Another contribution from our blogger Steve Pinnock at Performance & Event Management Ltd.

Although many of you may be too young to recall this, business events, especially conferences and product launches, used to be referred to by production companies and event organisers as “business theatre”. Many producers and creatives involved in the UK’s burgeoning live events industry in the 1980s and 90s were former theatre directors, sound and lighting engineers, film and video editors or stage managers. The big corporate events that became increasingly common in the UK in those decades were inspired at least in part by the established practice in the USA of promoting products through the medium of entertainment. Early radio (and then TV) soap operas were originally conceived as a sponsorship and promotional vehicle for the makers of washing powder!

Using drama and entertainment to market products and services has always been a central part of business development strategy. So, when you plan your next conference or similar business marketing event, are you confident that it will achieve the desired impression on your audience? Will it provoke the response that is traditionally associated with advertising, for which the acronym is AIDA? Your objective is to engage your audience and to inspire them to change their behaviour. That is the ultimate purpose of the event. The AIDA acronym stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Those are the reactions that you wish to stimulate with your marketing message. Live events can create the ideal atmosphere and environment for the delivery of your proposition.

The “theatrical” dimension of live business events is characterised as the emotional response that the presentation provokes. We all store impressions as opposed to just memories, so that you will remember being amused, elated, inspired or reassured by what you experienced at an event. In order to achieve that long-lasting impact on your audience, your event must include that theatrical element. Award-winning dramatic performances on stage rely not only on the skill of the actors, but also on a gripping script, elegant design, effective sound and lights and a comfortable auditorium, allowing the audience to feel totally involved. In other words, the complete production is one with appropriate trained talent, funding, resources, planning and rehearsal. It has to be “right on the night”!

Authenticity is reality!!

Unlike drama in its artistic form, business theatre cannot fantasise and fabricate stories that rely purely on the imagination. That is why “authenticity” is a vital ingredient in business theatre. In other words, as with any marketing message you must avoid promising more than you can deliver. On the contrary, you want your audience to leave the venue feeling enthusiastic and energised, but also confident that the dreams and aspirations they have been shown are a realistic vision of the future.

Promotional information about the event, with details of the cast and a synopsis of the plot, conveys purpose and raises expectations. It is important to incorporate that “advance publicity” into the event planning process. The audience will be personally invited to your business event but in many cases will need to be convinced that it is worth attending. There are no fiercer critics of your show than the people who have been dragooned into participating and who may well be hostile to the theme and content that is being presented. It is vital to be authentic by recognising and addressing the controversial issues and offering solutions that bring the curtain down to universal applause. Let’s be honest, professionals in the world of theatre dream of performances that end with curtain calls, but still search nervously for the reviews the next morning.

There are no guarantees of success in business theatre, but if you expect rave reviews and positive audience reaction then every aspect of the event must be meticulously planned and executed.