Global Virtual Event Production: Behind the Scenes at the 2023 Summit for Democracy
April 18, 2023
The U.S. State Department’s 2023 Summit for Democracy brought together leaders, activists, and experts from around the world to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing democracies today. As the United States takes a leadership role in promoting democratic values globally, the summit presented a unique opportunity to strengthen international partnerships and develop innovative solutions to the complex challenges of our time.
Producing a virtual summit of this magnitude presents both challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, virtual events offer the advantage of accessibility, allowing participants from all corners of the globe to join the conversation without the expense and logistical challenges of travel. On the other hand, producing a high-quality virtual event requires careful planning and execution to ensure that the event is engaging, interactive, and impactful.
Following the success of the original Summit for Democracy in 2021, our long-time production partner Freeman again enlisted Van Wagner’s Productions team to lead creative content and oversee the virtual broadcast for this year’s event. President Biden co-hosted this year’s Summit with the governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, and Republic of Zambia. Over two days, virtual plenary sessions were broadcast online, followed by gatherings in each co-host capital with representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector. Like other large-scale virtual events we’ve produced, it required careful planning, coordination, and execution.
Deep Understanding of Production Challenges
A critical component of producing the virtual Summit is technology. Given the global nature of an event co-hosted by five nations, this year’s summit was held in a hybrid format, with some participants attending in-person and others virtually. This required careful attention to the design of the physical and virtual environments, as well as the deployment of technology platforms to facilitate real-time interaction and engagement among participants.
Van Wagner worked collaboratively with the State Department’s partners around the world to plan and execute against a two-day, detailed run-of-show. With minute-by-minute precision, teams were able to synchronize presentations and seamlessly transition between keynote speakers, panelists, and other participants. This required months of planning and a thoughtful approach to curation, balancing the need for diverse perspectives and expertise with the logistical realities of the event.
Designing Content for a Global Audience
In addition to technical considerations, another important element is design and presentation. Our goal was to execute a presentation that was inclusive, respectful, and impactful. To do so, we worked closely with the State Department and co-host nations to take the approved branding elements and bring it to life consistently throughout every visual element of the event.
Our creative team designed a comprehensive graphics package, applying the branded look and feel to opening videos, logo animations, transitions, lower thirds, and other elements that could be used throughout the day’s presentations. In addition to improving the overall production value of an event, these visual components also create greater engagement and connection with a virtual audience.
Greater Flexibility and Scalability in a Virtual World
As we mentioned above, an advantage of virtual events is accessibility. They can also provide organizers with greater flexibility and scalability. Much like the Summit, hosting an event in the virtual world enables organizers to accommodate a larger number of participants and reach a wider audience than traditional in-person events. Readily available technology also allows for presentations to be streamed from anywhere, opening up a wider pool of keynote speakers and talent that might otherwise be constrained by their schedules or resources.
In addition to the Summit for Democracy, we’ve worked behind the scenes at other large-scale virtual events such as the NFL Draft, Summit of the Americas, U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, concerts, Fortune 500 annual meetings, fundraising galas, and more. Hybrid and virtual event models are here to stay, and the world must rely on cutting edge technology and innovative ideas to connect with audiences and elevate live and virtual presentations.
Van Wagner is a go-to partner because of our rich history of delivering exceptional experiences to in-person and broadcast audiences across the globe. For decades, we’ve been the global leader in live events, working with the highest profile sports leagues, teams, and brands in the world, including the Super Bowl and Olympic Games, Formula 1, NCAA Final Four, US Open Tennis, and many more. We deploy that same expertise, creativity, and attention to detail to the virtual realm, providing clients with custom solutions for virtual events and remote broadcast production.
In the end, producing the 2023 Summit for Democracy required a collaborative and innovative approach, leveraging the latest technology and best practices in event production. The hard work paid off and because of careful planning, preparation, and execution, this year’s Summit was a transformative event that will continue to help shape the future of democracy around the world.