Our founder and CEO, Freddie Georges, was recently featured in a webinar hosted by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and moderated by Amanda Samaan of Revolver PR, where she discussed FG|PG’s pivot strategy into the virtual event world.
During this discussion, she touched on “The Three E’s” (Experiential + Engagement = Entertainment), the foundation on which all successful events are built.
This week, we’d like to explore these concepts in-depth, and why each is critical in the successful strategic planning of any event, whether in-person, virtual, or a hybrid of both.
Experiential – The Why and Who
“Why are you hosting this event?” and “Who is your audience?”
The term experiential can be a bit enigmatic. By definition, the word is used to describe something “relating to, derived from, or providing an experience.” As arguably the most foundational of the Three E’s, the most tangible way to frame it when conceptualizing an event would be to think of it as tying together the why and who behind the event.
Whether you are introducing a new product to the consumer market or want to bring a specific group of people together to discuss/debate a particular issue, it’s important to keep your goals and objectives at the forefront of every decision to make, starting with why the event should take place at all. An event, after all, cannot exist without a purpose.
Specific to the perspective of events, the main purpose of experiential is to establish emotional connections and relationships between the audience and a brand’s products and/or services, by taking the brand and presenting in a tangible form that attendees can interact directly with.
When conceptualizing an event, keeping a clear focus on the event’s purpose should be at the core. At the end of the day, the key is to keep your attendees fully immersed in the experience.
As you go through the planning process, you’ll find yourself having to make a lot of decisions; these can be as broad as where to host your event, or as detailed as what color tablecloths to use for your registration tables. In many cases, an event’s success is typically determined by the attention to detail; the most successfully captured details are often rooted in their ties back to the purpose of the event.
In tandem with the “why” of an event, it is equally important to focus on the “who”: namely, your audience/attendees. After all, events at their most basic are a gathering together of people, right? Many of your decisions for why to host an event will likely be determined by what you want your attendees to get out of it.
Having a clear definition of the “why” for your event and narrowing or broadening the of the “who” the event is aimed at will ultimately guide the experience that attendees have. A music festival and a medical conference might be conceptualized based on vastly different goals/objectives, but the planning and execution of these types of events boil down to the same reason: they are both aimed to establish a tangible relationship between the brand and the audience that lives on after the event is over.
Engagement – The How
How will your audience interact at and/or with your event?
Once you’re able to confidently identify the experience you are ultimately trying to create with your event, the next step would be to consider what your method of engagement is, or how to get your audience physically involved.
There are generally two main categories of engagement you can employ for an event: passive and active. Passive engagement is a one-sided activity where the audience simply watches and listens, such as a lecture or keynote presentation. On the flip side, active engagement employs direct interactivity between the event and the audience.
Types of engagement can vary as broadly as your audience, and events can include multiple/various kinds of engagement. Choosing what kind of engagement is best for your event is not an either/or situation, as many successful events employ both types of engagement. For example, large technology trade shows often include an exhibit hall where attendees can demo the latest gadgets before they hit the market (active) as well as watch panel discussions between industry leaders (passive).
When deciding on the type of engagement for your event, just like with deciding what type of experience you want to create, keeping your goals and objectives at top of mind is critical. It’s important to keep in mind that choosing your event’s type of engagement is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and no one type of engagement is generally better than the other. An interactive walk-through maze with life-sized scenic elements and flashy LED screens—though visually appealing and highly creative—might not translate as well at an academic summit as it would at, say, a promotional event for a new movie release.
Entertainment – The What
Now that you’ve narrowed down the why, who, and how of your event, it’s time to start thinking about what is going to elevate your event: entertainment.
What is going to set your event apart from others like it? What about your event is going to keep your audience talking, or even come back for more in the future? What will create brand evangelism?
In general, when we think of something as entertaining, it generally refers to something that piques curiosity and holds interest; this is no different when it comes to events. Without entertainment, gamification, and edutainment, an event would have nothing to keep the audiences engaged in the experience.
Much like an action movie with lots of explosions and fight scenes might not be considered entertaining to someone who prefers romantic comedies with more heart and humor, entertainment at an event can come in many shapes and forms and can mean many different things to different people, so knowing your audience is key.
For example, if you’re developing a virtual event for medical professionals, a gamified virtual world experience that requires your attendees to build avatars and earn points going through each “level” of your event is not likely to hold your attendee’s interests as much as a simple web-based experience that allows them to simply click-through pre-recorded panel discussions with life-like computer-generated simulations that demo new, cutting-edge surgical equipment.
Events are as unique and diverse as the people they are meant to bring together, but they are all elementally formulated with the same foundational building blocks. Much like humans need air, water, and food to survive and thrive, an event cannot exist or succeed without experiential, engagement, or entertainment. In creating your event on the foundation of The Three E’s, your event’s success can be as boundless as the imagination and creativity that bring it to life, and what we have now discovered is the experiences can be just as dynamic virtually as in the physical space.