The Cure for Live Events

Reimagining connection in a world that's craving it

Live events have come to a screeching halt. I've spent over 20 years in this business across arts, theater, sports and entertainment—let's call it the social gathering business. My entire career was born out of the world of lights, camera, action. Never in my lifetime did I think we'd be living in the world we're living in now.

In less than 30 days, the business I love has been decimated. The roar of the crowd; the 11 o'clock number; the show must go on—gone.

In less than 30 days, we've gone from a world preaching togetherness to a world outlawing gatherings of almost any size. We went from a world where screentime alerts reminded us to set down our phones in an effort to save us from isolation to a world requiring isolation to save us from ourselves.

It's easy to feel frozen right now and just plain terrified at what the future holds. Because if your business is built on the concept of gathering, and gathering is banned, what happens to your business?

This isn't something consumers have asked for, this social isolation. This was thrust upon them. If anything, we've been hearing and seeing for years that consumers crave experiences. In fact, if you look at most live-event verticals prior to the outbreak, demand was surging—from concerts to Broadway to sporting events to travel. Consumers were spending their time and money on experiences. It's even generated an entire new subset of marketing—experiential marketing, anyone?

For years, we've told people nothing can replace the live experience. Not Netflix. Not VR. Not anything. We've said the live experience is built on the concept of the communal—coming together as people. And the assumption has always been that has to happen physically. It's the requirement that makes the live event "live."

...But is it? 

Are live events about really being there? Physically being present? Well, sure. But is it exclusively its superpower? Or is this whole experience teaching us that "being present" is so much more than just sharing physical space? It's about meaningful connection. It's about belonging and feeling part of something. It's about experiencing something unique—of which there will never be another exactly like it. That is what makes the live event "live." 

This is a horrific time that is causing a lot of bad things to happen to a lot of good people. But onward we must move. And I will do so knowing this is not the end of live events—this is simply a new dawn where there will be winners and losers. The winners are the ones who (as we speak) are leaning into this change, not hiding from it. This is not just about translating the live events playbook of old to the platforms of new. This isn't just a technology play. (In fact, the technology has been here. We just haven't fully embraced it.) This is about reimagining what's possible in a world that's craving meaningful connection.

What's exciting about this time is that we are incredibly well positioned to deliver something meaningful to people. Something that's good for consumers and good for brands. But this isn't simply a marketing strategy—it's a human strategy. It's showing people with your actions that you care about them and want to connect more deeply with them. 

In a time like today, who doesn't want that in their lives?

Damian Bazadona
Damian Bazadona is president and founder of Situation Group, a global collective of marketing, advertising and technology companies committed to helping brands build passionate communities across a range of industries worldwide.

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