This past week hundreds of live event professionals gathered in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand for the annual XLIVE Conference. The event brought together may verticals in the life event industry from music to esports to technology to experiential to everything in between. The best part about the conference is being able to hear real people tell their experiences. Throughout each session stories and real life examples shone through adding a more personal feel to the panels and keynotes. What was being said really felt like valuable lessons because they were learned first hand, through triumphs and mistakes of those out there actually creating live events and experiences for fans all around the globe.
“The personal connections you make at events like XLIVE are what separates us from other industry events. From music festivals, to event technology platforms and service providers, experiential agencies and more, XLIVE attendees get a holistic view of the live event ecosystem, make industry connections and leave with tangible ideas and strategies on how to improve their events.” Kye Browning, the Conference Manager of XLIVE noted about the 2019 Conference.
While there were many themes, trends, and lessons that emerged throughout the conference, five in particular stood out because they taught us about a new train of thought in the live event space, the power of festivals to build community, how to better foster self-development and growth, more effective ways to ensure your event is inclusive, and the important thing to remember not only when expanding internationally but when planning an event in general.
The new E-commerce is “Experience commerce”
Mark Harrison the President & CEO of The T1 Agency opened up the conference with a keynote speech focused around the often repeated phrase that “Millennials value experiences over things”. Here he explored just what is an experience and what habits it is shaping today. He discussed how the Internet of things will be rocket fuel for this new experience commerce economy. Harrison also touched on how this will affect employers who will double down on employee engagement because workers “don’t want to be told what to do, they want to be told why to do it.” This experience economy will not only matter at live events and marketing but also . Companies these days have just 15 seconds to sell. It is more effective to sell consumers on a loyalty program, have them buy into the experience not just the product.
Festivals are a community builder
One theme that kept popping up throughout the conference was the idea that a music festival is more than just a gathering of people over a few days but a real community builder. The reason that so many attendees become avid festival goers is not only for entertainment but the sense of belonging that they feel at these events. Festivals like Dirtybird Campout are notorious for their community engagement. Through field games and online input the curators of the festival have developed a unique bond with their attendees that translates into sellout merchandise and ticket sales.
If we’re gonna innovate, we have to get past our own judgement
Moving at the Speed of Innovation: A Leader's Playbook to Win at Innovation and Gain a Competitive Advantage in a Rapidly Changing Marketplace presented by Tamara Ghandour the President of LaunchStreet everyone got out of their seats for some hands on learning. The session dove deep into what it takes to truly innovate, which starts by giving yourself permission to innovate. Often we are our biggest hindrance when it comes to innovation. By playing the game of “Rock Paper Scissors” in reverse Ghandour demonstrated what it is like to innovate. You are still playing the same game but sometimes it feels strange. Innovation isn’t about thinking outside the box, it’s about rearranging the box. In the end, “Better isn’t enough we have to be different”
You can’t have an inclusive and safe event without the buy in of attendees
During the session “The Importance of Inclusion and Diversity at Events” moderated by Gerard Anthony the General Counsel of AFROPUNK and featuring panelists Morgan Donly the Director of Customer Experience at Goldenvoice, Jeff Consoletti the Founder, Principle & CEO of JJLA, and Austin Whitney the Founder & President of Ten Fifty Entertainment. The discussion focused on making inclusion a priority. In more recent years live events have put more of a focus on making sure everyone feels welcome. It’s important for live event organizers to realize that they are not going to always get it right but the key is to listen and try to come up with a solution together. By listening you are getting the buy in of attendees, which in turn will make your programs much more effective.
Put your ego aside
The panel discussion “International Expansion: Growing Your Event's Global Footprint” with M. Darren Traub Attorney at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, Lou D'Angeli the VP of Marketing & Public Relations at Cirque Du Soleil, Michael Julian the CEO/Director of Seer Assets (Elrow), Ryan Kruger the Managing Dir. of Entertainment & Events of Area15, and Stephanie Selesnick the US Representative at Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) explored what it was like to expand an event across borders. At one point the discussion touched on what to do when expansion does not seem successful by putting aside one's ego, an organizer can save the brand by knowing when it’s time to pull out. Those who are successful know how to put themselves aside and do what’s right overall for the event, even if that means canceling.
Next year’s XLIVE is set to take place October 2020, one month earlier than this year's event so be sure to mark your calendars and check out XLIVE Online for the latest news and trends in the live event space.