By Scott Zakheim
As we continue to get comfortable pivoting our work lives to fully virtual, I’ve recently started to get more comfortable pivoting our work events into virtual formats. This pivot has obviously taken some testing and learning, but thanks to Landmark’s unbelievable events team, our events platform has been super creative about replicating the curated, personalized and hyper-energized environment synonymous with our in-person events into virtual . I love what I’m seeing with these smaller virtual events thus far.
Case in point, last week, I had the privilege of leading a “Virtual Innovation Showcase” with our good friends at Jump Capital out of Chicago. Landmark has traditionally (pre-COVID) organized “Innovation Showcase” events at all of our larger conferences, pairing emerging tech companies with enterprise and brand leaders for ten, 5-minute speed-dating type meetings that allow for quick, high impact first dates that in some cases will lead to second dates, engagements, and in many cases, deals!
I was a bit skeptical we could pull off ten rotating speed-dating sessions virtually, but everything went incredibly smoothly – we took some of the most innovative digital tech from both the Landmark and Jump portfolios and paired them with some of the sharpest and forward-thinking marketing minds across the brandscape and provided them with an efficient (and easy-to-navigate) platform to engage, chat and create the building blocks for long-term business relationships…all in Zoom!
Not only did I get a chance to host the event, I played as one of the participants, hopping from virtual table to virtual table, learning about what these great tech companies do and how they’re helping their clients through an elevator-pitch type format that I found super effective. As I’ve always told my digital tech clients, if you can’t tell someone what you do in five minutes then you probably won’t be able to tell them what you do at all.
Ironically (at least to me) the one theme that stood out across the entire session was around virtualization. Specifically, how are retailers and brands virtualizing their targeting, acquisition, sales and customer service processes (while they’re not able to do as much or any of it in-person). As I speak to retailers and brands every day, they continue to expedite these virtualization programs – from smarter store-to-digital retargeting (check out Zenreach), to standing up turnkey, “pop-up” d2c commerce sites that never existed before (check out Scalefast), to creating fully immersive, video and AR-based virtual store front environments to replicate the in-store buying process.
For example, I met a Jump Capital portfolio company Obsess, who’ve built out gorgeous, life-like virtual showroom environments with avatars that engage in customer service and sales. Within Landmark’s portfolio, our friends at Madras Global have built out JD Marketplace, which is a live, face-to-face video sales experience for retailers, which allows for an interactive show room experience while talking to a real sales person.
As we approach 2021, comfortability around virtualization of our lives continues to manifest in a myriad of ways – whether it be our comfort-level doing events like business speed-dating online or talking to the make-up lady behind the virtual counter. The technology is here, and now, after nearly a year of this slow pivot away from true in-person experiences, I think we’re all ready to embrace it.