The HSBC Global Graduate Induction event has been a highlight of our calendar since
its inception five years ago. The challenge was to take one of our most complex large-
scale events from London’s Excel centre to an audience now confined to their homes
and offices around the world.
We worked with a team of developers to build a web platform that worked within the
parameters of HSBC’s IT systems. Allowing delegates to bond in small groups, work
with their peers, be heard in globally streamed sessions with an audience of 650 and
embrace some fun challenges along the way.
HSBC Virtual Global Graduate Induction
The first requirement of the project was to work out what the web platform needed to do. It was fairly quickly established that none of the “off-the-shelf” virtual event solutions would meet all the requirements, so we decided to build something new. Building a virtual event platform of this scale and complexity to a hard deadline was a new challenge for the entire event team; all of our skills in communication, planning and project management were more valuable than ever.
After months of meetings, innumerable wireframes and technical specification documents, and more e-mails than had ever been required for a project before we had done it. Not only had we learnt a whole new lexicon, but we had created a website that looks fantastic and holds functionality to bridge the gap between the presenter and the audience in ways that other platforms don’t.
It was incredibly important that the graduate audience knew that this was a live event, happening now, for them. To create this feeling the programming team took a reactive, loose approach to scheduling the sessions. This allowed the audience to shape the event, encouraging participation and letting voices be heard. This was somewhat challenging for the technical team, used to rigid plans and agendas choreographed to the nanosecond. We now had to follow the flow, improvising and letting situations develop and resolve.
The stage became an Airbnb in Toronto, what the audience could see and hear was controlled by a show caller in Manchester directing technicians in a studio in London, and the viewers spread across the globe were invited to participate, to jump onstage and be heard. We were in constant communication with the host and producer in the Airbnb, sending audio and visual cues, and receiving coded physical clues back from the virtual stage. As a team we leaned into the challenge of working this way, accepting the risks and embracing the opportunity to create a unique event through improvisation.
The global sessions were inspirational, but the real value for the audience came in the group sessions with their peers. The platform integrated with Zoom and expanded past the limitations of Zoom call functionality to allow small group sessions in a variety of formats. Home groups navigated the event together, collecting points for different challenges as they went, building relationships beyond business function and geographical location that will remain long after the event.
Some sessions were in home groups, and some were in larger discussion groups allowing networking in ways that perhaps wouldn’t happen outside of the virtual.
Some sessions allowed the graduates to reflect upon the messages from the global sessions and think about how they would apply them in their career, and some were pure fun; the organiser team came dangerously close to winning the virtual escape room challenge!
The huge physical puzzle that we designed and built in 2019 was replaced by a bespoke code breaking puzzle. Each group completing the challenge successfully unlocked one of 160 squares. Once all the groups were successful the squares were removed revealing a video built from the user generated content on the platform. This was a powerful visual representation of the strength of the community that had been forged over the course of the event, that celebrated each individual for the part they played.