Making event experiences truly intimate again

Marika Mulvey
By Marika Mulvey | 19 June 2020
Marika Mulvey

Marika Mulvey is Brand Experience Manager at strategic brand and commercial consultancy Bastion EBA.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a dizzying number of event cancellations and postponements. But amongst this uncertainty, industries, brands and businesses have unlocked new streams of revenue and ways to reach and connect with their audiences.

Consumers now more than ever want to feel supported by the brands they’ve trusted and invested in, so right now isn’t a time to be quiet. So what does this mean for the future of events?

Australians are already becoming much more comfortable with aspects of returning to “normality”. The appetite for dining out is at 89%, according to research from Bastion Insights’ Adapting to the New Normal national study. Nearly half of Australians are ready to go to a sporting event (48%) or live music gig (44%).

While we prepare to bring people together and harness the power of connection more than ever before, there is strict legislation we must adhere to (that is evolving regularly), to ensure we are still physically distancing.

In the past week we’ve seen emerging news that stadiums can operate again at 25% normal capacity allowing fans to watch sport in person again. We’re also now entering the third step (of the three step framework) towards COVIDSafe Australia which allows us to fully embrace the long-term COVIDSafe ways of living meaning we can hold events of up to 100 people or 1 person per 4sqm and we will see the reopening of cinemas, concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums and stadiums whilst adhering to strict physical distancing legislation.

We’re seeing changes everywhere we look due to COVID-19 & the COVIDSafe guidelines that will be in place for some time now but who’s to say these will be temporary?

One of the permanent shifts will be the move away from the expected thinking that big is always better. Now is our chance to make event experiences truly intimate again.

An easy way to achieve this begins with introducing timed waves to repeat the experience for smaller groups, allowing more people to be there in person while adhering to strict social distancing measures.

Queuing has never been a glamorous part of an event. We’ve got a perfect opportunity now to really embrace digital queuing and ditch the physical line once and for all. Not to mention the time this gives people back who can go about their lives and be notified when it’s time. Sampling has previously taken more of a mass scattergun approach. Flip it into more of a reward for interaction.

Contactless sampling solutions exist through digital kiosks and vending machines. Simply activated by a QR code or motion detection. Not only are people spending more time with your brand, the cost of sampling is justified with rewarding an engaged customer whose data you now have as a result.

There will be many simple solutions designed to adapt to COVIDSafe guidelines but we’re also going to see some great innovations during this time. As producers, it’s never been a better time to consider the consumer experience from start to finish of your next event.

While we won’t see the MCG hosting a sold out stadium anytime soon, we are seeing the return of drive-in entertainment. Locally we’ve seen the band Hockey Dad announce a one off drive in concert, Kia re-igniting its partnership with the Brisbane Broncos by creating the 'Drive In Footy' experience, The Dromana drive-in for Saints members to watch round two last Sunday & a new event concept come to fruition ‘The Parking Lot Social’ brought to you by XL Event Lab, hitting the east coast across July-August.

Live streams are here to stay during social distancing; as we initially flocked to this simple way of reaching our audiences the art lies in cutting through the crowd.... An example of a live stream done well is the” Vicki Lee [period].”exhibition showing viewers how good destruction feels. The live stream saw Vicki Lee deface a piece of her art with a live Pianist in the room. The pre-event hype and presence on social media was strong, setting up the main event nicely. It’s simply not enough to go live and hope the masses will join, consider an event before the main event to build anticipation…

While a lot of behaviours in our lives have had to change, I can’t help but think it's for the better. Amongst all of this disruption it’s great watching the strong undercurrent of optimism rising up for the future of experiential with creatives, brands and agencies all adapting to bring excitingly innovative campaigns to life.

We’ve been pushed into a whole new digital era that could have previously taken years to implement. After all, we’re built for this. Mother nature causes all kinds of challenges for us each time we open a live site but we always find a way to make it through. We are resilient and resourceful.


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