Business life has changed dramatically in the past two months – especially in terms of events, meetings, conferences, and other gatherings. Public safety measures limiting or restricting people coming together in groups are likely to continue for quite some time, which means that event marketing must find new, innovative ways to deliver experience-based encounters for brands and consumers alike. As a seasoned professional in the event industry, Valerie Bihet, founder of the VIBE Agency, takes a moment to share her insights on what Event Marketing 2.0 may look like.
Q. There is a lot of talk about a “new normal” in every aspect of life these days. What does that mean for event marketing?
VB: It is important for marketers to realize that normality no longer exists – whether that be economically, emotionally, or structurally. There will be no return to “normal” simply because confinement and social distancing measures are less strictly enforced. That means we, as event creators, must rise to the challenge of bringing people together without presenting even the slightest concern about safety. It is a whole new paradigm.
Q. Do you think we will see an end to traditional events?
VB: Even in today’s current conditions, the world of events is not “gone.” It’s on a temporary hold. The VIBE Agency has been working very closely with our vendors and providers to outline new procedures, and we have been following the measures the hospitality industry has been taking in order to meet safety benchmarks for re-opening. There will definitely be changes to the way people are allowed to – and the way they will want to – come together, and those service offerings will take time to develop and customize. But I do believe we will see a new version of traditional events emerge eventually.
Q. So where does that leave event marketing now?
VB: It actually brings event marketing to an exciting new threshold – Digital. At the end of 2019, we were already exploring ways to create hybrid experiences that further integrated technology into our event offerings. Before the pandemic, I would say the mix in the event industry was 80% live events and 20% digital events. Now, it is more likely to be 80% digital and 20% live. What we’re doing at VIBE is concepting ways to make digital events feel like live ones, through interactive touchpoints, and experiences that do not require face-to-face interactions to be memorable.
Q. Can you provide some examples of what kind of digital events are happening right now?
VB: For our U.S.-based clients, we have been organizing a number of “Virtual Team Building” events to help keep teams of employees engaged and connected. The goals of these online experiences are to motivate, reassure, consolidate, and rebuild while strengthening the bond between colleagues. That is proving essential in this period of isolation so that everyone remains united in their pursuit of brand objectives.
Response to these events has been great thus far – people aren’t just “engaged,” they are truly connecting. That’s important right now when we’re all faced with varying degrees of isolation. We are all social creatures by nature, so seeing that we can satisfy that need while maintaining safe distancing is very promising indeed. In fact, the response has been so positive that in the weeks to come, we will be extending the Virtual Team Building platform to our British and French communication agency partners, as well as to all of our clients in the luxury industry. These colleagues and clients of ours have been so pleased with the results of their own VIBE-coordinated events that they are seeking ways to deliver the same value to their own clients and customers. We are already putting together webinars to stay in touch with past, present, and potential future clients, so we can update and educate them on what’s happening in their region in as close to real time as possible.
Another area in which we are seeing development is drive-in/drive-thru/drive-by events. Many of us have seen the tributes to health care workers or drive-up graduations for class of 2020 students – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what is possible for people to experience from their vehicles. These may be more immersive environments that people experience from their cars, audio/music through a localized FM radio transmitter or internet radio app, goodie bags that can be dropped off in trunks to maintain contactless delivery, and much more.
Even though all of these events are virtual, the emotions they inspire are not. That’s the real key here. That’s the backbone of why we do event marketing in the first place – so people can feel something, share it with others, and connect that to a brand, service, cause, or celebration. VIBE is encouraging clients to tap into the power of virtual events by stretching beyond the expected.
Q. How is VIBE using technology to take digital events further?
VB: I think by now, many of us are used to the concept of teleconferencing, but digital events are much more than that – or at least they can be. One of the things VIBE has been working on is leveraging Live Streaming to bring together larger groups of participants (virtually of course) with video studios hosting a small group that fits within maximum social distancing requirements, with a master of ceremonies, external speakers or featured guests, all being filmed in remote locations and either broadcast live or pre-recorded for coordinated playback during the event. Teams will also have the ability to connect and interact in subgroups with digital “break out rooms.”
We have really been utilizing our expertise and skill in production to build rich, multidimensional broadcast television-style experiences. It goes far beyond a Zoom meeting or standard webinar – and has been professionally produced from start to finish with a show concept, flow, set design, curation of guests, custom content integration, and much more. For participants and attendees, it is almost like being brought inside the world of a televised event… and VIBE is the broadcast producer that brings it all together.
Where the VIBE Agency excels is in our talent to coordinate and orchestrate many different players to pull off a successful event. With many of us – including our vendors and other partners – working remotely, having a team that can pivot around new technologies and other new resources is paramount. I think our forward-thinking attitude has helped us adapt faster than most. We’ve always been willing to challenge ourselves to learn new skills or do something groundbreaking that’s never been done before. In doing so, we have made discoveries about how to move forward in new directions to serve rapidly changing needs.
Q. Is there a silver lining to the way events may change in the future?
VB: Absolutely. If the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed anything it is that we all feel the need to be together with others. The essence of our job as event creators is to find ways to bring people together that are not what they expect – that’s true for traditional events as much as it is digital ones.
We’re at a unique crossroads in which we can expand the universe of event offerings by looping in new partners like virtual producers, virtual stage managers, image coaches, and digital storytellers. Our entire team has been excited and optimistic. We are confident we will all be stronger together in this new world.
About the VIBE Agency: The VIBE Agency is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in strategic content creation, live and virtual corporate events planning and destination management services. The agency is forward-thinking and was recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019.