During the dark days of COVID, like most other organizations, Brussels, Belgium–based WindEurope pushed its face-to-face event content online. The organization, which actively promotes wind power in Europe and worldwide, started producing webinars called Sofa Talks. That evolved into WindTV, a site that presented the organization’s annual event material in a television news-like format. “We transformed our boardroom into a 3-D, ultra-HD studio” with membership staff taking on roles as anchors, WindEurope COO Oliver Wykes told the PCMA Convening EMEA 2022 audience in Vienna in September.
“When we did the WindTV concept, which was a fully online event,” Sykes told me in an interview after his presentation, “that was a completely different story for us — and this whole TV angle, we took it as far as we could. We had a 3D studio with screen overlays and tickers to make it look like BBC or CNN, which was a lot of fun,” he said. “And now it’s back to real life.”
Meaning that WindEurope has returned to holding in-person events, but is not abandoning its digital channel, which became Windflix — a new and improved version of an on-demand wind energy video platform — in July 2021. People really like the TV concept, Sykes said, but now that they are back to physical events, the only hybrid component at WindEurope’s events is having speakers “join digitally if they’re far away or they’re high-level stakeholders and we see that it brings value to the content” they are delivering.
The number of in-person participants at the large events, exhibitions, and conferences WindEurope hosts has grown — “a very positive surprise,” Sykes told Convene, “and it shows that we’re considering things from the right angle. … For now, we’ve realized that the importance of these meetings is for people to be face to face to exchange with each other and to bring all these actors together — the policymakers, academia, and the industry [practitioners] to push these initiatives and messages.”
A Sense of Urgency
At the same time, WindEurope has seen the value of investing in Windflix as a resource site. Lobbying — “trying to push wind energy as far as possible” — is at the center of WindEurope’s work, Sykes said during his session. “In order to support that lobby work, we do a lot of business intelligence products that allow us to gather the facts and figures that allow us to support those messages.”
Sykes shared with the audience that the stakes are high: The European Commission has called for a significantly larger number of wind energy installations — three times as many as there are currently by 2030, and the installation rate is currently at less than half of what’s needed on an annual basis to reach that target. So WindEnergy has been updating its WindEurope Intelligence Platform to provide the statistics, reports, interactive data and maps, infographics, and webinars to move the needle.
“It’s interesting to see how we can leverage the platforms that we have,” Sykes told Convene, to bridge some of the annual event session content with what’s available on Windflix and the WindEurope Intelligence Platform. “We’re trying to see how we can integrate these into these platforms and make a set of tools and resources for people to pick from — and extending the shelf life of these products and resources because they’re still relevant for a long period of time,” he said. “And it’s true that these [in-person] events take so much time to prepare and then after three days, everything just crumbles down and we move on to the next thing. Here is an opportunity for us to continue leveraging on the things that have come out of the event and are still relevant.” It’s about looking at the resources you have that are good, he said, and trying to maximize the impact.
Figure It Out as You Go Along
As they continue to work through this process, Sykes told Convene, it has been valuable to keep in mind that you shouldn’t “imprison yourself in your products. With every project comes an idea, a perception of what you want it to be and sometimes there’s a bit of illusion with that because when you then end up with the actual product,” he said, “you’re kind of seeing, well, that’s not how we should be using it. The illusion we had previously was that we had this Windflix platform and that means we need to push content out very regularly because we’re bound to that structure and there will be an expectation from people for us to do that — when, actually, in practice, there isn’t such an expectation. It’s what we’re building in our minds. We’re free to do what we want with this and the main purpose of Windflix is to leverage what we have. It took a bit of time to realize that and to correct the path toward that and it’s probably going to need a bit of steering to continue to be on the right track.”
Michelle Russell is editor in chief at Convene.