We’ve had so much success finding our tribes online in recent years. The digital experience has opened up opportunities to engage in ways we couldn’t have imagined in the newspaper era. What it can’t accomplish, however, is the power of connection and heightened engagement of a live experience.
If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know the live show is more magical than the album. Why? Because your tribe was together, unified by the same anthems and danced to the same drum beats. For that moment, you can lose yourself in the collective experience without interruption and with all your senses engaged. While the album is incredible, it serves as a souvenir to a bigger experience you feel connected to.
While this may seem obvious for music, I think it’s important to break down the benefits for all brands.
For a brand like the one I represent, technology is often center stage. The tech specs, numbers, speeds, cables, etc. are a large part of the conversation in my space. What our brand specifically aims to do is bring the humans behind the technology to center stage.
What I learned:
- All the little things start to matter on the day of the show. We spent the entire 60 days of planning this event, working on details. We had spreadsheets on spreadsheets and lists miles long. We asked that everyone involved be a part of the granular details because we knew the more ground we covered, the greater our chances for success on the day of the event. On the flip side of this equation, those who failed to pay attention to the details before the show had a hard time connecting to the miracle that occurred in pulling it off on the day of the event.
- Both creative and tech teams need to work side-by-side. As the CMO and producer of this event, I had all kinds of ideas for how our brand could be perceived for optimal brand awareness and engagement. Ideas are one thing in any marketing effort, but execution for a live event requires immediate involvement from a technical team before ideas can come into fruition. I worked closely with our Technical Director, Geoff Orthwein and my Lead Editor and Producer, Patrick Southern to figure out what ideas were possible and what they required. This collaboration is critical to success and one that is traditionally full of tension. My guess is that it’s hard for both teams to understand each other because their needs and processes are so different (not to mention the fact that they speak different languages). What I realized is that I don’t have to understand all the technical language to get a clear idea of what I’m requiring of my team when I ask them to do something and they say “yes.” And they don’t need to be afraid to say, “yes, we can do that if …” It opens the dialog around the specific technical, budgetary and human costs to ideas in a way everyone can be aware of.
- A live event is a reflection of your real brand. If you’ve got ‘skeletons in your closet’ a live event will surely expose them. Stakes and tensions are far too high, removing all necessary bandwidth required to hide messiness. If the people behind your brand are horrible humans, a live event will expose them. If you or your product aren’t actually capable of doing what you say you can do, a live event will make that clear. If you’re hoping a live event will convince people that your brand is new and improved but you haven’t made consistent steps to prove that until the night of the event, don’t expect people to buy the hype. A live event will only magnify the character of your team members and the believability of your brand.
- Humility is critical. Our brand sits at the intersection of tech and video. What this means is that we have a lot of filmmakers and video content creators who are complete gear heads in our slice of the world. They want to be exposed to technology that enables creativity and makes the process of video creation easier. We’re experts. People trust our opinions. But we aren’t above rehearsing and testing every last way our gear could fail us. And we certainly weren’t about to leave our product out of the mix -- cue vulnerability. In fact, we put it as the hub for our stage presentations and our backstage production experience. The point is, tech will not perform at 100% every single time. Are we ok with that? Do we understand what the implications are if something doesn’t go to plan? That’s where the technical team is needed. They help ensure that the brand experience isn’t compromised and the guests are set up for success.
- A live event is a line in the sand. What I realized both in the moment and in post mortem was that there are people who have a vested interest in keeping things difficult and inaccessible. And there are people who want to make things easier and available to everyone. The process of creating this live experience made it clear who we wanted to continue working with and who we could count on in the small moments that would end up creating a big impact. A live event will show the real interests of the people around you. Whatever you discover will be invaluable in helping you make decisions moving forward!
- Decision fatigue is real. By 2:30 a.m., I had been on my feet for 22 hours. As my technical producer and I were wrapping our final cable, he said, “We’re about to go eat. The menu will look like it was written in another language. You’ve been making decisions on the minute every minute for a day. You won’t be able to make a decision about what to eat. Just point at something. This is part of the process.” Without preparation and confidence in my team, the sheer amount of decisions we had to make on the day of the event would have crushed us within hours of set up. Knowing exactly what we were trying to accomplish helped us all navigate the inevitable pitfalls and walk away with our relationships fully in tact.
This event was a turning moment for our brand. What we realized is that our team was clear about our message, consistent in how we communicate, and fully capable of taking all our digital material to a live stage. I wish you the best of luck on your next event!