Silviu Petran: Compared to 2020, in 2021 the online events were included from the beginning in the communication plans of companies

Aurel Constantin 02/11/2021 | 15:11

The events market is not going through a good period with the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes can be seen in all aspects of the industry, from the costs to ways of communication. All are governed by uncertainty as nobody knows what the pandemic will do next.  We talked to Silviu Andrei Petran, Managing Partner at Exploratist, to find out more about the industry in these troubled times. 

  1. What is happening in the market of events now, when the dynamics against the background of the pandemic takes us back to an uncertain area? 

Let’s remind ourselves that we live in the New Normal when change is the only constant. For the events market, this is an opportunity to innovate, and evolve – thus offering the employees an increasingly improved experience. 2021 is the second year when the events format changed from offline to online. Right after Mach 2020, organizations initially hesitated because there were not sure what the best solution to organize professional events was. Once solutions were on the table, they immediately grasped this opportunity.

The companies which usually organize events as part of their communication strategy were open to online events, as well. The benefits have beaten the constraints.If we take summer, for example, which had been under the sign of the ‘hybrid’ style/approach, some of Exploratist’s customers took the risk to hold face to face events, but only for smaller teams, whose members are usually in contact in their daily word.

Currently, our plan until the year-end covers hybrid programs or, in this case, events. This means that the moderator, the speakers, and the mixed team client & agency are on set, in the studio, while the participants connect online, via special online events platforms. In some cases, only the moderator and the organizing teams are in the studio.  At the end of last year, we launched the Digital Stage platform, on which, to date, we organized over 25 corporate events online, with over 200 hours of live streaming, and a reach of +5000 participants.

  1. How interested are employers in organizing events for partners or teams in the current context? How is the situation compared to last year? 

We believe that the uncertain times we live in are the reason why events happen. On one hand, the employees need to be informed about the company priorities, stay in touch, and feel they matter to their employer. And on the other, organizations need to know staff members are united, motivated, and engaged. Therefore, they provide them with context to perform properly. One of the tools the employer uses are the online events.

During the last month of previous year, there was a frenzy of online events, because employers wanted to end a difficult period in a positive note, so they organised online events. Compared to 2020, in 2021, the online events were included from the beginning in the communication plans of companies and became a recurrent activity.

Exploratist managers both internal events – national and, more recently, international ones, as well as partner events. Digital Stage is a versatile online events solution. It enables a 100% brand identity and high engagement across functions – “1 to All” and “All to All” via discussion rooms, video calls, chats and quizzes. In terms of target groups, as we speak, we have a project, with an FMCG customer, which comprises a series of events targeting employees, as well as partners. To complete that, we have designed special events formats for the upcoming Halloween celebration, as well as Christmas online parties – which are usually mixed with the recognition components. We look forward to bringing joy and entertaining experiences to the people in organisation.

  1. What kind of events can be organized and what are the costs? What variation is there compared to last year? But compared to an ordinary year? (cost / employee, total budget per event). 

For 10 years, Exploratist has devised 100% customized, innovative, and creative employee   experiences connected in integrated internal engagement solutions (from concept to channels and tactics). This hasn’t changes in March 2020, when Exploratist management team took a bold decision to adapt its portfolio to the online channel. The format of every solution – from teambuildings, events, or Learning and Development programs – was adjusted to answer the totally different employee needs that emerged.

This switched came with a decrease of costs of 35-40% for our customers, deriving from removing the logistic related costs – transportation, accommodation, and catering, which are usually higher the larger the number of participants is.

Various Solutions/Events – Costs before & after the Pandemic

Employee Engagement Solution Before the Pandemic offline – (EUR/person) Now – online (EUR/Person)
Corporate events 150 90 – 150
Teambuilding 100 35- 90
Well-being – Adult 50 25 – 35
Well-being Children 10 20 (This cost increased due to a more complex experience than before the pandemic.)


  1. What is the return of an event made online compared to an offline one in terms of employee engagement, increase their productivity or other parameters that I ask you to mention. 

Exploratist provides employee experience solutions for the entire employee life cycle journey. The experiences cover processes from recruiting to exit and aim to motivate and inspire people during their stay in the company.

While the online events are associated with visible energy and connection, and very good vibe felt at the same time by all the participants, the challenge of the online events we organize was to find a way to compensate these. Therefore, the formats we propose to our customers are inspired by TV and entertainment productions. The main difference between the 2 environments is that the online formats of events are becoming more and more creative, with many entertaining elements – multimedia, contests and recognition happenings. Let us remind ourselves that the target audience mostly connect online to do their tasks, and we needed a disruptive way to attract them successfully.

Each event is followed by a survey which gives us insights for further improvements:

A couple of KPIs and respective results are:

  • Satisfaction level – 90%

At the beginning there was a decrease of 40% since the online channel had been a novelty, but it increased to 90% by the end of 2020, because the online format became familiar to the participants.

  • Attendance level – 95%

The online environment keeps people connected longer, because in online there are no coffee breaks.

  • For the online events, the duration people remain connected vary from 4-6 hrs.

The solutions Exploratist offer influence aspects related to – positive mindset, energy, togetherness, pride, recognition. These form a context which contributes and influences indirectly satisfaction and performance. The last two result from other factors connected to corporate policies – such as – company strategy and results, trust in management, relationship with the direct manager and HR policies. Satisfaction and performance are measured by organisations via engagement surveys, conducted every year of every 2 years, and performance management methodologies.

  1. Did the pandemic force a reinvention of HR tools? In what sense? With what results? 

The major change of the HR strategy started back in March 2020, when processes needed to be reshuffled to meet new employee needs. The change deals with adapting to the online and then, the hybrid way of working, which, most probably, will be the future.

First and foremost, processes were digitalised (from operational workflows, to recruiting, onboarding, Learning and development or internal communication). Secondly, there are some new requirements in terms of competences, such as flexibility both ways – from the employer to the employees and vice versa.

For example, when we talk about recruitment – there are new skills required: adaptability to change, speed of reaction, courage to fight for one’s projects, as well as empathy or teamwork. Onboarding will start with pre-boarding, an assessment stage of the matching probability between the candidate and company.  L&D will be experiential and will focus on activities supporting the employees to discover on their potential on their own.

A new area,well-being, which initially started with mere activities, such as free massage or free fitness subscriptions, already turns into strong strategies and programs, nowadays online addressing emotional balance, mental fitness, or financial well-being.

Internal Communication becomes move vivid and the bottom-up approach starts to prevail, because employees are more involved and contribute to creating a lively organisational environment.

With regards to Employer Branding, companies fight for the best people (current and future employees). So, if we refer to the internal dimension, to retain employees companies devise competitive benefits packages – that include development opportunities, flexi-work solutions and wellbeing experiences. To attract the most suitable candidates, the organisation communicates their offer/proposal more powerfully and enhancing its DNA. One trend is that the more authentic an organisation involves employees in Employer Branding, the more they will feel they are brand-builders and become brand ambassadors.

  1. What are the most dynamic industries that use Exploratist tools? What tools are most in demand? 

The client portfolio of Exploratist cover a wide range of industries: IT, telecommunications, constructions, FMCG, pharma or tobacco. We devise employee experiences both for white collar, as well as for blue collar employees. In our portfolio we created over 150 employee experience solutions; in 10 years we implemented over 700 projects.

Some examples of programs are: employee and partner events, internal communication integrated campaigns, team engagement sessions (online teambuildings), wellbeing programs, Employer Branding programs (from recruitment to onboarding), L&D, corporate culture and recognition programs. Based on our customer needs, on the rage of solutions and the expertise of the Exploratist team, we develop a customised employee experience package for each organization.

  1. How will the market evolve in 2022? What trends have you identified?

The hybrid format will most probably prevail in 2022, too. With or without the pandemic, the online environment involved benefits like a faster reach of the audience for companies spread in one country or internationally, reduced costs and operational effectiveness.

Creative and innovative employee experience formats

Content will be more meaningful and entertaining for the employees, as they seek significant and relaxing experiences.

Closer communication with employees via internal communication campaigns and conversations with mangers.

The Employees influence their work experiences

Companies collect more feedback from the employees and experiences are designed bottom up.

Change of mindset at top management level

A new „caring” leadership model arises, based on inspiration, empathy, and empowering people. It is more likely that leaders not only do approve employee experience strategies, but they get involved directly in living them with their employees.

  1. How was 2021 for Exploratist in terms of no of projects, turnover and profitability?

After a decrease of 60% of the turnover in 2020 (based on a 35-40% decrease of logistics costs), 2021 will bring Exploratist a healthy recovery. The turnover for the first half of 2021 was 10% bigger year on year, reaching over 400.000 EUR. For 2021 full year, we estimate a revival of 1.000.000 EUR turnover – reaching the level of 2019 performance.

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