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A Practical Guide to Live Events - While Live Events are On Pause



INFLUENCER: Grey Group's Marie Kelly on the Covid-19 pandemic and its effect on experiential marketing

A Practical Guide to Live Events - While Live Events are On Pause

These are unprecedented times for our industry, our nation, and our world. 

The impact of COVID-19 has been far wider-reaching, faster-moving and more dramatic than anyone initially expected.  We’ve all felt the impact on deep personal and professional levels, with an unclear path as we look ahead.

But we know that we must adapt.  Just as we're adjusting to the personal impacts of the new WFH reality, we must evaluate our business planning within our industry to determine how best to navigate for today and the future.

In the marketing and advertising world, we’re made up of creatives and brand communicators.  While our work might be changing, it certainly isn’t going away.  If this pandemic has reminded us of anything, it's the innate human hunger to feel connected, understood and loved.  There are still smart and meaningful ways that we can leverage the power of communications during these times.  

No one will debate that these are very unfortunate circumstances, but perhaps there are some positives in slowing down, focusing on localization and a renewed sense of empathy for one another.  What’s also true is that due to the global reach of this current pandemic, there is a bit of an equalization that we’re experiencing.  We are quite literally in this together.     

On a personal level, I deeply believe in the power of human connections and have built a career in creating programs that bring people together in physical spaces.  The day for public gatherings, stunts, activations, and celebrations will return.  We’ll likely inch our way back out into the world, some with hesitation and some with joy.  

While the world is rapidly changing, the below is meant to serve as a practical guide to navigating a 30/60/90-day road ahead for live programs:


30 Days

Halt Production

Most of us have already done this and have been building alternate plans for the last 3-4 wks.  If not, now is the time to call your vendors, pause your fabrication and to discuss storage options for anything that has been built to date for Spring and Summer programs.

Bonus: if there is any way to repurpose your client’s brand assets for good, consider it as a real option, i.e. hard materials that could be used to make: hand sanitizer, medical masks and gowns.

Analyze Contracts and Your Message

For good or bad, legal and contractual terms were not in place for this kind of a pandemic.  Brands and agencies may experience a financial loss due to work delivered to date.  Understand the scope that was delivered thus far and support your vendors and partners, business ethics will matter now more than ever.

Ensure work is culturally appropriate, on tone and is adding real consumer value as the landscape is rapidly changing.

Pivot to Channel Planning

In lieu of live programs, there are plenty of digitally forward solutions that can still reach your audience.  Whether that’s social platforms, podcasts, live streaming or a myriad of others in this space.

Reminder: unless your brand is ‘helping’ or has something timely and important to say, consider holding off on any major brand ‘stunts’, for now.

60 Days 


Stay informed, you never know when and where an early idea may be born, we’re all entering these uncharted waters together and building new solutions in real-time.

Connect with the event organizers and discuss what they are adjusting and brainstorming on real-time (SX, Cannes, Olympics, CES) 

Talk to your counterparts in the field about what new best practice is being put in place, new legal standards, revised contract terms, new on-site policies for things like sanitation.

Ideate: Think Proactively and Engage Platforms

If your team(s) have available time as events and programs are on pause, use this time to creatively inspire them.  Read, assign projects, build a task force, etc.

Example: form a new creative counsel group, update case studies, work on award submissions, create new best-practice templates, build a team or department newsletter, work on cross-department ideation and info sessions. Explore.

Tech Partners, A/V vendors, Content Partners and Artists should be your best friends.  Now could be the time to explore and internally test new systems, this is the time when innovation can thrive.

90 Days

Anticipate and Plan

Phase One 2020:  

Events with sliding dates for 2020. The time will come when we re-emerge, post-COVID.  While it’s speculation at the moment, I do believe we will be psychologically and sociologically changed.  There will be those who welcome reconnecting with the world and there will be those who will approach the world with a bit more hesitation and caution  

It will be important to anticipate these physiographic differences to adjust planning to meet your audience ‘where they are,’ (ex: the need for revised content, swings in spending, adjusted attendee capacities)

Keep an eye on the new dates for events, many are shifting to the October timeframe.  If this timing remains, there will audience competition and a more cluttered landscape for both organic and earned media

Phase Two 2021: 

Annual events and programs, cancelled in 2020 and moving to 2021.  It’s safe to say, there will be a renewed appreciation and hunger for live experiences and entertainment.  Our job will be to show up and to show-up better than ever.  We owe that to one another and to ourselves.

Marie Kelly, SVP of Grey Group, co-leads the experiential, influencer and PR Team

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Grey New York, Thu, 09 Apr 2020 15:21:17 GMT