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Brand Strategy Events Live Events

3 ways to enhance event performance through digital transformation

By Zara Kerwood, Creative Technology Director

George P. Johnson


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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April 21, 2023 | 7 min read

Digital transformation isn’t just about tech, says Zara Kerwood of George P. Johnson – it’s about changing how we do business. Here’s what that means for the world of live events.

A live event featuring a large digital screen

How is digital transformation impacting the live events industry? / Teemu Paananen via Unsplash

As MIT’s George Westerman has said, “Digital capability empowers organizations to not only enhance existing processes and products but improve or even create new business models.”

But it’s a myth that digital transformation is all about technology. It isn’t. Digital transformation is about changing the way we do business.

It’s a continuous process in which organizations analyze evolving customer needs and expectations, and find ways to deliver on them. With technology.

Meanwhile, events have always had a special place in marketers’ arsenals, unparalleled for their ability to forge deep relationships through shared experience, bringing people together and creating rich storytelling and educational moments that drive people to action. As we go through digital transformations in the events industry, brands must strive to enhance the unique aspects of live events while seeking to positively influence effectiveness in our communication and efficiency in our operations.

Here are three ways events can be enhanced through digital transformation, and a look at the technologies that are helping do it.

1. Extending reach

Two challenges of in-person experiences are limited capacity, and the need to travel. The rise of virtual events has brought new tools that allow brands to unify in-person and virtual experiences and leverage the power of live events globally. Whether it’s simply broadcasting a keynote or giving exclusive access to content, this approach has transformed events forever.

Creating memorable shared experiences virtually still needs to be mastered; some of the nuances of in-person are difficult to imitate. But with the evolution of immersive technologies, virtual and hybrid experiences are becoming more and more effective.

There are brilliant platforms out there, driving a new wave of virtual events and creating new venues in which to bring experiences to life.

The likes of Journee, Spatial, Arthur, and Roblox all offer different features that help drive different outcomes. Two examples that really pushed the boundaries and reached global audiences in compelling ways were the Stellantis 2022 hybrid metaverse experience for CES and BMW’s 2023 experience on the Journee platform. Both adapted to the challenge of lower attendance numbers in person and exploited their assets through unified, hybrid experiences, ensuring that they enhanced event performance.

2. Relationship building

To deliver value to customers in every interaction, brands need to understand their audiences and their needs. By doing so, they can establish stronger relationships.

It’s important to explore how technology can help gain a more comprehensive understanding of the audience, enabling brands to shape relationships and improve event performance. Technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping us gain a more accurate understanding of audience segments and individuals. Brands can use this to build strong relationships and deliver targeted communications.

IBM used the approach of gathering data about attendees to tailor experiences based on audience needs, helping them deliver value to every attendee and creating better opportunities to build stronger relationships with customers along the way.

As IBM’s Colleen Bisconti said, “We created 30,000 attendee experiences versus one experience for 30,000 attendees. And the second we start thinking about it that way, and the second we start to really put ourselves in the place of the attendee, we make better decisions, and the data just helps us to do that.”

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3. Richer storytelling

Events have always been a territory for rich, in-depth storytelling; for being places where brands can take advantage of captive audiences. Digital techniques are transforming storytelling in events, allowing greater interactivity and persistence – taking communication to a new level.

We can learn a lot from the blossoming community of extended reality (XR) content creators working across film, experiential and TV. A recent showcase of the world’s top immersive content at SXSW 2023 showed that despite some of the negative press around the metaverse, there’s a lot to be encouraged by.

The David Attenborough Green Planet AR experience powered by EE is an innovative combination of physical, real-world sets and augmented reality layers that helped this TV show come to life in an in-person setting, with a level of craftsmanship that helped create moments that moved audiences.

Technology can be a powerful tool to help us improve event performance. But to have the biggest impact, brands should stay focused on the unique outcomes that events can deliver, looking to enhance them, not change them.

Brand Strategy Events Live Events

Content by The Drum Network member:

George P. Johnson

George P. Johnson is the world’s leading experiential marketing agency. We power brand experiences by enabling marketers to benefit from integrated experiential...

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