Surekha Ragavan
Nov 15, 2018

Creating meaningful content is hard work, but it's the 'secret'

Event360 recap: Making sure your content resonates with delegates is so much more than the actual content – it's everything in the room that can help your content shine.

From left: CEI editor Surekha Ragavan, Stuart Bailey, Olinto Oliveira, Sebastien Portes.
From left: CEI editor Surekha Ragavan, Stuart Bailey, Olinto Oliveira, Sebastien Portes.

While we recognise the importance of content, one conundrum that still puzzles content creators is ensuring and measuring the meaningfulness of what’s being put out. Is your content engaging? Is it inspiring? Is it connecting people? And ultimately—is it driving change?

Because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to these issues, they become increasingly difficult to crack, especially in an environment where time and attention are two things marketers and brands are losing control of. Three panelists at CEI’s Event360 in Hong Kong attempted to tackle these issues and more.

“When we think about putting together a program, it’s about inspiring, educating, and entertaining,” said Stuart Bailey, chairman for the Hong Kong Exhibition & Convention Industry Association (HKECIA). “You want people to go to a conference and feel like they’re really getting something out of it – something they’re going to implement. But really, you also want to entertain.”

At a time when the world has seen virtually everything thanks to the internet, delegates are jaded and restless—but the value of meaningful content is timeless. “It used to be that you could put in a lot of bells and whistles around an event—you have a great venue, dress it up and have production venue,” said Olinto Oliveira, live communications director for MCI Group. “So the real value of what makes experiences and events really count nowadays is the content you’re presenting.”

Sebastien Portes, general manager, Hong Kong & Taiwan, for Club Med, said that while content is key, the first step to achieving meaningfulness is understanding the purpose of your content in the first place.

“We really want to understand the purpose of the client—what’s the emotion that they want to trigger? This notion of purpose is absolutely critical to define meaningful content that ultimately results in meaningful execution,” he said.

Striking a chord with everyone

Now that personalisation is a given at any successful event, how can content creators attempt to cater to the needs of everyone? The key—according to Bailey—is getting the right people in.

“You have to get groups of people together in a room that have common interests. Then they feel that there’s much more value with being a part of that event. This is really hard, but personalisation is what everyone under 40 wants. They want to be able to say ‘I met like-minded people, I had a great experience, I felt like I was looked after’. It’s hard work but I think that’s the secret,” he said.

One theory that he brought up was “engineered serendipity”, where delegates are being gently nudged in the direction of people similar to them. Think of it as an algorithm—but in real life.

“If you go to an event, often the thing that is most memorable or valuable is the guy that you met in the lift. Or the person that you met in the cocktail session that you have something in common with,” said Bailey. “So if you do that in a mechanical approach, it feels a bit forced and it’s difficult to get people to come together.”

Data via tech solutions such as AI have helped planners to get relevant audiences into their events, and ultimately, a more relevant audience is going to result in content being absorbed more effectively. This a loop that agencies and brands want to be able to nail because with the right groups of people at your event, the meaningfulness of content is achieved more organically.

Oliveira agrees in that emphasis should be placed on people in the room rather than just the people on stage. “At the end of the day, I can’t really remember most of the keynote speeches that I listen to. I mostly take away the synergies that are in the room,” he said.

“You need to make sure you have the right people in the room who are going to be listening to your content. Are you going to be contacting these people after your event? Are the people in the room connecting? Not so much the ‘experts’ that are on stage talking.”

Oliveira added that the key to personalising content to everyone’s needs—especially in the context of large groups—is festivalisation. It’s the idea of creating something unique for everyone, or the idea of creating touchpoints that everyone can engage with at their own pace.

“It’s about having a wide breadth of information and people are able to choose what exactly experiences they have. A lot of conferences are moving towards that—you have plenary sessions within workshops. You can have the general information but you need to give people a chance to curate their own experience as well,” he said.

Meanwhile, for Portes, it’s all about the “intangible assets”. “It’s about creating a unique atmosphere. It’s not just about the setting or the food but the capacity to create togetherness and allowing people to open their minds so that we increase performance. It’s very difficult to control but you have to pay attention to this intangible atmosphere,” he said.

The inevitability of Instagram

If social media has changed the way delegates are consuming content at events, one way planners can leverage this is by evolving the way content is being delivered and allowing delegates to take agency of content. And this is where Instagram comes in.

“It’s interesting that a lot of people point to social media as a negative. But the intensity of an experience is increased by how much people have shared it. So if it’s a positive experience that they share, [people consuming the content] feel it’s more positive [than it might have been in real life],” said Oliveira. “And for us, when we’re creating experiences, that’s a very powerful thing.”

He added that “people are going to take photos anyway” at an event, so why not create avenues that they’re going to do it in a more natural way? “As much as possible, we try and stay away from things that are static,” he said.

For Portes, events at Club Med properties don’t need too much help in getting delegates to whip their phones up—thanks to the hotels’ resort setting—but the priorities of his operations teams have shifted as social sharing becomes an increasingly important measure of success for his events.

“Sometimes, with a client event, we spent more time looking for ‘Instagrammable’ spots to take photos compared to time spent organising the event. It’s more about the number of likes than the quality of the keynote speakers,” he said.

“User-generated content is one of our measures of success. It’s one of our measures now to see the number of posts the event has generated. It shows how important it is for events to go beyond the boundaries of the event space,” he said.


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