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Once upon a time... then suddenly...

It's a mid-March weekday in the VWV Group office... long past 6pm, and there is no sign of home time. In the next two weeks, we will produce events and festivals with a cumulative total of over 60,000 attendees. And then suddenly... it all comes to a very abrupt, hard stop!
Photo by Jacob Meves from Unsplash
Photo by Jacob Meves from Unsplash

So here we are... two months later, in this new Covid-19-created world. It’s been a wild ride for the experiential industry so far, but we’re still here. We’re still creating compelling content and experiences. And we’ve learnt a few lessons as we navigate this new virtual world that events and experiences have migrated to.

Competition for consumers’ attention is now fiercer than ever – online events have low to no barriers to entry - which has quickly resulted in a proliferation of competing experiences. We are also already seeing the novelty value of virtual events wear off... remember that first week of lockdown when we couldn’t get enough of the online DJ stream/living-room concert/comedy set? No more! Only the most creative and engaging content wins our attention now.

Understanding how important it is in any communication to quickly get to the point, let’s briskly move onto some key lessons we now know to be universally true.
  1. Be compelling. Content in the virtual world needs to be as, if not more, compelling as content in the real world. Captivating storytelling, and the curation of every audience touchpoint, must be a given in both these worlds.

    Our strategic approach to driving audience engagement still applies, perhaps now more than ever. The content-creation process we’ve spent years refining remains the same, we’re just delivering that content in a new way, on a new platform.

  2. It’s more important than ever to know your audience, and to cater to them specifically. Online platforms give us robust data about our audience’s tastes and behaviours. Our insights team have developed superpowers to tweak and tailor content that will be relevant and appealing, to maximise retention and engagement.

  3. Keep thinking like a promoter. Even though events are now virtual, the same principles that we’ve practiced in live events for years, still apply: promote across all relevant platforms; sell the content experience; drive appointment-viewing; and ensure a robust ‘ticketing’ strategy is in place, even if that means keeping the experience free.

  4. Tell a story. That doesn’t mean begin with “once upon a time”, but rather crafting a convincing narrative across the content - a theme, a story, a purpose - that takes the audience on a deliberately designed emotional journey. Keep the audience intrigued with a beginning, a middle and an end, using the wealth of devices at our disposal: inserts; performances; ‘still to come’; reflective pieces; so-called laundry-lists; and real-time audience interaction.

  5. Design the production. Like live-to-air broadcast, the virtual medium is merciless, and it is only high-quality content that will succeed. Every image, sound effect, music bed, lighting, performance, setting and script must be thoroughly considered and crafted.

  6. Interact with the audience. Just because the audience isn’t in the room, doesn’t mean that engagement isn’t important anymore. A cardinal rule is to go to where your audience already is... deploy content across the platforms they naturally use, and then allow the audience to immerse themselves in the experience through the multitude of interactive digital tools available.
They say never waste a good crisis – and this is certainly a crisis in many ways, but it brings enormous opportunity. It has forced a revolution towards where we were heading anyway, rather than it being a slow evolution to us getting there. The current situation has allowed us to utilise the experiential and broadcast strategy, insight, creativity and production design we’ve become so well versed in, in new and powerful ways. And we’ve been lucky enough to have clients who are willing to come on this wild, creative, uncharted ride with us.

So, what could the future hold? We believe nothing can ever replace the live, visceral experience of certain events – and those will ultimately return. But in other instances, it may be more effective and economical for ‘event’ content to live virtually. But every event / experience going forward, will live across both physical and digital platforms in new and exciting ways – and we’re excited to embrace this new dual reality!

21 May 2020 15:53