Opinion: Prestige is worthless if events don’t innovate

Innovation has saved events around the world, from London Fashion Week to dog shows in America. Here’s why everyone planning events should be looking ahead:

I’ve always followed London Fashion Week, paying particular attention to the shows that stand out the most, like the ‘UFO’ runway at Anya Hindmarch’s display last year. For me, London Fashion Week is one of the best examples of how sublime event activation can be the difference between being “another good show”, or the designer’s name on everyone’s lips. High stakes.

Part of the reason the logistics around London Fashion Week are so good is because the show has seen what happens if it becomes slack. A recent article in Vogue details the 2002 exodus, where several high-profile British designers elected to show at Paris instead. As a result, London Fashion Week was in dire straits. This was caused, in part, by a lack of differentiation between it and events in other countries. There was always a risk someone would fancy a trip to Paris and think “why not?”

Vogue’s piece details the various ways The British Fashion Council responded to create a strong identity for London Fashion Week. However, what stood out most to me was how a focus was placed on making it as easy as possible for everyone involved with London Fashion Week. Shows ran on time and better scheduling made for a seamless experience. Finally, it invested in streaming, turning London’s offering into a worldwide show.

Event logistics is one of those things that’s often only noticeable if it’s going disastrously wrong. But Vogue’s article is a ringing endorsement for why even the most prestigious events in the world must ensure their planning and activation are as good as they can possibly be. The audience experience is so important for events, with surprise and delight entertainment being the order of the day. Event organisers need to give people a reason to keep coming back for more.

This doesn’t just apply to world-famous consumer-facing events either. Back in 2014 Pfizer decided its annual Innovation Conference needed some innovation of its own. Delegates were sent in groups around Manhattan to track down people holding white umbrellas. They were then taken to the offices at places like Google to show how these companies approached innovation. By changing the pace of its format, Pfizer energised staff and got them actively thinking how they could push their industry forward, rather than just sitting bored through dry key-note presentations.

Even something as simple as a live stream can be transformative and bring a global audience to your event. Unsurprisingly it’s something the video game and tech industries often do well. But smaller events have also made fantastic use of it. The AKC National Championship (an American dog show) placed a huge emphasis on facilitating live-streaming every aspect of the event to grow its audience. The results was a huge jump in online viewers. Going from 1.3 million viewers in 2012 to 6.2 million viewers in 2016, its most recent show. That’s a staggering 377% increase in people watching dogs prance around.

And when it all goes wrong? Last year’s smash hit game Pokemon Go had its first ‘festival’ earlier this year in Chicago. It was a disaster. The game, for those who need a refresher, uses mobile data and your phone’s camera to make the titular Pokemon appear in front of you, letting you battle and capture them. The festival promised various challenges and the appearance of highly-desirable and rare Pokemon. Problem is, the game crashed all day. A combination of phone networks struggling with the amount of data and the Pokemon Go servers being overwhelmed saw many leave bitterly disappointed and out of pocket. The company had to issue wide refunds and offer in-game compensation for attendees. It was an embarrassing situation and could have been avoided by adequately preparing for the day.

But, that’s a sad note to end on. I’m going to track down that AKC puppy stream. You know, for research…

Hayley Lawrence is Managing Director at Brand & Deliver

Image: Kris Atomic on Unsplash