Siemens Healthineers, a healthcare company, acquired Varian Medical Systems, a company with a mission to create a world without fear of cancer. The merger was completed in April 2021 and to launch their combination, the executives of both companies organised an event called The Combination of Siemens Healthineers and Varian – Day One Digital Event. The event aimed to achieve a feeling of unity among all colleagues, which was especially challenging given the different cultures and sizes of the two companies.
The event team, made up of professionals from both Varian and Siemens Healthineers, faced several challenges, and despite these challenges, the team was able to come up with creative solutions to create an emotional and engaging event which was inspired with their combined potential of saving lives. This project was a sub-project of a larger workstream that spanned all internal and external communications channels and addressed all internal and external stakeholders from both companies.
The Global Event Team at Siemens Healthineers is led by Eszter Mattiassich-Aszody, who brings a wealth of experience as Head of Global Events and is committed to elevating the team’s offerings to new heights. Her team is a dynamic group responsible for delivering end-to-end digital, hybrid, and onsite events for both internal and external audiences. Based in Erlangen, Germany, they are dedicated to developing events on a global scale, with a focus on innovation and excellence and are dedicated to creating impactful experiences for attendees.
Varian Day One event won the Best Interdisciplinary Team award at the ICE Awards in Munich. This award recognises the work of in-house event planners and this award took place for the first time in Germany in 2022, with the second edition scheduled to take place on July 6th, 2023.
The case study of Varian Day One event success in winning this award is presented in more detail below, highlighting the various departments, challenges and creative solutions that contributed to the project’s success.
Market background: reason for organising the event
Siemens Healthineers acquired Varian. The executives of both companies required an event on the first official day together to launch their partnership.
70% of mergers fail due to the lack of cultural compatibility. In finding an angle to avoid this, the companies focused largely on building a long-standing strategic partnership. Varian is creating a world without fear of cancer. With their groundbreaking technology and the global reach and infrastructure of Siemens Healthineers, they are now in a better position than ever to fight this disease. With videos and personal welcome messages from employees, customer and stakeholder testimonials, and a moving patient story, they created a remarkable event.
The objective was to achieve the feeling of unity among all colleagues, which was especially challenging given the different cultures and sizes of the two companies. To motivate themselves to think freely and come up with creative solutions, they delivered several different event concepts to their stakeholders.
At this point, it was about one year into the pandemic, and they were energised to build off of recent digital event advancements they had generated for the company in order to take this one to the next level.
Innovation and discovery were driven in response to three parameters:
- What is legally possible given the secrecy of the merger?
- What is safely possible given the state of the pandemic?
- What is culturally responsive to the individual identities of both companies and the shared identity they aim to create?
This led to some great innovations such as the asynchronous implementation of Fellow Finder, the integration of employee photo submissions, the green screen usage, and the necessary last-minute implementation of event communication plans. The event team had a close collaboration with Employee and Leadership Communications as they were also instrumental in developing, clarifying, and realising these tactics.
Another item was to balance the relevant content-related elements with emotional, engaging content. This included impressive statements from key external stakeholders, customers, but also video messages from colleagues from all over the world, explaining their excitement over the merger. Furthermore, the patient video, where the everyday hero fighting cancer is also a colleague, and the host of this event. And last but not least, lovely, personal, handwritten welcome notes from Siemens Healthineers colleagues to Varian employees.
On April 15, 2022, Siemens Healthineers closed their largest acquisition in history: Varian Medical Systems.
Overnight, the 56,000-person German-based medical technology company would join forces with the global market leader in cancer care, a team of 11,000 headquartered across the world in Palo Alto.
Nothing like this had ever happened before in the company’s history, and certainly not in a pandemic.
The team contained professionals from Varian and Siemens Healthineers, across diverse communication functions, such as internal and leadership communications. Their task was to create an internal event that would unite the entire global employee-base across these two companies, truly welcoming for their new colleagues and unify the people of both companies.
One large challenge: they had no fixed date. Because they did not know when the closing would be complete, they opted for an event with a pre-recorded element so that they could take advantage of the momentum of the first day of the merger.
Due to legal restrictions of the merger, they were not allowed to communicate about the event in advance. They had to constantly work with their Legal, M&A and Compliance offices to follow regulations. They thought they would have only six days to distribute pre-event communications; that is already almost no time.
In reality, they were only allowed to send invitations 18 hours in advance. They worked through the night to ensure the 66,000 invitations were distributed across time zones, hoping that invitees would be able to clear their calendars the next day to attend.
Due to the pandemic, they also were unable to gather the speakers in the same space for the pre-recorded video. They are proud of their high-tech solution: they connected three green screen studios in Germany, Denmark, and California to make it appear as though the three speakers were in the same room. It was such a success that, although they were continents apart, many of the audience members believed the speakers to actually be in the same space and reached out to see if they could grab coffee while they were in town!
The team members from Varian transparently shared that considering the Varian audience, some flashy, sparkling event features would not be well received. More down-to-earth features are rather appreciated.
It was essential that Varian colleagues felt celebrated as equals.
Because the two companies were not yet integrated, the production team also had limited communication infrastructure, especially for a topic with such a high level of data security. Things Siemens Healthineers took for granted in daily work — sharing a folder, working simultaneously on a document, or simply organising an MS Teams call – became obstacles to overcome.
Just before the Christmas holiday season, the team was given a short-notice and urgent briefing. Major global consultancies had just pitched event concepts to the Siemens Healthineers/Varian integration team, however, the team wanted to explore further options. So, they turned to the in-house global event team.
The in-house global event team developed nine different concepts with comprehensive event communications plans. They developed the event format, structure, length, and assets from the ground up. They created these based on Varian feedback.
They shaped the event’s mission around three goals: that it would be emotional, engaging, and informative.
The emotional aspect came through stories shared by a colleague who had won the battle against cancer herself, inspiring the team about the impact the combination could have.
The engaging element came through interactive, grassroots features which allowed the average employee to participate via video wall submissions and Fellow Finder employee matching, creating a sense of ownership from the ground up.
And lastly, the informative element was delivered by ensuring all employees across various functions shared a baseline level of understanding of both companies’ shared goals and product offerings – a difficult task considering the diverse range of roles amongst the 66,000 colleagues.
With a registration period of only 18 hours, they reached 16,959 viewers (26% of invitees) live and on demand. 10,691 attendees were from Siemens Healthineers and 6268 were from Varian, demonstrating robust participation from both audiences.
To generate personalised connections during the event, they launched an app on the website called Fellow Finder that connected Varian and Healthineers employees with shared interests. This program set employees up to have 1:1 coffee chats, fostering individual engagement in addition to the all- community aspect of this event. The app has generated more than 1,700 matches.
This was a proud moment for both companies, delivering this event for 66,000 colleagues. What was on the morning of April 21 merely a financial transaction became by the evening a new community and was inspired by their combined potential.
They launched a true sense of unity, creating excitement and making the integration personal. They really made employees feel what the combination would mean for patients—how the hard work ahead would create a world with better access to care which impact patients and their families around the world.
One year after the merger, colleagues from the combined company have collaborated to achieve incredible things in this short amount of time already—jointly establish a 10-year partnership with a hospital in Finland. They have held events such as Capital Market Days together with shared values and purpose. Varian colleagues were even awarded a Siemens Innovator of the Year award.
Overcoming the challenges
Because of the dual challenges of having no set date plus pandemic travel restrictions, the inability for four speakers to join physically onsite created a huge challenge—but also a huge opportunity—in terms of content production. The team is proud of their solution: they used three green screen studios running simultaneously from three countries. The speakers interacted with one another as if they were in the same room—gesturing to one another, turning to face each other when they spoke, and picking up on the small aspects of body language that made their interactions really feel personal despite the distance the pandemic had created.
In conclusion, the Day One Digital event, jointly hosted by Siemens Healthineers and Varian Medical Systems, proved to be a success. This was acknowledged with the Best Interdisciplinary Team award at the ICE Awards in Munich, emphasising the significance of recognising the work of in-house corporate event teams.