Technology has completely changed how we work, travel, socialize, and even what we do in our free time. We humans depend on technology a lot and it has made almost all of our routine activities and tasks easier. The UK event management industry is growing at a very high pace and there are a lot of areas where technology already plays a vital role yet there is a lot more room for it to revolutionize the industry.
I went to Tokyo Disneyland. It was on my bucket list and as it is my last time in this grand city the decision to go was an easy one. Already on the train there I spotted several people in complete Disney gear. It made me wonder why people dress up like that. It’s not just Disney. You see the same at events like Comic Con and also at festivals. People like to go out of their way to dress up.
We work on the principle that every person drinks at least 1 bottle of water. One bottle is half a litre. So for a 10,000 capacity festival we are looking at least at 5,000 litres. At Electric Daisy, with 145,000 attendees, we poured roughly 1 million bottles: or 500,000 litres of water over 3 days.
I met up with Tucker Gumber at Lightning in a Bottle Festival in 2015. Tucker is also known as the Festival Guy, and we talked about event promotion and his app FestEvo.
Please introduce yourself and explain what The Festival Guy does.
I’m Tucker and I’m known as the Festival Guy. It started as a way to go to festival for free. I thought if I review festivals I could come in as media. For that to actually work I had to visit a lot of festivals and it turned into something else. What I do is I look at problems at festivals and try to find solutions for them.
For example I've created a campaign to change the crowd’s perception that it is our responsibility to pick up after ourselves. I’m writing about the other stuff at festivals that no one else is talking about.
When did you start The Festival Guy and how many festivals have you visited so far?
My first festival was March 2011 and Lightning in a Bottle Festival in 2015 is number 78. I like to think I’m a seasoned festivalgoer by now.
What is your advice to a future festival organiser about how they should organise a festival?
Be very clear with your audience what they can expect. Give them rules. Rules at a festival are not bad. In fact it is for everyone’s benefit. Here at Lightning in a Bottle the rule is that you pack it in, pack it out. We’re going to pick up after ourselves and they have signs across the site to remind people of that rule. It works!
What happens at festivals where you do not have these rules is that I cannot go up to someone who throws something on the ground and say “hey, that’s not how we do it here”. So, rules work.
How do you find out about new festivals and especially the smaller festivals?
Normally I hear about festivals word-of-mouth. It will probably always that way because if you throw a good festival you want to come back again next year and brig your friends with you. I do get press releases on all the festivals and that’s how I keep my app FestEvo up to date.
I also started my own app called FestEvo that let’s you research the line up of festivals. The idea behind the app came from what I said about addressing problems at festivals. I discovered two main problems that we experience when at festivals. One we go to these festivals to spend time with our friends but you never really know which of your friends are going to be there.
We had met at a conference and after Northern Night Music Festival I received a message from this guy (he’s referring to me) that he was at the same festival and that it would have been cool to hang out. I replied by saying: “if someone only worked really hard on an app to solve that problem”.
The other problem is that when you go to a festival is hard to find out the entire line up and listen to the music. So you end up spending hours trying to find artists on Spotify and Youtube. In my app you can click on any festival and it will show you the entire line up and you can listen to every artist. The app can give a customised line up based on how you rate the artist. The app is free but the customised list is $1.
What aspects of the festival do you focus on when you review festivals?
I focus on everything. I want festivals to be sustainable but also easy to attend. I want there to be bathroom lights. I want to see and hear the music from the back of the crowd. I want to know what the crowd is like. The only thing I do not write about is what happens on the stages. Don’t go to the festival if you don’t like the line up.
How do people find out about festivals?
You want your festival to be on websites like Fest300, Music Festival Junkies, Wiki Festivals, and of course my app FestEvo.
What can festivals do to promote themselves?
Festivals should get way more creative with the content they create at the festival. Very few festivals let their artists control their Instagram account. They should all do that. Make smart content along the way and focus on more user generated content. Give someone a camera for the day and at the end of the day you can use that content.
Is it social media that festivals should focus on?
Honestly, a festival should focus on throwing the absolute best festival! Because if you throw an amazing festival, everyone that came this year will want to come back next year and they will bring people with them.
Lightning in a Bottle for example doesn’t rely on the line up. Everyone buys their tickets in advance because they want to be here, because it’s Lightning in a Bottle.
Where can people go if they want to find out more about you?
You can visit my website FestivalGuy.com or FestEvo.com and via there they can look me up on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.
Go to my Youtube channel if you prefer to watch the interview with Tucker.
Last week I was a guest lecturer at a college here in Brighton. My lecture was about the story of an event. How that storyline helps you as an event organiser to convey your message to your audience. I used a transformational festival as an example.
The students weren't really familiar with the term transformational festival. Jeet Kei Lung explains in his TedX Talk that a transformational festival provides a "content rich reality that features a high density of quality interactions. Festival attendees are participants and co-creators of the experience". Think Burning Man and you get the idea.
Now what does that mean? At these festivals it is all about community building, about learning and self-development, about social consciousness, about eating healthy, about creativity. Honestly, the creativity at these festivals is mind blowing! It might sound to you as a bunch of hippies gathering in a field but that's not necessarily true. The locations for these festivals are carefully chosen and the people attending are from all walks of life.
I've been lucky enough to attend transformational festivals like Lightning in a Bottle and Symbiosis Gathering. Both are taking place on the west coast of America, currently the hotbed for such festivals.
Is there room for such festivals in the UK? I think so.
You can subscribe to my Youtube channel. Every Sunday an interview with an event expert. Coming soon: my interview with Dede Flemming from Lightning in a Bottle.
Earlier this year Adele asked her fans to put phones away and enjoy the gig in real life. Not sure how many of them actually did exactly do that but I can see where see is coming from. Somewhere during the summer months I read an article about digital detoxing. People who make a conscious decision to go off grid for a while.
Turns out that a third of British internet users have tried this digital detox, according to a report from Ofcom. Now, I'm not ready for a complete detox yet but since the start of 2016 I no longer have the Facebook app on my phone.... too addictive. Am I a better person for it? Not really but I do look less at my phone, which was my main reason.
How will this work for festivals? Fans want to be connected. They get annoyed when there's no wifi and want to post on Facebook and Instagram instantly. A good festival provides escapism. So isn't a festival a perfect opportunity for someone's digital detox?
Some festivals are tapping into this market. Unplugged Festival and Off Grid Festival are two examples of UK festivals that allow people to switch off from the online world. And they are successful festivals. I guess festival organisers have to make choices...
Social media or social experience? Let's see if the trend continues.
You can subscribe to my Youtube channel: every Sunday an interview with an event expert!
Working as a project manager for the International Centre for Crowd Management & Security Studies I have seen some 'interesting' approaches to health and safety regulations at events and festivals.
From incomplete front of stage barriers to overflowing toilets and anything in between. In the early 2000s I was involved in rewriting the licensing for a large festival after an incoherent event management plan (and consequent acting on it) lead to audience members being hospitalised. As an event planner you need to avoid these kind of mistakes. After all, we are talking about the health, safety and well-being of your audience.
But what do you do when you have to organise an event in a country where violent attacks happen. Meredith Pallante wrote an interesting article about how she organised the security for an event held in Israel. You can read the article here.
For more information about health and safety aspects at events you can visit my YouTube channel where you can find my FREE course in event safety.
The last time I went to a conference I noticed that the audience was quite "mature". The only younger visitors looked like students who were trying their luck with networking.
But how do you attract a younger audience? How do you make sure they come back to your conference the next time? How do you make your conference appealing to millennials? You can read the article here.
It's October which means it is time for Oktoberfest! Actually the most important Oktoberfest, the one in Munich in Germany, took place in September. But you get my drift. The world's biggest Oktoberfest generates a whopping €1.3 billion for the region. Of that €189 million is spent on beer.
If you're thinking of organising an Oktoberfest than you might want to read the 6 tips that Eventbrite have put together. It gives you six handy tips for planning an amazing beer festival. And guess what, it's not just about the beer!
Attitude is Everything is an organisation that improve deaf and disabled people's access to live music. The organisation supports festival organisations in helping them to understand the needs of disabled people. On their website there are plenty of useful practical guides.
Read here the Practical Guide about Access Information from Attitude is Everything.
Glastonbury festival works with Festival Medical Services. According to the Guardian this charity organisation “will have 850 volunteers including doctors, nurses, podiatrists, ultrasound technicians, paramedics and dentists” on site. If you are an event planner this might sound daunting. Logistics, planning, and costs are probably the first things you think of.
“One of the first things event planners need to do is to acknowledge that certain drugs might be used at their event. There are laws that prohibit certain drugs and you will follow certain standards and procedures with regards to these drugs laws. But… acknowledging that some of these drugs inevitably come onto your event site and will be use used is the first step”.
At the festival site no queues for the stand where I had to change my ticket for a wristband. Long queues however for the merchandise stand that was next to it. Surprisingly there was no security to check my bags. I only had show my wristbands and I could walk onto the campsite. I can’t make up my mind whether this is a good thing or not. Let’s just say I was surprised.
Fuji Rock is often referred to as the Glastonbury of Asia. It’ll be warmer than Glastonbury but apparently I should expect rain. On their website, the festival warns for extreme temperature differences and potential heavy rainfall. The semi-British side of me sighs... “oh dear”. Besides the weather warnings there are warnings to keep away from bees, wasps, mosquitos and ticks.
Before you do anything else you need to know whom you are organising your event for. Whether you organise your own events or whether someone hires you to produce an event: know the audience.
Once you know who your audience is you know how to cater for them. You should figure out what they like, what their expectations are. When you do know your audience you need to figure out how you can engage with them. Are they on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat?
When organising an event for the first time you could look at similar events. What kind of audience do these events attract? How do they communicate with their audience? Perhaps you can improve some of their methods.
But look at what you want to achieve with your event. The feel, atmosphere, and event experience you have in mind: who is interested in that?
Knowing your audience is closely linked to what you want to achieve with your event. So have a look at your objectives. Is there an audience for that thing you want to achieve with your event? Do your research!
What if we allow testing kits at the festival and a visitor has given us his pill to be tested. The test comes back and says it is okay for consumption. Turns out that the test didn’t work properly. What happens if that person dies as a result of taking that pill? Who is than responsible? Can someone be held responsible? Is it the event organizer? Is the festivalgoer? Is it the person testing? Is the licensor? Who if anyone?