Inside a cave in southern France there is evidence that humans have told stories since the dawn of time.

The Chauvet cave paintings of bears, horses, bison, owls and rhinos are estimated to have been etched on the cave walls between 32,000 and 36,000 years ago, during the Ice Age.

Nobody knows what stories might have been told with these pictures. In fact, you have to fast forward to just 4,000 years ago for the world’s oldest known story, The Epic of Gilgamesh from the ancient kingdom of Mesopotamia in modern-day Iraq.

But what these and countless other cave paintings and fragments of ancient text show us is how deeply storytelling is embedded in our humanity.

Survive and thrive

In his book On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, University of Auckland professor Brian Boyd argues that storytelling is a human evolutionary adaptation that offers “tangible benefits” for survival.

Just what these benefits might be was recently explored by a team of researchers from University College London.

The researchers studied hunter-gatherer communities in Asia to examine the role that storytelling played in their societies.

In these communities, unexposed to modern-day moralising influences like organised religion, stories are essential for promoting co-operative and egalitarian values.

In a series of experiments, they offered members of the communities an allocation of rice to either keep for themselves or share with others. The more skilled storytellers that there were in the community, the more people were likely to share what they had with others.

Not only do stories help hunter-gatherer communities survive and thrive; the study by the UCL researchers also suggests there are evolutionary benefits to being a skilled storyteller.

When members of the Agta hunter-gather community in the Philippines were asked who they would most like to live with, skilled storytellers were twice more likely to be named than less skilled individuals.

Storytellers were more popular even than the best foragers. They also had greater reproductive success, and were more likely to gain the cooperation of other members of the community.

Corporate storytellers

If storytelling can be linked to basic human needs and desires, then businesses can use stories to better connect with their customers.

Apple is rated among the best in the world at doing this. The technology company recently topped a poll of the UK’s best storytelling brands for a fifth straight year, beating Help for Heroes, a charity for wounded veterans, into second place.

How does a company selling phones and computers make more of a connection with people than a charity telling tales of fallen warriors?

By consistently connecting with its customers at an emotional level.

Storytelling at its best engages hearts and minds. Apple succeeds at doing this by communicating itself as a brand with vision, a brand with purpose.

Apple invites its customers to be part of something bigger than themselves.

That something bigger isn’t just a story: it’s a narrative.

Winning narratives

Apple’s narrative is condensed into the slogan “think different”.

John Hagel, founder of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge in Silicon Valley, says that Apple’s narrative is so powerful because it invites the customer to be part of the story.

It invites the customer to think about the world and technology in a different way.

Hagel defines the difference between a story and a narrative as follows: firstly, stories are self-contained, with a beginning, middle and end, while narratives are open-ended. Secondly, stories are about the storyteller and characters in the story, while narratives can invite you to become part of the story.

As well as highlighting Apple’s success, Hagel also points to Nike as a good example of a brand using a narrative to its advantage.

Like Apple, Nike’s narrative is condensed into a simple slogan: “Just do it”. Hagel says it encapsulates the start of a journey, “the quest to become your personal best”.

Unsurprisingly, strong narratives and strong brands tend to go together. After Apple and Help for Heroes, the other companies ranked among the UK’s top 10 storytelling brands were all household names with strong identities, ranging from the BBC and the National Trust, to Facebook, Google and Dyson.

Empower your brand

With household names and global brands successfully harnessing storytelling and wider narratives to connect with customers, you could be forgiven for thinking that corporate storytelling is a consumer market phenomenon.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Business-to-business companies need to connect with their customers just as much as consumer firms.

And whether you are global sportswear brand or an IT services provider, you are still, at the end of the day, dealing with humans. Humans who, as the research shows, love stories.

One great example of a B2B company not only telling great stories, but placing them in the context of a wider narrative, is Tata Consultancy Services’ #digitalempowers website.

From smartphone apps helping African fishermen stay safe, to drones helping fight deforestation and save rhinos, #digitalempowers tells stories that together form a narrative showing how digital technology is a force for good in the world.

This narrative tells Tata Consultancy Services’ customers that it is a company committed to growing and improving the ways digital technologies can be used within organisations.

It is just one example of the corporate storytelling that Formative Content delivers for its clients to help them take control of their narrative and better connect with their customers.

Are you in control of your business narrative?

If you’d like us to help you create high-quality content that sets you apart from the competition, get in touch. 

Email: or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.

Enjoyed this post? Read How to turn interviews into engaging articles.


John McKenna is a Senior Writer at Formative Content and an award-winning business journalist with deep specialist knowledge of energy, infrastructure and project finance.


You’re a sesquipedalianist. And you don’t even know it.

We all like to sound clever. Who doesn’t like to come across as though they understand stuff that other people don’t?

It’s a natural human impulse. It doesn’t make us bad people. But it does make us bad writers.

Take the heading above. Anyone who uses the word sesquipedalianist is clearly hugely annoying because most people obviously have no idea what it means.

A sesquipedalianist is someone given to using long words. And we are all sesquipedalianists. Some of us are just better at suppressing the urge.

As writers who often have to interview specialists to put together accessible, intelligent articles and blogs, we not only have to hold back our own desire to use long words and jargon, we have to hold back theirs too.

And that’s a lot of sesquipedalianism to deal with.

Nanosphere complex

In the 1990s there was a shampoo ad on TV that promised to coat your hair in ‘nanosphere complex’. Which sounds amazing, right? Except that it isn’t a thing. It’s completely meaningless but sounds vaguely impressive (or did in the 1990s).

And that’s how most industry jargon comes across to people on the outside. Apply the nanosphere complex test to everything you write. Does it really mean anything? Do people actually know what you’re talking about? If not, rewrite and repeat the test.

There there are very few things that will kill a reader’s interest as quickly as the use of jargon. It is also a strong sign that the article isn’t very well written

If someone doesn’t understand a term immediately, it will break their concentration, frustrate them and probably make them think that the article isn’t one they’ll be interested in.

We live in a pretty brutal world – there are masses of articles out there vying for readers attention.

Even if you’ve managed to stop someone scrolling, tempted them to click and persuaded them to read, if they have to stop for even a second because they don’t understand something, you’ve lost them and they won’t come back.

Business nonsense

Writing Business to Business blogs it can be tempting to just repeat the jargon used by an interviewee and hope that the reader will understand what is being said.

There are two problems with this.

Firstly, you may not understand the issue properly yourself and as such, you’ve basically got no idea what you’re talking about.   

Secondly, even if you do understand it, you are limiting your readership to people who already know an awful lot about the subject. And most clients will want to extend the reach of their articles far beyond that.

There is very little art in writing a jargon-filled article. Translating a jargon-filled interview is something that takes imagination, patience and brain power.

Our job is to listen, understand and then translate so that the reader doesn’t tadalafil 5mg canada have to.

The Clapham Omnibus

In England, there has long been a notion of the ‘ordinary’ man. Often said to spend a great deal of time aboard the Clapham Omnibus, this chap is a model of intelligent reasonableness.

Journalists are often told to write for this guy. Would he know what they’re talking about?

I don’t spend much of my time mentally ‘shouting sentences’ at someone on the Clapham Omnibus but I do stop to think if my mum would follow what I’m writing. And if she wouldn’t, it gets rewritten until she would.

It doesn’t have to be Omnibus Man or my mum. But everyone needs someone to mentally test their copy against.  

Jargon busting

There are good reasons people use jargon.

It creates a unique mini-language around a particular field of expertise and that helps those within it communicate accurately and easily. But jargon doesn’t travel.

Some people enjoy the exclusivity of sounding knowledgeable about a particular subject. Others are so immersed in jargon they can no longer communicate without it.

Either way, we have to cut through.

When interviewing people as the basis for writing an article or blog post, ask them to explain their work, their view or their thesis to someone who doesn’t work in the industry.

If that’s not helping, ask them to summarise in two sentences or 10 seconds.

Don’t be afraid to politely ask for clarification – “what does that mean in simple terms?” or “talk to me as though you’re explaining it to a 6 year old”.

Trust your gut – if you don’t think you have grasped something, ask again. A small amount of awkwardness in the interview is worth it if it helps you write an article that is clear and readable.

If you’re not getting anywhere, change tack. Ask about something else and then re-ask the question you’re stuck on in a different way further down the line.

Ask the expert to list several elements to the answer – that way they’ll break it down and give you more digestible chunks.

Aim for accessible writing even when you’re covering very complex issues. Write to appeal to everyone interested in current affairs. Don’t assume insider knowledge and don’t patronise either.


And don’t use long words. Unless your audience is replete with sesquipedalianists…


Like this post? Read ‘Why you should be writing for an intelligent goldfish‘.

Keith Breene is a Senior Writer at Formative Content and has 20 years experience as a national journalist and corporate storyteller.

Extracting key information from specialists to create engaging stories and content is what our journalists do best. If you’d like us to help tell your corporate stories, get in touch.

Email: or call our team on 01494 672 122

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.


Most writers know the feeling. You sit down to start your article and five minutes later you’re still staring at a blank page. Don’t panic.

In fact, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve got the first step to writing a successful article just right. You’re thinking about what you want to say. The alternative is to pour a disjointed stream of consciousness onto the page.

It’s nearly 25 years since my tutors at journalism school knocked my writing into shape. Since then the technology used to create and publish content has been through one revolution after another. But those core reporting skills haven’t changed much. Below are seven reporter skills that you can use to create content your readers will find easy to read – and share.

Have an angle

A story without an angle won’t be much of a read. Consider these two headlines.

Artificial Intelligence Will Change the World

Your Next Holiday Flight Could be Piloted by a Robot

The first has no angle and very little appeal to potential readers. The second is a compelling story with a really strong angle on the broad subject area of artificial intelligence. So, focus hard on your angle to give yourself a chance of hooking your audience.

Don’t bury the lead

Begin your story with the newest information written in a sharp, accessible style. Look to answer the basic questions; who, what, why, where and when in the opening two paragraphs of your article. Context and supporting background material can be included later.

Keep it short

The best reporters write short sentences. They also use simple everyday language. They typically  attempt to convey only one idea per sentence.

Your aim is to get the story across in a way that is easy for readers to understand. So, avoid putting obstacles in the way. Keep adjectives to a minimum, avoid flowery prose and lose the Latin phrases. If you are writing corporate content it can be tempting to reach for the thesaurus and include lots of big words to impress your colleagues. It’s likely to achieve the opposite and it will certainly alienate your readers.

Use active sentences

Many people struggle with the concept of the active and passive voice, so forgive me for taking you back to kindergarten for this one.

The first phrase many of us ever learned was “the cat sat on the mat.” It’s language in its simplest form and small children can easily understand it.

Now imagine telling a toddler that “the mat was sat upon by the cat.” It’s a much more difficult concept to grasp. That’s because it’s written using the passive voice.

Active sentences tell us who did what. Grammar buffs will recognise the subject-verb-object construction. The important point is that keeping your copy active makes it much more engaging. It gives clarity to your story and it normally takes fewer words to say the same thing.

Spelling and grammar

A writer’s reputation is grounded in good spelling and grammar. If you struggle with these there are online tools to help you. All computers have a simple spell checker. There are also more advanced online tools like grammarly that check not only spelling but also grammar, readability and other writing errors.

Attribution and accuracy

Unless you are writing a first person piece, there is no room for your own opinion in your copy. The source of facts, figures and quotes should be clear to readers. Make sure the sources you quote are credible. Do not use Wikipedia as a single source. Anybody can edit entries in Wikipedia so the data may not be reliable.

Check that everything in your piece is accurate. Your credibility as a writer depends on getting the facts right. Your company’s reputation may also depend on you getting your facts right. That means your job may depend on you getting the facts right. Check and once you’re happy, check it all again.

Polish your copy

Once you have written and checked your article it’s a good idea to go back and rewrite it. Your first attempt will never reflect you at your most brilliant.

For example, this article has 710 words up to this point. Is that too many?

The great American writer Mark Twain has the answer to that. Back in 1880 he said pretty much all of what I have said above. He used 106 words. I’ll leave you with those.

“I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English – it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them – then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

Letter to D. W. Bowser, 20 March 1880

If you’d like to hear how we can help your business produce journalistic content, get in touch today.
Email: or call our team on 01494 672 122

Simon Torkington is Executive Producer at Formative Content and produces and oversees content production for some of our biggest clients.

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.

Events are still a crucial part of our business calendars. Most people are fairly comfortable with running a typical event; you book the venue, the invitations are sent out, presentations prepared and attendees (hopefully) walk away with some value. But in the digital age, that walk away value has never been more important.

One tactic that has an impressive impact, and can differentiate your event from others, is a live blog.

Live blogs: the opportunities

We’ve previously discussed the advantages of live-streaming your event, but having a live blog presents advantages of its own:


• It can create a buzz as the event is taking place, capturing the activity that’s happening and sharing it with attendees and non-attendees.

• It can extend the reach of your event to a much broader audience.

• It allows you to add value to your clients by identifying and sharing relevant key points from sessions.

• With a live blog you can encourage, direct and showcase discussion about your event.

• It extends the life of the event beyond the actual day – it is an easily accessible record of your event.


Your audience will expect to see some digital content associated with the event. And it can help drive sales. A recent study by Virtual Edge Institute shows that 82% of online audiences said they found digital content helpful in deciding whether to attend an event in-person the following year.  

In our own report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, we found that 97% of business event customers see digital content as a non-negotiable essential of an event.

What is a live blog?

A live blog differs from a ‘regular’ blog in that it is a real-time narrative of an event. It plays a critical role in the Digital Event Newsroom set-up that we create for clients to help them get the most out of their events.

Live blog success in 8 steps

1. Choosing the right platform

Platforms like CoverItLive, Livefyre, Storify and ScribbleLive create a dedicated box on your website to publish short-form and mid-form updates. The most recently updated posts automatically appear at the top.

If your website doesn’t support any of these platforms, you can continually update a regular blog post and manually input timestamps for each update.

2. Starting up

The most important part of the live blog is the introductory text – the first words that most readers will see when they click on your live blog. Keeping this text as fresh and up-to-date as possible is key.

The perspective you can give at 7:00 am for a 9:00 am event will be different from what you can provide at 7:30 p.m – so it’s important to keep updating the introduction to capture the attention of the readers as they arrive on your page.

3. Provide insight

The live blog should provide insights gleaned from the experts at your event. The old format of keeping insight ‘exclusive’ and behind closed doors is old hat in the digital age. After all, your aim is to convince the online audience that your events are interesting, valuable and worth attending. Providing this sort of insight can also build trust, something that is even more important in the digital age.

You don’t need to create verbatim accounts of the presentations to share insights – we’ve found that succinct summaries that highlight the key points of a session, work well. We’ve also used quote cards or quick turnaround videos, detailing the key points made by high-profile speakers.

Example quote card: Mr. Bear Grylls, Adventurer, Writer and TV Presenter at the Global Education & Skills Forum 2017 in Dubai.

Quick tip: look at the event’s session summaries beforehand; you can often write an introductory paragraph for the latest update before the session has even begun.  

4. Keep it interesting

Don’t let your live blog become monotonous – mix up the types of content that you’re providing. For example, you could:


• Vary your word count as much as possible. A five-word post can be just as powerful as 500 words, if you’re saying the right thing.

• Use interesting graphics or photographs to keep the blog up-to-date as you work on a slightly longer piece.

• Breaking up long posts with shorter ones makes the blog more visually appealing to readers.


5. Link to session summaries and quick-turn around blogs

At the events we cover for our clients, our team of journalists sit in the sessions at the event, or use livestream coverage, to write up traditional blog posts and detailed summaries. These make for an easy update to the live blog; post the introduction to these traditional blog posts with a “read more” button linking to the full blog once it is live.

6. Track, monitor and share

Social media is a live blogger’s best friend. While updating the live blog, the writer should be monitoring the event and session hashtags. This keeps the blog alive; great tweets, Instagram pictures and photos from attendees and speakers help build the story of the event. It also brings an extra ‘shareable’ element to the blog which helps you spread the word.

7. Continuously edit

When you’re running a live blog, it might be tempting to rush content out as fast as possible However, to ensure your live blog stands out from the rest, your writer should be going back to previous posts, to make sure they as filled out and up-to-date as possible.

Bear in mind that, while it’s important for a live blog to be up-to-date, it’s not the end of the world if the blog goes without an update for a few minutes.

8. Finish up

When the event has finished for the day be sure to close the live blog properly. Use a simple message like:

“That’s all from today, join us tomorrow at 7:00am for more action and insight.”

But the live blogger’s job doesn’t end there. They should go back through the day’s blog to do one final update, tidy up and sub edit. The live blog may well continue to be promoted after the event, so it needs to be of the highest standard.

On the second day of an event, you can pick highlights from day one to use as pre-prepared updates that morning.

The Global Education and Skills Forum is a great example of a live blog.


Have you used a live blog at your event? If you’d like to find out how we can help bring your event to life and reach more people, then get in touch. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Adam Shirley is a Account Manager at Formative Content and specialises in digital content and writing for social media.

Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.


The Formative Content offices have been unusually quiet over the past fortnight with our teams working on location around the world, providing digital event newsroom content for a number of our clients.

With many of our team members from journalistic backgrounds, providing live coverage for large-scale events is a familiar assignment. This, combined with our experience in social media and digital content, makes our approach to event coverage incredibly effective.

When you think about content in relation to an event, you might just focus on the component parts such as speaker presentations, and maybe a summary blog post and overview of how the event ran. But by infusing quality content throughout the full event lifecycle, you have an opportunity to create multiple touch points for audiences – which, if done right, can help you achieve your broader business objectives.

How can you create quality content for your event?

A dynamic, long-term plan is at the heart of good content strategy. These 5 tips will help you focus and ensure the make the most of your event.   

1. Really understand why you’re running the event

There was a time when events were run just for the sake of having an event, or maybe because there was marketing budget left to spend. These days organisations are a lot more savvy about the events they’re running and they’re part of a broader sales target. To be able to create quality content that delivers, you need to spend some time upfront to understand:

•    What the business objectives are and what the event objectives are that feed into them

•    Who the people are you’re talking to – the buyers, the influencers, your employees

•    What your key messages are for each of those audience groups – what do you want people to take away from the event


2. Create an end to end content plan

An event isn’t just about one day on a calendar anymore and it doesn’t happen in isolation. Start your plan well in advance of the actual event dates – take into account how you will use your blog, social media and other marketing channels to start to create a buzz around your event in the lead up to invitations being sent out.

What topics will excite your potential audience and persuade them to attend in person? How can you share that content so it reaches the right people and makes them want to tell their friends about it? Create your Digital Action Plan, taking into account what you want to be talking tadalafil for sale about before, during and after it happens. Don’t forget to link back to the objectives, key messages and audience you identified in the first step.


3. Allow for flexibility

While having a content plan is important, you’ll need to factor in room to listen to the wider conversation – what are people talking about on social media that might be relevant to your event, speakers or content? What other news, trends or stories might lend themselves to fuel your content?

Keeping an ear to the ground and being responsive will keep your content agile and relevant to your audience. Remember though, don’t try to respond to everything – keep your objectives and strategy in mind.


4. Share the event experience with those who can’t make it

The joy of technology means that we don’t just have to rely on the people in a room to help us achieve higher level objectives. Live streaming, Twitter coverage and fast-turnaround video are ideal for keeping the outside world informed.

We do this for a lot of our clients and also see tech and gaming events doing a great job of this.


5. Track, measure, nurture

It might be stating the obvious, but the best way to assess whether your content is working for you, is to measure it. Before you start, take stock of your analytics across social media, your website, brand health and other indicators that link back to your overall objectives. Then run analytics regularly throughout the event period. Did your content reach the right people? How can you make sure that you continue to talk to the people who loved your content, to nurture the relationships that you’ve started to form?

Don’t just use an event as a hit and run – take the time to follow up. That way you’ll have a better idea of how to shape and improve your content for your next event.

Given the right kind of focus, quality content can really help to elevate an event from being just a meeting, to being something that can leave a lasting impression, for all the right reasons.

If you want help making the most of your content, please do get in touch. You can also download our report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital for further insights into how technology is changing the shape of events.

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.

For an event to be credible, it must have regular blog content and social media postings. That is the opinion of the absolutely overwhelming majority – 97% – of people who have attended a business event in the last two years.

The finding is from a survey commissioned by Formative Content for its new report: The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital.

Rapid change

The report polled event organisers and attendees to gauge opinion on what is experienced and expected in the industry and how organisers are responding to rapidly changing demands.


The flip said of the 97% figure, of course, is that only 3% of those who have been to events would regard an event as credible if it did not have digital content. It is a stark demonstration of how mobile devices and digital content have become a central part of the event experience.


Source: The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, Formative Content

Information expectation

The central role of online content was highlighted by the fact that the majority of people who attended events said they used the events online presence as their main source of information ahead of and during the event.

Source: The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, Formative Content

Source: The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, Formative Content

The report shows what a challenging time it is to be running events, with a fragmented media market and multiple, rapidly evolving technologies. But it concludes that with an informed content strategy, there are unique opportunities to too.

“For innovative, dynamic organisations, this is also a time of almost limitless possibilities. With strategic thinking, audiences can be engaged like never before. Credible, authentic and democratic involvement fosters interest and loyalty and helps build a brand that can endure and expand.”

The study sets out the need for a Digital Action Plan to engage and inform event customers before, during and after events and shows how events can evolve to become a year-round brand.

Find out more in the report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital. Enter your name and email address to download your copy.

[jumplead_form id=”57f3c2f16726daf16b8b459c”]

Formative Content’s team of experienced journalists and marketers will help you build the reputation of your brand. Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Keith Breene is a Senior Writer at Formative Content, specialising in the creation of first class live reporting, blog writing and film making. Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.

Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.

The many challenges facing event organisers have been highlighted by a unique survey into the industry commissioned for a new report The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, from Formative Content.

As the ways in which people network and consume information continue to evolve and proliferate, over a third of event organisers believe that industry needs to adapt to reflect a hyper-connected world.

While 56% think events have a secure future, 35% believe their survival is contingent on significant change.


The report examines the challenges and opportunities presented as the industry tries to invent new ways to engage and leverage digital without threatening the very reasons audiences attend live events.

The survey shows what organisers are now expected to provide, with a decisive 97% of event attendees saying an online presence was vital if the event was to have credibility.


Source: The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, Formative Content

As time constraints grow and budgets are tightened, the competition for event audiences is growing, notes the report. Audiences are being bombarded with huge volumes of information via multiple platforms presenting both a product and a marketing challenge.

So how do event organisers respond to these challenges? The answer is carefully tailored digital engagement: a Digital Action Plan.

By developing content for use before, during and after a meeting, the event gains resonance and reach while its impact is amplified and extended.

Find out more in the report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital. Enter your name and email address to download your copy.

[jumplead_form id=”57f3c2f16726daf16b8b459c”]

Formative Content’s team of experienced journalists and marketers will help you build the reputation of your brand. Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Keith Breene is a Senior Writer at Formative Content, specialising in the creation of first class live reporting, blog writing and film making. Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.

Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.

Events are undergoing a profound change, transformed by digital technologies and content like so many other industries. But what does the future really hold, and how can events professionals harness the opportunities presented by these dramatic shifts?

These were the questions we set out to answer at an event in London this morning, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital, to coincide with the release of our report of the same name. The session was moderated by Formative Content CEO Gay Flashman with presentations from Jazmin Beale from Olympia London, Una O’Sullivan of KPMG, Lucy Eldred from KNect365 and Joe Edwards of Sage.

One of the key questions surrounding digital content for events is – if you put all of your event content online, won’t delegates be less likely to actually attend?  It’s a moot point, according to Joe Edwards, a comms industry veteran. Whilst the digital toolkit now available to event organisers is the most varied it has ever been, there is still one central purpose of holding an event and that is to network, he said: “People talk about ROI and leads, but one of the most important part of events is connecting people together face to face.”

It was an attitude shared by Una O’Sullivan, who runs a biannual internal KPMG event: “A conference is a social event,” she said. “It’s about getting people talking together.”

Indeed, research conducted by Formative Content for our report shows that almost 50% of those that attend events do so predominantly for the networking opportunities that the event presents.

The key challenges

But of course, you still have to get people to the event in the first place. This was one of the enduring challenges for organisers, according to Jazmin Beale.  Jazmin was perfectly placed to outline the problems faced, given that she stewards 220 events every year at Olympia London, with a combined footfall of over 1.5 million.

The main challenges were threefold, she said. Firstly, driving revenue by getting people to the conferences and getting exhibitors to hire stands; secondly, maintaining the quality and quantity of attendees: “Like any party, the people who attend contribute greatly to the event experience,” she said; and thirdly, the realisation that digital engagement throughout the year encourages repeat attendance and word of mouth referral, and is therefore key to any event.

“Many leading shows are on the journey to become a brand in their own right, and are engaging their industry with great content,” she said.


How to make digital content work

How are events making digital content work for them? Joe Edwards thinks that organising social media at events is a bit like herding cats, but, that said, it can be done very effectively.

“The most important thing for social, when looking at events: it’s all about increasing awareness – and that has to be emotive, exciting and engaging,” he said. “If I see another video of people walking through doors and vox pops saying how great the conference is, I will shoot myself,” he promised. “It’s got to be done differently.”

Among the more inventive methods Joe said he has used was demonstrating the Internet of Things by having delegates send a tweet with a hashtag and a particular number in order to switch on a lightbulb. The key was to “connect the message of the event to some sort of activation idea within the event,” he said.

Lucy Eldred’s KNect365 Finance runs 48 events under 13 different brands every year, and also tries inventive ways to engage the audience. She tries to make her content stand out with a Graham Norton-style chat show for one of their key annual events, the FundForum Asia.

“We try to do content that speaks to people as people,” she explained. “We do a daily livestream chat show, like Graham Norton for the Asset Management community, and it is relatively entertaining given how dry the subject matter is. We send it out immediately to our global audience and it’s a way of them accessing the content of the event in an engaging way.”

Joe Edwards recommends implementing a social command centre at events, with social media managers dedicated to pushing content outside of the physical event. “They can identify and direct conversations; they can promote questions and promote engagement while the talk is going on. The command centre can also manage the live feed with photos, vox pops, and videos, as well as moderating the social conversation around the event.”

Una O’Sullivan also makes great use of video and pictures, “We have a video booth where we get people talking together, and it shows that we are a collaborative organisation.”

Living beyond the moment

But perhaps the biggest take-away of the event was the importance of maintaining that audience engagement across the year.

Una O’Sullivan faces this challenge in mobilising internal engagement at KPMG. She runs a bi-annual gathering of 200 – 250 financial services leaders within the organisation, which serves as an opportunity for financial services leadership to set out their strategy and gather inputs from partners at the coalface. The most valuable part is getting that information and knowledge to cascade down the organisation, as she explained:

“There is very much a before, during and after,” she said. “The purpose of the conference’s digital output is to firstly, help the delegates get the most out of the conference by preparing them; secondly, to capture the news and the conversation at the event, but thirdly, and by far the most importantly, for the delegates to be able to take the information back and cascade it. There are some really important messages that can be taken back to member firms, global account teams, and of course to the clients.”

Among Una’s box of tricks is a well-designed message from KPMG’s global chairman, which is sent out pre-event to the delegates, summarising the purpose of their attendance and imparting relevant information. Then there are daily updates sent to delegates, as well as a wrap up of the day’s discussions. There is a global news site which enjoys very good engagement and which, for the week of the conference, is full of stories from the event.

Finally, there is a toolkit produced at the end of the event, which is sent out to every member of the financial services team – some 30,000 people.

“Content is so much more than telling people what happened at the event, it’s a year-round process,” agreed Lucy Eldred. “If you can get them to engage at the time of the conference and come to you because of the insightful information that you are providing, then you can continue to provide that content year round and become a source of insight for your prospective conference-goers.”

The future is bright

According to the research conducted by Formative Content, over 90% of event organisers believe the industry has a secure future – but only if it embraces full-time digital communication.

“In an increasingly digital world, events bring communities together – face to face,” said Jazmin. “They share a common belief, a passion or hobby, through a shared industry or as part of a local, national or international community.  Events make things happen.  They ignite ideas and knowledge.  They progress education and understanding.  They create and enrich the communities they serve.  They bring investment to the country and local communities.”

Find out more in the report, The Future of Events: The Challenge of Digital. Enter your name and email address to download your copy.

[jumplead_form id=”57f3c2f16726daf16b8b459c”]

Formative Content’s team of experienced journalists and marketers will help you build the reputation of your brand. Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Alex Gray is a Senior Writer at Formative Content responsible for writing fast-turnaround, engaging blogs on a variety of topics and industries.

Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.

Hashtags are an important feature of any social media strategy.  According to research by Twitter, tweets with one or more hashtags can increase engagement by almost 100%.

It’s easy to see why skilful use of hashtags can raise the awareness and the visibility of your events.

Having a hashtag for your event is useful from a content marketing standpoint. But it is also useful for social media analytics and metrics, because it centralises all the online discussion about your event.


So how do you choose an event hashtag?

Example of a successful event hashtag:

Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the games industry’s biggest exhibition simply used the hashtag #E32016 for this year’s event – simple, unique, memorable and relevant.

This tweet with a photo and just the hashtag for text got over 100 shares.

When and where should I start using my event hashtag?

You should be using your event’s hashtag in the build-up to the event, during it, and in the aftermath.

Your hashtag should be included in all social promotions of your event, especially on twitter. Create your hashtag as soon as possible to get the social buzz going. Promote your hashtag and include it on all your promotional materials and comms.

Twitter’s research also shows that posting a concentrated number of Tweets in a short timespan can increase follower growth 50% more than average.

This means live-tweeting and posting updates about an event using your hashtag is a simple way to grow followers and increase interaction on social media.

After the event, writing digital thank you cards for your attendees is a good way to keep the conversation going – so make sure you are using your hashtag there too!

[jumplead_form id=”57f3c2f16726daf16b8b459c”]

Formative Content’s team of experienced journalists and marketers will help you build the reputation of your brand. Get in touch – we’d love to hear from you. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7206 2687

Adam Shirley is a Content Producer at Formative Content and specialises in digital content and writing for social media.

Formative Content is a UK based communications agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients.