More than a year after Covid-19 first appeared in the U.S., there are still ongoing restrictions in some areas while live events, performances and gatherings slowly return. For those in experiential marketing and corporate entertainment, there has been a race to develop new and exciting ways to bring the same energy from a live experience to a virtual one. Because we’ve secured talent for corporate events hosted by major tech companies, my company and I know a thing or two about personalizing the experience.
The virtual world of the past year has taught us some valuable lessons on how to create powerful connections that will still apply as we re-enter in-person spaces. Here are five new rules for consumer engagement that I believe will shape our new normal in the events industry.
Play A Narrative Role In Rewriting The Story Of Live
Many musicians are likely returning to the road with fewer resources than they had pre-pandemic, as budgets were stretched for over a year. Are you a brand that’s endemic to travel or touring experiences that can help artists document their return-to-live stories? Think about engaging content extensions your product can enable. Look for ways to have a meaningful impact and to ride shotgun as artists document their journey back to live.
Have Fun With Formats
Guidelines may just now be permitting both indoor and outdoor gatherings in many states, but that doesn’t mean the floodgates will instantly open for all potential attendees. Readjusting from a year like this will take baby steps for some. Reimagine your event by thinking small for in-person (100 guests or less), then scaling up with a digital or live-stream extension that gives additional guests a chance to engage at home. Is there a gift you can send to remote guests in advance to encourage product trial and social sharing? Finding ways for attendees on- and off-site to feel included will help you scale engagement.
Give Fans A Voice
Bands are likely just as anxious to connect with their fans again as brands are. Let fans and brands reignite the power of live experiences safely by shaking up the traditional “meet-and-greet” experiences: Offer access to socially distanced Q&As with their favorite acts, give them a voice in select choose-the-setlist performances, and host private soundchecks on tour stops for superfans before doors open to all attendees.
Broaden The Scope Of Your Talent Deals
The past year has brought a more human lens to how we see and connect with each other, from seeing co-workers’ families on Zoom meetings to realizing that celebs adopted the same lockdown hobbies we did in the first phases of quarantine. Use those learnings to reimagine how you engage talent in a brand activation: Are they a well-known musician with a secret knack for cooking? Host a cooking demo/concert hybrid event. Are they an athlete who’s passionate about mental health? Make them a keynote speaker for an intimate talk about sports and wellness. Investing the time and resources into better understanding how to capture talent within a new event landscape cannot only benefit audiences but can also ensure your talent feels confident, prepared and eager to work with you.
Remember Communities In Need
In my experience, many younger consumers want and expect to see more collaboration between brands, artists and causes. And fostering a sense of community will be important for planning live events in the foreseeable future given the initial focus I’m seeing on hyper-local gatherings before long-distance travel picks up steam again in 2022. After such a tough year, societal issues related to Covid-19, racial injustice and food insecurity will continue to remain top of mind for many. Anchor your events with charity or social impact partners that have an immediate connection to your brand or talent partner’s hometown, and build the narrative from there.
With the recent wave of tour and festival announcements, it may feel like a light switch has suddenly been flipped on entertainment and that we’re going “back to normal.” But it’s important to spend these critical next few weeks and months back in the live space staying intentional with your in-person brand experiences, then scaling up from there.