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How to pitch 360 and VR in-house if you work for a company

Updated: Jan 11

Welcome back to the Alex Makes VR podcast. In today's episode, it is the first episode of a brand new year, it’s 2021. We're kicking it off with how to pitch 360 and VR ideas when you are in house. I've had quite a few of you reach out to tell me - “Alex, I love 360 I love virtual reality, I really believe in it but I'm an employee at a company and I just don't know how to have that conversation. I just don't know how to get my colleagues or my boss on side to give it a shot. What do I do?”

So that's what we're going to talk about in today's episode. If you have a subject or a question for me to cover in future episodes, I would love to hear from you. It's @alemakesvr on Instagram and Twitter and every single week when these episodes go live, I send out a weekly newsletter directly to your inbox, to give you an overview of the best takeaways from the episodes. If you want to sign up for that you can do so alexmakesvr.com.

This is a full transcript of the podcast. Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast episode here:

So how do you pitch 360 and virtual reality ideas in house? And obviously the same principles apply to augmented reality or any kind of emerging or innovative medium that maybe your company hasn't quite decided to dip their toes into yet? How do you sell in those ideas? Well, before we jump in, and obviously you might be listening to this episode in the future, where Oculus and VR and 360 are a little bit more commonplace. So maybe you don't even have to address the first hurdle, which is, do they even know what a 360 video or photo or virtual reality even is? Like is that the first hurdle that you're gonna have to jump over? Because I think often, when people, like myself get excited about new technology, we sometimes forget that and when we jump into a conversation with someone about it, that person might not even know what it is. I mean, it'd be pretty pointless me jumping in and explaining how I think virtual reality is going to transform the lives of all school children one day, because it's going to be the best educational tool ever, without actually explaining that, oh, virtual reality is this headset that you put on and it's all encompassing, and it allows you to step into the shoes of anyone, anywhere. It allows you to do anything, even impossible things. It's a device that literally lets you step into a virtual world of anyone's making. Without that prior knowledge, people aren't going to get really excited about VR, I just start jumping in and start talking about it. They'd be like - wait, hang on a second?! And it's funny because you and I, I mean, if you listen to this podcast and you of course already know what all of these technologies are, you've maybe even been looking into them or creating for these mediums for a while now. So it would seem strange that there's people out there that might not know what it takes, what it exactly is. So that's the first thing you need to remember to do, make sure that they actually know what the medium is.

Something really excited me over the Christmas period in 2020, because Oculus was trending in the Top 10 free apps on AppStore. Especially, I think it was specifically here in the UK but that to me was huge. I was like - wow, how far have we come? You know, in the matter of years, we've gone from this janky, clunky, massive piece of hardware that you could barely keep on your face for 15 minutes without it hurting, to a device that is so good and such a good price point and has so much to offer, it's so slick and simple to use, that people everywhere, would have woken up on Christmas morning and found themselves entering the new world of VR. That's such a great sign. It's a great sign because it means that more and more people are going to become well versed with VR, whether it's you know, they bought it for a friend or their kid or their cousin or their mum, like whoever it is, even by someone in relation to them having a VR headset, we are widening the pool of people that will have access to a VR headset. So that's super exciting. So number one, make sure that they actually know what the tech is and notice how when I talk about the medium, when I talk about “what it actually is” I don’t mean, I sometimes can joke and say that it's a computer that you strapped to your face, because, you know, we're going to be literal about it but when we're talking about VR, or when we're talking about 360 video, we can talk about it being a video that you can look all the way around, we can see everything. But I also like to frame it in a little bit of a romantic way, right? I like to paint a picture for the person. So it might be a computer that you're strapped to your face but once you strap that computer to your face, you can be anywhere and anyone and all of a sudden, nothing is impossible, nothing is off limits, because you are stepping into a virtual world where anything is possible. So also think about that. I mean, you don't want to get too…well I'm kind of known for being a little bit over the top but if you're more of a low key subdued, techie kind of person, maybe you don't need to go into the big lavished romantic language…but it does help. It helps paint a picture of what is possible with this tech and that's how you get people to buy into it. Not for them to see it for what it is right now, but what it could be, what it could mean for your company, what it could mean for your employer. So step number one, define what the medium is.

Step number two is to show them an amazing example doesn't necessarily have to be your own work. Go out there and find the piece of work that made you believe in the tech, the piece of 360 video that got you excited about picking up a camera. When I tend to talk about VR with filmmakers, I very rarely show them my own work because I think of all of my own VR work, especially on the original side of things as work in progress, their experiments, they are little examples of things I wanted to try out. You know, I love them for what they are, but most of them don't have the kind of budget behind them, that would actually make it a ‘wow piece’ right? So I like to find something that's actually had a bit of budget behind it. You know, you've got these big studios that were throwing money, at 360 video back in the day, that still, although the quality is maybe not as good as it could be nowadays, it's still pretty phenomenal production value. So for example, I love the Mr. Robot VR experience. I think that is such a unique and incredible example we still have of 360 video and it's sad that it’s years old. It was made in 2015 or 2016 and that's still a piece that I will recommend filmmakers go and check out purely because it had so much budget behind it. Obviously so much money for the talent, actors, production value, set design and everything that there's no way that a filmmaker like myself on a tiny little budget is going to be able to replicate that kind of production value very easily. They've got crane shots, moving shots, they've got animation combined with live action, they've got incredible locations, they've set decorated, they've colour graded, they've done everything, they've done such a beautiful job on that piece and there's absolutely been pieces since that have such huge artistic merit but often you need to understand the audience that you're trying to convince is company. So show them the best use case of VR. I’m not going to go in and show them a lovely little art piece that was really minimal but really powerfully intellectually. I'm not going to show them that, I’m going to show them a really kick ass, incredibly, slick, well thought through UX, VR experience. Maybe a training experience for example, you know, something relevant to them. So go out find yourself a good example of something that you know will win them over. This is a bit of that reverse engineering thing I talk about a lot. You want to find something that you know will wow the person that you need to get on board. Because ultimately, in order to get someone in house to take you seriously or to give you a little bit of budget to go out and film a 360 or VR thing, you need to get the decision maker on board, you need to get the person with the purse power. You know who's in control of the money? Who's in control of the budget? Who gets to sign that stuff off? Who do you need to convince is a good idea and in order to kind of get the ball rolling, that's the person you need to reverse engineer. That's the person, you need to pick an experience that they will like, or that will wow them, or that is relevant to the company. You don't even necessarily always have to show them the VR piece to begin with, you could even show them an online case study. Like for me, I love that the company behind the Walmart training experiences did such an in depth case study on them and they put out statistics and they did this big write up on their website, I'm not pretending that's my work. I know, that's another VR company that's done that and it's you know, it's on their website! But that opens the conversation. When I give that to a head of training or head of learning development and say - “this is why you should be taking training in VR” very, very seriously or you know, you point to the PwC reports that look at how effective virtual reality training is in the workplace. You know, point to these things, and then maybe find a VR experience and just remember that, that first experience can be quite pivotal. It's a little bit, make or break. So make sure that you find those case studies and then find a piece of VR that you can then show them and that experience will make or break it. So make sure that when you put someone in a VR headset for the first time, make sure it's not a clunky experience, make sure that you prep them before they go into the headset so that they know exactly how to work it. Maybe even get it all queued up and ready so that as soon as they put on the head, it automatically starts playing for them, make it as seamless as possible to give that person the best kind of experience. I talk about that more in an episode I did a while ago, talking about how to take someone's VR virginity for the first time. So you can go back and listen to that episode. So that's point number two.

Point number three is simple. Know when VR or 360 is actually valuable. There is no way, especially in this climate right now that I would be going in, if I was an employee and trying to pitch head of marketing on 360 and VR right now because the truth is at the moment, there is not enough proof that you can get that return on investment with 360 and VR in marketing. It’s just not the best bet right now. Now that could change. I'm not saying that, that's going to be forever, maybe when you're listening to this episode in the future, maybe it's all changed in 360 and VR. Maybe it’s actually the way that most marketing is going, but for now on, January 4 202, the best use of marketing money, arguably is in lots of different social media creative, with ad spend behind it on the biggest platforms or investing in influencer marketing, that kind of thing. So I'm not going to pretend that chucking 10 grand at a 360 video, or chucking 10 grand at a VR activation for a marketing company is a good investment right now. Now it might still be worth having a conversation with your boss or your colleagues to get to get them to kind of at least understand what this technology is, and if you're someone that's in the augmented reality world, that's a totally different conversation, because that is popping off in the branding and marketing world. Now is actually an amazing time to be talking about AR if you are working on that side of things, but 360 in VR know its value, know where it can achieve a return on investment and know that it's a very big ask to say to someone who has a position of power, whose whose job relies on them getting this right, whose job is on the line, whose neck is on the line, if this doesn't work, if they've just wasted budget. Know that, not every single time that person is going to say - “yeah, all right, let's give that a go” and you absolutely understand why right? If they don't feel like the value is there right now, if they've got a proven track record with social media videos or Tick Tock influencers or whatever it is, maybe they're not going to stick their neck out on the line and give AR filters a go and that's okay. That's something, if you're in house, you have to understand that ultimately, you can absolutely keep banging that drum and you can keep trying to expose colleagues to VR and 360 and AR experiences and keep doing that. You know, sometimes it takes a few touch points to get people on board but ultimately, understand that unless the value proposition is there you can, kind of understand why people wouldn't want to take a chance on 360 and VR. Obviously, I don't know your company. You might work for a massive company that has a budget set for innovation and r&d and that's amazing because if you know who controls and maybe you even ask, maybe ask the person in power, or the person who controls the money, you know, do we have an in? Do we have a budget for r&d? Do we have a budget for innovation? To try new things, because I want to talk to someone, and about this new tech that I've been using at home, or that I've been experimenting with, on the side or whatever it might be. Definitely have that conversation, and sometimes, if you're in a company like that, yes, they might have some money. That's literally how my career got started. Essentially there was a little bit of extra money that they were like - “oh, we need to do something interesting with that, so let's just throw it a 360 piece to accompany this big campaign and we don't really care whether or not it makes a return or whether it's successful or not.” That's amazing. That's such a fortunate position to be in, not everyone listening to this is going to be in that position, so have empathy, that ultimately unless you are the one controlling the budget, and ultimately, not only you controlling the budget, but it's your head on the line, if you don't get a return on that budget. Know that sometimes it's going to be out of your control whether or not you can sell 360 or VR, the idea of it in house but keep banging that drum. I said in 2021 more people than ever know will know what VR is, more people than ever will have access to VR headsets. Now we're going to start to see the trickle out effect of that, we're going to start to see more people become well versed with this tech and it would not surprise me if we start to see that seep into working culture, we already know that 360 and VR are phenomenal in the workplace for learning and development for up skilling, for recruitment for inductions, for health and safety. In any scenario, unconscious bias training, whatever it might be, there's so many amazing use cases.

So when you go to pitch that person, make sure that you are pitching the value first, go in there confident that the use case that you're pitching in 360 and VR is actually valuable. Don't go in there pitching, something you filmed over Christmas in 360, so we can relive it next year. Do you want to give me a couple of grand to do that? Or can we have a budget for that? Because unless you've company's got money to burn, I doubt that it's going to happen BUT “yo, Samantha, I know that we've got that seminar coming up next week and I know that because of COVID, we've got loads of remote workers who aren't going to necessarily be able to be there in person and I know that you've had to trim the numbers. I'm really keen on this technology, 360 video, and it's got a live streaming function. Why don't we live stream? Why don’t we hire a camera and do a 360 live stream of the seminar and send out a bunch of Google Cardboard to employees at home? And they can join in as if they were there?Oh and here’s an example of what that might look like. You know, it's the next best thing to be in there. Why is it better than zoom? Because you can guarantee that they’re engaging because, they have to put it to their face, they can't be doing anything else. They can't be on Zoom and also on their phone and also replying to emails. They have to physically be there. They're going to feel, you know, as close to being there as possible without actually physically being there.” That's a good use case. That's a good value prop. There's a great example.

Does that make sense? I hope that makes sense. As you know, the most important thing is to just keep showing up, keep subtly having those conversations, keep your own ear to the ground, keep your own research going, keep your own passion alive outside of your 9 to 5, making your 360 work, experimenting with VR, one day this technology will be mainstream. One day, this technology will be the must have thing for every workplace and you can just subtly sit back on your laurels but you just have to keep exposing people to the idea or bringing it up in conversation or sending those case studies as and when you come across them. Because who knows, maybe just by keeping on banging on that drum in your company, maybe you then become the head of that department? And when all of a sudden they are ready and willing to invest in it… In fact, for those of you who haven't listened to the episode that I did with Jeremy Dalton, episode number 82, I believe it was where he talked about his journey into VR and also the best use cases for VR within business right now. Definitely go check that episode out. You could probably learn a lot of that and apply it to how to pitch internally as well as if you're pitching clients for business but he talks about how that's exactly how he became the head of VR and AR for PwC UK, a huge multi billion pound organisation globally. He became the head of VR and AR in the UK, simply by talking to his boss consistently about this new tag, by keeping his passion alive for outside of it, keeping an eye on the trends, bringing it up where possible knowing when it would be useful, showing proof and use cases to his boss about it until the point that his boss said “ alright, let's give it a go, here’s a little bit budget, here's a team. Let's see what this thing can do.” I think it's two or three years in now and they are absolutely dominating that team. I'm very, very fortunate to work closely with them and they are just a powerhouse and I they will continue to expand, I have no doubt because the use cases for VR and AR and in a big corporate setting, especially with companies that have a bit of money behind them, the possibilities are endless, really.

So there it is. There is some some ways in how to tackle pitching in house, your 360 and VR ideas. I hope that was helpful. Let me know how you get on if you are in house if you are an employee and this is something you've been wanting to do for a while, let me know how you get on. Let me know whether people are receptive to the conversations and who knows where this will take you? Maybe in two years time this one little podcast that you listened too helped you have that conversation and it might be the the snowball effect that led your company to be the UK or the world leaders in your particular field with 360 and VR. I will very much look forward to getting that DM into years time.

That's it from me this week. Thank you so much for joining me in the first episode of 2021. I cannot wait to hear from some of you. I cannot wait to hear what you guys have planned for this year and I'm going to be starting a few new ventures this year. For those of you who've been following the podcast for a while, you'll know that last year I became the first filmmaker in the UK to be commissioned by the BFI network to make an original VR drama that goes into production in 2021. I'm gonna bring you onboard behind the scenes with me, maybe even use the podcast as a little bit of a journal to bring you along, a look behind the scenes of where we're at, what the progress is, what the challenges we're having are, and let me know if you would enjoy that? Just hit me up and let me know if that would be something you'd be interested in following along. It will probably be separate to the Monday podcast but yeah, let me know. Okay, I'm gonna go, have a good one and I will speak to you next Monday.

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