One thing is for sure: people all over the world are truly missing the unique and soulful experience of attending a festival. A music festival, food festival, or cultural festival, to name a few, can bring people together in some of the best ways.
However, with the rise of COVID-19, festivals all over the world were put on hold, and the events industry, artists, and festival vendors were forced to find other ways of sharing their passions with the world.
Now that physical distancing requirements are relaxing slightly, some in the festival industry have found ways to promote festival-like events to crowds virtually, while physically distanced, or with other safety measures in place.
If you are an event planner, then you may be chomping at the bit to host a festival crowd.
But how can it be done? Should you host a virtual event? Or would it be better to host a hybrid event?
We decided to highlight some of the ways that festival planners can find success in the age of COVID-19 through some recent success stories while providing potential avenues for you to achieve positive results!
If, as a festival planner, you are considering hosting an event during COVID, you’ll need to consider what type of festival would work best for your location, the COVID requirements, and people’s comfort levels.
Needless to say, a festival during COVID is going to look far different from a “normal” festival. However, your festival-goers can still reap some of the many benefits of attending the event.
Here are some COVID-friendly festivals to consider:
- Winter festival (or seasonal festival): Try to take advantage of the fact that people will want to attend some kind of festival. A seasonal festival allows you to take advantage of being outdoors (even in colder weather).
Because the change in seasons is constant, you can count on a seasonal festival, like a winter carnival, to become a welcome and comforting celebration year-after-year.
Because crowd sizes will need to be capped, you can maximize your chances for success by increasing accessibility by adding virtual elements to make it a hybrid event that people can enjoy safely at home.
- Movie drive-in: Drive-ins are nostalgic, and bring us back to days gone by. A time when families would watch movies on a large outdoor screen from the comfort of their vehicle, listening to the movie by tuning in to a specific radio station. Drive-in movies can be simple to operate and bring a ton of fun.
Drive-ins make a lot of sense for safely distanced film festivals. People can stay in their vehicles and watch films. Drive-ins with multiple screens can allow for multiple screenings at the same time. It will be similar to a traditional film festival, however, it will take place in one venue.
Unfortunately, it will likely be necessary to close concessions stands and common areas to avoid crowds gathering.
Planners can smooth this over and increase attendee satisfaction by including a discount for a food delivery service with the price of admission or including a custom event app that can be used to improve the experience.
Consider live-streaming Q&A sessions with filmmakers, actors, and directors to make the festival more appealing.
- Music drive-in or ‘bubble stage’: Similar to the movie drive-in festival, consider hosting a music drive-in similar to what is being set up at Polson Pier in Toronto. Other festival planners have set up mini-stages where small friend groups can clump together, offering viewers a VIP experience and the show of a lifetime.
Physical distancing will still be required. You’ll also have to offer a lineup that is impressive enough to draw crowds to such a unique event. Given the circumstances, the price point should reflect the intimacy of the event, the fact that music events are rare right now, and the unique VIP experience of the mini-bubbles (if that is what is offered).
Successes for this type of event would include a GBAC Star certification for the venue, and a high-quality lineup.
- Sail-in (during summer): If COVID protections carry into the 2021 year, you may want to think long-term about the types of festivals that can be hosted. By thinking ahead, you might be able to come up with some truly unique festival ideas.
While the idea of the “sail-in” is not new, it could present some interesting festival ideas considering that people can stay physically distant on a boat, or stay within their social bubble on their boat.
An event of this caliber could really succeed if the profits were donated to charity or attached to a cause. For example, consider donating a portion of the proceeds to frontline workers in your community.
Things Festival Planners Need to Consider Now
If you are a festival organizer and you are eager to host a festival or high-quality show, know that it is possible with the right amount of planning. However, in order to put on a successful event you need to consider the following:
You still need to offer high value for the festival that execute. Right now, many people are considering staying home because it is the safer and easier option. “Doing things” is simply taxing. To mitigate this attitude, you need to offer an event that is highly desirable, highly valuable, and somehow offsets the hassle it is to attend events.
You will also want to consider a hybrid event option as this will create the perception of tiering. Think of it like this – if you hosted an exclusive event during “normal” times, the attendees would already understand the value as the event is truly unique. However, right now, the secrecy and limited access will not sell it. Instead, you want to promote it and show those who cannot, or are afraid to, attend in person that they, too, can participate. Host a hybrid event, and publish the music, staging, or movie through an event platform so that the online audience can watch in real-time.
With this strategy, recognize that your event will be under the media’s eye, so be careful to follow all of the COVID-19 precautions in your local community to a T. You might even want to go “overboard” if you can. If you can go above and beyond, this will relieve some of the stress or worry attendees may feel.
You’ll also want to host an outdoor event if possible. If you can secure the space, an outdoor event is safer and more likely to pass a COVID inspection. Find a venue that is capable of hosting musical performances already so that a new build isn’t required. You’ll also want to find a venue, if you can, that is GBAC Star facility accredited, and has a large outdoor component. This is the safest space for guests, so they can take additional comfort in attending your event. As colder months approach, be sure to budget for additional heating equipment, including heat lamps, blankets, and bonfire pits.
Maximum Success With a Hybrid Festival
By promoting your event as both an online event and an in-person event, you will create a bigger sense of intimacy with both the attendees and the performers. You will also be able to reap the benefit of online ticket sales, which may account for a large number of your sales.
Think strongly about offering ticketing tiers for the online portion, as well as tiers for the in-person portion, so that online and physical attendees know that there are different expectations.
Be mindful of sizes for the in-person audience. If your local community, city, or state has restricted large gatherings, then you don’t want to violate these orders and risk negative PR.
You can offer a free live stream, but be sure to include sponsors and ads for those free viewers. This way, attendees may opt for upgrading their stream to a less intrusive ad-free stream. Needless to say, a virtual live music festival will be way more fun than the typical virtual interactions we’ve all been attending like a video conference call or a personal development webinar!
Event organizers will want to choose a smart hybrid event hosting platform. Look for an event planning software that can handle ticketing and registration, scheduling, CRM and data management, email and marketing integrations, and intuitive live stream or video streaming. Some event planning software like Accelevents even allows hosts the ability to upload recorded content, limit access to live event content, or publish live streams, so you have a number of options.
How to Find Success for Festivals In the Age of COVID
Hosting a festival in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic is difficult, to say the least. However, a good virtual, hybrid, or in-person festival can really boost people’s morale. In a time of uncertainty, it is the little successes that get people through.
Host a powerful fundraiser for frontline workers, or encourage people to get out and experience life again (in a safe way!) through promotional ads. Your marketing strategies aligned with the festival itself should be about community, shared success, and getting through this mess together. And right now, try to find sponsors who speak to people’s empathy rather than their wallet.
By hosting a festival that touches on some of these more intimate feelings related to COVID, you might be able to draw some interest, even at a time when people are a little hesitant to attend events. Additionally, be sure that the event is outdoors, following all safety precautions, and providing additional amenities appropriate for the situation.