How festivalisation is reshaping corporate event management

Many of today's delegates have "been there, done that".

Your delegates are attending numerous corporate events every year - some for decades already. To hold their attention and keep your events at the top of their priorities, it's imperative you innovate to meet - and exceed - delegate expectations. As such, some corporate event planners are looking to the tools of the B2C events sector, such as festivalisation.

By addressing delegates as consumers, planners disrupt the traditional business conference and blur the lines between work and play for the better. In this article, we'll examine what the growing trend of festivalisation is and what it can bring to your next corporate event.

What is festivalisation in corporate event management?

Festivalisation embraces radical welcome and celebrates the delegate as a participant - not an onlooker.

Festivals are a long-standing fixture in B2C events, providing opportunities for consumers to engage with countless brands and entertainment within a single space. Now, they represent a rapidly growing trend within the B2B events sphere, most notably stemming from the interdisciplinary celebration at the South by Southwest Conference & Festival (SXSW).

When corporate events are structured as festivals, the scales tilt slightly further from function, to fun. Festivals focus on multi-day experiences, integrating professional development with entertainment. The overall goal of festivalisation is to embrace radical welcome, create a prolonged immersive experience and celebrate the delegate as a participant - not an onlooker. 

As we recently discussed in our coverage of SXSW 2019, convergence represents the way forward for corporate event management - and festivalisation presents a wonderful opportunity to explore this to its fullest. Via cross-pollination of industries and blurring the lines between business and celebration, corporate event designers are compelled to consider how they can broaden and enrich the delegate experience.

In part, this is driven by changing expectations of today's delegates. With the millennial generation representing a greater share of the workforce and consumer base, delegates have grown to place greater value on experiences and shareable social media moments, according to a Harris group survey. Add to this the role convergent technologies already play in delegates' constantly connected, globalised lives, and it becomes apparent that there's a lot to be gained by creating festivalised corporate event experiences.

Incorporating interdisciplinary experiences and entertainment into your corporate events reshapes the delegate experience.

Incorporating interdisciplinary experiences and entertainment into your corporate events reshapes the delegate experience.

The benefits of corporate event festivalisation

Festivalisation is more than just a trend. Done right, it has the potential to bring a number of unique benefits to your next corporate event.

A richer delegate experience

Many corporate event designers aim to closely analyse and predetermine the delegate journey - something which is considerably limited by a festivalised programme. However, this is something that can and should be embraced. By allowing the delegate to make choices which steer them off the predetermined path, corporate event organisers produce a broader scope of variety within the delegate journey. In bestowing the agency to design one's own journey, we welcome the delegate as a participant, not just an audience member.

Engaging the host city

Festivals can be a considerable asset to their host city, inviting corporate event organisers to think more broadly about where their event is held. Rather than just being about specific venues, the whole city - infrastructure, culture and narrative - can form a symbiotic relationship with a festival, wherein the event promotes the city and vice versa. This also adds to the delegate experience, encouraging them to explore new playgrounds and experience a destination as a local might.

Fostering community

In welcoming delegates to a host city's own community and encouraging social interactions throughout the festival, there's even greater scope for creating a community of delegates. The result of this is a deeper, more personal connection between delegates and your event, and thereby a healthy boost to word-of-mouth marketing. As delegates continue to the search for social media moments, creating a sense of community encourages their tendency to share and advocate.

Festivalisation helps to highlight the locale, foster community and give more agency to your delegates.

Festivalisation helps to highlight the locale, foster community and give more agency to your delegates.

Key considerations for successful corporate event festivalisation

It's clear festivalisation has significant benefits for corporate event management and delegate experience. That said, any unique programme comes with its own set of challenges to be considered. Before diving head-first into a festivalisation strategy, understand these five essentials to drive corporate event success.

  1. Authenticity: Don't be flashy for the sake of it. Your festival programme must still be analytically designed with respect to your corporate event goals and delegate demands. Each decision needs to be deliberate, relevant and genuine.
  2. Duty of care: Managing duty of care is relatively simple with a single venue and rigid event structure. In a festival however, there are more safety and security aspects to be considered, particularly in unfamiliar overseas host cities. Both local regulations and delegate safety must be carefully examined.
  3. Underpinning technology: Make the most of event technology to enhance your festivalisation strategy. With wider-spread touch points it's harder to measure delegate response. A strong investment in corporate event technology provides valuable performance data and assists delegates in planning for and navigating your event.
  4. Infrastructure strain: Understand the potential strain your corporate event could place on local infrastructure, accommodation and transport. As a festival grows in attendance, it becomes important to take measures to reduce disruption to locals.
  5. Scope: By nature, festivalised events can more intense greater corporate event management. Consider bringing in external event professionals as an extension to your team to coordinate the various aspects of your festival.

Festivalisation of corporate events can be a powerful method to attract, engage and reward delegates when done right. If you're ready to push your event beyond the ballroom, get in touch with the corporate event management experts at cievents today.

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