You are currently viewing Crafting Live Events: A Dive into the Creative Process

Crafting Live Events: A Dive into the Creative Process

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Live events
  • Post last modified:March 18, 2024

Live events are the result of a unique blend of artistry, technical skills, and logistical planning. Their start can be a thought under the shower or a brainstorm at the office. The beginning of a sparkle, an itch that needs to become reality, that urge of the creative to make it real. The desire to create experiences that resonate with audiences long after the curtains fall. 

In this blog post, I explore the multifaceted creative process behind live events: checking the creative process in each step of the journey. I offer insights into the challenges and triumphs that creators face in their quest to enchant and engage. No matter what the live event is, big or small: the journey of bringing a live event to life is a complex tapestry. 

Conceptualization: The Birth of an Idea

The genesis of a live event lies in an idea. Often, this initial phase is where creativity is let fully loose, without any boundaries. Whether it is a music festival, a theatrical production, or a corporate seminar, the conceptualization stage involves dreaming big and envisioning what could be. 

This is how theories describe this stage and how the artist would prefer it. Full creativity, no boundaries. But I have to be honest, this is not likely to happen. It depends on the project. The creative might have an idea and find producers/financial means for the execution. Or – and more likely – the creative is hired by a production team that has already set the boundaries. The first situation does happen from time to time, especially if the creative is working alone, but it usually is for a small event and a more niche audience. 

Creative process: generating ideas
I love this idea, where an artist feeds itself for new ideas. Inspiration comes from everywhere, as long as you allow them to come.

For me as a producer, these artists and their full imagination are really fascinating to watch as they’re so inspired by their ideas and beliefs. Also, for me as a producer, they are the most difficult people to work with because they’re so inspired by their ideas and their beliefs. They stand up for their ideas, something that I admire and would love to help them with, but I also need to make choices based on time and budget. This means that I sometimes need to make hard choices that they will not like. ‘Killing your darlings’ is not a phrase they like.

What is more likely to happen than a creative with an idea without boundaries, is that a (executive) producer has an idea and sees a market option for it. He or she will then hire a creative/creative team to expand on that idea and fill in the details. The boundaries will already have been set. 

No matter how a project starts, the key questions are always: What is the purpose of the event? Who is the target audience? What emotions or actions do we want to evoke? This stage is collaborative and often involves brainstorming sessions, mood boards, and lots of sketching and note-taking. It’s a time for bold ideas and setting the vision that will guide the entire project.

These questions can come from both the artist and the production company. Or they can both be the same. Nowadays, artists are more and more entrepreneurs, relying less on subsidies (as is mostly the case in continental Europe) or financial sponsors. They understand the need to market their products and therefore create something that the audience likes. They are the artist but also become the production company. The artist might also need help because they don’t know how to market their idea well. That’s what a production company can help with. 

How the idea comes to fruition, also depends on the product: a live show for a corporate event will often be created by the employees or CEO with creatives brought in to help, while an art show will most likely be the idea of purely artists.

So, the conceptualization already has many ways to give birth, but the essence is that there’s an idea for a live event and the creative will conceptualize this idea. 

Planning: Turning Vision into Strategy

With a clear concept in hand, the next step is planning. You might wonder, is this part of the creative process? Well, this stage is where the creative vision starts to take on a more tangible form. A producer or a production team might lead it while the creative will need to adapt the original idea to new boundaries that are created in this phase. 

Planning encompasses several critical components:

Budgeting: Sadly, each event has a limit on money. You need to determine the financial resources available and allocate them in a way that maximizes the impact of every dollar spent. This means that the creative needs to take into account what amount of money they can spend on what and how their idea can still be established within this budget. 

A sample of (part of) a budget and all its costs. You need to know how much you can spend.

Scheduling: Setting timelines for every phase of the event, from pre-production to the final performance. This limits how long a creative can adjust and shape the idea. It might also limit what materials can be used as certain tools or objects might not be available within the time frame or cannot be created in time. Just a simple example: if the event is in high summer, you don’t want to work with ice sculptures. 

Venue Selection: Choosing a location that aligns with the event’s theme and logistical requirements. In my experience, this is a very important aspect that is often undermined by people. A venue cannot be changed: you’re not going to break down walls for a single event. For example, if you would like to do a lot with video projection, you need a dark space otherwise you can’t see the projection. If the event is during the day and you have a glass wall with sunshine, forget it. 

Preferably, you’ll choose the venue that best fits your creative concept. However, budget and availability might limit it. Even something as simple as limited parking space can make you choose differently than you had in mind. 

Talent Booking: A live event needs probably people who will entertain. You want to identify and secure performers, speakers, or exhibitors who will bring the event to life. You can hold auditions and find people who fit perfectly in your concept. These auditions are held by the creative (maybe in combination with an audition company). Or people can be booked through their social network or based on their popularity. In the last case, creatives might have to adjust their concept a bit. Think about famous people being booked in the lead role, just to attract more audience members. 

Talent booking is an interesting one. I’ve been part of a couple of auditions and I noticed that creatives shift in their creative idea during the process. They might start with a certain concept in mind, but then they will see the people perform. They all have their own interpretation of their script/dance/act and the creatives discover new meanings of that concept. Often, they get swayed to move in another direction because they decide that the new interpretation might actually work better or they find it a more daring path. 

So, we can say that planning is a balancing act, where the creatives are getting more confined in their creative idea without losing the essence of the idea. It requires them to have the ability to make compromises without sacrificing the core elements of the event’s vision. It depends on the creative how they handle this: some find this the most interesting part because they’re being challenged. Others might be depressed because nothing will ever be as good as their initial idea. 

If you’re more into production like me, make sure to always stay in touch with the creative. They are crucial for the process and should always be part of the team. Be also firm, as you’re the one who will have to answer if the production process fails.

Design: Crafting the Event’s Aesthetic

The idea has taken shape, the boundaries are thought through and the artist can start working on the content of the idea. The design phase is where the event starts to visually and experientially take shape. 

This phase covers everything from the stage design and lighting to the graphics used in promotional materials. Designers work closely with the creative to ensure that every element aligns with the event’s theme and objectives. So now, you have a key creative who has been with the process from the start and a team of designers who have joined. These designers are often specialists in their areas: a light designer, a visual effect artist, a music composer, and more.

Therefore, as you might expect, this stage is highly iterative, with concept designs often going through several revisions before final approval. 

During this process, some key considerations might be included:

User Experience: Ensuring that the event is accessible, enjoyable, and memorable for attendees. ‘Creating an experience’ is the hype now. So you need to keep the target group in mind and what they desire. This does limit you, but the event will end with a higher satisfaction level of the audience. 

Brand Alignment: For corporate events, make sure that the design reflects and enhances the brand’s image. Very important. Often the brand colours need to be incorporated in the design and they will limit your use of other colours. For example, Coca-Cola will probably use red in their design and Heineken green. 

Sustainability: Incorporating eco-friendly practices and materials into the design process. This is a very important issue that’s being requested more and more by clients. And I expect it will become only more important in the future. More often than not, you will need to state your sustainability ideas and how you will execute them if you’re working on a pitch. 

A quite dramatic example: for a few summers, there was an outdoor theatre play in the Netherlands. Every summer, they would build a special stage and seating on a square in front of a museum. This went well for a long time until the local government decided that outdoor events weren’t allowed to exhume more CO2 than a certain amount. With all the cars needed to build the theatre, they surpassed this amount and the government forbade the production company to continue with the project. There was no play that year. 

If you want to read more about design of live events, check this article by InEvent.

So the design phase is filling in the details of the creative concept, keeping elements in mind like audience reception and brand loyalty. The club of creatives becomes bigger and each will pick up a section of the entire product and will bring their creative view on that section. 

Production: Bringing the Vision to Life

Production is the phase where plans and designs become reality. It’s a period of intense activity, involving numerous professionals from different disciplines. The team of creatives gets extended to the actual people who make the design a reality. A choreographer will get dancers. The director will work with his actors. The head visual effects artist will have a team of VFX artists. The light designer might get a light operator or assistant light designer.   

Production tasks include building sets, programming lighting and sound, rehearsing performances, and setting up the venue. Based on the input of the head creative and/or specialist designer, they will fill in the last details of their speciality, while communicating with the other departments to make sure all pieces fit together. 

The communication part needs some help. In my experience, every creative is often immersed in his or her own world and might get some new ideas along the way and drift into a side path when they follow that new idea. It’s their little creation and they want to make it the best, just like every other creative. So, you might get some conflict here about what is the best way to fulfil the idea. Sometimes these side paths create something amazing. Sometimes, you need to go back to the initial design.  

Teamwork leads to better results. Not only in the office, but also in the creative process as one idea might spark another. Creatives also stimulate each other.

So here, you see the need for producers, who will sometimes take over the communication from the creatives and make sure all departments are aligned with each other. The head creative will take note of all the progress and provide direct feedback where needed.

This phase is characterized by problem-solving and adaptability, as unforeseen challenges inevitably arise. Effective communication and teamwork are crucial, as is a detailed production schedule that keeps everyone on track.

At the end of this phase, every department has their product ready. The dancers know their choreography, and the actors know their lines. And so is everything else. The only thing missing is the actual execution: where all elements come together with an audience. 

Promotion: Generating Buzz and Excitement

No event can succeed without an audience, and that’s where promotion comes in. I doubted for a bit whether I should include this section because usually, the marketing team handles the promotion and not the creatives who create the live event. But then I realised that marketing is a creative process in itself. 

The marketing team crafts creative messages that capture the essence of the experience and entice potential attendees. It’s just a different team of people. Promotion strategies might include social media campaigns, email marketing, press releases, and partnerships with influencers or community organizations. The goal is to create a sense of anticipation and urgency, making the event the “can’t-miss” happening of the season. 

Launching a successful marketing campaign requires more thought than writing a simple message. It usually involves lots of research around the target group, knowing your product well and comprehending how to combine these two. Brainstorms are also part of the process. For example, will you create a promotional video? If yes, what should be shown in it? What’s the angle? What’s the purpose? The marketeer needs to think outside of the box to find new ways to attract the audience. The creation of the videos? Nowadays, it will be executed by a content creator. A creative. 

My career started as a marketeer for the cultural sector and this is how most brainstorms looked like. Post-its on the wall, googling and discussing all ideas.

Want to read more about the creative process around a marketing campaign? Read this blog about the marketing strategy of releasing the third season of Bridgerton.

Execution: The Live Experience

Moving back to the actual live event, we’re going into the moment every creative, crew and cast member has been waiting for. It’s showtime. 

The execution is the realisation of months (or sometimes years) of hard work. It starts the moment when the doors open and the audience arrives, expecting to be wowed. During the event, the focus lies on delivering the promised experience and responding in real-time to any issues that arise. The creative will also take in the reaction of the audience: does their vision match reality? Does it meet expectations? 

The best live events seem effortless to attendees, but behind the scenes, it’s a carefully orchestrated ballet of timing, technology, and talent. And the creative is wringing his or her hands for the moment of truth as all the pieces come together. Usually ending on a high when the event is well received. 

Evaluation: Learning from Experience

After the applause has faded and the venue has been cleared, the final stage of the creative process is evaluation. 

This involves gathering feedback from attendees, performers, and team members to assess what worked and what didn’t. Did the initial idea take fruit? The financial performance is also reviewed to determine the event’s economic success. 

Evaluation is a critical step for learning and growth, providing valuable insights that can be applied to future events. It’s a time for both celebration and reflection, acknowledging the achievements and identifying opportunities for improvement.

For creatives who are less economically orientated, this might be a difficult step. It means evaluating your darling, your baby. So critique might not be taken well. Sometimes, the creative is very self-critical or maybe even disappointed with the result. Even if the event itself was a big success according to the audience. Make sure to hear them out and see if you can have them leave the room with realistic reviews of the event and a good relationship with the rest of the production company.

The evaluation might also be the cause of new ideas. Some feedback might spark new thoughts, new directions and new visions. The end of one event can be the start of the next one.  

If you like podcasts and want to know more what creatives learned from events, you might like The Creative Process podcast. They interviewed hundreds of people and it can give you very nice insights.

Challenges and Triumphs in the Creative Process

Creating a live event is fraught with challenges, from budget constraints and technical glitches to unpredictable weather and last-minute changes. Yet, it’s these very challenges that often lead to the most creative solutions, pushing event creators to innovate and think outside the box. 

This image is supposed to reflect IT versus creative. But I feel it can also reflect producers versus creatives. One is lead by rationale and their brains, the other by their heart.

The triumphs, when they come, are all the sweeter for the obstacles overcome along the way. There’s a unique magic in live events: it’s the thrill of the live performance, the energy of the crowd, and the knowledge that you’ve created an experience that will linger in memories long after the event has ended.

There is one challenge I feel I need to mention here. I realise that I write this blog from a more producer perspective. There is always some friction between a producer and the creative, as a producer is often more rational and focused on a positive economic outcome, while a creative is a free spirit and more focused on feelings and the experience. So naturally, I may find it sometimes difficult to communicate with the creatives and align with them. However, that’s exactly part and the challenge of my job, as I’ve written before in several articles

At the same time, I have a huge respect for creatives and artists. I admire their ability to create something out of nothing and marvel at the result. I take joy in successful events that are only possible because of the creative minds behind them. There is no event without them and they need to be valued as such. 

Conclusion

The creative process behind live events is a journey of transformation, turning abstract ideas into experiences that captivate and inspire. It’s a testament to the power of human creativity, collaboration, and resilience. From the initial concept to the final curtain call, each stage of the process is imbued with the potential to innovate, delight, and surprise.

As we look to the future, the field of live events continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements and changing audience expectations. Yet, at its core, the essence of live events remains the same: to bring people together in a shared moment of connection and wonder. In this ever-changing landscape, the creative process is both the map and the compass, guiding creators toward the realization of their vision and the creation of unforgettable live experiences.

Leave a Reply