This is a guest post from Adam Azor, Senior Vice President, Jack Morton Worldwide. You can connect with him on Twitter @adamazor

Digital.

Integrated.

Experience.

If you’re involved in any way with business, marketing or events, these are three words you will hear a lot, buzzwords that everyone in marketing seems to be talking about at the moment, however in the world of events, these three words should become a code to live by, because if you’re not doing so, you’re going to be left behind… And left behind pretty quickly at that.

Digital. It’s a word that invokes a multitude of responses, and a key industry talking point at the moment is, “Isn’t everything we now do digital, shouldn’t we stop talking about digital separately?”

It’s very easy and sometimes extremely useful to put things into categories however what’s important to remember when planning your event strategy, is not to get caught up thinking digital first. Instead, think about the most important component first: the people.

Know your audience

People are the attendees, either physically or virtually, so without them there is no event.

The audience for an event is always the starting point, and importantly when in the planning phase you should always consider the behavior of your audience.

The world we live in now means that if you analyse the daily behaviors for most audiences they will always include some type of digital interaction, from the habitual checking of a phone every few minutes, through to those compulsive tweeters.

Our lives, for better or worse, are intrinsically linked with technology, and the world we live in right now, is a digital world. Some brands have understood that much better than others, and capitalised on this to great effect.

Who’s getting it right?

A wonderful example of a brand that has got their digital experience strategy absolutely spot on is Burberry.

If we cast our minds back a few years, Burberry was a brand in real trouble, through a huge rise in counterfeit Burberry items, it had unfortunately become the beacon brand for the so-called “Chav” generation.

This treasured luxury British brand, and its iconic check designs that had been around since 1856, had become the icon for broken Britain.

Burberry realised this, and importantly acted upon it quickly and in doing so, it tore up the rule book when it came to luxury brand behavior and made itself relevant to an emerging audience of millennials, by putting a joint digital and event experience strategy right at the heard of its new brand DNA.

Burberry has been the pioneer of integrating digital and social media into events.

The luxury brands of yesteryear have always kept their audience at arms length, holding back access. However Burberry realised they needed to change the rules in order to appeal to this emerging audience, and so to achieve that they brought technology into the core of their events and fashion shows.

Creating access to the back stages, streaming runways and recently at London fashion week, they allowed the immediate purchase of the runway fashion collections through digital.

You could be present at the London Fashion Week, go onto your mobile and order the collection there and then. Not only is Burberry creating incredible content from their experiences through digital platforms, but they’re now turning it into sales driving activity that becomes transactional digital content.

Pushing the boundaries of digital and experience integration

We’re still at the initial stages of where digital and experience can go, however some brands are starting to really push boundaries.

Working for Jack Morton, I feel very lucky to be part of an agency that firmly believes, for the right audience, integrating digital into live experiences can turn the good into extraordinary.

An example of where we were able to realise this vision was a project that we worked on for Google last year. The campaign was Google Closer and for this we incorporated wearable biometric technology into a live music based experience.

We partnered with Paul Oakenfold, who was able to tailor his performance based on the real time data, along with the audience seeing visualisations of their data within the experience.

In tandem with the live experience, our activity was connected through the Google+ platform, which turned our event experience into a campaign that had a reach of over 3 million.

This type of approach really demonstrates how experience-based content, which is digitally integrated, can be a highly effective piece of brand activity.

Where’s the future going?

Whenever you start to consider an emerging trend or technology, it’s hard not to consider where it’s going, and with the integration of digital and experiences, it’s a very exciting prospect.

Download: 5 Future Event Tech Trends in Action

We’ve grown up with wonderful sci-fi films and TV shows that have future gazed, and you could argue, influenced where our technology is going.

Brands are still to this day trying to crack the hoverboard from back to the future (and they’re getting closer!)

However one thing is for sure, through digital we’re opening up opportunities in events and experiences that will change the events industry forever.

It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.

Something which is here now is virtual and augmented reality and I would argue it’s the latter which is the most exciting for the live experiences.

VR will be massively useful to widening the reach of experiences, breaking down global boundaries and opening up experiences to people all around the world, not just the attendees. However it’s far from ideal for all live experiences, due to the solus and introverted nature of the VR.

Augmented reality on the other hand…now that’s interesting! Technologies such as Magic Leap, are showing what is capable with augmented reality.

AR is technology that is both truly inspiring and importantly, fitting with our existing experience behavior not forcing it to change unnaturally.

As Augmented Reality technology developments, I can see a future where live events evolve into digital experiences that are beyond anything we could imagine.

As the technology and the understanding of that technology grows, so do the possibilities, and I’m excited to see what is to come for digital event experiences.

I have a feeling we won’t have very long to wait until we all find out what the future holds.

In summary

Know your audience: Not every brand is a Burberry, and not every audience needs digitally integrated experiences, but when it’s right, build upon their existing behavior, don’t try to force things that are against the user experience.

Digital facilitates the real and the real facilities digital: Our world is digital, but real world experiences fuel the digital world, and visa versa. Embrace that fact and stop thinking of the two things separately, see them as one continuous journey.

VR is interesting, but AR could be the game changer: The hype train is building up VR through devices such as Oculus Rift and HTC, however products like Microsoft’s hololense and technology like Magic Leap are the ones to watch closely for integrating digital into experiences.

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