2023 Review hero image

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

We set up the Immersive Experience Network in 2022 to be a collaborative community to support the growth of the live immersive sector in the UK and beyond. Our ambition is to become a CIC, and so in the spirit of transparency and sharing our knowledge and experience we wanted to publish a report of our activities in 2023, and our proposed plans for 2024.

Our 2023

We started off the year by running a crowdfunding campaign as an exercise to see what people would support and invest in. We knew that crowdfunding was notoriously hard to land but we felt it was an experiment worth running to gauge interest in what we were offering to do – which was to run a series of networking and knowledge-sharing events across the year. 

Spoiler alert – we didn’t hit our funding target. Very few individuals supported us but we did get some significant support from companies who worked in the immersive sector who were interested in getting behind us. 

Based on this support, we decided to forge ahead and start delivering our program and trust that we’d be able to raise support as we went for the resources we wanted to provide to immersive creators. 

2023 turned into a year of testing and adapting where we tried a bunch of ideas. Some stuck and some didn’t. At each stage we asked for feedback, and this is our way of sharing with you the triumphs and the failures so that you have some insight into our journey, and more importantly to utilise what we’ve learnt for your own projects. 

We also published our first piece of ESRC-funded research in partnership with Birmingham University and ESRC – In Your Own Words. The research included in-depth surveys and interviews with immersive makers about their practices, professional journeys and barriers to creating work. The work shone a light on the dynamics at play in the Immersive Sector, from barriers to entry to the lack of a united language to define the Immersive Sector, and a desire to professionalise elements of the sector such as divisions of labour and funding streams. The team presented their findings at an event at Oxford University and plan to continue building on the research in 2024 – using many of the findings to shape the IEN’s own mission to represent the interests of our sector. 

The Huddles

In May 2022 we organised an inaugural Immersive Summit to gauge interest in a collaborative community for the Immersive sector. Some of the feedback from that event was that people would prefer smaller and more regular events to establish and maintain contacts in the sector. As a response to that we started out our crowdfunder with a plan for 6 events throughout the year, which was modified as we better understood the timelines involved, and turned into 3 smaller events in the Spring and Summer, and 1 large one in October.

The vision behind these events is that they’d be an opportunity for creators to share knowledge and insights from their work with other creators to help them with their professional development and creation of new work. They would also be an opportunity to meet other immersive creators, hopefully sparking new collaborators and contacts.

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

Huddle 1 – Writing* for Immersive Experiences was held at the Bridewell Theatre, serendipitously part of the Bridewell Foundation which is the home to the largest print and publishing library in the world. We brought together 3 practitioners from Immersive Theatre, LARP and AR/VR to discuss their approach and process for writing. It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences between the genres and the strong Q&A with the audience afterwards. Feedback afterwards was that the presenters and content was great, but that people wanted a bit more time and space for networking to meet each other. 

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

Huddle 2 – Networking & Social was held at Alcotraz, an immersive cocktail bar experience in Hackey. We tried to create an immersive networking experience that utilised the venue and the cast in a way that would spark conversations and potential new collaborations. Our goal was to create something that was accessible to everyone, even those for whom ‘networking’ is often a horribly intimidating experience. We also wanted to ensure that we weren’t creating something where everyone would fall into their usual social or professional cliques and not engage with new people.

We had mixed success, whilst we had a lot of positive feedback we also had several people for whom the format didn’t work and would have preferred something more traditional or structured. Our learning was that we felt we tried to do too much, and once we had put people into random groups and given the first few conversation provocations, we should have been less structured and just let conversations naturally flow.

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

Huddle 3 – Discovering Your Audience was a panel discussion from some incredibly experienced professionals on marketing immersive experiences. Whilst potentially felt by some to be a bit too niche, giving us a learning point to call out the use of acronyms and jargon when exploring the more technical aspects of immersive work, the experience and tips shared were super insightful and relevant for any creative making work for which they want to find an audience.

Ticket sales for this one were slow right up until the last minute, and if we’d of known we were going to sell as many tickets as we eventually did then I think we’d have booked a PA system for the room which ended up fuller than expected. We are really glad that we invested in recording this session to ensure the content has a broader reach than just at the event, and so audiences can relisten afterwards. 

We ended the year with Huddle 4 – Immersive Design Symposium. The subject of design was one of the most requested in our polls but we felt it was too big a subject to tackle in a short evening event. So we took a bit of a leap and booked a venue with three different presentation spaces to offer a deep dive into the subject across a whole day of sessions (Recordings of these sessions will be released in 2024). We were so privileged to have a fantastic line up of amazing speakers speaking across a broad range of topics, along with our industry partners who made the whole thing possible. 


This was also the first time we invested some money into marketing which did help our ticket sales and grow our socials audiences, the quick summary being Instagram & Facebook got us the best results, Google ads didn’t perform great and LinkedIn ads were pointless – though we did get a huge reach through LinkedIn posts & shares.


A couple of key learnings for us were that if we want to grow our audience beyond just using our community connections, then budgeting for paid advertising is essential. We also felt that whilst the community said they wanted smaller huddles, the feedback was that they also really get a lot of value out of bigger, longer events where we can offer a range of high quality content rather than just a single speaker.

Event Feedback

Feedback from our post events surveys has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Huddle Satisfaction Graph


Much of the anecdotal feedback we’ve had has been grateful for a space to network with other Immersive creatives, and learn from people who have created similar projects who are willing to be open about their process and learnings. We’re incredibly grateful to the contributors to each of the events who have given their time – often for free – to enrich the community. 

However, we’re going to level with you, the Huddle events have been a challenge to set up and run. Financially, the costs have almost always outweighed the income from making the events happen, and these accounts don’t include the hundreds of hours the founders have contributed free of charge to organise, curate and manage the events for the network in 2023. 

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

Our program has only been sustainable thanks to the generous support of our Industry Founding Partners who have contributed throughout the year to help sustain and subsidise our Huddle Events.

 

Logo_RGB.png
Illusion-DC_Logo_BLACK no background.png
CDW_logo_03.png
UVE_logo_black-6491a2941bf8f21dcb6c0d78.png
Mance Comms-noBG.png
WL a db solutions company_primary logo-65115e58f2da7824e3be6b9a.png
LLE_Logo (1) (1).png
Scene2-Directory-Logo-wide.png
vista.png

Thanks to their support and us giving our time for free, we’ve managed to break even on our first year but we need to move to a more sustainable model moving forward. Ideally one which helps fund a dedicated person or team to help oversee the management and running of the events.

Ticket & Pricing

One of the key contributing factors to why the Huddle events have been difficult financially to balance has been our ticket pricing policy. 

One of our key missions when we started the Immersive Experience Network was to keep it accessible to everyone. We wanted to ensure that early career creators had the same access and opportunities as established professionals. We also want to encourage diversity in our sector which – to be blunt – is not traditionally that diverse. Our strategy to encourage this is to try and create resources and pathways for people from all backgrounds to be able to find the opportunities to establish themselves and create amazing work. 

To contribute towards this, we’ve always priced tickets for our Huddle events at the more affordable end of the spectrum. We’ve tried to price our standard admission tickets in line with other events in the professional and academic fields, whilst always offering a concession ticket price ‘for anyone for whom the standard ticket price would otherwise be a barrier to entry’. 

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

In our post event surveys, we’ve always asked if we’ve got this pricing right and overall our audience seem to agree that cost was at least in the right ballpark. 

Concessions

The result of our open policy for concessions is that we’ve had a noted lot of success at attracting diverse audiences, not only professional career stages but also a diversity of backgrounds. An average of 40% of our audiences make use of the concession tickets and this is a success we celebrate but it does come at the cost of reduced income for the events – and again we couldn’t be more grateful for our industry partners who have financially ‘filled the gap’ to allow this to be a sustainable approach in 2023. 

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

Last Minute Tickets

What’s also been a bit of a nail biter has been the fact that the majority of people have left it late to buy tickets for our Huddle events. Each event is effectively financially underwritten by us, the founders, so imagine our sleepless nights as we took a big gamble on Huddle 4 and then you guys took ages to buy tickets for it! 

Immersive Experience Network 2023 Review

We’ve learnt that people will usually commit to buying a ticket in the last couple of weeks before the event, but this doesn’t make our cashflow (or sleep!) any easier,so we are thinking about how to offer incentives such as early bird pricing in 2024, to try and get people to commit earlier to help with our planning and cashflow.  

Huddle Plans for 2024

So where do we go from here? The feedback is that our audience enjoys and finds the events valuable to their creative and professional development. The contributors we’ve had have been amazing, and we’ve got many more offers from top professionals to come present and share some amazing insights and stories. 

We’ve reduced the barriers to entry by keeping pricing low and offering open concessions, but financially without the continued support of our industry partners the events are boarderline unsustainable in their current format. 

Our mission for this year is to try and move the Huddles onto a more stable and sustainable footing to create a more long term solution to creating a place for networking and knowledge sharing to happen. We are going to rethink the content for the smaller informal huddles, trying to open up more time and space for networking but also being sympathetic to the fact that a lot of people find networking extraordinarily difficult and want something more structured. We also want to start to make an online version accessible to people who are not based in London. 


In February we hope to announce our program of Huddles for 2024, and dates for a larger conference later in the year. For the IRL events, we’re looking for a regular venue partner we can work with to be our regular ‘home’, ideally at a price that reduces the financial risk to us and allows us to sleep a bit easier if ticket sales are slow. 

Other Plans for 2024….

Immersive Audiences Report 2024.

Expect our inaugural Immersive Audience Report in early 2024. This is going to be a groundbreaking approach to market research where the sector is investing in its own growth by publishing research data that benefits the wider community. It will be a deep dive into the audiences who buy tickets for immersive, who they are and what they look for when choosing what to buy tickets for. 

ACE Funded – Making Immersive

Our first successfully funded project with Arts Council England will be a series of content articles and podcast content about how to create immersive work. We’re starting to build an educational library to help new and established immersive creators make creatively interesting and commercially sustainable work. 

We feel that this is vital to start filling in some of the gaps in available resources for people wanting to explore creating immersive work as our ESRC research showed that most creators end up moving into the sector from other fields. Many new creators don’t have experienced mentors to guide them or experienced practitioners to learn from and so end up having to learn the hard way how to create the work. Equally, experienced creators often end up working in silos without the opportunity to share and learn from other people’s experiences. 


We are so grateful that Arts Council England have recognised the cultural & commercial value of the Immersive sector by supporting this project and we hope this will be the start of many projects working together. 

Network App

We have an online app in prototype that will allow Immersive creators to setup professional profiles and detail the work they’ve been involved in and created. We envisage this being a cross between Linkedin, Spotlight and Wiki for the immersive sector.

We want this app to have a dual purpose. Firstly to become a platform for creators to advertise themselves and their professional work to help find new opportunities and collaborations. Secondly, to start to document the Immersive work that has been created to create a legacy archive for academic and professional purposes, as at the moment there are few records available of many of the creative milestones that contributed to today’s immersive landscape. 

We believe this tool could be a key catalyst for the growth of the sector and plan to make it a key feature of our future plans. 

Making It Happen…

We’re going to level with you, one of the biggest challenges of 2023 for us has been trying to maintain and grow the Immersive Experience Network amongst our other personal and professional commitments. The founders are all immersive sector professionals running their own businesses, academic careers and projects, and at times this year those things have had to take priority meaning that some events have been a little more ‘by the seat of our pants’ than we’d like and communications with the community have occasionally been sporadic. 

We know that if this community is going to ‘work’ then it’s got to have the proper resources to build and look after it, but that requires regular financial support to sustain it. 

Expanding The Team
The key hire we want to make is a community manager who can engage more with the wider immersive community, keep up with our socials and ensure that questions and requests for help are responded to in a timely manner. 

Creating Opportunities for Industry Supporters
We are so grateful to our Founding Industry Partners EntourageIllusion, Mance Communications, Unlocked Vision, Scene2, Clockwork Dog, WhiteLight, Little Lion and Vista Insurance whose support has got us this far. These companies all saw the potential in what we were proposing and took a punt on supporting us, however we need more support if we’re going to be able to deliver all of the plans for 2024. 


If your company is interested in becoming an industry supporter then please get in touch as we’d love to chat to you about what we can offer you in return and to have you as part of the team. 

Become a Member

In 2024, we want to invite the question, if you appreciate what we’re doing – would you be willing to contribute to facilitate keeping it going? 

We’re exploring launching a new membership scheme where individuals can help support the community alongside getting access to a range of member benefits. We’ve taken note of the recent Spotlight tiered pricing stories and will be trying to ensure that we balance up accessibility with the commercial need to generate some income to sustain our work.

We’ve always wanted supporting this community to be a ‘value exchange’ where people get something in return for their cash so we’ll be trying to engineer a system of benefits that feel like this is an investment rather than a purely altruistic contribution. 

So if you appreciate what we’re trying to do here, stay engaged with us and when we launch the membership program please do get involved. 

In the meantime, help us out by taking this quick survey to help us understand what you would most value out of a membership scheme. 

Date of article - January 12, 2024
Updated - February 22, 2024

2023 – It’s on….

In November we wrote about our plans for 2023 and set up an Indiegogo campaign…

Read more
2023 - It's on....

Plans for 2023

Building a Community for Live Immersive Creators The Story So Far… On the 31st May…

Read more
Plans for 2023
Want to know more?
Sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear about our research projects and events.