The live events and experiences industry was one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic in 2020. But technology saved the industry in many ways.
2020 was the year that virtual events came of age and “hybrid” became a buzzword. Eventually very backward events were organized, setting milestones along the way. Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 concert broke online streaming records with 5 million views; Travis Scott’s draw with Fortnite offered the most simultaneous players on the platform.
Technology will continue to sustain events in the foreseeable future, promising to take the industry to a whole new level. So what can the industry learn from past successes and failures as it faces its most exciting moment to date?
A new era of experience
Some of these technologies have been around for years. Who can forget about the live broadcast (then called “live broadcast”) of the 2000 Madonna Brixton Academy concert, enjoyed by 3,500 on-site, with thousands more logged into MSN servers and about 20 million watching the post-event broadcast?
We move forward to this day and live streaming increases the stakes on retail experiences, creating a cross between entertainment and commerce. It’s emotional, exciting and immersive, it provokes reactions and puts people at the center of the action. This year we saw Walmart partner with TikTok to host a live streaming of beauty products, while Bloomingdale department stores hosted several live shopping programs.
Technology as a facilitator
Mixed reality, augmented reality and virtual reality will soon be able to realize their potential, thanks to faster speeds and better connectivity from broadband and 5G. Last December, Samsung launched its immersive New Year’s Eve experience in Times Square – an experiential multimedia technology platform that incorporates elements of live streaming, augmented reality, virtual reality, entertainment, and gaming through a dedicated app.
Broadcast screen technology has also taken events to new levels, with experiences that become interactive and engaging productions, just like the TV shows we love to watch. We move from technology to technology as a facilitator.
5G is potentially a game changer for garments. Google Glass, widely used, is a reminder of how bad wearables can go. It is true that the last year has not gone out of style either, as it is designed to be used when people are away from home. But the continued launch of 5G could change that, facilitating new data services that will be delivered via portable devices. As a taster of what’s to come, Snapchat posted details of its AR glasses earlier this year, while Facebook has teamed up with Ray-Ban to get its version, which could be used to elevate the experience of purchase.
Content is king
Content has always been the basis of any worthwhile event, but with the move to virtual and hybrid events (a trend that will continue), technology can begin to make a difference in content.
Whatever your goals for a virtual event, people and platforms are critical to your success. As with a live event, you need to surprise and delight people. Platforms are key to creating this experience; Avoid using video player platforms with outdated content tools such as questions, surveys, and polls. Think more about using a platform that allows access to layers of content, providing a more dynamic and immersive environment. This could mean creating a “second screen” with original streaming content and giveaways. These features can also be used to interact with your audience after the event.
Enter with the games
By far, the biggest recent technological impact on experiences comes from the gaming world. Not all games depend on the way you used to do specific hardware; in many cases, all you need is a fast connection (hello 5G) and a compelling reason for players to sit back and realize. Fashion brands have moved quickly to take advantage of the link between gaming and experiences. Lately, we’ve seen high-end brands participate. Balenciaga took fashionistas and gamers on a space-age adventure, launching a video game experience to showcase their fall 2021 collection, while Louis Vuitton created a game in honor of the brand’s founder.
Thanks to technology, we have never been more connected to our world than we can sometimes feel disconnected from. While we need to be grateful to stay connected, we also need to be aware of using the right technology for the right reasons.