‘Technology and teamwork: The recipe for a successful modern-day festival’

By Jenni Young, CMO of Tappit


From the launch of The Sundance Film Festival’s VR and AR showcase – New Frontier – back in 2007, to Tupac’s iconic holographic performance at Coachella in 2012, to Our Music Festival, the first ever blockchain-integrated music festival in 2018, new technologies are completely transforming the end-to-end experience for festival attendees on a global scale.

Amongst the shiny consumer-facing technologies that attendees see and experience at festivals are a host of new tools that often improve the festival experience without fans even realising. Perhaps the most powerful is the newfound ability to collect data and use it to analyse behavioural trends. Organisers now have the capability to examine how festivalgoers are entering and exiting areas within a festival and what they are purchasing, often in near-real-time, giving them the opportunity to engage with their customers in an increasingly personalised way. This data means they can also improve and better connect with their audience throughout the year based on the preferences and behaviours of the event’s fans.

However, while this data holds a lot of promise, organisers cannot forget that adequate education and seamless execution is required when using them. It can be the difference between the success or failure of an event. While there are a number of different technologies organisers can implement, one thing is clear: successful implementation requires a harmonious relationship between those running the event and their technology partners. When selecting a partner, it is crucial that organisers research the expertise of any potential providers and evaluate how closely they collaborate with organisers to create tailored solutions that cater to the individual need of a festival or event. As with selecting any provider, the most economical option isn’t always the best one.


Take time to plan and educate

The recent challenges experienced by We Are FSTVL are an example of organisers implementing a new technology with the clear intention of improving the experience for fans. However the shortage of wristbands led to significant issues for fans trying to enter the venue on the festival’s first day. To mitigate problems with supply and demand, like those experienced at We Are, festival organisers should also look to use data from previous events to help make informed predictions about the demand for specific services and offerings.

Education is also an incredibly important part of the planning and implementation process. Giving staff sufficient time to familiarise themselves with new technologies and ask any subsequent questions well in advance of the event make consumers’ experiences on site more seamless. Organisers also need to carefully consider how to best to introduce these technologies to attendees themselves and strategically coordinate marketing efforts to allow attendees enough time to adjust and prepare for a new festival experience. With the expectations of fans evolving every year, extensive preparation and customer education prior to the event are more vital than ever. 

Years of experience working with event organisers has taught us that their confidence in technology is paramount. This confidence relies not only on organisers having a thorough understanding of the technology but also the level of support provided by partners, so we ensure that our account management team and customer support team work closely with the festival and organisational staff from ideation, to event, and beyond. 


Prepare, react and respond

Without clear and honest communication between organisers and their technology providers, it is incredibly hard to plan for all possible eventualities. It’s crucial that organisers align with each of their individual technology providers to establish a crisis plan for any foreseeable issues that may arise, however minor. As part of this plan, relevant members of staff should be clear on their roles and line of command should a crisis plan need to be enacted. One thing the industry can certainly learn from unfortunate circumstances like those at We Are FSTVL is that slick account management and reactive customer support is paramount in keeping attendees happy and mitigating the wider impact of any technology setbacks.

Organisers can also help cater to the evolving expectations of fans by utilising data and insights from new tools and platforms. Cashless systems, for example, allow organisers to evaluate and analyse their customers’ habits and make tangible improvements to the overall fan experience by increasing staff resources at food and drink locations or entry points, or ensuring that items in high demand are in stock.

There is no denying that technology is changing the way festivals are organised and enjoyed by all. Yet organisers must not rest on their laurels by presuming that their customers and staff will instinctively evolve at the same rapid pace as technological advancements. Through extensive planning, carefully crafted communications and a thorough education process, organisers can successfully implement technology that improves the experience of festivals for fans.