Latest digital technology can turn events into immersive, powerful live experiences with the proper resourcing and an appetite for risk.

DARREN KERR
FACTOR168 CREATIVE EVENT COMPANY
CREATIVE PRODUCER AND PARTNER

“The only thing that is constant is change,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. Now I’m not a philosopher, although I am partial to a well-constructed Greek salad, but this quote really resonates strongly with the rapid evolution of business communications landscapes.
The business of live communications is undergoing dramatic change. Traditional beige events a decade ago evolved into the extraordinarily immersive world of business theatre that delights the senses today. And now even greater changes with technology transforming and enriching events see a shift from purely in-person focused endeavours to in-person AND digitised experiences facilitated by strategy, creativity, and technology.
What does this look like from the frontline? It’s full of constant cutting-edge change.

Clients value the persuasive allure and universal adoption of digital technology. They are eager to harness the power of live event experiences enhanced with the immediacy and expediential sharing scale that digital affords them. They want their target audience, their fans – to have positive, passionate, and authentic interactions with their brand. To transform them into advocates and brand champions, and of course to motivate commercial actions that only experiential marketing can do so well.
And this is what we do. But how do we do it?

There are four key areas that clients need to address: the strategic dimension of the project, resourcing expectations, risk appetite, and project management /ownership.
Before a creative direction is adopted and any tactical considerations are considered, a strategic audit should be undertaken. What is it that they hope to achieve – the articulated objectives? What does success look like in terms of determining the ROI? How does this programme sit within the broader marketing mix and brand personality positioning?Ultimately – why do it and how can we best do it?

An event agency partner should flag the risks and considerations involved in specific technology treatments. Resourcing will be mission critical with the impact of the “pick two” costing model selection, which is governed by three key factors – time, quality and price – of which one can only ever achieve two of three.
A client may request for something fast and cheap, which is deliverable but will involve sacrificing the quality of output. Conversely, an event that needs to be delivered quickly will cost more.

The application of digital technology needs to be matched artfully with the commissioning client’s appetite for risk, weighed against potential rewards and strategic objective achievements. The more cutting edge and innovative, the higher the risk but the greater the potential of experiential rewards and impact.

How can a communication specialist determine where a project sits within the model? By talking with their client and determine what resources, in terms of budget and time, have been set aside and better align these with achievable outcome expectations.
For transactional clients that view experiential marketing as a largely commoditised service with little value placed on the strategic and creative – cost is going to be the priority. Conversely, marketers placing higher value on the strategic and creative drivers will expect a higher quality outcome. Shared organisational stresses will then dictate the time element.

What’s trending now?

Video mapping on buildings has become more accessible although physical projection surface considerations and content will always need to be addressed. We’ve recently taken this to another level by video mapping performers with great acclaim.
Other technology trends include 3D experiences and augmented reality. Towards the more budget accessible end – the resurgence of Visual Jockeys (VJs) to support DJs is also proving effective in providing a layered immersive experience. Major focus remains with greater social media integration to promote events including crowdsourcing, building peer connections, and sharing high value personal and collective experiences during the event.

This includes micro-sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ Hangouts and well-considered Apps. The widening adoption of near field communication (NFC) is gaining currency, particularly for registration and networking.
Twitter can still be effective if given strong application thought. The use of real-time twitter ticket-tape graphics within a recent event proved popular. Other platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube have yet to be fully exploited.

Without question the single biggest trend is the value placed on original content generation. Clients recognise that they can have an arsenal of digital tools at their disposal but without authentic, entertaining, and fresh content – they have nothing. If an organisation has nothing to say – they are just “white noise” clutter that people filter out, often for good.
As I finished my Greek lunch my thoughts returned to Heraclitus. He’s right of course – the only thing that is constant is change. I do wonder, however, if the Grecian scholar was with us today, would he be tempted to tweet “the only communications constant is people” or perhaps “only hire professional thinkers” with a hashtag #heraclitus.