The event industry has faced some major challenges in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Private and corporate event planners have been forced to find creative solutions to safely adapt live events and experiences that have been in the works for months. Curating an interactive, communal, and memorable experience within a safe environment has led to three prominent event trends: Drive-In Events, Virtual Events, and Hybrid Events.
Drive-In Events are exactly what you imagine. It’s the same retro experience your grandparents enjoyed all from the safety of your driver’s seat. Major businesses like Walmart have converted their parking lots into after hours drive-in experiences. Tribeca hosted a series of drive-in viewing experiences across the country. And Live Nation is offering a similar experience for musical acts and concerts.
The formula for these is simple. You arrive at your designated parking area, potentially with room to tailgate, and can watch the show from the comfort of your car while the audio is transmitted through your car radio or massive outdoor speakers.
To add to the experience, drive-ins can offer pre-packaged and sealed dining options that are ordered from a web-based menu and delivered to your vehicle. You can even enjoy classic photo booth experiences from your vehicle.
Recently, LA Photo Party collaborated with CH Cre8tive and The Grove LA for several recent drive-in events, including a fundraiser for The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. Charlize Theron’s organization hosted a celebrity Q&A and screening of her film Mad Max: Fury Road to raise funds and awareness for her organization. We were approached to see what immersive photo experiences we could offer that could be safely executed from the guests’ cars.
“We came up with the drive-thru green screen because we wanted to create a sense of normalcy at events during the pandemic,” said Marc Mulcahey, Senior Producer at CH Cre8tive. “We wanted people to feel safe and comfortable but still be able to get that fun social moment. This was just as important for our guests as it was for our clients. We wanted to help brands find a way to activate with safety and social responsibility. I think each day we move back towards what we see as a normal world however we now know that things can change instantly. For us our daily task is to help our clients connect with people and tell their stories be it through film, tv, activations and social – so the more tools we have in our armory the better!”
The photo booth experience we came up with for this event had a 20 foot green screen to fit the length of the car. After helping the guests park, we instantly composited footage from the film as if they were racing through the iconic dystopian desert scene.
We had three options available for sharing: RFID, QR Code, and Bar Code.
RFID sharing involves giving the guest a bracelet or card with a chip that has their personal information stored in it (including email, phone number, and social media channels). Once scanned at a kiosk, the guests could instantly share their photo at a kiosk without having to come into contact with surfaces that were used by multiple people.
QR Code and Bar Code sharing provide the guest with a card that is scanned before the photo experience. Once their experience is finished, they’re given this card with a link to a personal microsite that they can visit to receive their photo, gif, or video, instantly.
Drive-In events can also allow for engagement with digital mosaics. Guests can take photos from their phone and post them to social media using designated hashtags. These hashtags pull those images from social media and instantly insert them into a larger photo mosaic that can be streamed live at the event. It can also create contest modes that reward users for sharing their experience. All of which promotes engagement and community simultaneously.
Virtual events are taking the industry by storm. For obvious reasons, this is the safest option for event producers to employ while the pandemic looms, but they also come with many benefits. They allow attendees to save on travel costs yet continue to stay involved from the comfort of their own home.The flip side is that they often are diluted by distractions (be it your pet, family, your phone, etc.) and suffer from a loss of community.
To compensate, event organizers are adjusting these virtual experiences to have face-to-face video conferencing embedded into corporate events, live streaming experiences with chat integration, and digital dance parties. Organizations like Experiential Marketing Summit are even offering virtual child care solutions while attending the virtual events!
Virtual photo booths are also on the rise. These photo booth experiences allow guests to visit a web-based photo booth and take photos or upload existing photos to the site to generate a branded photo or GIF. These booths have instant AI background removal that doesn’t require a green screen. Once finished, guests can instantly share and download their output. This spring we saw a lot of graduations go virtual and outfitted them with a virtual ceremony complete with digital mosaic wall to add a community experience to the event. You can track shares and valuable analytics as well to get a bird’s eye view of the entire event.
Similar to drive-in events, virtual events also can utilize digital mosaic options that extract photos posted to social media with a specific hashtag to add to a live-streaming mosaic. These mosaics encourage engagements as each photo contributes to a collaborative finished product.
The title probably gives it away, but a hybrid event is a combination of both an in-person and virtual event. The future for the event industry may be forever changed by the ongoing pandemic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Some speculate that once it’s safe to return to live-events that most companies will stay virtual. Others think virtual events will die off entirely. We think it’s actually going to be both. Hence… hybr- you get it.
The virtual solutions brought about during this time have proven to the industry that sustainable, engaging solutions are not only available, they are successful. This means that future events can still be hosted in-person, yet exceed the normal attendance by providing an additional virtual experience.
Imagine an event at the scale of San Diego Comic Con, which draws thousands of attendees each year, continuing to host their celebrity panels but also providing a virtual experience that allows for twice as many viewers to watch online from all over the world. People in-person get to enjoy the immediacy of seeing the experience before them but the virtual option also includes a wider audience to share in the exclusivity of the event.
The important thing is that both experiences are high quality and work seamlessly together. For instance, you could create a combination of classic live photo booth experiences along with an online virtual photo booth experience with a digital mosaic to bring all the images together. You could also integrate the same custom-built augmented reality filters so guests could enjoy high-end graphics from their phone and at the in-person photo booth.
Sanitary sharing options will also need to be at the ready. RFID, QR Code, and Bar Code sharing methods can keep guests from encountering multiple surfaces and provide streamlined sharing so guests can stay safe during large in-person events.
Soooooo…. What does this mean?
The landscape for the event industry is as pliable as always, but now allows planners and vendors to structure events to optimize the safety of their guests with the resources readily available to them. And events are going to likely continue to utilize virtual solutions long into the future.
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Cheers to a great event.