A Chat with Toby Lewis, CEO at Live Group: Tech Innovation In The Events Industry & The Rise Of Hybrid And Virtual Engagement

Toby Lewis

Live Group is a family business, founded in 1975. We deliver business events for clients across a range of sectors including professional services, charities, medical associations and government departments. Our hybrid and virtual events are data-driven and designed to offer audience insights that can ensure meaningful brand engagement.

Live Group develops and embraces the latest tech to engage new and diverse audience types, as well as to improve event sustainability and accessibility. We believe that incorporating event technology into long-term communications strategies can help to achieve greater depth, breadth and clarity of engagement.

Live Group’s team have a deep knowledge of the events sector and are experts in content creation, creative design and event technology. We aim to offer seamless event delivery, so that our clients always feel confident that their event will meet their objectives and delight their audiences.

When did Live Group start investing heavily in technological development, and what did these innovations involve?

Live Group have long recognised the potential of technology to revolutionise the events industry. We began investing in tech around fifteen years ago. At the time, the pioneering technology was ‘palmlets’. Live Group adapted these into its now discontinued Live Interactive, which enabled event delegates to actively engage with content. One of our other early systems, Greengage, helped to ensure that events met sustainability objectives. More recently, the framework laid out by our work on Greengage developed into our Environmental Impact Assessment tool (EIA). This tool can be deployed during the planning stages of an activation to accurately predict the negative carbon impact the event will have on the environment.

Data has always been important for the development of successful, effective events. Data strategy is a core element of the Live Group approach, and we strive to deploy technology and develop new methodologies which lead to improved analytics.

Most recently we have been exploring new applications for facial recognition tech. This software can measure engagement at both in-person and virtual events, as cameras register the digital print of a face structure to make an assessment of their expression. This provides us with sentiment analysis data: whether they are having a positive, negative or neutral experience – all of which remains anonymous.

This technology allows brands to measure audience engagement across an event or during individual presentations to identify which content was most effective. These insights can influence optimisations to the agenda in real-time. They are also useful when building future events, which can be approached more strategically to maximise their impact. The result is a cycle of constant improvement.

Another tech focus for us was Bluetooth beacons. The idea of these is to help a delegate navigate a large venue, as beacons feed data into an interactive map which shows audience hotspots. This can be great for networking, but we realised that this data could also be useful to our client. This event ‘heat map’ can inform best areas for sponsor placement and floorplanning overall at future events, as well as providing further insights into what content was most impactful.
Virtual Events Experts | Live Events Experts | Live Group

How has the company and its technology evolved during the pandemic?

The events industry as a whole has seen a shift to virtual and hybrid events throughout the pandemic as a response to necessary restrictions. At Live Group, we recognised the exciting potential of virtual and hybrid engagement long before the pandemic, and their ability to provide innovative news ways to connect people. As a result of this foresight, our operations have rapidly developed.

Our virtual platform, Hive, has expanded in functionality and provides bespoke hybrid and virtual events to clients tailored to their requirements and budget, with features including one-to-one video chat, games, polls and quizzes.

The evolution of hybrid and virtual events has meant that engagement has become more flexible, accessible and sustainable. Delegates can attend from wherever they are in the world, in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Attendance is not restricted by geography or work schedules, as content is available online and on-demand. Virtual platforms have also been a great boost for networking and interactivity.

As a result, Live Group’s events have seen an extended lifecylce of engagement, as audiences can get involved outside the scheduled one or two days of peak activity. The platforms are built to create a sense of community that facilitates engagement without walls, clocks or limits.

In addition, we have also seen the exciting development of Studio 9 in our London office. From this cutting-edge space, clients can watch their virtual or hybrid events unfold in real time, either from the bustling hub of the production studio or the calmer comfort of our green room.


What can we hope to see from Live Group in the future, and what is the outlook for tech in the wider events industry?

Hybrid and virtual events are now a core part of Live Group’s future strategy. It’s becoming increasingly clear that for many of the businesses we work with, this approach isn’t just a short-term option. Pre-Covid, 65% of our event briefs were all in-person, but recently we have seen a 200% increase in clients wanting a longer-term strategic partner in the virtual and hybrid space. We are continually developing our tech to ensure that these events are optimised.