Creative Event Execution
Local Events Get Creative
I have had the pleasure of working with local organizations to facilitate ticket sales online for events that enrich our local culture. As we all know, this year has seen the decline of many events and the cancellation of many more. With a global market value of $1.1 billion in 2018, the business and community advantage of events has been sorely missed, but with experience now under our belts, I’ve seen creative ways to hold events safely and successfully.
Recently, Kimberly Taws and her team at The Country Bookshop hosted a successful author event, using a space at The Pilot Newspaper building in downtown Southern Pines. Author Nicholas Sparks was able to safely pose for individual pictures with over 400 fans. To do this, marks and stations were delineated on the ground outside and inside the building, allowing physical distance to be maintained while waiting. Nicholas Sparks himself was at a photo station waiting, where someone could stand six feet behind him with a perspective created by the camera to capture both him and the fan in a photo.
I think this is a wonderful example of a creative way to safely arrange to meet a beloved author, have a picture taken, and receive a signed copy of a recently released book. There have been other great events locally that have used creative solutions to give the community opportunities to come together when many are uncertain of gathering. RIOT Southern Pines utilized a community of runners to garner support for local businesses. Kelly Kilgore issued a challenge to stay active during the depths of the stay-at-home days while calling for donations that went directly to support local businesses in the toughest of times. Every year many runners rely on the timed races for a challenge and opportunity to show support for any number of worthy causes. One such is the 1 in 8k race to support the fight to raise breast cancer awareness and support the fight for a cure. This year the registrants can participate in their own 8k and are encouraged to post their results to social media. The organizers found many 8k routes and shared them with the community to make it easier for runners who might not know where to find an interesting 8k route.
Many are aware of the Sunrise Theater outdoor movies in their green space next to the theater, but early in the summer, they began to offer curbside concessions for us to enjoy an enhanced movie experience from the comfort of our homes. It has been widely recognized that outdoor event spaces are the simplest solution to modern events. Southern Pines Crossfit’s Field Day is a great example of an outdoor event. They set up activity stations with space in between, and where necessary, space for individuals to participate in a group workout. This is a common sight seen with fitness studios throughout this year. Outdoor classes have become the norm, and Burn Boot Camp took a first step earlier in the summer to ask members to host up to 10 of their fellows in their yard or driveway while others participated remotely via an online meeting platform.
Of course, we can’t overlook the use of online meeting platforms. Zoom, Facebook live, Skype, Youtube, Microsoft, and many others have been a staple for events this year. From virtual exercise and yoga classes to events like the mixology lessons, many events have had to transition to this online format. Make & Muddle created a series of cocktail mixing lessons that they hosted online. One thing that struck me as successful was the physical accompaniments of these events. Each event came with a choice of tickets. You could simply watch the lesson. You could also choose to order a variety of small-batch mixers to really participate in the lesson, and you could even choose to include utensils and barware, like a stainless steel shaker.
To me, the combination events are the most interesting and leave room for the most creativity. The Rooster’s Wife and Dreams 4 All have both held hybrid events recently. The nobility of their causes could heighten their impact on me, but I do believe they both created a great situation with the challenges we all face. In the case of The Rooster’s Wife’s voter registration rally, the event was an in-person voter registration event with, being mandatory at the Poplar Knight Spot, music. The Peter Lamb Trio played a live show that night. As the physical attendee spots were for those completing voter registration, Janet Kenworthy set up a Facebook live stream for anyone who wanted to join in on the music. Keith Moneymaker arranged a different kind of hybrid event for the Dreams 4 All annual fundraiser that essentially had three parts. One aspect was physical attendees, just like the normal fundraiser they would hold, coupled with a DanceFit class with guidelines like many other current exercise events. The final piece is where, I think, the creativity comes in. For those who wished to support their mission but didn’t want to spend the day at the fundraiser or tried to buy tickets after they sold out, there were times that could be reserved to pick up food that was being offered by food trucks on site. They could show their support, participate in patronizing the food trucks while enjoying good food, and remain removed from the gathering if that was their choice.
I find all of these examples heartening for our local community. It is important to remain positive and remember that events can be successful, even when they don’t look like a traditional event. There are a few key factors that can make the hosting of events a little easier with the challenges we face. 1) Find committed partners – In most of the aforementioned cases, there are groups coming together to create an experience. Whether it is businesses working together or true sponsorships, it has become more important to find partnerships to hold events that can offer an experience. 2) Find a safe space – Outdoor events are almost a given at this point, but if you are unable to secure an outdoor venue, try and find the largest indoor space you can. Marking areas of physical distancing will keep people feeling safe and give you peace of mind with a more organized event. 3) Provide/Implement safety measures – Plexiglass in spaces does come to mind, but at the very least, place hand sanitizer around the space. Everything we can do to help will make a more enjoyable event experience. Uncomfortable attendees will not come to a second event. 4) Use reliable resources – When it comes to online hosting, using commercial infrastructure(power sources and internet connections) will give your attendees a better chance of a smooth event experience. Many home internet connections will cause delays and drops of connection when streaming video or audio to the consumers. 5) Have fun with it!
As unexpected as it is, this is an opportunity to create a new experience. Create online resources for attendees, have follow-up experiences, try something new. Many people will have a more forgiving attitude when approaching an event now. We are all adjusting to new and unique experiences, and one thing is for sure, we all need human connection in our lives.