March 13, 2020
By Mike Fletcher

With Glastonbury set to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Worthy Farm in Somerset this year and with almost five million people visiting a UK music festival each and every summer, the popularity of the immersive festival experience has never been higher.

In the past few years, event planners have sought to learn and steal from the festival format in order to evolve the delegate experience of a business conference or exhibition.

By cultivating an atmosphere that satisfies varied interests in one event and by allowing visitors to discover content in a non-prescriptive way, the ‘festivalisation’ of all types of events has become the live marketing buzz word du jour.

Festivalisation of business events – good or bad?


However, as one actual festival organiser told an audience of business event planners attending International Confex recently, not everyone is doing it properly and poorly executed festivalisation strategies are perhaps doing more harm than good to the perception of events as a whole.

“Putting bunting up at the company conference is not festivalisation,” Nick Morgan, CEO of We are the Fair warns. “Not only is it giving genuine event planners a bad name, it’s actually insulting to festival organisers everywhere.”

So how should you consider the concept of festivalisation for more immersive event experiences, without insulting the sensitivities of the festival organiser?

What you can do to make event festivalisation a success


From a theming, dressing and supplier perspective, consider the shortfalls of the venue before planning what festival inspiration could solve particular pain-points.

For example, if the toilets are too far away from the gala dinner, consider luxury portable loos. Or if delegate dietary requirements demand it, plan different food stations from around the world.

Introduce environmental initiatives such as reusable festival-style cups instead of plastic bottled conference water. Or take inspiration from cashless festival settings if there’s purchasing elements to your event.

From a logistics perspective, look at how festivals position their stages so that noise from one part of a business event doesn’t pollute other theatres or content streams.

And use digital communication to enhance real-world interaction, allowing attendees to discover content, networking opportunities and inspiration via push notifications from the event app.

Understand your audience before festivalisation!

Remember, festivalisation celebrates the delegate as a participant rather than an onlooker, which may tilt the emphasis more towards fun, interactive and immersive elements. However, this may not be appropriate for everyone.

If it’s a serious healthcare or pharmaceutical conference for example, added elements of festivalisation could end-up trivialising the importance of the content. While certain delegate personas may not wish to engage with gamification or participative content.

Nick Morgan reminds us:

“Festivalisation is not a cookie cutter template. To do it well takes research, a true understanding of your audience needs, and a substantial investment.”

“Festival organisers evolve their events over a number of years and we’re constantly in touch with our audience’s changing behaviours. If you create multiple environments for different audience profiles and you miss the mark due to a lack of understanding, it will likely kill the event.”

Get it right however and you’ll reshape the attendee journey for the better, providing a more varied and immersive environment while delivering on a broader delegate experience, all underpinned by the latest event technology.

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

In-Person Event Planning Checklist
Planning an in-person event?
Stay organized and efficient with our easy-to-use checklist

More Reading

Reporting, Budgets, & ROI

A Comprehensive Guide to Event ROI

By Hope Salvatori

Subscribe to our newsletter