The latest plans from the government reveal a gradual process as we come out of lockdown, with plenty of caveats as "data not dates" drive the roadmap. So yet again, the experience economy has to be prepared to adapt and evolve to survive. There is clear optimism with 21 June set as "Freedom Day" including the re-opening of nightclubs, festivals and theatres, but there is much uncertainty for live event partners and hosts in the months leading up to it, and we must be cautious approaching activation planning.
In the past 10 months, The Producers has been pivoting face-to-face experiential campaigns to deliver hybrid virtual experiences as brands still need to deliver real emotional connection with their consumers.
Brands want to ensure their campaign investment is 'risk-free' with content-led experience solutions using incredible advances in technology, and this approach will be critical for all partners to ensure experiences deliver a viable option for brand investment.
Brand experiences post-June’s watershed date for re-opening will need to react to the evolving landscape and consumer expectations. Here are 10 key aspects that need to be considered.
1. Brands need to develop experiences with women's safety in mind
Specifically for high footfall public events, such as festivals and music events, the experience industry needs to address women's safety head-on and update event safety plans accordingly. Proposals should include increased training for security, dedicated safe spaces within events for women and safer transport solutions to and from events
2. When live events initially return, social distancing will likely remain in place
This could result in some functional changes such as additional safety signs and entry and exit points. Initially, we can expect events to be smaller, and running at a limited capacity.
3. Live events may lengthen to allow for repetition
A typical two-day experience may stretch into three or even four days. By staggering attendee arrival and departure dates, organisers will effectively hold their entire event two or three times in order to maintain social distancing guidelines and ensure attendee safety with a minimal impact to their budgets.
4. Outdoor events will thrive
To promise a more Covid-safe environment, outdoor spaces will be in high demand. Second to those will be creative venues that facilitate social distancing, a preference toward larger facilities and unique room set-ups.
5. Attendees will see positive 'customer first' improvements
Such as ordering food and drinks via their mobile; not having to queue at a bar or miss the action to buy a drink; in-person attendees will be more likely to feel they have ‘got their money’s worth’ and will make the effort to experience more of what’s on offer due to the fact they’ve travelled to attend.
6. Hybrid events will become the norm
Combining the effectiveness of live events with the versatility of digital, experiential programmes can leverage the power of technology and social media to quash feelings of exclusion in those unable to experience them live and in person. We predict that there will always be some element of virtual events paired with live events. eg online access either during the event or available on demand.
7. Environmentally friendly
From fewer printed materials to digital innovations, eg digital giveaways (simple to produce, quick to turn around, instantly delivered and no physical waste), the events of the future will become less wasteful (and hopefully stay that way).
8. People, particularly the over-50s, may be cautious to return
So now more than ever, events are going to need to be unmissable to truly be unmissable. As live events will now most likely always be available virtually either during the event or after, the event needs to have extra allure to bring people into the physical space.
9. Engagement must start long before a live event and continue long after it
We will need to think of ways to keep attendees plugged into a longer cycle of meaningful content and interactions.
10. Supercharging our use of next-generation formats that allow us to reinvent the entire experience
With everyone doubling down on content creation, breaking through will be harder. Stronger event content, more engaging formats, relevant technology, and galvanizing moments will be key.
Kate Umfreville is head of events at The Producers.