When was the last time you were at a work conference with nearly 900 people? Or hit the dance floor with your colleagues? For most of our global network, the answer is simple - earlier this month.

Now, we're used to getting together: office parties, ski trips, surf getaways, leadership summits and departmental away days - we love it all! We like to see each other, we like to learn from one another, connect and have fun while doing so.

So we got to thinking, what if we found a place where we could all meet up again. A place where we could dance, shake hands, or even take a spin on a speed boat. And so, two weeks ago, we hosted our first-ever Global Virtual Conference!

With 900 employees in 15 offices across APAC, EMEA and North America, finding a single time that we could all do was impossible. So our solution was to do 3 x mini-events across 12 hours, meaning everyone could join at a time that worked for them.

Ahead of the event, our teams around the world were invited to create and personalise their own avatar; choosing from a range of fashion options, hairstyles and accessories, to help them really express themselves in this virtual world.

Then on the day itself, we headed to our Virbela campus - an immersive, virtual world platform that promotes productivity, collaboration, and realistic interactions in the online space -  kicking off with our first keynote and welcome from our Founder and Group CEO, Nathan McDonald.

We then spent some time exploring our new virtual space. Wanting to use this opportunity to showcase our network of offices - their people, culture and work - we created a 'Global Showcase' area where people could check out videos created by all our offices.

We had chosen spaces that felt close to where we’d be in real life; a beach, a sports field, a speakeasy, and a rooftop area - not wanting to miss out on the usual fun vibes.

Alongside being in the virtual world, we also ran ‘Connection Sessions’ on Zoom. These were an opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the network, put a face to the name/avatar and learn something new via interactive masterclasses run by a talented team of internal session hosts. Covering topics such as feminism, gaming, accessibility and even, a global cook along. 

We then headed back to Virbela for more keynotes, and wanting everyone to feel inspired, we chose a variety of external speakers including Mitch Joel, futurist, entrepreneur, investor and best selling author; Red Hong Yi, a Chinese-Malaysian contemporary artist who makes work expressing her heritage; Squash Falconer, a record-breaking adventurer, speaker and presenter; and Derek Redmond, one of Britain’s most famous athletes and a successful motivational speaker. There was something for everyone.

Most of all though, we wanted to have fun. And truthfully, this was the part we worried about the most. Would it actually be fun? Would it feel forced or just a little too weird? But I can honestly say, it didn't. We streamed in a yoga teacher,  had a DJ perform a set on the beach stage, and people danced like it was 2019! We really made the most of the virtual world, playing on the sports field, driving the speedboats, and giving everyone the ability to connect to our global network in a way that has never been possible before.



Now, this kind of event will never replace real-life meet-ups, but in some ways, it's better. You can do more, go bigger and go beyond the expected in every way. I mean, who doesn't need a DJ set on the beach, watching fireworks while the sun goes down right now?! So while we welcome the speedy return of our beloved in-person catch-ups, this experience has certainly brought us closer. It’s definitely one we hope to repeat in the future.



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This blog post was written by our Global Project & Operations Coordinator, Bev Collins.