Things change fast nowadays. Predicting what life will be like within a year, a month, or even a week is difficult. That constant evolution makes things tricky for organizations and event marketers because so much of our world is dedicated to planning.
It's also why the events industry is in desperate need of a mind shift.
As event professionals, we need to move away from the idea that we must know everything in advance. We need to get more comfortable with flexibility. Success will come to those who learn to embrace change quickly and confidently.
"Flexibility needs to extend beyond responding to the vagaries of public health. It's about adapting to changing audiences, new technologies, and pressing issues. It's about ditching traditions sometimes and thinking creatively at all times," says Cramer SVP of Content and Strategy Angel Micarelli.
Coming to You Live
Virtual events are the perfect example of the event world's becoming more flexible. Of course, online events have been around for years, but the ability to deliver them on a large scale was uncharted territory when the pandemic hit. The huge upswell in demand for broadcast-quality experiences and content that can engage at-home audiences required quick and creative thinking, and it forced many of us out of our comfort zones.
In doing so, we learned so much about digital events' capability of reaching a broad audience from anywhere—a studio, an office, or a home. The shift also did wonders for the popularity of in-house broadcast studios because they can make the switch from live to virtual much more smoothly, especially if the switch comes at the last minute.
The newest challenge is having the best of both worlds: combining the power of flexible but high-quality broadcast capabilities and the reach of digital with physical venues. Success lies in creating distinctive and enjoyable experiences for both.
To do so, you must think beyond just the live and virtual components, and instead stay laser-focused on the goals of the event and the desired experience for each attendee type.
Adoption of Emerging Technologies
Another opportunity for flexibility lies in taking advantage of emerging technology in real-time to create hybrid experiences between a brand, its audience, and the audience's devices.
Apple has embraced augmented reality (AR) at its events, allowing users to place a 360-degree AR object into their environment. Commercials during Super Bowl LVI used QR codes, and the halftime show encouraged second screen experiences. Holding events in the Metaverse is a topic of great discussion, and work is already underway to define what those experiences could look like.
Integrating new tech into your events is a great idea, but some trends have notoriously short shelf lives. If you typically have a six-month window between idea and execution, relying on something that's too "right now" could be the wrong move.
Keep track of what's happening with tech and do your best to separate the fads from the truly revolutionary advances. Then, make a conscious effort to figure out how those platforms can complement your brand and audience expectations.
"Wow" moments count only if they support your brand's goals. Everything else is just an expensive distraction.
Living Beyond the Event
Consider how rarely viewers consume content right as it happens. It's increasingly rare to watch anything live because modern consumers have grown so accustomed to consuming content on-demand. And events are no different.
For all the buildup that goes into putting on events, they are no longer expected to be an "of the moment" experience. And considering how much work and money goes into them, that's a good thing.
Sharing event content over the course of weeks and months instead of just 2-3 days adds another layer to an already robust offering for audiences, and it helps event planners get a stronger return on the investment they already made.
By taking long form content from the event broadcast such as video streams or keynotes and creating smaller, easily consumable content types, such as clips or posts that can live on your website, social feed, and email marketing campaigns, you give a second life to material that used to be momentary. Doing so helps you keep in touch with important audiences; it also offers new engagement metrics to help you better understand what your audiences truly care about. Moreover, the content can generate interest from nonattendees.
Building a long-term strategy to roll out event content and providing visibility into the various attendees' perspectives (such as showing more of the live venue or the digital offering) can build excitement for what the organization has planned next and engage consumers long after the event is over.
* * *
There's no way to guarantee what the future has in store for any industry, so flexibility has to be the future. But that flexibility needs to extend beyond thinking of events as either digital or in-person to exploring both realms in a cohesive hybrid user experience.
Now that we have the technology to back up creative thinking, we're going to see more and more new ways to make an event stand out, creating strong brand recognition and getting value from our efforts long after the event has wrapped.
If you stay curious, nimble, and dedicated to new ideas, there's no limit to how far your events can go.
More Resources on the Future of Events
Building Communities and the Future of Event Marketing: Mia Masson on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
Marketing Events in a Post-Pandemic World: Opportunities for Innovation
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