How Digital Is Transforming Live Events During COVID-19

Live Events Come Home

Bill O’Reilly once famously screamed “we’ll do it live!” 

Well, not any more. Almost overnight it seems, the COVID-19 crisis has caused a digital transformation of live events. Concerts, trade shows, conventions, sporting events, and anything else that brought people together has been thrown on the back burner. 

The 2020 Olympic Games has been pushed to 2021. The European Cup has been dealt the same fate. And everything that was “filmed live in front of a studio audience” has had to pivot sharply, with the vast majority of live TV shows (including the late night shows we love) moving to a new format. Namely, shoot it at home with the equipment you have at hand. It’s scrappy. It’s low-tech. But it’s working. 

The Choice Is Simple. Adapt or Go Extinct.

Let’s be honest, it’s not like there’s any kind of choice here. No-one wants to disappear because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so any industry that relies on a live audience for its bread and butter is quickly finding ways to adjust to this new norm. And they are tapping into tech like Zoom, the iPhone, and video collaboration tools to make it happen. 

The technological advances that Apple has made recently, with the iPhone 11 Pro capturing super high-quality footage, has made this “stay at home broadcasting” a feasible reality. From Conan and Fallon to Kimmel and Colbert, these “homemade” shows are getting great ratings. Even the music acts featured on the shows are going remote, with Jon Batiste sending in footage from home, and OneRepublic performing for Fallon remotely

In fact, it’s the kind of new approach that savvy bands like OneRepublic have enthusiastically embraced, reaching and engaging with their fans while not on tour. They used the crowdsourcing video tool Cinebody (just like Durand Jones & The Indications did) to create a fan-made video for their new single “Better Days.” Over 5,000 fans submitted almost 4K-quality clips, and the result was impressive to say the least.

Concerts, Conventions, and Tradeshows Must Also Modify Their Approach.

It certainly can’t be easy to be involved in the live event industry right now. But just because something isn’t easy, doesn’t make it impossible. Anyone involved in organizing and producing these kinds of public events needs to look to technology and new strategies to engage remote audiences. 

Pepsi suspended its “That’s what I like” campaign to produce a global virtual broadcast called “One World Together At Home.” Hosted by Kimmel, Fallon, and Colbert, this star-studded event featured Paul McCartney, Elton John, Billie Eilish and Finneas, Lizzo, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Chris Martin, and Eddie Vedder, and raised many millions of dollars for COVID-19 support. 

Equally, conventions and tradeshows have to switch gears, and fast. This year, the Collision conference (which is dedicated to exploring the role technology plays in our ever-changing world) will be hosting “Collision From Home”  in late June. Can a virtual conference work? Well, many conventions and conferences have been live-streaming their sessions for years now for those unable to attend in person. Maybe this is the next logical step moving forward.  

Is the Future Virtual?

There will definitely be more and more companies utilizing remote meetings and virtual conferences, not just for the reach but the cost savings. Attendees won’t have to fly in and book hotel rooms, and the venues for these events can be way smaller. Microsoft is already planning for 2020 and beyond with that kind of strategy, and as Forbes notes, “explore adding a digital event to your marketing tactics and do it quickly before everyone else jumps on the bandwagon!”