To understand what campaign and advocacy events will look like in 2023, you’ve got to go back to 2020. That’s when home-bound audiences started consuming highly produced and interactive campaign live streams.
They’ve never looked back.
“Live streaming was not new for campaign events, but it typically was a pretty low priority. You put one camera in the back of the back of the room, you put something up on Facebook and called it a day,” said Brendan Sullivan, founding partner of Weymouth Watson, an event production company that works with Democratic candidates and organizations on the left. “Both clients and audiences are now looking for something more dynamic.”
That means graphics packages, multiple cameras and, most importantly, interaction with the guest speaker or candidate. The good news is that meeting those expectations has gotten easier as event consultants like Sullivan, who co-founded his firm with partner Abbey Watson in 2020, have adapted to the new normal — so have the surrogates.
In fact, booking high-profile guest speakers is much easier today because the ask from a campaign or group is so much smaller. It’s not: get in a car that has to navigate through DC traffic. It’s not: fly across the country for a day or half a day. It’s 30 minutes on Zoom.
An advantage of digital events that extends from their ease of production is the ability to create a series, added Watson. “[This can] really lead them to get some credence with their low-dollar grassroots donors.”
Some might remember the era of at-home cocktail kits coming from the campaign or non-profit hosting an online event — usually a fundraiser — but those days are over, according to Watson.
“We’ve kind of moved off of that fairly quickly,” she said. “Where we found the actual value for attendees is the true interactivity with the personalities — this opportunity to have engagement that they would otherwise not have at a larger event and watching in a passive way.”
All this doesn’t mean that the high-value, in-person event is going away anytime soon. Well-heeled rainmakers will always value the in-person over virtual — if only for the handshake, photo op and chat with the principal.
But because hybrid is now the norm, event producers are having to do double duty: creating one experience for the in-person attendees, and another for those watching at home. “I think we’ll see the blend of both moving forward — because why not?” said Watson.