Live Union’s content director and M&IT Expert Jez Paxman shares the agency’s enthusiasm for a new event era - and reveals how planners can thrive in the new normal.
Welcome to the new event era. The rapid evolution of event experiences during the pandemic has fundamentally shifted what an event can be and the value it creates.
Events were the last communication channel to be digitised, and as an sector we now have a far more intelligent offering that has opened up incredible opportunities for clients.
Parallels can be drawn with other sectors that were digitised before us. Take TV. Pre-digitisation we had a limited number of channels, with broadcasters in control of what viewers watched and when. Post-digitisation the audience are in control, we have incredible innovation in how people engage with content, a far greater choice of programming, format innovation and a booming creative sector. All things we’re now seeing happen in events.
Over the last 18 months audiences have enjoyed increased choice and convenience. They’ve overcome geography to take part in events that were previously inaccessible. They’ve experimented with new ways to engage with content and with one another. As in-person returns, they want these things to remain part of their event experience.
In this new era, events have become the most sophisticated channel available to clients; offering tangible experiences that span physical and digital spaces. Clients are loving the new freedoms this brings and responding with ever more interesting briefs.
Sales and marketing directors can be confident in putting events at the heart of their communications, knowing that they will be able to deploy experiences broad in reach, rich in analytics, responsive to audience needs and generating useful data. They can more easily integrate their event programmes with their CRM systems, something that has been a bugbear for many businesses.
Employee engagement teams can design inclusive, fleet-of-foot event programmes that give senior leaders more ways to connect with staff and the ability to do so more often.
From a Live Union perspective, the new event era has transformed our business, bringing creative energy and whole new dimensions to the work we do.
If in the past conversations with clients could be sideswiped by logistics and venue availability, they’re now firmly focused on communication value. The new opportunities for deploying experiences have brought increased vibrancy to these discussions.
Tech-infused experiences deliver valuable data, and this sees us talking to new parts of our clients’ businesses, inputting to sales engagement and demonstrating the commercial value of our work.
Clients are now choosing from a far wider spectrum of event models: in-person, virtual, hybrid, hybridised programmes, multi-hub and every shade in-between. Every client has a different view of the future, in line with their specific objectives.
In the past events were often straightjacketed by tried and tested formats, organisers unsure how the audience would respond to new models. Now those models are being ripped up and many won’t be put back together in the same way. This is incredibly exciting for those of us tasked with innovating formats.
With audiences more in control, with the exit only a click away, the shift to virtual has seen an increased focus on designing engrossing content. In the new event era content is delivered in many more ways and reaches further.
The breadth of work happening in Live Union’s creative department has grown dramatically. Game and UX designers along with broadcast animators have added exciting new dimensions to our work.
Film production has always been a part of how we support clients, but it’s fair to say we’ve never spent this much time in studios. As audience expectations have grown and reach has increased, achieving high broadcast standards has become vital to clients. Senior leaders in global businesses are seeing the power that broadcast event experiences have to drive their communications and to differentiate them from their competitors.
We’ve accelerated fast, putting broadcast at the heart of our business, integrating studio and production gallery spaces into our offices and building a technical team who can support complex global productions.
As a team we’ve been energised by the sheer pace of change. Latent talents have come to the fore. New skills are being learnt on a daily basis. Technological curiosity is a must. We’ve brought in new expertise across every area of the agency and invested in the tools and infrastructure we need to keep innovating. There’s a great sense of pride and togetherness that has come from experiencing so much change.
The disruption that has ripped through events since early 2020 has opened the door to a new event era. We’re lucky to be creating experiences for clients who are more open-minded than ever before, for audiences who are more demanding and with an incredible range of new tools to shape the future of events.
M&IT editor Paul Harvey is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience. He began his career in the local press, working for various titles across the north. Since joining M&IT in 2013, he has become a trusted and respected voice in the sector, championing event professionals and reporting on all aspects of the events industry for the brand.