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For this weeks guest blog, we hear from the Marketing Communications Manager at Plot. Richard Saxe Coulson talks us through his hopes on the future of festivals, conferences and other events post-pandemic.

What does Plot look like to you post-COVID?

We don’t necessarily think that COVID will ever be completely eradicated. Therefore, it is imperative to help event professionals better navigate the current environment. This means implementing clear and concise messaging regarding vaccination and testing requirements once governmental institutions allow for large gatherings to occur.

There will always be a subset of the general population who don’t follow the rules, don’t adhere to the guidelines, and won’t get vaccinated. These might very well be the same people trying to get into events and festivals and there is always the chance that someone might be carrying a new variant or strain of COVID that the vaccines don’t protect against. Therefore COVID might be here to stay and that just means being better equipped to mitigate the risks, as well as working with our clients to present clear messaging to ticket buyers that they are doing just that.

How do you expect to see events evolve in light of COVID-19?

We don’t really see much success as far as festivals are concerned when it comes to virtual events and live streams but this has been much easier to implement for conferences and more business-oriented events. This is because, oftentimes, conferences are utilized for networking and discussion panels whereas festivals are more face to face social interaction.

However, we do think that in light of COVID-19, event organizers have been seeking out the latest technology and looking into how to effectively host virtual and hybrid events for the first time. Some of the larger festivals could look towards hosting hybrid events to reach a wider audience while keeping both attendance and costs down.

How do you think festival partners can help to make the events more COVID-secure?

We recently spoke with a startup that had designed an app that offers facial recognition and canverify that attendees tested negative within 48 hours. There is also an RFID wristband company that has introduced a way to monitor body temperature. We’ve also seen disinfecting stations as well as rapid testing systems that can be utilised on-site at events.

We think eventually once more people get vaccinated, there will be a way to verify someone has been vaccinated prior to purchasing a ticket to an event. This is something we are looking at integrating with Plot.

What do you think of the potentiality of onsite, rapid testing? Do you have any theories or suggestions as to how this could work?

As stated earlier, there are a couple of apps that are being launched and tested to work for venues and smaller events soon. It will be very difficult to mitigate the spread of Covid through onsite and rapid testing, due to those standing in the queue and not following social distancing guidelines before getting tested.

If there were social distancing rules in place, mask mandates, and rapid testing, then that can further mitigate the risk of spreading Covid. We think, however, it would be much more feasible if vaccination requirements were in place in addition to rapid, onsite testing. Then one would need proof of vaccination prior to purchasing a ticket to the event and then would also need to test negative at the event as an extra layer of precaution.

What does a world look like without festivals or live music?

The world is quite drab and boring without festivals or live music. Music is ubiquitous and has been prevalent since the dawn of our existence. Fortunately, current technology allows us to listen to music without it having to be live but nothing can replace the experience of dancing along with your mates at a concert or festival. Human beings need social interaction and live music – festivals are the biggest catalysts for just that.

What communication strategies can be adopted to rebuild the trust of event-goers?

From what we’ve seen from events thus far, there isn’t enough clear communication regarding how events will happen safely this year or even next year. Many events have stated that they will adhere to governmental guidelines without stating what those guidelines might be. So, surely there can be better communication to rebuild the trust of event-goers.

There needs to be some sort of a checklist in place as to how events will take place safely. Social distancing and mask mandates aren’t very well-enforced and the main draw of a concert or festival is social interaction, so it doesn’t make sense to put on a festival or concert while limiting people from being social. You also can’t eat or drink with a mask on and it can be difficult enough to carry a conversation when loud music is blasting in the background without a mask, let alone with one on.

It is essential to have hand-washing stations, temperature checks, on-site rapid testing facilities, additional medical and EMT staff, properly trained security and volunteers, and vaccination requirements as well. This all needs to be properly listed and communicated via all marketing messaging including on the festival or event’s website, social media channels, and e-mail communication. This can also be communicated via mail if wristbands are sent out this way.

It is also necessary to provide information for testing facilities and also how one can go about receiving the vaccination within their local area. In addition to all this, travel information and restrictions should also be properly communicated. Whether there are any mandatory quarantines in place at the time, what the visa requirements are, and any other restrictions in place.

What software developments would you like to see from a ticketing provider to help restart the event industry?

Ticketing providers need to purvey clear and concise information. This could include refund and roll-over policies as well as whether or not there are vaccination and testing requirements in place for events – all before one purchases a ticket.

What’s the key to holding a successful virtual event? How does this differ from in-person events?

The key to holding a successful virtual event is to make it as interactive as possible. This could be adding an element of gamification or allowing for more than just a simple chat function.

You are never going to be able to replace the in-person experience of a festival in a virtual way as it strips away the key element of in-person, up-close, personal interactions.

Do you think there’s a future in hybrid events? What might this entail?

We certainly think there is a future in hybrid events. At first, it will be more pertaining to conferences, where those at the conference can interact with those at home and discussion panels and lectures can be broadcasted to the conference from all around the world.

We see the hybrid nature of a music and experience-based festival being used for a different purpose, which is to engage next year attendees, create a back catalogue of premium gated content and act as a lead and data capture exercise.

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Richard Saxe Coulson and Christian Hill have been working attending, covering, and working alongside festivals in the US, UK, and around the world for over 10 years now.

Christian Hill has acted as the co-founder and managing director of Project Simply and helped elevate the digital experience for festivals such as Lightopia, Rhythm & Waves, Africa Oye, Highest Point, Parklife, Snowbombing, Love Supreme, Sundown, and many others.

Christian and his team created Plot which creates successful, quick to market and affordable websites for festivals, conferences and events.


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