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Northernlands3 - Showcasing Live@ODILeeds

  • Northernlands3 took place on 15th and 16th March 2021

After the triumph of 2020's virtual Northernlands2, we were more than delighted when The Kingdom of The Netherlands reached out to confirm Northernlands3. We set out to raise the bar for 2021 and make Northernlands3 bigger, with more content and most importantly, showcase even more innovation. It took place during West Yorkshire Combined Authority's Innovation Festival and sought to improve commercial, cultural and social connections between The Kingdom of The Netherlands and The North of England.

Across the 2-days, we live-streamed a series of pre-recorded talks which focused on featuring a unique and innovative mix of showcasing start-ups, art, data, tech and community interest under the umbrella of five themes: Innovation with Health Data, Economy & Future of Work, Climate Emergency, Data Rights/Security and Mobility & Urban Living. This was all made possible by the production and broadcast team Live@ODILeeds.

Why Virtual?

The global pandemic has put physical events on pause for the foreseeable future. Virtual events and online technology has sustained the majority of people's work and social livelihood through this past year. Not only has the virtual managed to save our means of communication, it has actually proven to be a great alternative to the physical. Virtual events are better for our planet, they are more sustainable, cutting out travel to and from a physical space and they eliminate any food or resource wastage. Not only are they environmentally friendly, they are also more convenient for attendees as they can join in at any point, pause, re-watch, re-share and reuse a virtual event as a continuing useful resource. The potential for audience reach with virtual events is also heightened as attendees can participate from any corner of the globe, resulting in a vast and diverse audience. With all that in mind, why would we go back to the way things once were?!

We Have Come So Far

Last July 2020 Northernlands2 was our first big virtual event, it was the first time we had ever designed and delivered everything exclusively digitally. Our continued willingness to adapt and evolve over the course of 8 months, despite the pandemic, is proven through the figures of Northernlands3 in comparison to Northernlands2. We tripled our social media presence this year, increased our audience by 55% and we reached across the globe involving 4 countries; UK, Netherlands, Canada and USA. As you can see, we've come so far, we now have our Broadcast Studio fully kitted out with live-streaming tech, 4K cameras, microphones, sound systems etc. and our own virtual events platform to broadcast to unlimited numbers easily. This facility has been used by a number of our sponsors and partner organisations including, Yorkshire Water, in September 2020 ODI Leeds hosted an online roundtable for the Leeds Anchor Network - a group of some of the biggest employers in the region, including Leeds City Council, University of Leeds, Leeds Teaching Hospital, NHS Digital, Yorkshire Water, Leeds College of Building, and more. In December 2020, we organised Shoring Up, an online assembly to showcase ODILeeds and UK Major Ports Group collaborative project on coastal communities. This February, we also designed, built, and hosted the Leeds Apprenticeship Festival 2021, a virtual alternative to Leeds City Council's Apprenticeship Fair usually held at Leeds Direct Arena. A fantastically productive start for the Live@ODILeeds team.

Event Design and Build-up

The technology is key to deliver a virtual event, but it can't be done well without content. That's where the ODILeeds network and community steps in - we were able to reach out to get people and organisations interested in being involved with Northernlands3. With the help of the Netherlands, West Yorkshire Innovation Festival, Tech Nation and Nexus we managed to get over 30 speakers and start-ups on-board. We then started an extensive social media campaign to promote and get the word out there:

A snapshot of one of our tweets before the event - we spotlighted our speakers, tagging them and creating little teasers by giving a brief description of their talk.

Whilst we were promoting, we began designing and building the bespoke platform:

This platform then serves as an asset - it becomes a webpage that goes on to live forever through ODILeeds website and can continue to be used as a resource to refer back to.

This webpage allowed Northernlands3 to be super easy to use and join. It was free for attendees and open to all. There was no registration form, no limitation on numbers of users, no avatars to create, just a click and play, a scroll down for the agenda, speakers profiles and need to know information - this was all formatted and linked onto one page. Couldn't be simpler :)

During the Event

We live-streamed a series of pre-recorded lightning talks, which we had begun to receive from our speakers once they had confirmed their participation. Once each of their talks had been broadcasted, we then cut to a live Q&A hosted by Paul Connell, Founder of ODILeeds with each speaker.

A snapshot of Dr. Ben Goldacre's live Q&A.

For the Q&A, we used our in house live-chat feature to receive questions from attendees to the speakers about their talks:

As well as building the live-chat, we also replicated our famous whitewall attendee lists by building a post-it note wall where all of our attendees could post their name, organisation, Twitter handles and why they were here:

We have had great feedback regarding this feature; we have found it is an effective way to connect the attendees even though they are tuning in from all over the world. It is good to know it's a shared experience even if you aren't in the same room.


Unlike a physical event, a virtual one has the ability to continue to live on - effectively we create an asset. For Northernlands3, the live events page becomes a permanent resource featuring all of the lightning talks and recordings of the Q&A's - we will continue to share this webpage to our social media channels so people can catch-up, re-watch and continue to make connections post-event. For post-event analysis, during the event, we distribute links to a feedback form; this is so we can continue to improve and adapt our virtual event services and also to explore how successful an event has been.

If you managed to join us at all over the 2-days, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! There was lots of engagement, positive conversations and connections made. We would like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to anyone who joined in, to all of our speakers, supporters, collaborators and sponsors who contributed to the triumph of Northernlands3! We wouldn't have been able to pull off our most ambitious Northernlands to-date without you, thank you.

If you are interested in planning your virtual event with Live@ODILeeds, we are only an email away, please contact We are a friendly lot and happy to discuss what you want to achieve with your event, whether that is 'translating' a physical event to a virtual one or being ambitious with your plans.

Upcoming Online Sessions

If you would like to register for our next Radically Open Recovery working session, please click here - these sessions look to explore how the economy, education, the environment etc. might begin to recover from COVID-19. Join us to talk about it.

The next #OpenDataSavesLives session will be led by The Health Foundation on Thursday 22nd April, focusing on social care - click here to register.