The pandemic drastically changed events but did it alter them forever? Having a massive public event during the peak of COVID-19 was obviously not a great idea and impossible in most areas of the country. But as restrictions have been lifted and the world returns to what is “normal” (at least for 2023), are events roaring back to life? Or are the alterations that events had to make during the pandemic permanent? Those are the questions many of us are trying to answer now.
Enough time has passed to begin to draw some conclusions. The space is changing as the decline of traditional events, like OEM car shows, continues much as it had even before the virus. But events aren’t dead and actually far from it. In place of traditional shows, a more experiential and engaging format has emerged, drawing more interest than ever. So how do you capitalize on this shift for your upcoming event? Let’s look at the dos and don’ts of making your event a success in 2023.
DO MAKE YOUR EVENT EXPERIENTIAL
Events with static displays and zero interaction are quickly dying, with attendance falling off exponentially. Attendees are now demanding more and seeking out events that are engaging and immersive experiences. Experiential events do just that by maximizing interaction between displays, participants, industry experts and products. They are the opposite of static and boring, focusing on the event as a complete experience rather than separate components or individual displays.
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering becoming the preferred location for top-tier OEMs to introduce new vehicles illustrates the shift to experiential events and their benefits. The event’s smaller size compared to traditional auto shows allows for a more intimate feel and interaction. Attendees can easily mingle with top automotive designers, engineers, builders, owners, journalists and other enthusiasts. The vehicle introductions are only one component of the many happenings at the event in a beautiful setting with amazing food. All of it adds up to make participants feel like they had an experience rather than just attending an event.
DO KNOW YOUR GOALS
Not everything has changed in 2023, and not knowing the overall goal of an event has always been a surefire way to make it a failure. It might sound like a basic step, but many go through the motions of an event year after year without knowing its true purpose. And doing something just because you did it the year before is a formula for irrelevance. Is your event a branding exercise, or is the goal to turn a profit? Are you trying to appeal to a niche audience or sell as many tickets as possible? Is the goal to introduce products to the right influencers or the general public? Or is it a combination of everything previously mentioned? No matter the answer, you and everyone on your team should know the event’s goals and use them as North Stars in all your planning.
DON’T MAKE IT JUST VIRTUAL
Going virtual saved many events from extinction during the pandemic and some have decided there is no longer a need for in-person events moving everything online. Live streaming and other mediums are critical for expanding the reach of an event, but one of the many lessons of the pandemic is that people enjoy interacting with other humans. This interaction is now becoming one of the critical factors to a successful event and building an immersive experience without it is almost impossible. Even more dynamic and interactive virtual experiences cannot fully mimic the connections made through sharing experiences with other humans. The Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance took place virtually during the middle of the pandemic but quickly came roaring back as a must-attend event. No current technology can replace the in-person experience of the sights and sounds of a jaw-dropping collection of exotics, hypercars, muscle cars and rare collectibles rumbling down the street or the social interaction during the event. Sticking to an online-only format wouldn’t work.
DO BREAK THE MOLD
There is much mimicking and sticking with tried-and-true methods in the event space. Many stay with what they know or copy what has worked for others if creating a new event. But if you aren’t offering anything new, don’t expect people to show up or be interested. To truly make a dynamic and interactive experience for 2023, you must go outside of traditions and break the mold. A perfect example of this is Tesla’s Cyber Rodeo event to celebrate the opening of its Texas Gigafactory. Instead of rolling out a boring or typical presentation, Telsa merged almost every marketing and event idea into one. It was a big press conference without the press, a public forum, a cyberpunk carnival, a weird art exhibit and a new product announcement with any new products, all mixed with a music festival vibe. While it might have seemed like a case of throwing everything at the wall, it did stick and made for a highly unique event that received massive interest from the media even though they weren’t invited. Check out our blog post about what we learned from Tesla’s Cyber Rodeo.
DON’T MAKE IT JUST ABOUT YOU
It is important to remember who your target audience is for an event. Many brands make the mistake of ignoring whom they want to reach and create an event that is all about them. Having your CEO drone on about business statistics might be interesting to other leaders but will quickly put the media and public to sleep. Remember, even if your event is a branding exercise, it is as much about the people attending it as your brand. You need them to be engaged, entertained and enthusiastic.
Another plus to being less self-centered is that it creates opportunities for partnerships with other brands. Teaming up with different companies can be a huge boon for smaller to mid-size brands to attract more interest than they could individually. It can also help to offer a more comprehensive array of products, services and activities for experiential events than a singular company could. This article gives excellent insight into how partnering with another brand can help your event and what to know before you form a partnership.
DO TEACH SOMETHING
Immersive and experiential events go beyond static displays by offering attendees more. One way to do this is by teaching valuable skills and knowledge. The Overland Expo series is a perfect example of this. Beyond the usual vendor displays and overland gear, the Expo series of shows have hands-on demonstrations and seminars where attendees can learn vital skills like operating a winch and recovering a vehicle safely. The Electrify Expo has interactive displays where participants can learn about how electric vehicles work and even build electric bikes. Transitioning from static displays to more interactive ones always makes for a more engaging experience. But it is even more immersive when attendees can learn something that benefits them.
DO GENERATE LOTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA BUZZ
Most know that their social media teams need to be at peak performance during and running up to any event. And that finding the right influencers to attend can make a big difference in generating a buzz on social media. But event attendees are just as crucial to your social media efforts. Yes, you don’t have control over them, and they might not have the individual reach of more prominent influencers. However, their combined reach can be significant. Hopefully, they are constantly posting about your event. This is why knowing your target audience and having a more immersive or experiential event is essential. The more engaging and exciting an event is to someone, the more likely they are to post about it. With your social team, the right influencers and lots of attendees posting about your show, it quickly generates lots of buzz on social media and becomes the place to be. Check out this article on how to generate social media buzz for your next event.
DON’T WING IT
If you learn anything from this article, it should be that planning and executing a fantastic event in 2023 is complicated. It is not something that you can learn on the job or make up as you go. Event experience is a must. If you lack it, reaching out for help can make the difference between a fabulous event or a failure. At Kahn Media, we have in-house specialists that are experts in making events immersive, experiential and successful. We are also a full-service marketing agency that can support any event with social media management, influencer outreach, video, photography, digital marketing and public relations. Contact us before your next event to see what we can do to make it a success.