How to host an annual Global Gathering of employees where EVERYONE understands the company's vision.
When Michelle Hopper and Lucy Percival, from the events team at Lush, decided to organise a global gathering of ALL their employees across multiple times zones in 47 countries, their greatest concern was overcoming the English language barrier. The plan was to host 3 separate meetings combining pre-recorded content and live hosts based in the UK, all speaking English. Given the content included financial, strategic, branding and product information, the objective was to ensure all employees seamlessly understood Lush's vision.
Michelle and Lucy explained:
Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics is a UK founded cosmetic retailer and manufacturer producing cosmetics for the face, hair, and body using only vegetarian or vegan recipes, with 937 stores located in 47 countries and +13,000 employees. Lush manufacture in 6 countries and has 16 Fresh kitchens around the world making fresh face masks.
Prior to the pandemic, Lush regularly hosted events around the world for their teams. For 2021, given COVID and the advancements made in digital events platforms, Lush wanted to host 3 separate meetings during a single day, using the same content, where all the employees could witness, experience, contribute and comment upon the content with regional colleagues. Previous live gatherings were full of energy and enthusiasm as the audience fed upon each other’s proximity while seated together in an auditorium. Re-creating that energy, especially after the isolation of Covid, was Lush's goal. The first evident obstacle was overcoming the language barrier in trying to communicate digitally to 47 different countries. If everyone could immediately understand the message, then it was just a matter of making the content exciting. Having the content get 'lost in translation' was unacceptable to Lush.
Lush Events team met with the Hypersay Events technical team six weeks before the event date. Translations and timing were the two top priorities.
Our teams discussed several ways to combine pre-recorded and live content:
In the end, Hypersay Events team developed a technical solution for (2) and during testing, we realised that more flexibility was required with a naturally shifting agenda. But we had to compensate for the lack of subtitles in the pre-recorded content by relying on real-time captioning, translations, and interpretation for the entire event duration.
We traditionally rely on AI speech-to-text engines to supply the "source of truth" for all subtitles. This time, however, the accuracy required went beyond the current AI capabilities and, together with Lush, we decided to rely on human captioning.
Hypersay Events developed a portal to support Human Transcriptions of the spoken word during the event. This was for both live and pre-recorded content. The English transcriptions were to both appear on the screen and be routed into the AI translation engines to increase the accuracy of the 13 different language translations. In the six weeks prior to the event, working with Lush's other providers for this event, 121 Captions and Interactio, Hypersay Events was able to develop, test and integrate portals to support:
These four features covered all the possible scenarios for translating one language (English, in this case) to a multitude of languages with maximum translation accuracy and display. To increase the end-user experience, within the stage, the audience was given a menu of options to self-select their ideal setup: listening in English, reading & listening in English, reading in their native language, reading & listening in the native language. An integrated volume control button allowed users to decrease and/or mute the English language, if necessary. For visually impaired attendees, they could choose the background and size of text font for their screens.
Using three live streamed MC's (masters of ceremony) from the UK for each of the separate events, Lush was able to combine pre-recorded videos and live streams into an inclusive experience for attendees. Both pre-recorded and live streams were conducted with military timed precision and were instantaneously translated into 13 languages for attendees with the functionality mentioned above. The inclusivity of the event was evident in the first hour of the Asian session (7 am UK time) when enthusiastic comments in the Chat started appearing in Korean and Japanese as new products and services were announced in their native languages. In addition, the MCs were able to discuss, applaud, and 'shout out' chat comments during the live streaming segments of the event (all translated into their native language). The MC's created an exciting feedback loop for all attendees as their comments were aired.
During the event, the attendees made full use of the Front Row feature available in Hypersay Events. Front Rows are a 6-person audio-only social bubble that attendees can create during an event. Inside this audio-only bubble the attendees can watch/listen to the event while speaking/sharing/commenting with 5 other people inside their Front Row. Front Rows allow attendees to mingle amongst themselves as they would in an auditorium corridor. The Front Rows were actively used during the Tea Breaks during the event.
Inclusivity, on a scale far beyond anyone's expectations, was achieved on the day. Each of the 3 separate sessions had its own personality but they all shared a high level of engagement and enthusiasm for what they witnessed streaming from Lush's headquarters. The global gathering became an immersive team meeting where management and staff felt comfortable and included understanding a very clear message transmitted to the attendees in their native language.
Based on the attendee feedback, Lush plans to hold more global gatherings in 2022 with the ambition of having 3 MC's live streaming in three different languages from one stage and having the Chat automatically translated into the native language of the individual attendees.
London, December 2021