There was a time, and not too long ago either, when events were predominantly a one-way street. Broad swathes and impersonal flows of information directed at captive audiences, delegates and visitors – with all the finesse of a garden wall being whitewashed. Perhaps it was just as well that live event polling and survey technology was still in its infancy – the results would have been quite disappointing. And then, in the span of less than a generation, the world changed. A triple tsunami of cultural, social and technological evolution that completely redefined the paradigms of public relations. Not only was there more to watch, hear and experience, but perversely much less time to do it in. Attention spans shrank, and with them the windows of opportunity for a brand to get its message across. There were more ways to communicate, but not enough time to say the things that mattered. Audiences were no longer passive recipients – they become active participants.
In many ways, event management, exhibitions and brand environments & interiors are only now starting to catch-up with this audience transformation. But to be fair, the pace of change has been so rapid that almost everyone has been caught by surprise. Across all realms of communication, one simple truth is becoming apparent: People absorb more when they are enjoying what they’re doing. The new battleground is engagement; a passive event is actually not an event at all.
The good news is that events, exhibitions and brand environments & interiors are leapfrogging other channels when it comes to engagement potential. They are after all living spaces – seemingly destined for interactive relationships with the audience. And rather than pose obstacles, the relentless barrage of new technology is actually making it easier for engaging brand experiences to be crafted and communicated.
From an event perspective, the most fertile area for exploration is content creation – be it audiovisual, spatial, environmental or personal. The goal is to develop content that educates and entertains; communicates and engages. Events become productions offering bespoke content. Vibrant spectacles to be enjoyed, and memorable experiences to be shared by the audience – individually and as a group.
The next level of engagement is achieved by giving the audience a voice. Technology enables both pre- and post-event feedback; layered on the back of prevalent social media and highly effective. And during the event itself, live polling and surveying actually provides the amazing opportunity to tailor content on-the-fly – a real-time dialogue with the audience.
High-definition AV combined with high-speed Internet access allows live streaming of events and exhibitions. And contrary to the myth that suggests online events are “killing the industry”, technology is actually helping physical events to reach an even wider audience. Smartphones really come into picture here, allowing people to access live streams and interact with events regardless of where they are. In effect allowing them to be in two, perhaps even three, places at once!
Of course, all this technology is just an enabler. It’s not the driver for engagement. Ironic then, that content is still “king”. The latest tech can deliver a jaw-dropping implementation of a brand experience – but it’s the content that engages, excites and enlivens. And for that, you need to work with a partner that excels on both fronts… a brand experience agency that thrives on creativity and cutting-edge tech.