event, but when Alessandro Pitzalis – Co-Founder of Smart Eventi – suggested it, I was captivated. I wanted to organise something new and innovative and his idea was inspiring, completely different from all the other projects I had been presented, and perfectly in line with what I was looking for. It even exceeded my expectations. His excellent proposal, my desire to take risks by venturing into new territory, combined with the masterly skills of the professionals at Videozone – our media producer and production partner – allowed us to put together a majestic project in a month, working with great passion, albeit at an unprecedented speed. For the first time, two award ceremonies were combined into one big event, during which 67 law firms were given awards and as many live-streams were organised. Over 800 professionals tuned in for our almost 4 hour-broadcast, presented by Cristiano Militello.
4. Will you continue to use these new digital tools even when they are no longer strictly necessary, to engage those who are unable to attend a live convention?
Covid-19 certainly put the spotlight on the crucial role of digitalisation, accelerating the transformation process undertaken by our country. Over the last year, the way we live and work has been completely overturned, these new digital tools have enabled us to continue to carry out part of our activities, and to bridge the gap. Therefore, I firmly believe that we cannot and must not give them up. Even traditional events are on the table once again, we will continue to promote the possibility of holding webinars or, even better, to implement physical conferences on virtual platforms, to encourage wider participation.
5. We transformed a traditional event into a digital one, with around 800 attendees tuning in. We also decided to adapt the whole event to a more interactive and entertaining format than the traditional, institutional one. Have you noticed any significant differences between this virtual production your former events? Were you satisfied with it?
There are countless differences between physical and digital events. With virtual events, technical glitches are always just around the corner, and you have to try to manage and anticipate issues remotely that do not depend exclusively on the broadcaster, but also on the end-user. Managing 67 live connections, 800 attendees, our sponsors, the technical committee’s presentations, and making sure that everything went smoothly and that the live broadcast was carried out flawlessly was quite the challenge. However, the final result was worth all the effort and dedication. I would like to mention the custom-made virtual setting especially. The Virtual Production technique allowed us to recreate, within a green-screen studio, the elegant and refined atmosphere that we usually provide for our guests during our award events. We would also like to thank Cristiano Militello who is an amazing professional and irresistible showman, and who hosted the event impeccably, adding a judicious touch of levity to what is usually a rather serious and formal occasion.
8. What can you tell us about the recently completed experience of working with an event agency on such a new and unusual format?
When trying something completely new, the support of an events agency – which I had never experienced before – was indispensable, and I received invaluable help from Smart Eventi. Alessandro was by my side from start to finish, tirelessly trying to solve and anticipate problems and offering solutions, ideas, and suggestions that were always fresh and unconventional. I trusted him from the start because I realised that we were both working with the same dedication and passion towards a shared goal. We wanted to create something memorable. And we achieved it.
9. How would you describe your experience with Smart Eventi? Could you envision future collaborations for both virtual and traditional events?
I can safely say this was one of the most thrilling and stimulating experiences of my career and I sincerely hope our paths can cross again in the future.