Safe Events

When Will In-Person Events Finally Be Safe Again?

If you’re like me, you probably took live events for granted. You probably believed they’d be around forever and would always be a part of the human experience. Even though movies like Contagion painted the picture of what a pandemic might look like, I never really believed we would see anything like it. It was obviously just a fictional horror story. Well, here we are. It wasn’t.

Almost 200 days have passed since the first major cancellation milestone that struck me hard—the postponement of the 2020 NBA season. It was news that made the scope of COVID-19’s effect on the year abundantly clear. All other major sports leagues would quickly follow suit and the concert/festival calendar for the entire year was wiped clean in one fell swoop. The sound of 10 million dry erase brushes could be heard from outer space.

In the months that have passed since those cancellations, I think we’ve all become a little more comfortable with the new rules and regulations. Governments have rolled out plans that saw us able to expand our social circles, re-enter public spaces, and “re-open” the economy. We’re watching sports and concerts again but all from an odd, lifeless distance. It’s NOT the same.

The future of fan and consumer behavior is unknown right now but one thing I do know is I really miss the way it was. I think we all do.

Right before March 2020, Eddie Trunk announced on his twitter that @acdc was buying ad space. In Eddie’s opinion this meant they were returning to the stage for some type of tour. Even if it was going to be a small one, I knew I’d be attending at least 3 of the shows, no matter where they were in the world. ACDC is “my band”.

Here’s the problem with losing this chunk of time. ACDC aren’t getting any younger. I was surprised at the news they’d even be back at all. Is COVID going to be the reason we never see them on stage again? If it is - FUCK YOU Covid-19.

On the other side of the coin, imagine being a band like Hamilton, Ontario’s @thearkells. These guys had more momentum than any other Canadian band heading into March and the rug got pulled right out from underneath them—at a crucial arc in their career (they’ve made the best of it though--kudos on ‘Campfire Chords’ guys).

Think of the festival planners that had festivals just becoming part of the lexicon. The suppliers that put food on their table because of events and everyone who relied on this industry for their creative outlet and survival. It is now totally different for everyone. At least for the time being.

I’m not sure I can ever get used to watching concerts on the small screen or at a drive-in. Are launch events only going to occur on Instagram? Is it really a launch “party” if I’m sitting on my couch, isolated and alone?

One thing the new reality is driving is demand. If my middle-aged ass is pining to overpay for parking and looking forward to standing in a hot field for a day, you better believe there are others with the same unbridled angst to see the return of live events.

Let’s pretend for a second the glass is full. Not half full, but full. Like there is something really good coming around the corner as a result of this shitty year.

There is a day this will all be over. Once it is here and COVID-19 becomes just like Polio and the Measles we’re all going to consume life like never before. Like drinking every last damn drop of it and getting out to events that we may never have considered before.

Most importantly, there are people out there innovating the shit out of 2020. Whole sports leagues turning on a dime to bring you the best experience to your home. Sponsors imagining new creative ways to find you and realizing the importance of spending their ad dollars where you are - online.

As an event planner or producer, you need to be in a constant state of creativity. You need to be prepared for that incoming call asking if you can do “X”. The new shiny thing they saw their competitor do online or in-person that seemingly achieved that marketing goal. In order for you to be ready you need to know what other planners and producers are doing, how they are innovating, and who they are rallying to support their efforts.

Virtual events have become the norm—for now. Trade shows & conferences were quick to experiment in the virtual world and these events have brought with them new opportunities industry leaders didn’t know existed. The solution isn’t just shifting the venue to Zoom. Awesome, memorable experiences are more important in a virtual world and figuring out how to deliver them is key!

In-person events WILL regain their importance, however, they will now only be one part of a brands’ engagement with an audience. Your event marketing strategy will have to shift to encompass all of these new platforms (and their users’ expectations) to be offering a well-rounded fully imagined experience to a community.

-- Kyle Hosick,

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