What’s next for live events?

live streaming jargon buster
Live Streaming Jargon Buster
14th November 2019

Suddenly, streaming is the only option

The shift of everyday life online happened almost overnight.

We flocked to Zoom and Houseparty to salvage some form of normality. Cheap and easy, they’re a quick solution when we’re desperately looking for a way to continue. Fitness classes, birthday parties, schooling, doctors appointments – there’s a video call for everything.

No industry was left untouched. As the worldwide events calendar was cancelled and production crews were dispersed, it was time to get creative.

From Graham Norton and Saturday Night Takeaway, to the National Theatre and music gigs, video calling has taken on a whole new precedence.

So what’s next for live events?

Saturday Night Takeaway Virtual
Ant and Dec host Saturday Night Takeaway remotely
Graham Norton interviews remotely
Graham Norton interviews remotely

One World Together At Home

The One World Together campaign, kick-started by Lady Gaga, bought us stripped-back performances from the globes biggest stars.

Lockdown allowed a history-making line-up of the likes we’ve never seen before. With schedules, locations and travel no longer an issue, a united cause to fight for, and the technology to make it happen, it was a much-needed lift for an isolated world.

Transported straight into celebrities’ homes, we got a unique insight behind usually closed doors. The sometimes rushed, often amateur filming, inconsistent sound and jarring transitions didn’t matter. In fact, the just-jamming-on-my-phone-at-home vibe was part of the charm. It helped the artists connect and relate to the audience, the clear message – we’re all in this together.

But if we’re all honest, it wasn’t a great production in real-world measurement. Take this show out of the global pandemic context and it would have been hailed ‘a bit of a mess’.

The Rolling Stones perform remotely, together

Bongo’s Bingo

Bongo’s Bingo is another interesting example. A sell-out bingo/rave which, honestly, can’t be put into words that convey the electric atmosphere, crazy antics and downright absurdity of the real event.

With all shows cancelled overnight, the brave hosts took their game-come-club-night live on Twitch. Broadcasting twice a week for free to loyal fans who can win 90’s themed prizes and let their hair down at home. Racking up tens of thousands of viewers for each broadcast and a mammoth social media following. A genius idea to keep them in the spotlight and ensure ticket sales resume as soon as the pandemic is over.

However, look a little closer and it’s not very hard to see cracks. The production is clunky, with huge gaps in content, technical errors and questionable rules. Anyone who’s been to the real thing will instinctively know the online version doesn’t come close. It lacks spontaneity, excitement, unpredictability. Its popularity is entirely contextual.

Bongo Bingo live from home
Bongo’s Bingo streamed live from home

Expectations and standards have dropped

Here’s the thing. In our haste to keep calm and carry on, standards have been compromised. People have lowered their expectations because they’re desperate to cling to their former lives. ‘We’re all in this together!’ we scream at the screen. Who cares if it’s shoddy? How comforting it feels that everybody is in the same position.

In the last few weeks I’ve:

  1. Watched a silent, fuzzy Andy Burnham for around 4 minutes before he managed to unmute his mic.
  2. Marvelled as the ‘Head of Innovation’ at a very well known company swore with his face pressed up against the screen because he thought the webcam wasn’t working.
  3. Become intimately acquainted with many a person’s double-chin and nostrils as we meet through the awkward, unflattering up-angle of laptop webcams.
  4. Been distracted by disappearing body parts flickering in and out of view as presenters fidget about in front of their virtual green screen.

Talk about a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’. Not for nothing has the brand new term ‘Zoom Fatigue’ entered our vocabulary in just 6 short weeks.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Needs must! We’ve done what we need to survive. Without this technology, the entire world would have come to a grinding halt with no glimmer of hope. No doubt we’ll look back on these virtual moments with fondness. Safe in the knowledge we’ve seen the inside of every colleagues’ and celebrity home of course.

Zoom fatigue is real

Are we condemned to live online?

So what happens next? Does this mark a turning point in day-to-day life being run solely via webcam? Are we destined to watch our favourite artists perform via video call? Networking only via chatroom?

The BBC reported this week that up to 67% of people believe virtual meetings will replace some or all of their business trips or meetings.

One legacy of the lockdown will be a huge jump in awareness and willingness to embrace virtual options. People have realised that actually, they can be productive and work from home. It is possible to have flexible working hours and still do your job. It isn’t always necessary to be in the same room to experience a meaningful connection.

A shift in attitude like this normally takes years. The benefits could be huge. Perhaps the most exciting could be a positive impact on the environment. A reduction in commuting, short journeys and unnecessary travel for work. A wake-up call to every business that there are viable online alternatives to host more sustainable events.

But… ‘If somebody tells a joke, and nobody is around to hear it, was it actually funny?’

We’re all hoping we’re on the home stretch of lockdown. But the reality is, events as we know it will not be business as usual for months, if not years to come.

Social distancing, capped gatherings, travel disruption and low consumer confidence will continue to impact on physical events. Crippled budgets will mean cautious spending. The realisation that so much can, and has, been achieved remotely will be fresh in our minds. Many in the events industry will be struggling to see how they fit into this ‘new normal’.

However, all is not lost.

This quote from a recent BBC article exploring how live shows are coping without a studio audience, sums up perfectly the sentiment.

Without real people together in a room – an audience, a panel, a band – there is a loss of life and energy. It’s this element that makes live content so compelling.

The beauty of real, physical human interaction cannot, and will not, be replaced. It might be temporarily substituted whilst we face a global pandemic that challenges our core existence but virtual communication will always remain second best.

When the pandemic is over, people will crave physical events. They’ll appreciate them more than ever before.

Crowd enjoying the atmosphere at live music gig
Crowd enjoying the atmosphere at a live music gig

What’s next for the events industry?

September is widely being hailed as back-to-business in the events industry, but many businesses still need convincing of this. The uncertainty makes it difficult to plan ahead, people are rightly hesitant to commit budgets and resource to any future event in this climate.

The brands that will come out strongest are those that embrace technology and start working with this new reality now. Just because we have to accept the current situation, doesn’t mean we can’t challenge what’s possible.

So instead of settling for second best, resigning ourselves to poor standards, we must concentrate on finding alternatives to make future events viable in the ‘new normal’.

If you’re ready to start thinking outside the box and planning how you can get your next event back in the calendar without resorting to webinars, then get in touch with us today.

We’re offering FREE 15 minute consultations on live event options or in-house live solutions to all businesses and organisations to help you get started.