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Everything Is New Again (Or is It?)

Woman looking up at a chalkboard with the words new way and old way

“Is it real or is it Memorex?” 1980s kids remember this campaign for audio cassettes that began in the 1970s. Yes, those things you would put in a Walkman, use to create mixed-tapes, and stack them in a tower in your living room.  The main idea of the ad was that the quality of the recordings was so good, you couldn’t tell whether it was live music or a cassette.  A decade later, many of us were using the cassettes to record from our boom boxes from the radio, like when Bon Jovi burst onto the scene in 1983.  Personal memory, I digress…

Photo of man in arm chair

Where are we in 2023? Well, we are at an intersection of real and Memorex that is proving exciting and challenging..

  1.  An increase in a number of tools getting so good that it’s unclear whether they are designed by people or AI. 
  2.  a counter-trend is “curated authenticity.”

It’s an interesting juxtaposition:

Not REAL (but not evil) VS. REAL (but not always authentic)

It’s no wonder there is confusion.

Boldly, Into the Future!

Take the rapid adoption of AI tools like DALL-E and ChatGPT.  They offer opportunities to everyone to build content, exercise creativity, and have a little fun.  The jury is out on the adoption of these in professional applications, but increasingly agencies are using them to enhance the creative process, expand thinking and fast track more cumbersome tasks.  As I write this, ChatGPT is at capacity for users and will notify me when available!

For an event concept, have guests use the DALL-E tool to create a graphic that represents their impression of your event, and a contest for attendees to vote on the best one.   Or use ChatGPT to recast the voice of your emcee.

Event planners can apply these technologies to create brand content for events, have attendees create or co-create custom content on site, or gamify an element of your experience.

Now, consider that at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in January, there was a lot of buzz around an installation that featured an experience to connect with deceased loved ones.  It received reactions of awe (and dystopian horror).  Agnostically, though, this is a revolutionary application of AI. If you remove judgement around the content, and consider just the technology, think of the world of insight that awaits. Could you bring event attendees face to face with thought leaders or historical figures from the past?

Advances in AR and VR are adding layers into event experiences or creating them out of whole cloth in the digital space.  Once the realm of gamers, these tools should be considered by event professionals to advance engagement, brand stickiness, and may support networking opportunities.  There is a company, EnChroma, that is providing glasses to museums and national parks to enhance the experience for color-blind guests.  In addition, podcast communities are springing up in the Metaverse.  Regardless of the eye-roll factor associated, stay on the front end of developments in this space because it is here to stay.

Back to Basics, With a Twist!

On the flip side, emerging generations, like Z, and many Millennials, are embracing a return to “realness.”  Vinyl records made a comeback years ago, we shouldn’t be surprised.  But it is the blend of the old and the new that is most interesting. And these generations are making up larger percentages of event attendees and prospective attendees; they have expectations!

BeReal, a reaction to filters and finely designed “Zoom rooms” asks users to post instantly, wherever they are and however they look.  So, an authentic look, but through a social channel. Digital cameras are also making a comeback in the search for meaning as users adopt a curated look that embraces imperfection as fun and quirky.  A recent New York Times article noted the exponential increase in the #digitalcamera tag in TikTok.  An onsite, sponsored, digital camera rental zone and photo printing pop-up at an event would not be that much of a lift.  Imagine how fresh it would be to deputize your guests, see the event through their eyes, and have a pile of photographs to show for it, IRL

To bolster this retro-style assumption, “Pinterest Predicts” is also highlighting trends that are anti-high tech; both in workouts and in home décor.  Maybe this back to basics is part of everyone’s return into the real world after being cooped up?  This realness and connection is a core asset of in person events that is more important today than ever.  We think events can benefit from a check up on their human-ness.  No more beige breakout rooms! No more SWAG without a purpose! Read our piece on Event Sponsorship to learn more about a fresh way to engage supporters and possibly defray the costs of these investments.

Event owners should review, test and adopt the broad and increasing variety of tools (gimmicks?), technologies and tactics they can bring in to enhance live event experiences.  One way to review and apply these trends and tools is to look for moments of friction for your attendees and see how they might be tweaked with a fresh technology.  Another is to look at how your brand comes to life at your event and elevate those touchpoints.  Let your event goals and impressions determine the tools to use, not the reverse.

What’s Next?

  1. Experiment with these tools on your own
  2. Reach out to us if you need some ideas on how to apply these tools or don’t know how to get started
  3. Follow accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn for thought leaders in these spaces
  4. Use this link to see the ChatGPT version as if written by Jon Bon Jovi
  5. Have FUN, we all work in an amazing. Innovative industry.

Gratuitous quote from the author’s favorite band referenced above (Bon Jovi)…

“Map out your future but do it in pencil.”

 Maybe everything old is new again?

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