31st Oct 2022

Wrapping Up Week 2 of Leeds Digital Festival 

Gabrielle Percival

Guess who’s back, back again? It’s only Halston Group with our round-up of the second week of Leeds Digital Festival, following week 1’s essay! Once again, my colleagues didn’t disappoint when sending over their notes to make this round-up blog – as I said to Antonia Gifford, Group Senior Marketing Manager, reading what she’d written made me feel as though I was at events with her! 

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy a virtual walk-through of week 2, LDF 2022. 

Tuesday 27th September

Platform Female Founders Incubator Launch 

No event could excite our Group CEO, Georgia Halston, more than the combination of a collective of female founders and entrepreneurs with the world of SciTech! Bruntwood SciTech were on hand to host this inaugural meeting for the female tech entrepreneurs chosen for this year’s cohort. 

Providing networking opportunities with other partners and mentors giving up their time to support this great programme, we heard from Tom Rhiodan, who gave a passionate account of support for women in STEM. Followed by talks from Deb Hetherington, Head of Innovation Services at Bruntwood SciTech, and Zandra Moore, CEO of Panintelligence and fellow mentor, this event was the perfect way to kick-start an inspiring week!

Decarb Your Digital Marketing  

Gerry McGovern, author of World Wide Waste, states ‘Digital is physical. Digital is not green. Digital costs the Earth.’ Joining Sharp Ahead’s hybrid event on the rather unseen physical emissions was me(!), Content and Strategy Executive, Gabrielle Percival. MD and host, Jennifer Etsy, talked the audience through how digital activity has been ‘cleverly tucked away’ in ‘really big’ data centres that consume lots of energy, throwing in some staggering facts for good measure – for instance, do you know that emissions from cloud computing are actually more than emissions from the entire aviation sector?  

This in mind, Jennifer went on to guide us through numerous ways we can look to decarb our digital activities. Here’s my top three! 

1. Font choice

Sure, all digital marketers love a custom font – they’re beautiful, they look great, they make us feel unique. But they also affect the environment, and not in a good way. Custom fonts often consume more carbon when a website’s loading – so, when you’re going through a branding exercise, put real thought into using modern web fonts. It might seem as though they limit your creativity, but as Jennifer reminded us – ‘there’s plenty of other ways to express a brand’! 

2. Website speed and performance

Google has a free tool that helps you to identify any slow, carbon-hungry pages, perhaps featuring images that aren’t optimised or with numerous unnecessary scripts. If there was a time to get rid of any extra code, it’d be now! 

3. Email marketing

1.6 billion trees would have to be planted to offset the pollution caused by email spam, making it imperative we look to reduce wasteful sends/spam emails. Consider asking subscribers how often they want to hear from you, and increase engagement at the same time! 

Get to the Point!

Tuesday closed with our very own Toni stepping up to deliver a pitch-perfect presentation (if we do say so ourselves) at The Marketing Optimist’s event that challenged presenters to pitch 20 slides of 15 seconds each on a topic of their choice. 

For anyone who missed it, Toni smashing it out the park remains available to watch (much to her dismay!). And who am I to give you a low-down on how it actually went – read Toni’s first-hand account below!

‘I stepped way out of my comfort zone for this one! With complete freedom over the topic, I decided my contribution would be something I navigate day-in, day-out. And so, ‘From Start to Finish: The Complexity of the Creative Process’ was born!

Now, it’s pretty clear to me that all creative processes are often overlooked as being ‘simple’ and ‘straightforward’: 

1. Get a brief 

2. Smash the brief

3. Get client sign off

4. Repeat!

Right? Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. I studied Photographic Journalism at University for 3 years – prior to that, 3 years of learning Photography at College. Since then, I’ve had to adapt my creative processes to match the needs of tutors, clients, audiences, and myself. Yet it seems that people still don’t understand just how complex the creative process is, whether that’s in marketing or otherwise!

With a sip (or two) of wine in my system, notes in shaky hands, and a heart rate that would concern any medical professional, I took to the floor for what I thought would be the longest 5 minutes of my life. Yet it was me that couldn’t have been more wrong this time!

15 seconds sounds like a lot, right? Not per slide! Looking back now, the fact I thought I needed notes is laughable! I only swore once, and it was intentional anyway 😉​. I only messed up one word, and I’m proud to say I ducking smashed it. It was exhilarating to do something ‘new’, especially after 4 years in the game! And it’s safe to say that this is the first of many events I’ll be getting involved with!’


Wednesday 28th September

The Secret Business Lunch – Digital & Tech Special 

As all with all events held by The Secret Event Service, this lunch was shrouded in mystery. That is, until a pack of cards were delivered to Georgia’s door with the details! On arrival at the ‘secret’ location, we were greeted with a delicious cocktail and the chance to hobnob with the best and brightest in the Leeds tech scene. Followed by a delicious lunch in great company and inspiring words from Secret Speaker Anna Sutton, networking carried on throughout the afternoon in the stunning venue – with free gifts to boot! 

Burberry – Creativity Opens Spaces  

With a fair few fashionistas in the Halston Group, it’s unsurprising that most of our team anchored themselves at the Burberry Business Services hub on Queen Street for an event of seismic interactivity!

Combining numerous notes on how this fashion powerhouse continues to drive growth through inspired customer journeys leveraging digital technology, we learnt:

– About the prevalence of the Metaverse, virtual stores, and NFTs for fashion retail. Burberry use NFTs in different ways to allow their customers exclusivity, like displaying them in shop windows for the public to scan and collect! 

– How custom code can’t keep up with business demand – that’s due to tech talent limitations, surging demand from digital, and complex security and compliance risks. 

– The projection that 70% of new applications developed by enterprises will use low-code or no-code technologies by 2025! 

– Why Burberry loves low-code – it’s an untapped resource that offers speed, agility, innovation, and the power to tell a story… 

– …And how Burberry uses low-code in quality checks! Previously, these were manually keyed into a spreadsheet. But with a low-code app, the quality check team can make submissions in only a few taps, with the app automatically spotting trends and defects during its 30,000 times/week use! 

Senior Account Manager, Nicole Walton, said ‘I’d seen VR headsets before, but never Mixed Reality! Microsoft were also on hand to provide demonstrations and discussions on how this idea can be in fashion, like minimising the use of fabrics and paper when it comes to design. And also the wider applications, to sectors like construction – the user becomes equipped with the ability to look at a building before it’s even been built, identifying where possible defects might arise.’


Thursday 29th September

Women in Tech Networking Breakfast 

Bright and early on the penultimate day of Leeds Digital Festival, Georgia headed to Infinity Works with Nicole and Group Senior Partnership and Engagement Manager, Evie Highley.

Over croissants and coffee, conversations were focussed on what we’d learnt so far from this year’s LDF, before hearing from Sean Riches of Erskine Nash Associates. Discussing the most effective ways communication skills can be improved, Sean had us take part in an exercise. The brief: find a partner, and one of you close your fist. The other needed to make their partner open it in a ‘professional’ manner. 

With a few failed attempts under our belt, Sean put us out of our misery. The most effective way to get the other person to open their first? Well that would quite simply be to ask them to. Naturally, this was something hardly anyone in the room had actually thought of, but definitely left us thinking! 

Sean’s talk went onto discuss the four different behavioural types in sync with the need to understand people – colleagues, clients, friends, family – better to know how to communicate more effectively. We came away with new ideas and big smiles – it was fab to a part of a networking event featuring so many women in tech! 

Why Are You Measuring That? 

Last up for this year’s Leeds Digital Festival was attendance at an online event hosted by Digital Culture Network which treated us to a fresh look of social media analytics. Thought-provoking from the get-go, presenter James Akers (the Digital Culture Network Tech Champion for Data Analytics & Insight) asked the audience how long the piece of string he was currently holding in his hand was. He went on to unravel the string throughout his entire house, setting the scene for a talk that worked to truly cut through the hundreds of data points we currently collect and focus on the few that really matter!  

And there you have it, week 2 of LDF in almost as many words as week 1! With slightly clearer schedules (and heads), we’re turning these lessens into practice. To the organisers, hosts, panellists, audiences – LDF 2022, you’ve truly been a blast. We can’t wait to be joining you again next April!

All that’s left for me to say is having watched and learnt, it’s now time we execute.