3 ways events are upgrading with the times
Vince Ota
Executive Creative Director, Global

New technology, media and changing behaviours are causing companies and planners to reinvent the way they promote events. They are even creating new events around the technology.

Here are three imaginative ways that events are staying effective and ahead of the curve.

1.Transforming the traditional art gallery into an immersive experience

Art is widely perceived as a ‘highbrow’ thing – difficult to understand or appreciate unless the viewer is an educated connoisseur. To new audiences, the traditional context of viewing art – statically, in the stuffy rooms of museums – aren't always accessible and attractive.

For museums, this is a problem. Their audience of connoisseurs is shrinking or stagnant at a time when survival depends on attracting bigger numbers.

One answer is offered by Atelier des Lumières, a commercial-cultural digital art centre by Culturespaces. Their ‘Van Gogh, Starry Night’ exhibition offers audiences an immersive audio-visual journey into the artist’s life and mind.

Works are magnified, projected onto walls, ceilings and floors, and integrated with audio effects, putting the viewer inside the world of Van Gogh, rather than on the outside peering in. Visitors can even step in front of the projections to become ‘one with the art’ – and create striking and shareable photo opportunities.

The basic idea is taking off elsewhere too; a similar exhibition of Gustav Klimt in South Korea is expected to draw half a million visitors, and another Van Gogh show, ‘Van Gogh Alive – The Experience’ by Art Projectors HK, has been popularly acclaimed in Hong Kong this year.

2. From 2D to 3D storytelling

It was not long ago that event storytelling consisted of words and pictures on a series of display boards. Later, this became words and images presented on a CRT or LCD screen, evolving the experience incrementally.

Today, video mapping technology gives event planners a tool that can make even the most ordinary story into something worth telling. Essentially, it is a way to project images and video onto three-dimensional objects – even irregular ones – without distortion. It makes any surface into a kinetic, ‘living’ display.

A striking example of the technology at work was ‘The Fabric of Love and Humanity’, a collaboration between Pico, Observatory UK and famed Hong Kong wedding dress designer Windy Lo, at the recent Video Mapping Festival in Lille, France, organised by Rencontres Audiovisuelles.

Using a blend of video, typography and audience participation, its narrative of marriage and love included a video mapped ‘layer’ projected onto the centre chapel of Lille's historic hotel L’Hermitage Gantois, Autograph Collection.

In a form of ‘orchestrated serendipity’, audience members contributed love letters through social media, which then inspired the creation of a wedding gown – a journey presented by a sophisticated projection that even imparted the texture of the bridal fabrics and lacework.

3. Reinventing the seminar/forum

The traditional forum/seminar comes with one inescapable flaw: the need to ensure that everybody actually shows up.

Modern technology has come to the rescue in the form of virtual attendance. With a high-speed broadband connection and a mobile device, both audience members and forum speakers can join in the event and interact in real-time, from anywhere.

The arrangement also provides organisers with new revenue streams, and being web-based, the ability to improve data collection. Events can be enhanced with personalised features and formats such as recorded keynotes, digital takeaways, and auxiliary content tailored to viewers’ interests.

Technology can also make a big difference when physical attendance is still mandatory. Immersive projection-mapped spaces at the C2 Montréal business leadership conference added unexpected fizz and inspiration to group engagements. Personalised RFID badges tracked content of interest, notified attendees of their scheduled sessions, and provided a mobile/web repository of their personal experience.

It is worth noting, however, that no matter what technologies and ideas are thrown at them, all seminars, forums and conferences are ultimately judged by their content. Purpose and story, as ever, are where the experiences begin and end.

The article above was first published in C&IT magazine on 11 July 2019.