If contemplating what an event should look like these days (and where to begin putting one together) has been doing your head in, firstly - you’re not alone. We surveyed the pros for their number-one piece of advice for hosting a successful Covid-era event. Read on for their recent learnings and top tips.
Rise & Set
We took extra precautions to ensure the #1 priority was safety during a recent IRL event that we executed for our client, Ferrari North America. Our top tip would be to go over and beyond to control every touch point of the event. For this particular car preview, we reached out to each vendor to get a full understanding of where their employees had recently traveled and who they were in contact with before they arrived for set-up. We did the same for each VIP attendee in addition to Ferrari employees. Once vendors and guests arrived for the event, we had set-up strict Covid procedures to politely ask a few travel related questions, confirm personal data for follow-up, take temperature checks and have them sign a waiver. Guests were given branded masks if they didn't have one and we carefully monitored guests being six feet apart from each other. Overall, instilling confidence to each guest, while providing a clean and safe environment was what we were aiming to achieve.
Jed Weinstein, Founder, Rise & Set
If you’re producing an IRL event: Show you have a plan aka Over Communicate. If you are asking people to join you and your brand at an IRL experience the onus of responsibility is on you to over communicate to ensure people feel safe. What is important here is building trust in the fact that you have been thoughtful in your approach to all the necessary health and safety aspects of your event. Give people ample confidence that you and your team and thought through all the details so they don’t have to worry. Be open, be transparent, communicate more than you think you need to, and invite people to ask questions before they get onsite. Do whatever you can to build trust and earn their confidence.
If you are doing a URL event: Bring the Joy! We all know how difficult it is to create energetic and emotional connection virtually, and by now Zoom fatigue is real. So Asking people to show up to another virtual event is going to be met with some degree of cynicism. Its our responsibility as experience designers to be thinking about how we navigate this. The focus has to be on how you are going to create energy, spark conversation and bring Joy to your virtual experience. Success is in ’taking me out of my bubble’. Transporting me away from my office desk or kitchen table and delivering me to a different emotional place. If I can see and feel the good vibes coming from others at the event I’ll be willing to let go and lean in. Right now that’s gotta be what it's all about.
Jack Bedwani, Global Business Director and Co-Founder, the projects*
Audience centric, always. Covid days or not, we know our goal is to design for our end audience. In the era of virtual events and reimagined experiences, we’re all missing our human connections, lighthearted entertainment and our typical traditions. This summer, behind the My Skin My Way campaign, Venus was able to bring their audience and the fans of their influencers together for a virtual end of summer beach party. We launched a ‘skinclusive’ fashion collection for the avatars of the popular game, Animal Crossing. To celebrate the launch we gathered our influencers on YouTube Live to debut the in-game collection, discuss the line and lead a conversation about inclusivity for women in gaming and beyond. This was mixed with a bit of fun and unscripted banter, allowing our viewers to join us in this special moment — even if we couldn’t be together in-person.
Marie Kelly, SVP – Experiential, GREY
From an agency perspective, ENTER has gone all in on activating pop-up exhibits, shops and galleries each and every week leveraging our owned space on Melrose (Agency) to get us 1-step closer to ultimately executing brand facing / corporate events in the near future. We have put a massive emphasis on honing our skills during this time by leveraging the retail footprint to refine our teams understanding of safety guidelines and ensuring that when things open up we stay ready for those larger activations. I think our single best advice is to stay active because we all know that we work in a highly complex and ever-evolving industry (even before the pandemic) and in order to stay up to speed we're consistently doing the work, week in and week out so that we always remain ahead of the curve.(pun intended ;-)
Zev Norotsky, CEO & Founder, ENTER
Hope for the best but plan for the worst! We recently produced an in-person dinner for Laquan Smith during NYFW and I'd attribute its success to a mix of creative problem solving and detailed planning. As event producers, particularly during this era of Covid risk, we need to constantly be challenging the way things are done, reimagining experiences and the smallest of details, and outlining contingency plans for all number of scenarios. And of course, WEAR A MASK. It's important to lead by example with your teams, and to set the tone with guests.
Chelsey Wayte Kaffka, Founder & CEO, VIjon
Double down on a great video team and make sure that at least two cameras (and lighting!) are included. Capturing meaningful, emotional content is more important than ever.
Bronson Van Wyck, VAN WYCK & VAN WYCK
Regions of the US are approaching safety in different ways. We are all leaders of this new world we are living in – make sure we are leading by example. Build your guidelines and manuals based on the best safety practices and make sure you are open to colleagues' comfort levels.
Justin Swisher, Account Director, MKG
Our industry continues to push the boundaries of experience while navigating through the challenges that Covid presents every day. It has been inspiring to watch my contemporaries pivot in record speed and thoughtfully re-write playbooks.
In the “New Era of Experience” and executing successful activations, programs and events it’s essential to approach each project with a laser focused strategy. Merging both IRL and digital experiences that are highly interactive, connect the audience, cultivate conversation and foster shareable content across multi-disciplinary platforms, will drive the next chapter of brand experience.
Stephanie Kimes, Founder & CEO, OneNine Design
This Fall, I am producing an IRL transformative beauty event for a major fashion magazine who will be co-hosting the program with a renowned MedAesthetics spa in midtown Manhattan. The medi-spa provided emergency hospital beds during the initial peak of the Coronavirus in NYC this past Spring and is set-up to adhere to all Covid-19 compliant guidelines. As a precaution pre-event, attendees will be required to complete and electronically sign pre-screening and consent forms. Upon arrival to the medical spa, guests will be greeted by a nurse who will take their temperatures via touchless infrared thermometers before administering rapid Covid-19 tests. Only guests receiving negative results will be permitted to enter and participate in their pre-scheduled consultations, treatments and spa services. The theme of the program is "getting back to beauty post-quarantine and real-talk about the best non-invasive skin fixes for feeling great this Fall."
Sara Shenasky, Senior Vice President & Executive Producer, Mind Over Madness
Stories At Play, a first-ever content creator forward mastermind retreat was slated for September 2020 came to a complete halt in April 2020. We knew losing our brand sponsors would be detrimental to the already frozen economy so we pivoted Stories At Play into a digital event series where the talent connects with key industry leaders and other peers in the community to tackle challenges as they’re evolving their craft. Instead of our brand sponsor be put on hold, we invited them into the conversation and they became our featured guests. Creators shared with their audience how content is ever-changing, how brands and creators can create impactful conversations and movement during these heavy and trying times. Since we started we've had more than 800 guests, 25 creators, and 16 brands. Check out www.storiesatplay.com as we team up with OutVote to push the needle all the way to Nov 3rd's election.
Tamalin Srisook Polo, Founder & CEO, Savoir Agency
Black Flower Agency
A main objective right now (and always) is simple but important – Listen to your end consumer. What are they looking for? What do they need right now? What their comforts levels are? - When applying this to a virtual event scenario, we noticed the need of guests to feel involved and engaged vs. just another face watching a video screen. One easy but impactful solve for this is to have our celebrity talent call out the guests and address them by name when answering a submitted question in live time. This helps reinforce the personal connection in a virtual medium. When focusing on our return to live – the first IRL event our client American Express held since March – the main need was for consumer safety and comfort. Unlike some other events where we noticed PPE seemed to be an afterthought that had to be tacked on, we went above and beyond in the development and implementation of COVID safety regulations in every production and activation touch point, resulting in overwhelming positive feedback from Card Members and strong interest in attending more live events, specifically from Amex.
Mitch Ramey, Senior Account Director, Black Flower Agency
Our number one tip for running a COVID-era event is for agencies and brands to work even more collaboratively with one another every step of the way. BMF is currently working on an IRL consumer activation with DIESEL that is going live next week, our first IRL event in NYC since March. And now, more than ever, clients are leaning on agency partners for guidance on navigating paradigm shifts that have required them to develop new skill sets overnight. We’re helping clients face these new challenges head-on – whether that’s reimagining IRL activations in ways that are safe, compliant, and mitigate risk, or helping them get smart on virtual event strategies, platforms, and flawless technical execution. From inception through production and amplification, we’re getting creative and delivering more value for our clients in a time when tighter budgets need to deliver ever greater results.
Isaac Norbe, Practice Lead - Experience, BMF