In October an estimated 80,000 people will participate in the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon. About 40,000 runners will race on the famous London route while others run the race virtually.
The London Marathon Events team could never have imagined this kind of event 24 months ago, event director Hugh Brasher told attendees at C&IT and Third Sector’s Big Questions Live event.
“Over the last 18 months, we've learned an enormous amount about ourselves as individuals, about what we want, and about what is possible,” he said.
Brasher told delegates that the next few years for event teams will be a process of trying new things and learning fast lessons.
“Remember, no one is really an expert,” he said. “No one really knows what exactly is going on. We've all got theories. So play with it. Have fun with it, experiment.”
Also speaking at the event were Daniel Larcey, head of mass participation at NHS Charities Together; Sarah Marshall, global head of content at the education technology show Bett; and Claudia Stephenson, managing director of INVNT Group EMEA.
During a panel discussion on the importance of human connection in events, the speakers discussed the challenges of maintaining engagement when mixing in-person and virtual events, and the difficulties of creating genuinely hybrid events.
The rise of online events during the pandemic democratised fundraising, allowing smaller charities to reach a greater number of people, NHS Charities Together’s Larcey said.
Running a combination of live and virtual events allowed INVNT Group to reduce carbon emissions and tailor content to people in specific regions, Stephenson explained.
She said: “It really ticks that box with the sustainability side of things, in not having to travel people across the world.”
In a separate panel, Calum Di Lieto, editor of C&IT, was joined by Felicia Asiedu, European marketing manager at Cvent; Dax Callner, strategy director for Smyle; Hina Mistry, project director at Imagination; and Graham Smith, creative technologist at Shelton Fleming.
The panel discussed the value of good data, warning it is only useful when you know what story you want to tell.
“Data is a rabbit hole and you can get lost in it,” said Mistry. “You need to know what story you want to tell at the end of it, which will help you filter out all the data that won’t help you get that answer.”
Above all, however, data should inform better quality content. Events need to be entertaining, said Callner, or they won’t engage.
“If I had one rule for content, it’s don’t be boring. If we can get past that one hurdle, we can achieve a lot,” he said.