Events for the OnDemand Age


It's 2011 and no one waits for anything any longer, so as event organisers we have to recognise what's changing and adapt what we are doing to engage and inspire the audiences of today.

The current generation pause live TV, fast forward ads, enjoy endless reruns of their favourite tv shows on satellite, cable and using iPlayer. On demand TV and movie services increasingly mean they can watch what you want when you want to watch it, with no effort or patience needed. They can listen to and watch their favourite music artists anytime on YouTube. They can skip through every clip because the timeline is there for them to see. 

They consume media in a totally different way. Most teens will watch TV while doing something else as well as having their laptop or smartphone to communicate with friends and stay connected using BBM on the Blackberry or text, MSN or Facebook. Even older people are enjoying live shows like X-Factor or Strictly Come Dancing more because they are sharing the experience online with hundreds or thousands of other people through Twitter or Facebook groups. The experts warn about this Divided Attention Disorder or "DAD", others forecast that it is the beginning of the next phase of our evolution.

Whatever the future holds, this on demand age means people get what they want when they want it.

Whst does this mean for event producers?

There are some very specific challenges or solutions we are enjoying:

1. Shorter attention span. So presentations have to be shorter and tighter with more engagement. If the format is about "telling" a message with an onstage presenter, then use supporting media (PowerPoint) in an entertaining way. People are used to knowing where they are navigating to on the web or how much longer their YouTube clip is, so use graphics, lighting effects, the stage set or clever scripting to keep them informed, they will be more engaged.

2. Multimedia. Video is everywhere. Short clips are on thre web are in today's latest digital magazines, are on your phone, in TV ad breaks and everywhere online. Video in presentations no longer means expensive, time consuming, lengthy productions. It can be used generated content, endorsements, adecdotes, humourous or informative clips or specially commissioned pieces. The key is to include a variety of media in a presentation to vary the style and make it more engaging ad memorable.

3. Hybrid Events. Creating a live event for a live audience while simultaneously broadcasting across the web to a wider audience. The of the technology is completely natural to more and more people. If you can find a clip on YouTube, you can sign into a Hybrid event online.

4. Backchannel. Enabling the audience to communicate with the presenters, organisers and other audience members. Already unofficially widespread on Twitter and Facebook and easily embraced for live events.

5. New dinner formats. Fewer and fewer people are prepared to sit at a function making polite conversation with the people they have been chosen to sit next to until they end of dinner. They want to get up and move, to network. This is not restricted to the younger generation, this trend is widespread and we have to adapt the format of our seating and evening running orders to take it into account.

6. Photographs. We photograph events and sometime later will upload the photos to a website for everyone to enjoy. The need for this to be faster is fuelled by facebook photo tagging. While embracing this, we can also celebrate the fact that almost everyone now has a good quality camera on their phone or in their pocket and are capturing your event through their own eyes. By tapping into that bigger pool of photos there is a much wider view of the event to be shared.

7. Crowdsourcing. Perhaps the most important thing to embrace and yet the most difficult, is to let the audience decide, let them create, let them get involved in making the event their own. Let them conttribute content, choose menus and everything else.

We're excited about this demanding age and the opportunities it presents, what do you think?


Alan Wight