Founded in 2001, Woohah Productions was born from a passion and desire to deliver the best gear and service for events. Priding themselves on finding creative solutions for their clients’ needs, the team – led by the company’s founder Arosh Fernando – produces solutions for events, both big and small, across Australia.
Over the years Woohah has delivered some of Australia’s largest live events, from concert tours to corporate conferences and experiential events. The team has supported the Royal Melbourne Show, experiential activities at the Melbourne Zoo, Esports tournaments, the Ultra Music Festival and the Beyond the Valley Music Festival.
“2020 was going to be a big year for Woohah,” Arosh bemoans. “We had lined up a full roster to support Australia’s biggest live events. However, in March 2020 the live-events industry was shut down and our extensive inventory of equipment and talented team were forced into a holding pattern.”
Arosh made a call very early on to pivot the business into virtual and hybrid events. It took the team just four days to get this underway with the creation of Studio45, one of the largest ready-to-use broadcast studios in Melbourne. The decision shifted the business from behind-the-scenes into front-facing event management.
“Virtual events open up the event industry to a global audience.”
“The first [COVID-era] event we worked on was the Arnold Sports Festival,” Arosh says. “It was on the brink of cancellation. We turned it into a hybrid ticketed event that streamed online to over 3000 viewers worldwide.”
Studio45 has since hosted over 81,000 guests from 104 countries to events including corporate conferences, award ceremonies, Easter Sunday church services, music performances and fashion shows. Clients that jumped onboard included 7/11, the Victoria State Government, Jaggad, Hype DC, Accent Group, Mushroom Group, TEG Dainty, Blue Illusion, Woolworths Group, PEXA and Carlisle Homes.
“When stage 4 lockdown hit in August, our team had to walk away from Studio45,” Arosh laments. By focusing on his clients’ needs to connect with their audiences, however, he came up with another idea. “We took our event business virtual,” he explains. “We used 3D architectural programs and integrated with video sharing platforms to build a virtual world. Our Kasō virtual platform became home to corporate conferences and award ceremonies.”
The Kasō platform allows clients to brand virtual event space as their own. And attendees are able to navigate through the branded virtual platforms as they would through a live event. Popular elements include an entrance foyer, the main auditorium, smaller breakout rooms, exhibitor stands and interactive features. Attendees also can engage with other visitors through chat and video links.
Arosh says that there has been a radical acceptance of virtual and hybrid events in the past nine months, and that it will not go away. “As Australia starts to open up, hybrid events will still play a vital role in our business and the events industry as a whole,” he says. “We’re finding that companies who are investing in upcoming events are looking to mitigate risks. By creating hybrid and virtual events, they have the assurance of a quality event that will engage with audiences wherever they are.”
And the pivot hasn’t impacted on people’s enjoyment of events, with virtual event attendees reporting that they have felt immersed in the experience, the way they would at a real-life event. Arosh also believes that technological advancements will make virtual and hybrid worlds even more life-like.
“Virtual events open up the event industry to a global audience,” he says. “We believe that there’s a really exciting opportunity for companies to go beyond their local market and connect with audiences across the globe.”
Woohah expects that, post-COVID-19, technology will be woven into our daily lives, and that virtual event platforms will continue to deliver engaging and interactive experiences. “The film industry has adapted software which allows camera tracking in real time when filming,” Arosh points out. “As the technology is used more widely and pricing becomes more affordable, you will see these innovations used in the virtual event space. Recently, NRL Dally M Medal used this technology on a live show broadcasted around Australia.”
This story first appeared in issue 31 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine