Flex Experiences: The Best of Both Worlds
By Drew Hagen, Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer
Our world turned upside down in March 2020, and while we are all hopeful that we’ll return to a sense of “what was” before the global pandemic hit center stage, we know that the world as we once knew it will never be quite the same. As we’ve adjusted to this new reality, adapted to working from home, and found new ways of doing things — so too has the events industry.
What was once centered around live, in-person engagements has been supplanted by digital experiences that are bringing people together virtually and transmitting content digitally. With over 30+ years of events experience, we’ve executed digital experiences for many years, but the channel was always considered secondary to the live experience. When we found ourselves hoisted into a digital-only world overnight, we firmly planted ours (and our clients’) feet – and hunkered down to successfully produce some of the biggest digital programs over the last couple of months. What we’ve learned (and what we hold to be true) is that digital will no longer be an afterthought, but rather that brands need to understand the value of each channel uniquely, and embrace an integrated approach that realizes the possibilities when both channels work in concert -- what we call "Flex Experiences."
Flex Experiences take advantage of the “best of both worlds” to achieve an optimal mix of audience reach and brand affinity. Digital excels in driving reach and audience acquisition across a broader footprint; attendance for digital programs can easily cross geographical borders that often limit travel to in-person gatherings. Video, interactive tools, and advanced platforms provide high-quality production options to stream content, transmit product demos and deliver critical information. Digital also supports a 360 communications approach to connect on-going with audiences. Lastly, one of the main benefits of digital is the ability to definitively measure performance (KPIs, ROI), and to leverage the data insights to improve future programs.
At least for some time, in-person gatherings will be reserved for smaller, hand-picked attendees and high value “groups” (e.g., top executives, VIPs) – for whom the ability to connect in-person has lasting implications on business objectives. The face-to-face portion will be designed to elicit the emotional response and connection that only in-person can achieve. In the near-term, live gatherings will primarily serve to facilitate the creation of up-leveled broadcast-quality content. Health-sanctioned event professionals, such as InVision’s CLEANevents teams, will travel to client locations to produce content for delivery via virtual programs.
Flex Experiences also take into consideration the intersection points between the digital and the in-person live audience experience. Consistent branding across the online and face-to-face engagements ensures that audiences experience a singular brand message and design aesthetic. Content curation and delivery will be pulsed uniquely to in-person versus digital audiences, and will converge via on-demand streaming tools that all audiences can access. Moreover, mobile apps and interactive tools (e.g., chat, 1:1 meetings called “brain dates”) can help facilitate a shared experience between live and digital attendees.
In short, the effect of the pandemic on our lives and on business has been nothing short of transformative, and therefore our response needs to be equally profound and long-lasting. For the events industry, this has been a catalyst to a new reality in which we’re reimagining our model and how we design for an integrated brand experience that lives digitally and live.