Transformational festivals: what are they?

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.

Safety tips for festival fans

This year's festival season might be over but some of us are already getting ready for 2017. Earlier this week we were told that Glastonbury Festival 2017 sold out within one hour. Talking about getting ready for next year.... Pretty amazing!

Whichever festival you go to, make sure you plan it properly. Part of that planning process is to start talking to your friends about how to stay safe at festivals. What is your plan to look after yourself and your friends? 

The Upcoming is giving you some great safety tips when attending gigs and music festivals. You can read the article here.

4.6 million people are live streaming music festivals: an untapped market

Over 800 music festivals take place in the USA each year. About 32 million people visit these festivals. That's a lot. But it gets even better (and bigger). 

23% of the social media buzz surrounding these events comes from people that aren't even attending these festivals. It comes from people sitting at home watching it on their computer or mobile devices. Now how can you tap into that market? Here a great article from Hypebot

How accessible is your event?

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. 

Event planning: know the purpose of your event

Event planning: know the purpose of your event

I’ve once organised a festival that wanted to cater for everyone. It had a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And when you want to cater for everyone, problems arise. One of the problems was that no one could identify with the event concept. It taught me an expensive lesson: know the purpose of your event.

Your event is an experience

Week 3 of #EventTutorTips

Yes, an event should be an experience. Your audience wants to be entertained. Look at it this way: you do not go to a Britney Spears concert because of her voice. You go for the show, the entertainment. You know her songs but her performances need a show element to make it worthwhile. To make people talk about it.

I’m not saying your event is as mediocre as Britney Spears but more often than not an event needs more than just an act (singer, speaker, product) on a stage. You need something that people will engage with. Something they want to talk about. Offer your guests something more than what they've paid for.

It is difficult to explain what an experience exactly is. Northern Nights Music Festival is a young festival organised at the most beautiful location. That location offers an experience. At Lightning in a Bottle there are art installation all over the event site. The art offers an experience.

An event experience depends per event, per location, per event organisation, and per audience. So, is your event like a Britney Spears concert without dancers or backup singers? You can do better!

Find out about the #EventTutorTips UK competition on my Facebook and Twitter channels.

Make your portaloos more appealing

Make your portaloos more appealing

It doesn’t matter whether you organise a one-day event or a festival weekend: your visitors deserve a clean toilet. I know… it’s difficult maintaining the cleanliness of those portaloos on a busy event day. But still, there’s no reason for them to be disgusting.

Are festivals replacing nightclubs?

Are festivals replacing nightclubs?

Are festivals the new nightclubs? Do people prefer to go to festivals several times a year instead of going out every week? Festival tickets are not cheap either nor are the drinks or the food. But people have the feeling they get more for their money. You can see dozens of acts, hang out with your friends, and meet new people. It is an experience!

I'm on my way to Bonnaroo...

So this weekend I'm at Bonnaroo to conduct research. The same research   I did at Lightning in a Bottle a few weeks ago. What do attendees think of the sustainable initiatives at the festival? Does the audience care about green initiatives or not? What do they find important? What should a festival's focus be on? Interesting stuff!

Music festivals: such a waste... really?

Leave no trace...

Leave no trace...

I've just finished a Skype conversation with someone from Sheltercare. Sheltercare is a Belgian company producing sustainable tents for, among others, festival goers. The company is born out of the realisation that so many tents are left behind at festival sites. At European festivals this tent dumping is a real problem.

Pictures of the 2013 edition of Reading Festival in England showing the vast amount of waste left behind at the festival site went viral. Outcry followed but it's pretty much the same at other festivals worldwide. Festival attendees, tired after several days partying, look at their tent and think: it's a cheap tent, I'm tired, and I can't be bothered to break it down and bring it all the way back home. Let's leave it!

Composting, recycling...whatever it is: make it easy for your audience!

Composting, recycling...whatever it is: make it easy for your audience!

The assumption is that the festival will clean it up. After all you paid a lot of money for your ticket so surely they can afford someone to clean it up. You see the same attitude in cinemas. People buy a gallon of coke and a bucket of popcorn. Once the movie has finished people get up and leave the buckets behind making sure Hans & Gretel can use the popcorn on the floor to find their way out of the theatre. After all, you paid for the ticket so someone else can clean your mess. 

But if that is the attitude than surely that attitude changes when people visit a festival organised by a non-profit? Not really. Last year I worked at San Francisco Pride. A not-for-profit organisation that is well known here in the Bay Area. Last year the event welcomed almost one million people. That's a lot of people and also a lot of waste. A lot of waste is created by sponsors handing out gadgets wrapped in plastic or cardboard. The audience likes getting stuff for free so they accept the gadgets. Once they had a good look at it, they throw it away. Not in a bin. Bins are overflowing with waste already anyway. So on the floor it is. It makes the festival site look like a mess (let alone a safety issue). Not what the organisation had in mind and surely also not what a festival attendee wants?!

So is it 'green fatigue'? I guess it comes down to the psychology of the attendees. If something is already a mess you don't feel guilty for littering. After all you didn't start it, you just did what all the others are doing. Right... But still someone started it and must have thought that is was okay to do so. So what can we do to change that attitude? 

Millennials are not as green minded as they say they are, according to a 2013 research study from DDB Worldwide. They don't recycle as much as baby boomers for example. But interestingly they do feel that an individual can make a difference. 

Can festivals promote their cleaning activities to an individual rather than a crowd? I think they can. Make it a personal issue! Perhaps they can promote the benefits of their waste program to their audience. How they deal with waste and why they want to reduce the amount of waste collected needs to be communicated. What is it that a festival wants to achieve with their waste management program? A cleaner site, more pleasant environment for attendees, a safer place, sustainable motives? Whatever the goals are they need to be communicated to the audience in easy to understand messages. And for crying out loud make it easy for your attendees to actually do what you want them to do. Your average Joe doesn't know the difference between biodegradable plates, recyclable plates, and those plasticky looking plates. Is that plastic? Don't give them a reason to get 'green fatigue'. 

As far as the audience goes they need to understand that their behaviour has a price tag attached to it. Someone has to pay for cleanup and a festival organisation will recoup the money somewhere; most likely your ticket price. No one likes to sit on a waste dump so try to keep the festival site (relatively) clean. I hope you agree with me so why do you litter when you're at a festival site? Don't tell me you're too wasted (...) to think about it. 

Great green initiative from festivals

Great green initiative from festivals

So, this summer we'll all pick up the cr*p we've created when at a festival site. We promise to throw everything in the bins provided and we promise to take our tents back home with us so we can reuse them again. And again! Let's start a culture change. Somehow I need to think of the South Koreans who made it to the semi final in the 2002 football World Cup. Huge crowds gathered to watch the game and afterwards they made sure they took all their stuff with them, leaving behind a clean place. So perhaps we need a Korean approach at festivals: a change of culture!  

Over the years festivals have launched initiatives such as 'love your tent', 'leave no trace', and 'pack it in, pack it out'. Great initiatives but the real struggle is to convince the audience to participate. Let's hope 2015 will be the year that we start loving our tent and we pack it in and out so that we don't leave a trace. Please!