How can we build continued confidence in live events?

Sarah Yeats, managing director of live experience agency Sledge and M&IT Expert, shares her top tips for boosting client confidence for the safe return to live events…

We all rejoiced when in-person events were given the green light on ‘Freedom Day.’ It signalled the return of our industry and the opportunity for us to get back to doing what we love.  

Sarah Yeats

But are our clients and their audiences open to investing in, and attending live experiences right now?

If we look at the statistics, it appears sentiment is mixed. According to YouGov, 46 per cent of Brits feel comfortable attending in-person events, and an HBAA poll has revealed that 65 per cent of event professionals are seeing a boost in business, 51 per cent of those being a ‘slight boost’ and the remaining 14 per cent citing a ‘major boost.’

While there are positives we can take away from this data, it’s also apparent there’s more to be done to increase confidence in live events and re-build our industry.

‘Safe-tify’ your event marketing

We’ve all dialled our health and safety plans up in the wake of the pandemic, and it’s something, as a recent Festicket survey points out, is important to consumers. It found, for example, that 70 per cent of people would be more likely to attend an event if it used cashless payment systems, and 58.5 per cent of festival-goers want to see extra cleaning and hygiene practices in place.

We should therefore clearly and regularly communicate the additional measures we’ve put in place to protect attendees at in-person experiences. At the pre-event stage, it might be adding a COVID-19 safety section to the event’s website, looking to social media to share the key initiatives, and including this information in regular email communications and any paid advertising. Meanwhile, during the event, clear signage highlighting the initiatives being actioned will boost attendee confidence, and communications that inform people how they are expected to act will encourage responsible behaviours.

From a client perspective, this will not only highlight the brand’s commitment to protecting its attendees, but it will also minimise the risk of it being associated with an outbreak or ‘super spreader’ event.

Strategic event counsel

With the rules and regulations around in-person events varying across different parts of the UK, and new initiatives and incentives emerging often, it can be challenging for clients to stay on top of what they can and can’t do in live event settings.

This represents an opportunity for us to proactively step up, remain informed at all times, and both develop event plans and strategies that incorporate government information and advice and adjust them as new information becomes available.

The Live Events Reinsurance Scheme is a great example of this. The fact that the government is willing to act as a ‘reinsurer’ not only safeguards events from a financial perspective from next month, it speaks to the viability of the sector and its importance to the UK economy. Educating clients about these important changes will instil their confidence in our sector, enabling it to continue to move forward.

Add a layer of exclusivity

Safety concerns aren’t always the reason people choose virtual over in-person event attendance. Some prefer to join virtually because they’ve been consuming events through their screens for the last 17 months, and feel the learning and networking opportunities are equally effective.

Being in the business of live, we all know there’s nothing quite like face-to-face events and experiences. They facilitate real emotional connections – and satisfy an innate human need in the process – that a virtual event simply cannot.

So how can we get this across to our virtual event fans, and encourage them to physically attend events every now and again, too? By focusing on the exclusive. This might mean adding immersive installations or brand activations to the in-person event that cannot be experienced in the same way online or facilitating unique mentoring and networking activities for physical attendees.

Redefining the event format can also add an extra air of exclusivity. Instead of hosting one large-scale annual event, for example, the focus could be on rolling out six highly curated, personalised experiences throughout the year. Numbers are extremely limited and there’s high profile talent involved, which then compels virtual event-goers to join in person.

There’s no denying the industry still has a while to go until it returns to pre-pandemic growth levels. However, there is plenty we can do to safely and successfully propel it forward right now, and gain buy-in from clients and consumers in the process.

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