How can ‘festivalisation’ have a positive impact on the delegate experience?
What a ‘festivalised’ event offers is a wider variety of ways by which the delegate can engage and interact with a brand or a message, including through entertainment. The event then not only becomes more enjoyable, but also more personal for the delegate or attendee, because the interactions are the result of their choices and preferences. The associations they create with the brand or the message are more positive and memorable.
It leads us to the question of how we create the ‘right’ range of engagement and interaction points to achieve this. One answer is to simply begin the engagement early by asking potential delegates what they want. In effect, you let their ideas, suggestions and preferences create the event programme. If the event is a conference or forum of some kind, you can even let the speakers choose the format for their own segment.
The demographic of today's audiences is often varied. Can ‘festivalisation’ be an effective tool for increasing engagement with delegates of different ages and backgrounds?
‘Festivalisation’ seems almost tailor-made to achieve this, especially when engagement points are to some extent suggested by the delegates themselves. If you take the route of asking for and listening to delegates’ ideas, the event programme is naturally going to reflect and respond to the audience demographic in a very direct way. That may result in an incredibly diverse programme with a never-before-seen line-up of speakers and presentations and entertainers. In itself this can serve to grab the attention of a larger audience beyond that of the event or even an industry.
How has event technology enhanced the concept of ‘festivalisation’?
Generally speaking, event technology has worked in two ways: it has made the experience and engagement more effective, and it has allowed the experience and engagement to be shared among a wider number of people. When used in the context of ‘festivalisation’, these technologies can be the key to making the event itself as important as its content; that is, the event becomes something to be looked forward to and eagerly anticipated by an audience that exceeds that of the actual delegates.
An example of such an event is CES, which is really just a phenomenon now. At CES 2018 in Las Vegas, our work there included activating Alibaba’s booth, and the intention was to draw the greatest possible engagement of attendees – including ‘projecting’ the experience to a wider audience outside of the event. So the booth itself was incredibly interactive, with features like LED overhead elements, video walls, transparent touchscreens, etc. Complementing that, we also had online content and extensive livestreaming of the event which people could view and share via social media.
You mentioned previously that the gaming and e-sports sector has been able to harness ‘festivalisation’ effectively, why is this so?
You could argue that this sector’s events were pretty ‘festivalised’ well before it became a trend for the rest of the industry. It just follows from the nature of the business itself. You have events like ChinaJoy, for example, which is an annual digital entertainment expo in Shanghai which has distinct B2C and B2B areas. In the former, companies interact directly with consumers, which in this case represent a tremendously diverse and enthusiastic demographic. You find fans of AR and VR, gaming, e-sports, anime, wearable tech and more – all mixing, engaging and generating an unforgettable experience they return to every year. The event is as big a brand as its content.
What can event planners learn from this sector when it comes to adapting events for modern audiences?
At the end of the day, the fundamentals do not change; it is still about understanding what your audiences wants to hear, see and do, what motivates them, what makes them tick. The medium subsequently comes into play when crafting a series of experiences that moves the audience. By ‘medium’, I mean technology used to create immersive experiences, or the ‘festivalisation’ of an event to enhance fan engagement – or something else that entirely suits the purpose and the audience. So to all the event planners – be inquisitive, be open and be adventurous.
**An edited version of this insight was first published in PCMA on 16 August 2018