The Art of Immersive Storytelling

Another September, another Venues & Events Live (where does time go?)! As well as walking the floor, discovering new suppliers and trends,  and the networking that comes with it, we managed to catch some of the educational sessions this year.

One in particular caught our attention, unsurprisingly it was to do with storytelling. More specifically, the art of ‘Immersive Storytelling’. The panel was made up of three immersive-experts (Reuben Feels, Secret Cinema, and Sledge) who shared their thoughts and observations on experiential and the place it has in our industry.

Consumerism v Tribalism v Individualism

An interesting conversation that took place from the start, focused on the main reason why we even consider creating experiential events. It’s threefold:

  • Consumerism - Using the event as a sales platform. Sure, other benefits may come from the event but its sole purpose is to sell and to sell only.

  • Tribalism - We understand that our guests and our customers want to be part of a community and connect with their tribes. It is a human need and we want to help facilitate that.

  • Individualism - People head to experiential events for their own personal reasons. To escape, to enhance their own knowledge, or to showcase their unique-ness (either IRL or online). We create a platform for that.

One common theme that ran through all explanations was that agencies/suppliers need to do more of these events, because brand loyalty as we knew it does not exist any more. We need to create a clear value-add for our consumers, and experiential helps us to do that in a way that is tangible for them.

One size does not fit all

Have you even been to an industry panel if you haven’t discussed millennials?

However, this time we are pleased to report the chat was around not focusing on one generation. The panel agreed that initially the experiential event market was largely millennial, but it is now accepted and appreciated by everyone. What looked like a trend or fad in the early days has actually revealed more and more about our human nature. Escapism, feeding curiosity, a sense of belonging and community are all things that experiential storytelling can provide.

It is important to remember this when creating your events, and not obsess over the generation of one particular type of guest. You never know who you might be alienating.

Tracking ROI

It was said at Square Meal that experiential events are an art, and as such their ROI cannot be accurately tracked.

Anya Hindmarch activation at Banqueting House for London Fashion Week ss19

This is a sticking point for every finance director, whether agency, supplier or client side. As of yet, there has been no definitive method created that accurately measures ROI in experiential. Do we use guest enjoyment as as measure? If so, what constitutes this? Transmedia reach statistics, or what about secondary filmed content?

The frustrating truth is, nothing we measure currently will give a finite and precise answer to how much ROI we have received from our investment in experiential moments. It will be close, sure, but not as satisfying or tangible as counting impressions, or simple sales conversions.

There is no industry-wide standard for this yet, and as every event is unique, it doesn’t look like a one size fits all answer is on the horizon any time soon. To counteract this, the panel emphasised the importance of flagging this to every party involved in the event from the beginning. Agree your own ROI measure marks and monitor them as closely as possible. Appreciate that you will be able to track most things, but not everything, for now.

Converse One Star Hotel activation in Shoreditch

Converse One Star Hotel activation in Shoreditch

Every brand has a story. Every brand wants to play

While a fully immersive Blade Runner experience would work perfectly for a tech company, it wouldn’t, of course, work for all of your products or clients (sigh).

Just because you can’t go all-out experiential on an event doesn’t mean that you can’t add elements of storytelling into the project. As long as the storytelling is true to your brand, and reflective of the tone you are working in, your guests will find it authentic.

Often when we think of experiential, we may think of the larger scale productions we have become used to seeing, but smaller, genuine touch points are just as effective.

It was great to hear the thoughts of the panel and the audience at Square Meal, and to understand experiential from multiple perspectives. Not to mention, learning that experiential is genuinely being taken seriously from all aspects of business, not just the events and marketing team.

Have you delivered or seen an amazing experiential event recently? We’d love to see them!

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Elena Clowes