Insights

The Future of Events is Not as Live as You Think

April 20, 2021

As vaccinations roll out across North America, people are getting hopeful that a return to live will be inevitable and a huge push back to “normal” will occur. What we have seen, however, over the last 18 months, is an unprecedented adoption and growth in the digital shift of event content and communications strategy for most major brands, events and the audience’s desire to consume that content.

This is a familiar shift that we, as the event industry and the clients we serve, need to pay attention to.

In 2012, movie theatres were still the main venue for all types of premium entertainment content. From summer blockbusters to cheesy rom-coms, your local movie house was the one and only place for studios to realistically host their content. Sure, things like serial TV and a few outliers were around, but let’s face it, generally, the movie house was for the big-ticket entertainment content.

Just a few years later, this little upstart streaming service changed the game. By 2019, Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming platforms had shifted the premium content game into the smaller screen, upsetting the balance and shifting a real difference in how we all consume entertainment content. Now, large scale tent pole “Event Films” like anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and high production value features for awards contention, still live in the world of the large theatrical releases, but 75-80% of releases for serialized content, comedies and dramatic programming are all first-run on platforms like Netflix. It is no wonder why this years Oscars feature Netflix in almost every category. Ever wonder why you don’t see major Rom-coms release in the theatres anymore? It is because of this shift.

The parallel for the events industry is going to be the same. Like the movies, major tent pole events will continue to be produced in the same venue. Things like Apple’s WWDC, Websummit and SXSW, will inevitably come back to live, large scale execution, but the majority of events will need to differentiate themselves in a digital world and find a better home.

If a business was hosting 25 or so events in a calendar year, they will start to realize that, like large scale movie studios, having their large annual conference as a live experience with a few thousand people in the room will still be viable, but for the rest of their portfolio, shifting to a purposeful digital content strategy will be much more cost effective and meaningful in communicating their culture, brand and connecting with their people.

The challenge will be about differentiating that content in a digital world. This will rely on some big shifts in how we present, frame and deliver content to teams, customers and stakeholders. There will need to be serious thinking around retooling digital event formats. Simply booking a speaker or C-Suite member to deliver a talk or speech with a few visuals won’t cut it anymore. We need to start thinking about event portfolios as opportunities to build new formats and present compelling stories with high production value. We can adopt television and studio methodology to drive content development as that will be the key to building compelling connections and following with the audiences that need to be reached.

Transform a quarterly town hall from a PowerPoint presentation and a talking head into a four-part interview series with the CEO. Training sessions don’t need to be hours long seated sessions going over the details of the new machine, they can be a series of “Top Gear” episodes that do deep dives on features and how they work.

Especially with teams continuing to distance post pandemic and employees spread around regions and the world, reaching teams with compelling content in this way will be key to maintaining and keeping people invested in the story of the company culture and brand.

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