This Idea’s Time Has Come
20 April 2020
I know what Victor Hugo meant when he wrote, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” I know this because as we have all been slammed into this new reality that we live in with the COVID-19 pandemic, an idea that the team at Golden Shovel Agency has been working on for two years is “exactly what the world needs right now”. That last phrase I’m borrowing from my colleague, Chris Knight at Wavteq.
Chris and I had a conversation last week – he in London and me in Santa Cruz, California – and we talked about 360-degree video and virtual reality. It wasn’t our first conversation about this topic by any means. Chris is one of the people who gets it about what we’re doing with PlaceVR and economic development. In fact, the very first time he put on a VR headset his mind started spinning with all of the implications the technology could have for his work at Wavteq in guiding Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Those of you who know me, know that for the past couple of years I have been talking about 360-degree video and virtual reality as the innovation that economic developers need to be more successful in attracting new business and investment. We created the PlaceVR division of Golden Shovel Agency to build out this capability that is the perfect partner to the marketing services that we provide to economic developers.
PlaceVR removes barriers of time, distance and limited resources to take people on a virtual tour of a place with powerful and long-lasting results. The ultimate outcome is that you can take a site selector or investor down their decision-making path without them ever having to leave their office. This is possible because of what happens in the brain when you’re experiencing a 360-degree video through a virtual reality headset.
Chris said it best, “Once you put them on and you’re actually there, you forget that you’re wearing a headset. You’re immersed in what you’re seeing.”
One of our PlaceVR clients put it this way – “It’s like putting a person inside your message”. What happens while that person’s senses are engaged in looking up, down and all around the scene you’ve set them in, is that they better understand your message, remember it, and are guided to act, which in economic development is opening the door to a discussion.
Getting back to my conversation with Chris. I called him to have a dialogue about the limitations that COVID-19 has suddenly clamped down on the world and to get his take on how organizations are going to get on with the business of economic development and FDI. Here’s a bit of what we talked about.
Travel restrictions will linger.
Depending on where you are, right now your ability to travel to where you want to go is limited. Even when restrictions are lifted, there will very likely be some hesitancy in resuming normal travel practices. Concerns will remain about the spread of COVID-19 that will cause some to hold back on booking trips, and for many organizations the budgets that once supported travel will very likely be slashed.
Developing countries will have a more difficult time in assuring virus-free visits for a period of time that really can’t be foreseen right now. They just don’t have the resources to respond to the pandemic in the way that developed countries do. It’s unlikely people will travel to countries that require a 14-day quarantine upon return.
You can still engage.
This is why PlaceVR is the idea whose time has come. The business of economic development can still occur through 360-degree video and virtual reality. It’s going to look different because it’s going to be digital – more digital than it ever has been before.
That’s not all. In adopting this technology, people are going to discover a whole lot more benefits that they want anyway. Here are some that we discussed.
Taking a tour of a community, an industrial site, or a building, and learning how a community supports workforce development can take place without traveling. You just send some goggles, loaded with your 360-degree video to that CEO, site selector or international office and they can take the tour from the comfort of their own office, or anywhere, as a matter of fact.
Not only does this create a minimal carbon footprint, it saves tons of time for that prospect who may have considered a visit to your community out of the question in the first place.
Now imagine having a meeting with that prospect inside the 360-video. In the meeting you’re conversing, answering questions and interacting with individuals in the same virtual room. It’s possible with a virtual meeting and Golden Shovel will soon be launching an app to enable this kind of meeting.
Remove language barriers.
Remember what I said about putting the person inside the message? The narration engages your sense of hearing, but even when you can’t understand the language, you can still have a memorable experience because other senses are involved. The video is visual, of course, but it’s also kinesthetic as you turn your head in three-degrees to look all around.
Additionally, it’s easy to translate the narration into your prospect’s preferred language and even create a library of resources that include a variety of different languages.
Overcome negative perceptions.
In his work at Wavteq to help countries and organizations attract FDI, Chris says that many people have preconceived ideas about certain locations. You have the opportunity to overturn negative perceptions through the immersive experience of 360-degree video. This kind of engagement is a much smaller time investment, and maybe your only shot at getting more than zero site visits.
Expand the reach of international trade offices.
Virtual reality and 360-degree video can expand the reach of any organization wanting to attract interest to their place with all the benefits that I just described. For international trade offices, however, technology is really going to be an important part of the solution to the huge problem that travel restrictions and enduring concerns about public health are going to have on their ability to continue their work.
Change the goal post.
In our conversation, Chris said that 360-video and virtual reality “change the goal post” in economic development and it all has to do with what marketing is supposed to do - develop and nurture relationships. Those CEO’s you’re trying to reach don’t need to leave their offices to become engaged with your message. The experience you can deliver to them with technology allows them to get to know you (that’s what I mean by building relationships) and take them down their decision-making path.
Innovation solves problems.
In our new eBook, “Small Town. Big Tech.” we talk about how innovation is necessary for progress. When we drafted our eBook, we were thinking about those economic developers who are innovative thinkers, and who want to be early adopters of new technology.
These are the people who have gone out into their communities and rallied for consensus and financial support for their 360-degree video initiatives so that their community could up their game to attract interest in what they have to offer. These folks already moved the goal posts and they’re going to have an enormous advantage in recovering from the effects of our global pandemic.
Right now, we all need to be innovators in order to solve the problems that are in front of us to recover from the smacking that our economy is getting from the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The time to start is now.
Chris and I ended our conversation talking about how we, at Golden Shovel and PlaceVR, are going to overcome the obstacles that we face in bringing 360-degree video and virtual reality technology to economic developers and international offices. Afterall, we need to travel to the place that is the focus of the message in order to shoot the video.
We don’t view this as a barrier but a challenge to overcome, and we have some innovative ideas in motion to do that. These include shooting locations with fewer participants, and leveraging our wide network of partners, to name just two.
Change the status quo.
The quote that I shared at the beginning of this article is attributed to Victor Hugo. You may be familiar with his work without realizing it. He was a French author who lived in the 1800s. “Les Misérables” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” are just two novels in an extensive library of writing that he produced in his lifetime. Mr. Hugo’s works are still enjoyed today, and his stories are every bit as powerful as they were nearly 200 years ago when he wrote them.
If you know about storytelling, you know that there isn’t a story unless the hero decides to change the status quo. This decision is pivotal because it’s the starting point for the journey that becomes the rest of the story. Often the hero doesn’t know how they’re going to change or what change is going to look like at the end of the journey. They just know they need to change.
The hero often needs a guide to help them find their path. What the guide has that the hero doesn’t have, is an idea to share. An idea that reveals the way forward and inspires the hero with a vision of a new future.
Seeing is believing.
If you’ve never experienced a 360-degree video, you might not understand the real power of immersive technology. Let us know if you’d like a demo. Then you can see for yourself why PlaceVR is an idea whose time has come.
PlaceVR uses virtual reality and 360-degree videos to enable economic development leaders to attract more businesses, workforce and tourists to the places they promote. By removing the barriers of time and cost that limit their access to site selectors, investors, potential visitors and new residents, our clients are able to reach more people. Virtual reality and 360-degree video are immersive technologies that work by opening new receptors in the brain simulating the experience of actually visiting a place for the first time. The result is that organizations are able to showcase the culture, assets and opportunities of a place in a way that is personally engaging and deeply memorable, so that they stand out in the minds of the people they want to influence. PlaceVR is a division of Golden Shovel Agency. Learn more at: https://www.placevr.net/ and https://www.goldenshovelagency.com/
Chris Knight is the co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Wavteq.
Wavteq is a leading FDI advisory firm and is dedicated to enhancing performance for all our clients. Our bespoke software platforms combined with our leading services portfolio is helping to transform the strategies and operational effectiveness of economic development organizations (EDOs). We are passionate about capacity building through our elearning solution; results orientated lead generation - we have secured more than $50 billion of investment for our clients - and deployment of systems such our bespoke CRM for economic development, Wavteq Amplify and Wavteq Influencers which improves the reach and investment in promotion campaigns. Our experience with hundreds of EDOs has helped us develop deep expertise in these areas.
Wavteq is headquartered in the UK and has more than 50 full-time staff as well as a wide network of delivery partners in key international investment hubs. Wavteq is also an equity partner with International Investment Services GmbH (IIS), headquartered in Germany and Research Consultants International Inc (RCI), based in Canada. Learn more at: https://www.wavteq.com/