In this post-pandemic era with PPE, scary signage and social distancing, it can be a little daunting to attend events which seem clinical and isolating from the outside. But safer events don't have to be scary! As we move forward, event design and safety are going to have to go hand in hand if we want our events to be as safe as possible whilst retaining the appeal and impact they had before, and to make our delegates feel at ease.
To gain insight into how we can inject fun into our safer events, we sat down with Kim Myhre, Founder and Director of Experience Designed to get his expert advice for event design going forward.
Why is the design of an event so important? Why is it so important to your clients?
Event design as a planning approach can enable brands to create deeper, more emotion-based relationships with their attendees. Good event design is attendee centric. Having insight into what motivates an audience, and what frustrates them can allow event designers to create more relevant, more engaging and more impactful experiences.
Today, event audiences are changing. No longer happy to be one of the crowd, attendees now insist that events and brand experiences recognise them and know what they value. The days of thinking of event goers as a passive audience to be presented to are gone. As a result, traditional event planning approaches are now often insufficient to deliver the kinds of experiences that will engage, inspire and motivate increasingly informed, digitally enabled audiences.
A new strategic design-led approach is now required to create more engaging and transformative experiences based on in-depth audience insights, defined by culture, and crafted with a more interdisciplinary and intersectional design perspective. A great brand experience needs to be designed with a deep and empathetic understanding of the audience. This insight is applied to creatively design an experience that is specifically intended to actively engage more demanding audiences to achieve an event’s objectives.
In what ways could planners make their safer events more fun and less clinical?
Safety has always been an important consideration for event planners, well before the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a well-known theory used to study how humans intrinsically partake in behavioural motivation, "safety" is the second most important need through which human motivations generally move after food, water and shelter. If we want to create event experiences that allow our audiences to openly engage then safety is clearly a fundamental requirement.
But being safe doesn’t mean that your event can’t be engaging and fun. As more events move online and the industry looks for new ways of delivering value in the virtual or hybrid format, we are starting to see some really creative and innovative online experiences emerging:
- Exciting high-production value, on demand content is now being created leveraging expertise in television production and storytelling techniques.
- Gamification is being used to engage our willingness to compete.
- Creative use of video and VR are being used to engage, entertain and thrill virtual audiences. For example, the brains behind IDEO held a GIF Dance Party, in which guests danced in front of a camera for a few seconds, then watched as their avatar hit the digital dance floor on monitors throughout the venue.
- Entertainment in the form of music, art and sound effects are creating compelling virtual performance art experiences. For example, IDEO sent guests on a tour of themed rooms dedicated to New York’s legendary cultural movements. Each room contained images, sound, and notes bearing words from the movement, immersing the guests in that particular slice of culture.
- Virtual events are also becoming a platform for creating purpose driven communities around issues related to sustainability, social good and health and wellbeing. Online workout and meditation sessions are encouraging virtual audiences to physically engage, and online cause awareness and fund-raising campaigns are reaching larger and larger audiences. It is clear that more we embrace the possibility of online experience the more relevant and fun these experiences will become.
- You could even hold a silent conference, where delegates are equipped with wireless headphones and choose what content they want to listen to. This adds a unique spin on your typical conference and also saves avoids disruptions and lots of people moving around at once, which could make social distancing more tricky.
What do you think the biggest challenges will be when it comes to designing attractive events that are also safe?
It took a while after 9/11 for large event gatherings to return. Safety concerns certainly weighed heavily on the minds of potential event attendees. Would the event ‘really’ be safe? Was attending worth the risks? But eventually we adapted to safety checks like bag searches, body scanners and no open containers. Today, these safety checks are accepted as normal procedure.
Whilst the current situation is different, I suspect that initially traditional event attendees will be a bit apprehensive about attending live events in the near term due to fear of Covid-19. Particularly attendees who will need to travel to the event using airlines or public transportation. Similar questions about whether live events are ‘really’ safe and if they are worth the risk will linger for some time.
That’s not to say we can’t begin the work of designing attractive events that are also safe. Normalising new safety precautions like social distancing, venue cleaning and sanitation as well a personal protection like temperature checks, hand sanitisers and mandatory masks will begin to reassure attendees that live events can again be safe. Visit the Hire Space Safer Events Shop for all the PPE you'll need.
Safe, but not the same for a while. Clearly one of the biggest challenges when designing safe events during the pandemic is the lack of human proximity and contact. This is where the principals of experience design can help to create more viable and attractive safe live event experiences. By using a more empathetic approach to experience planning that takes into consideration the emotional state of our attendees we can begin to overcome safety concerns and create more acceptable and engaging attendee experiences.
Are there any useful resources you'd recommend?
If you're looking to learn more about event design, you can check out these useful resources:
About Kim Myhre
With more than 20 years in marketing, brand strategy and events, Kim is a recognised industry leader and innovative agency executive. He has a unique combination of strategic, creative, commercial and international experience which has earned him industry-wide recognition as an expert in integrated engagement marketing and live and online brand experience.
After working with many of the world’s leading brands at some of the globe’s top experience marketing agencies, Kim launched Experience Designed, a consulting and advisory agency network that works with creative businesses and their clients to create breakthrough marketing innovation and deliver measurable business results by applying a new strategic approach to branding and experience design.
We hope this piece sheds some light on event design in a post-pandemic era. Next, watch the latest episode of our live stream, 'Back To Business', which explores the value of live events.
If you're a venue or an organiser and would like to read more about the measures you should be putting in place, as well as our Safer Events Accreditation, read our Safer Events White Paper below.