We can blame Covid-19 for many things, but in the case of Digital Jersey’s TechWeek, it was actually beneficial in some ways.
At some point in 2020, when the team at Digital Jersey realised that they weren’t going to be able to bring over speakers from across the globe due to travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, they took the decision to utilise the wonders of technology they have at their fingertips and turn it into a digital extravaganza, complete with panel sessions livestreamed and accessible to a global audience.
Rising to the challenge
“Overall it surpassed my expectations. Like a lot of people, the new format was pushed on us because travel was harder. We couldn’t have physical venues so we had to respond to that,” says Tony.
“It turns out there were a lot of advantages. We had a really wide range of speakers from all around the world. And actually that would have been harder to get that number of people from those locations coming to a physical event. There aren’t many silver linings to Covid, but that was one of them.”
Learning from global experts
One of the aims of TechWeek is to provide audiences with food for thought from a broad range of experts speaking on a variety of current subjects. That meant speakers from places as far away as Singapore as well as the talent that resides on-island, he says.
“We always try and strike a balance with our events of both bringing really interesting speakers to Jersey, physically normally but now virtually, so that we can learn from them, but also show off what is happening in Jersey as well.
“And I think we struck that balance with some great speakers. We have some great facilitators because we build relationships with people like Dave Birch and Joe Dignan and some of the others who can facilitate and curate some of those sessions, which obviously expands what we can do as a team.”
Developing the digital platform so the sessions could be watched in the form of a TV show, introduced by journalist Gary Burgess, that were accessible at a time convenient for the viewer really worked in their favour, he says.
“We got better viewing figures than we would have had for a physical event. I think we had about 1,200 registrations, obviously they’re not all going to be unique users. But if you look at when we did TechWeek physically, on the FinTech day we had a couple of hundred people there.
“We had probably about 100 for the Health Day and the IoT day. And although not every one of the 1,200 would have actually watched their registered speed sensor link, within just a couple of days, when all the videos went on YouTube, we had another 600-700 views.”
TechWeek is clearly of great value to the island’s tech sector, but it’s also served as a great advert for Jersey as a place to live and work.
“When people look at relocating their business to Jersey or moving themselves to Jersey, they can look online and it’s a bit like marketing collateral. And I would hope people would say, ‘Wow! Jersey is 45 square miles and puts on things like this, they have relationships with speakers like this, they’re discussing topics like that. I think it portrays us in a really good light off-island as well as on, it’s an excellent marketing tool.”
A new model for 2021
Such has been the success of this new format, that Tony and his team are looking to do something similar for next year’s events, irrespective of where the world is with regard to Covid-19.
“We might not do exactly the same, but I think we could look at doing a hybrid model.
Our experience from doing other events has meant that we’ve sometimes used the digital link as a last minute backup if there’s fog and they’re in their hotel room at Gatwick or Heathrow and actually I think we’d have more confidence about having speakers who wouldn’t have the time to come over to Jersey to come in virtually.”
Tony says it’s not just the change of format that has given Digital Jersey much to consider, it’s the ideas that were raised during the week.
“When you think about how much governments and companies spend on consultants, we had these people giving amazing advice… I learned a lot from it and I think Jersey can too.
“What we’re doing now is parcelling up the videos and sending them to key people, policymakers and organisations encouraging them to watch if they didn’t get the chance to see it over TechWeek.
“I don’t mind saying that it felt like a new lease of life for me on some of the areas that were discussed. You know, we’re an independent island, we can do all this stuff and I found it very inspirational.
“In many ways, it’s the beginning of something.”
You can see highlights of TechWeek here.