Social Distanced Events, compromise is key? Or is it?


We are all aware of the phrase “compromise is key”, and this may be the case in marriage, certainly in childcare and quite possibly when buying a new car.

But does this stretch to the world our world of events, and is this compromise, the result of the pandemic, one that is here to stay or simply a stop-gap until the world returns to normality?

There is clearly a human desire to socialise and a genuine need for groups to gather, but how can those in the business of producing close contact events adapt in the meantime?

Andrew Rae, IPM’s Managing Director spoke this week at the British Promotional Merchandise Association’s annual conference about adapting to change in regard to socially distanced events, as well as the opportunities that come with them.

Andrew Rae explained that “Business events that once had hundreds of attendees, a percentage of those being truly engaged, are being replaced with fewer attendees but with a much higher rate of genuine engagement.” He adds “Brands such as Yorkshire Tea are able to reference the practical issues in a comedic way with the socially distanced teapot, but ingenuity is key to seeing us through. Drive-in Cinemas and live-streamed gigs from artists living rooms are, for the moment, the way to go. But will this compromise stand the test of time, or will we rush to return to ways of old when a vaccine is delivered?”

Steve Simpson, Head of Leith Links and the Vice-Chair of the Experiential Effectiveness Community also offered his thoughts, saying “When The Flaming Lips held their June gig on The Late Show, performing in plastic bubbles, while the audience grooved in their own personal bubbles, I felt a mix of intrigue and horror. 10 out of 10 for the novelty factor, but as a music experience, it lacked that real shared moment, like the opportunity to swing your arm around your sweaty mate or partner. Though to be fair it didn’t look like anyone had to crane their neck around the tall bloke in front of them (when did the average height of gig-goers become six foot four?).

But this ‘glimpse of the future’ is make-believe obviously. The events industry has shown pragmatism, innovation and entrepreneurship to salvage a terrible year for many, many companies, promoters, venues and freelance suppliers. So I salute the organisations and individuals who are making it happen at last, whatever it takes. Satisfying a real hunger for people to get out of their homes and back into live entertainment and events.

Social distancing and other measures feel like acceptable compromises, which increasingly feel less like compromises and more like how we do it now or have to do it for now.

Clearly no one is able to predict what the future will look like in terms of events, but I think it is safe to say that a hybrid solution, where we include the learnings from the pandemic, is currently the best bet.