It’s a fascinating time to be in the events and experience industry. Having hit one giant pause button, there is now palpable excitement and optimism as full-scale, live events have successfully been piloted through the UK government’s ERP programme. The rigorous testing of thousands of unmasked attendees at the FA Cup Final, the BRIT Awards and club nights are building confidence and reigniting our hunger for the natural high of live entertainment and shared human experience.
It heralds no end of possibilities for our industry as we look to rebuild a robust post-pandemic future, and quickly. But we can’t simply pick up where we left off – too much time has elapsed, personal experiences have changed behavioural patterns and habits aren’t as hard-wired as they once were.
So as we plan for a return to live events, we need to redesign experiences with an understanding of the adjusted human psyche:
The most valuable asset a brand has is the time in which their key audience interacts with them, and our perception of time is the constant at the core of human experience. The Ancient Greeks had two words for time: Chronos to represent mechanical time measured by a clock and Kairos which refers to human time, measured by significant moments in our lives.
The true gold for brands has always been in the ‘moments’ we create – the powerful and meaningful engagement with consumers that transcend time itself. Our goal in the world of events and experience is to re-design time, to create those Kairos moments that convert attendees and drive ROI for the sponsor.
The key to audiences giving brands their time and attention is to meet them on their own terms. Lockdown and extended periods of working from home have blurred the lines between personal and business lives, catalysing a human-centric zeitgeist. As people emerge from the pandemic more socially and culturally woke, they expect brands to align with their personal ambitions towards social good.
Brands need to attune to this, prioritising a human-first, empathetic approach to engaging attendees over their own objectives. After all, our reason for creating moments that matter is to provoke a passion-based action that starts and ends with human experience: to start something, quit something, join something or love something.
It’s not just about connecting on an interest-based level, but truly understanding people’s motivations and concerns. After a year of digital fatigue, there is tangible anticipation for reconnecting with people in real life, but it doesn’t come without apprehension following an extended period of health worries and home-working.
These mixed emotions call for a new psychological approach; to cater to both the heart (i.e. the desire to reconnect with people) and the head (which has been conditioned to socialise cautiously). Aesthetic design can help by engaging every sense through strategically-selected colour, material, sound and movement to collectively create a reassuring ambience. It is only then that brands can focus on eliciting their desired response from that audience.
Gone are the days when people were squeezed into small spaces to give the impression of a busy event – the last year has shown us that bigger isn’t necessarily better. The priority now is to provide a freeflow, flexible space that enables the attendee to navigate, explore, connect in smaller groups and learn on their own terms.
There is a new transaction protocol in which show organisers need to address health and safety concerns and offer genuine moments of value to sustain attendee engagement. All the time, every time. Spatial design needs to be reimagined for this new environment to ensure attendees feel reassured via innovative, multi-faceted solutions and bespoke experiences that can deliver true brand conversion.
A return to live doesn’t automatically mean a return to analogue; we’ve learnt too much about digital over the last year. Our human-centric approach should integrate live and digital to create hybrid experiences that can vastly broaden audience reach, facilitate safer interactions and help us learn more about our audience.
Technology has helped to keep us culturally connected and there are powerful examples of humanising the experience by connecting communities; our hybrid work for Red Hat used controlled environments connected through sensors and technology to build a bridge between physical and virtual presence. Data also enables us to capture deeper understandings of changing consumer behaviours which will help to shape future experiences, informing new expectations, values and approaches.
The pandemic has stripped away peripheral noise and made audiences refocus on what is most important to them; genuine, meaningful interactions. They want to feel heard, with their opinions and concerns respected. Those brands who focus their events and experience strategy on creating moments that matter will be the ones who will see the greatest return. After all, our collective goal is to drive a renaissance for our industry – and the world of human connection is at the very heart of that.
To read the article on Little Black Book Online.