COVID - 19 Picture

Last year, the world collectively walked into what felt like an alternate universe. So many things that we take for granted – like holding live events or festivals and engaging in person – were suddenly taken away from us. The pandemic may have decimated the arts and tourism industries, but it’s time for us to come out of hiding and figure out a way to re-establish an audience connection. For organizations that have relied so heavily on live events and festivals in the past, that means figuring out how to plan COVID-safe programming and user engagement to get people excited about a cause, an initiative, a new product launch – the list is endless!

Whether you are hoping to plan a city-wide festival, corporate event, conference, charity gala, or anything in between, here are five ways to plan a highly engaged – and COVID-safe – event.

Create a locative storytelling experience

Location, location, location! It’s notoriously important for real estate, but it’s equally as important when it comes to connecting with your audience. Locative storytelling is when you connect stories to the locations they highlight. For example, The Coldest Night of the Year is an initiative created by The Mustard Seed in Edmonton to raise awareness of homelessness and poverty. Rather than focus on a specific event, which has its limitations when it comes to a cause like this, they created a community walk via a digital storytelling platform that allowed people to listen to personal stories and how the community is coming together to alleviate poverty and homelessness – and how they too can get involved. 

Social Issues Walk On-Route!

Mackenzie Brown

Build an immersive hybrid real-world/digital experience

Taking locative storytelling to the next level, why not transform your event into a completely immersive experience that is a hybrid of real-world and digital elements? City streets can become a limitless adventure land and you can find new and exciting ways to engage your audience. Imagine an interactive story where you have to make the choices a homeless person faces every day? It is an opportunity to put people in the shoes of those you are trying to help. Or you could create an event for pure entertainment – like why not replace the crowded zombie walk with a thrilling adventure where you have to escape the zombie apocalypse? Or get stuck in a massive game of Tetris that you can’t get out of unless you complete the challenges?

Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation performer and drummer Mackenzie Brown created and performed an incredible immersive experience at the ᐄᓃᐤ (ÎNÎW) River Lot 11∞ Indigenous Art Park in Edmonton. This musical journey invites you to experience the music and stories of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation through an unforgettable walk through the park.

Map used in a scavenger hunt
Scavenger Map

Set up a Digital scavenger Hunt or puzzle trail

Events and festivals often have kids’ areas or family-friendly activities on-site. A digital scavenger hunt or a puzzle trail are great alternatives that are not only COVID-safe, but also allow event organizers to provide perks to donors and sponsors to get foot traffic past them. Because these activities are digital, you can keep your event costs way down using the right tools to build the experience. Another benefit is that you can easily tie in social media interaction to generate chatter online. 

Add digital donation capabilities

If you are a non-profit organization looking to raise awareness through events or festivals, you know that your usual event tactics likely won’t work. You need to get creative with how you ask for donations and how you show some love to your donors and sponsors. Incorporating a digital platform to accept donations can ensure your event or festival is seamless and you don’t have to worry about handling cash in this post-COVID world. It also gives you the opportunity to showcase sponsor logos through the platform.

Think extended events/experiences

Limiting yourself to one day or even a few hours in one day means you can only have limited people pass through your event. Stretching your timeline to include activity over several days can extend the life of the event and expose you to a larger audience. While you might be concerned with budget, there are a lot of different things you can do to keep the costs down for an extended event/experience. If you activate physical spaces digitally, you aren’t necessarily limited to a certain time frame. There are also many examples of events that utilize light and sound equipment to create a more immersive experience outdoors with lower overhead costs.

Temporary Public Art Installation from BrisAsia that lasted 6+ month beyond the festival for people to enjoy.

You can also extend your event by digitally geolocating performances. If you are thinking of running something like a fringe festival with buskers, a street art festival, or even a theatre festival where people perform at specific public spaces or venues, you could record the performances or a timelapse of the art being created so the event could exist beyond the actual festival dates and times. Not only does this help with COVID-safe programming, but it can also serve as a great marketing tool for when you plan the next festival. Plus, it can be helpful to still collect the digital pay-what-you-can donations long after the event! Brisbane City Council’s BrisAsia used this tactic for their Weaving Our Heritage arts festival. Each installation was augmented with a timelapse of the process as well as interviews with the artists – all of which were available even after an installation was taken down.

Red Bull Soap Box Race, 2016. Credit: Karen Roe (CC by 2.0)

In case you are wondering, this type of programming can work for both non-profit organizations as well as brands who are looking to extend the life of the public stunts that you put so much effort – and funding – into. For example, Red Bull has some incredible public stunts that are full of adrenaline. What if fans could visit Steamboat in Colorado and see the thrills and spills of the 400m ski race any time of the year, or relive the highlights of the annual Crushed Ice race in Edmonton from 2018, or Finland in 2019? It’s not the same to watch on Red Bull TV as it would be to have certain elements unlocked on a free tour that could boost brand awareness and let the experience live on.

How can Story City Help?

Story City is an award-winning, interactive platform and app that combines location-based storytelling with a digital experience. We can help you seamlessly meld the physical and digital worlds to create memorable experiences that will be available to your audience 24/7, far beyond any time frame you could imagine. On top of that, we can help you plan and execute your event for a fraction of the cost that you would have spent.

With over 25,000 users and 300 creators on the platform so far, we’re growing experience by experience and we welcome you to explore how you can make your next event not only COVID-safe, but also something that your guests will never forget. To find out more about Story City or to partner with us for your next event or installation, contact us today.