In recent years working for multiple event and experiential agencies I have noticed a tangible shift in what a live event space is all about. Back in the good old days a party was, well, a party. Now it’s not only a branded marketing environment, it’s a platform for social amplification, an opportunity for data collection, and interactive engagement space. And damn right too, I say. I know it’s certainly more interesting coming up with a content capture strategy than choosing canapé selections. (Obviously, I still love choosing canapés. Who doesn’t enjoy eating tiny parcels of deliciousness?)
But as an event producer this also throws up new challenges. You may find your event design is worked backwards from a broader marketing strategy. This can be where budget for social media ‘moments’ is prioritised over having enough bar staff. Or your client is too busy fixating on Influencer reach to feedback on your shortlist of DJs. I’m more likely to be costing up an Insta-wall than pipe and drape these days, but the basic principles still apply. You still need to a fantastic environment in the room if you want people to talk about it outside.
So how do we bring all these factors together to create a slick, entertaining and engaging environment? And what makes for good quality engagement? It’s a fast-evolving art form, but here’s a few thoughts that may help you add a few ‘experiential designer’ strings to your event planning bow.
IDENTIFY YOUR EVENT TARGET PLATFORMS
Look firstly at your event demographic and examine how they are most likely to engage with social media. Whether its 19 year olds going crazy for an exclusive Snapchat Geofilter, or 30something media types who are more interested in their Instagram story. Maybe it’s an older audience who prefer a physical take-home memento. Research what photo or video formats work best for those platforms and integrate appropriate moments into your event design.
MAKE SHARING SEAMLESS
From GIF booths to Bullet Time rigs, the photo op industry is awash with high tech options that include sharing of content online. There should be as few steps as possible between the physical activity and your guests being able to share it. It doesn’t have to involve an expensive setup though. A beautiful backdrop and box full of petals worked wonders for a Boomerang Corner at one party. Just don’t forget to check your venue wi-fi capacity!
BRAND THE JOURNEY
From pre-event invites to email follow-ups, functional signage, packaging, and décor. If the event is part of a wider campaign, the visual elements should match up. Choose a specific hashtag before your event and display it prominently around the venue and in communications. Ensure even the most seemingly insignificant graphic elements are coordinated and aligned. Having said that, think about the associative connotations; you might not want to put their logo on the loos.
INVOLVE YOUR GUESTS
I’m a big believer in interactive experiences. Designing an environment that encourages guests to actively participate is more likely to produce a memorable and stimulating event. In practical terms, this could mean using in-character actors as event staff to create a welcoming ambience. Or a ‘bespoke-your-own’ gifting activity, communal comms such as live tweeting, or a hands-on game with a competition incentive. With our ever-shorter attention spans, you need only look at the huge growth in immersive theatre events like Secret Cinema or Alice’s Adventures Underground to see there is a distinct appetite for taking part.
MAINTAIN KEY MESSAGING
Sometimes I like to think of each event guest as pebble that is flung into a lake. The live event space is the heart of their experience, and every impression that ripples out comes from that experience. It can be easy, in the rush to keep on trend with 3D printed sweets or Hashtag printers, to forget to stop and sense-check; – ‘why are we doing all of this?’ Bearing that in mind can be a useful tool to maintain a coherent engagement strategy that keeps the heart of your event close to every message, be it conveyed with copy, visuals or ambience.
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