Asia Pacific Singapore Updates

Five ways to reinvent the event experience

Marketing experts discuss omni-channel engagement and event festivalisation at ITB Asia.

This year’s ITB Asia saw a record 49 per cent increase in MICE and corporate buyers at the trade show (17-19 October), with a staggering 25,000 business appointments booked. More than 1,000 exhibitors also took part in the event, marking a 7.7 per cent increase from last year’s show.

Amid a busy conference programme, one panel discussion stood out among the rest: How to reinvent the event experience in today’s crowded marketplace.

Moderated by Melissa Lou, co-founder of Singapore event planning start-up, Delegate, panellists from Indochine Media, Peatix, and co-working behemoth, WeWork, shared their experiences and thoughts on how brands can engage event attendees with more immersive, authentic experiences.

Here are the top five take-aways:

Find a common cause
When online ticketing site Peatix launched in 2011 shortly after the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, an outpour of communities was trying to get together to help with recovery efforts. Using an online platform, people were able to reach out to others and raise awareness of ongoing efforts. According to Peatix Asia marketing manager, Michelle Leong, finding a common cause or mission will help people identify with their communities, thus building stronger brand loyalty.

Meanwhile, WeWork Southeast Asia’s regional marketing director, Daren Goh, believes that building spaces and services around a community is key. “People are our products. We want to help create a life, not just a living. Our spaces are built to enable cohesions and collaborations. Our walkways, for example, are designed a little narrower so that people have to pass by each other, but not in an uncomfortable way. From an events point of view, we build a platform to empower people to do what they believe in. It attracts like-minded people, which often builds a community,” he says.

Know your audience
For Peatix’s Leong, the festivalisation of events means bringing different genres together, which stems from catering to the different ways people capture information. Are they audio, visual or kinaesthetic learners? Leong says event planners should leverage and blend different mediums and formats to maximise brand interactions.

In one example, Peatix asked event registrants to select the top three things they are passionate about or would like to talk about at an event. Using this information, Peatix was able to populate and print key words onto their attendees’ badges, which helped delegates identify those with similar interests, break the ice, and encourage conversations.

Ensure rich content
Coming up with content ideas can be challenging in a competitive marketplace. Indochine Media’s marketing director, Natasha Damodaran, gets inspiration from her audience and what they want to know. Beyond fashion and beauty, she says readers often comment on hard-hitting news stories. She says organising talks around news topics helps to enrich the conversation and engage audiences in a new way.

She adds: “Our audience are mostly millennials, who are always one step ahead of things and well-versed with what’s happening around the world, so it is important to build events of a certain calibre. They are not interested in just partying the night away. They want to learn and take away something too.”

Localise the experience
When hosting events in various markets, WeWork’s Goh cautions that discussion topics must always be put into a local context, so event planners need to be mindful of customs and interests.

With the convergence of multidisciplinary programming (which marries online and offline channels, commerce and creativity, education and entertainment) events like TEDx, South by South West, RISE Conference, and InnovFest Unbound, are transforming the event experience through festivalisation.

Damodaran says Indochine is predominately online and therefore the brand benefits from hosting live events. “[Events] help give our readers an actual, tangible way to connect with the brand in a physical setting.” Damodaran blends a modern venue with food, drink and live DJs to create the right ‘vibe’ in order to keep the audience engaged.

At WeWork’s annual summer camp, staff from all over the globe fly to London for three days, with free-flowing food and drinks. Part fun and part educational, the event keeps attendees engaged and energised. Members can join on the last day with a nominal fee. To up the ante this year, the summer camp featured a talk from American-Indian author, Deepak Chopra.

In a crowded marketplace where brands vie for attention, events are becoming more personal and with deeper human connection. These tips can help transform cookie-cutter event experiences into lasting legacies.