We try so hard in the communications industry to stay integrated, yet experiential, exhibitions and events are often split into distinct silos across different agencies in a state of indifference to each other’s existence and experience.
Has this always been the case?
In short, yes. From time immemorial the trio of live communications – events, experiential and exhibitions – have had an important place in most organisations’ communications spectrums. However, what seems on the surface to have a common root has flowered in many and varied ways. And while diversification is a good thing, a great many learnings are lost in the gaps as a result of their increased separation from each other.
Who, if anyone, is to blame?
We are all guilty of swaying with trends. In the 1970s and 1980s, exhibitions were king. Since the early 1990s, corporate events have risen to dominance.
While intrinsically different in many areas, there has been a tendency for any one of the three services to be in vogue at any one time. It is the perpetual rise and decline of these services that has led to a schism of thought, with agencies investing heavily in just one arm and becoming dependent on that particular service offering.
In the world of rapidly diversified service offerings, especially in the live communications industry, we need to remember what makes each and every one of these services great – the ability to communicate to people effectively.
How do these services perceive each other?
It would be wrong to generalise agency-wide, but false perceptions do abound. The exhibitions world often views the monolith of corporate events as a slow, expensive and resource-heavy enterprise. The youngest of the disciplines, experiential, is the most modern and media-friendly and is enjoying its time in the sun.
This facet is taking the communications world by storm at the moment but, in effect, it is only a distillation of what makes an event or exhibition engaging.
The circle closes with events, perceived as the ‘senior service’ and most comprehensive aspect of the live communications spectrum, as well as the pioneer of the industry.
They all have valid points, but…
What each service needs to realise is not only that they can work together, but that they should work together.
After all, the medium merely fuels the journey and any discerning agency should help provide the best choice of live communications medium, not only the one they specialise in. Our preferences must stand aside to get the best and most effective result for our clients.
It is hard to change perceptions that are so entrenched, especially with the three elements of events, exhibitions and experiential having spread so far apart, into groups of distinct specialised agencies.
The very common elements of communication which band these disciplines together have not been observed and utilised, to the detriment of the communications industry as a whole.
It’s time to get it together
Whether the medium is an event, exhibition or experiential – or indeed an app, video or website – the common denominator is people. People who want to share information and people who would benefit from hearing it.
An example of some work drpexhibitions has produced for its clients
From cave paintings to the Gutenberg press, through to the iGeneration, communicating with people has been the priority, and perhaps we are all somewhat guilty of thinking of the medium over the message.
Full integration is truly the way forward, not only in the world of live communications but in marketing and advertising too. In the world of events, experiential and exhibitions, providing in-house unity is extremely rare and when it is coupled with services such as video, technical, digital and strategic, it is unrivalled.
There are no special skills, tricks or gimmicks required, you just need to remember that people are the differentiator and the communications medium will blossom from there.
To provide a holistic approach, you can follow some simple, flexible and integrated steps:
- Ensure that the message is valued above the medium.
- When the message is defined, have the courage and expertise to suggest the right method – not the most valuable, new, or in-vogue practice.
- Be sure to cross-pollinate services from the entire communications spectrum to benefit even a single-service offering.
- Interrogate objectives, not briefs – always be bold enough to suggest innovations and optimal choices to clients. This in the main defines the means – event, experiential, exhibition or otherwise.
All marketers, communications agencies and, indeed, clients know the value and integrity of a people-first approach. When you limit the scope of your thinking to only service-driven approaches, you miss out on what are invariably valuable insights from the experts that bring these areas to life.
Sharing experience is the key
Wherever possible, you should ensure that your events, exhibitions and experiential teams work together, formally or otherwise, to elucidate to each other the latest innovations, ideas, experiences and opportunities in their field.
With such closely related disciplines often being based far apart, there is a wealth of information that falls between the gaps – hindering effective live communications.
We must avoid becoming too traditional in our approach. Exhibitions can offer solutions just as large, innovative, engaging and technical as an event. Likewise, an event does not always require a large budget and an expansive team to be effective.
We should, at all junctures, focus not on titles or traditional roles but rather the most effective way to engage.
As smaller agencies become large and teams become increasingly more specialised, we must never forget to learn from each other’s successes. And when it comes to live communications – be they events or exhibitions – we must remember that behind every brief, project or campaign there is a message to be communicated and an audience to engage.