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When lockdown first happened in March 2020, many of us held a romanticized view of the possibilities for digital to connect with people through events and experience. In the UK, at least, it didn’t really work out like that. The reality was that we were bound by virtual meetings within our own spheres, juggling them alongside the other demands of life in a lockdown situation. The opportunity for personal growth was limited, and with it a knock-on effect for business growth via events.

As restrictions ease and we all yearn for live experiences again, we are forging new relationships with clients to maximize this opportunity for growth. But we need to understand the revised drivers and protocols.

Physical nostalgia

This is the key driver for a future of live events – it’s why so many of us prefer real books that you can hold, smell, feel and leaf through over digital reading devices, and why vinyl sales are thriving in the music industry despite the convenience of streaming platforms. We want the comfort of the familiar and the sense of achievement gained by learning of your own volition.

Fundamentally, there’s a desire to reconnect with other people face-to-face and see where the conversation takes you – without the construct of a screen and a ‘leave meeting’ button.

Reinvigorated client-agency relationships

Clients are no exception in their desire to do business in person. But, having stepped off the hamster wheel of wall-to-wall events, they are reassessing their objectives from every interaction and will no longer participate ‘just because we always have’. Their needs have changed and they want to define new terms by focusing on fewer, more prestigious events that impact their bottom line.

They are also seeking solutions away from brand competition by creating their own spaces on their own terms, enabling them to re-emerge with renewed direction and ambition. They are simply more strategic. This calls for a new level of client-agency relationship, one driven by trust with determination and innovation at its core.

Redesigning for people

The events landscape already looks different due to practical factors such as health and safety precautions, but also emotionally as audiences experience anxiety when re-entering busy spaces while cases remain high. Attendees are no longer on auto-pilot; they are more discerning, with a renewed propensity for productivity from personal time invested.

Essentially, the impact of the pandemic has shifted the focus to treating people first and foremost as humans, not employees. Brands need to respond altruistically and without ego by placing the primary focus on people and partnerships. A strategy that blatantly prioritizes business growth will only jar with the current human psyche.

Strategic planning for time and emotion

Even while adopting a human-first approach, we can still help our clients maximize ROI. Two interlinked factors are now essential to successful event management: time and emotion. Events are too often viewed in terms of agendas and hours to fill. But when it comes to strategic planning, our focus is on creating key moments that forge meaningful connections to elicit action from attendees. In doing this, we are effectively re-designing time to trigger emotion.

With all stakeholders holding greater expectations from events, we have a responsibility as event managers to deliver. It’s a fantastic opportunity to reinvent experience when there is so much anticipation for reconnection. With a collaborative focus on more targeted engagement, we can ensure that the right people attend for the right reasons and with the right motives – and that can only be a step forward for our audience, our clients and the industry as a whole.

From festivals to retail installations to unmissable activations, we examine the avenues open to marketers to reach consumers enjoying their newfound freedom in The Drum’s Experiential Deep Dive.