June 16 2021 - In May 2020, we peeked into our crystal ball and discussed how the pandemic could serve as an accelerator for a new kind of events with more attendee-centric approaches and a stronger focus on sustainability. Today, we're revisiting these predictions with new insights, additional trends and the first realizations. Here are three things to keep in mind when organizing an event in the next five years.
1. Interactive experiences
According to the 2020 Trend Hunter report on Entertainment, the Experience Economy is upon us. In a world abundant with stuff, consumers are seeking experiences and the opportunity to create memories. To create these experiences, live events will become increasingly interactive and participatory.
Very often, interactivity is interpreted as 'simple' voting or polling, and presenting the results back on stage. Those are great first steps because they increase audience engagement and are relatively easy to manage. But you can do more. The possibilities of gamification activities offer exciting ways to boost participation and drive engagement. Much like the award-winning "Choose your own adventure" series Black Mirror: Bandersnatch on Netflix or Artificial: Remote Intelligence on Twitch, live events turn to this new dynamic way of storytelling with live audience interaction to create memorable experiences. In the future, audiences could help control stage visuals, manage the band's playlist on the spot, or even collaborate with live artists in creative ways. We see the notion of attendees evolve from passive viewers/listeners to participants and even co-creators, fading the barrier between stage and audience.
The recent spike in virtual events presents its own daunting challenge of engagement. Capturing the undivided attention of audiences might be even harder in a virtual environment where people can just leave the event with one simple click to close their browser. To replace the dynamism of a lively on-stage keynote speech, you need strong digital content and frequent interactive touchpoints with your online attendees. In the new Virtual Event Studio from Painting With Light, for instance, audiences can be invited to virtually participate on-scene. They are gathered on a large projection screen in front of the stage as live video thumbnails and can be streamed individually on to the virtual backscreen so the presenter can answer questions and engage in direct conversations.
2. The event lifecycle
Nurturing interaction is not only important during the actual event but also before and after the show. The event experience doesn't start when attendees enter your event. Nor does it end when an attendee leaves the event. Live events should be considered as continuous experiences rather than one-off moments in time. How? Consciously map the customer/participant journey and identify the potential engagement touchpoints throughout the lifespan of your event. People want to be engaged before, during and after the event.
Before the event goes live you can already start laying the basis for a positive engaging relationship with your potential attendees. Build up anticipation, create buzz and trigger registrants with sneak peeks of what they can expect. Social media and email are great tools to help you with this.
Next, it's important, especially when dealing with virtual events, to provide clear instructions of how to use the event platform. A smooth start is half the work. Prepping audiences before the event will pave the way for a simple user experience and give attendees the confidence to really make use of the available engagement features during the event.
Further, it's interesting to capture the interests and expectations of participants, that way you can offer them a personalized experience. By understanding their needs, you can target the content you're sharing with them and guide them with suggestions to customize their event path with speaker slots and break-out sessions that match their preferences. And the personalized experience doesn't have to stop there. You can already prompt pre-event actions like inviting them to send in their opinion on a topic or which questions they'd like to see answered by your speakers.
The event experience lasts far beyond the virtual and/or on-site touchpoints. It's important to make the most of the connections made with the audiences during the event, extend the networking opportunities, and to maintain the momentum.
As we mentioned in our previous blog post, recordings will become default and postproduction will gain importance. After-movies, recordings, presentations, blogs, playlists, etc. You can use all that on-demand content to prolong the event experience and build an engaged community. The organizers of the Cirque du Soleil shows, for example, launched their CirqueConnect platform in March 2020. It's a content library with excerpts from the magical shows, acrobatic work-out sessions, make-up tutorials by the artists, and games for the kids. And it's a massive success!
And you can also leverage your content to give those who didn't attend highlights of all the amazing stuff they've missed, and give them a reason to not miss out on the next instalment.
3. Sustainable event management
It's been almost ten years since the International Organization for Standardization developed its ISO 20121 for sustainable events. But the collective awareness on environmental issues has really been booming the last two years. And live events can't escape the Greta Thunberg effect, as a growing number of guests and event hosts have made going green a top priority for the industry in the last years.
In November 2019, Coldplay front-man Chris Martin, announced that the band has put plans to tour their new album on hold, due to concerns over the environmental impact of concerts. The British pop rock band is now taking some time to work out how they can deliver carbon-neutral, ecologically beneficial concert tours with no single-use plastic. And they won't be the only ones to think about these topics. Sustainable event management will become key.
The future of live events includes more virtual studios, hybrid solutions and localized productions. These formats significantly limit overall travel required from both guest speakers and attendants. And even if you welcome attendees on-site you can improve your green credentials. Ditch the paper and single-use plastic bottles and go for biodegradable or re-usable alternatives. Work with local partners to reduce the transport footprint. And instead of throwing away left-over food or surplus materials, why not consider donating it to a local charity?
As audience expectations change, so will events. Here are three things to keep in mind when organizing an event in the next five years.