Organising a festival can be one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. A great event will live long in the memory of festival goers. And, though some people will soon forget a poor experience, it’s likely many will remember and won’t return again (telling their friends about their experience too!)
In years gone by, a festival was a success if there were a couple of decent music acts, plenty of alcohol and a late night silent disco. But things change.
People expect more from their festivals. They want something that’s different from the norm. Something that makes the festival an experience, not just a weekend away.
Bigger festivals are struggling as customers reach saturation points. But smaller and independent festivals are growing in popularity. This is because smaller festivals are prioritising experience, finding their key differentiator and making sure customers know about it.
Below are 9 suggestions for things you can introduce to your festival to improve the customer experience:
1. Food for the health conscious
Generation X and Y (anyone under the age of 35) are far more aware of the types of food they eats. For too long, festival food has meant burger vans, ice cream trucks… the odd crepe wagon.
There was a slight shift in the 2000s, when the buzz word for festival food organisers became ‘gourmet’. But gourmet doesn’t mean healthy – it’s just a better quality of fatty and sugary food.
The problem with this type of unhealthy food isn’t that it will make your audience overweight. It’s more what eating this food will do to their mood. Foods that are high in sugar and fat will give very quick highs in emotion, followed by a long and deep come down.
If you want to create a mood that’s happy and vibrant throughout the festival, consider offering food options that are high in slow-release carbs and fibre. You may also want to consider free water stations to encourage guests to stay hydrated and refill water bottles rather than turning to single-use plastic bottles.
2. Use social media to create a festival community
Everyone uses social media these days. That’s a pretty well known fact. Social media allows people to connect with each other, whether that’s through pictures, event reminders, reviews etc. They are essentially communities based in technology.
So why not turn your festival customers into a community?
There are websites online where you can create an app that’s only accessible for people at your festival. Allow them to chat, share pictures, and tell each which acts or exhibitions they should be seeing.
You could also consider a specific event hashtag, which will act as a way to curate all the posts relating to your event. Social media walls pull these posts into a digital display, allowing people at the festival to see what people are talking about.
3. Create family friendly viewing areas
Family areas at festivals have been around for a long time. But very few festivals continue that theme into the performance areas themselves. In reality, performance areas can cause a problem for families, where children can’t see over people and there’s a higher chance of them getting lost or injured.
A family viewing area could involve something as simple as temporary raised seating to the back or side of the main audience.
4. Offer your audience different genres and types of entertainment
A growing trend in new festivals (or the established ones trying to keep their audience) is to introduce different types of entertainment to their festivals. Music festivals are now displaying poetry, cinema, seminars etc in an attempt to give festival goers a more rounded experience.
Glastonbury 2018 had a theatre and circus area, whilst Reading and Leeds Festivals have had battle rap competitions in recent years.
Try to find entertainment formats that have a connection with your festival’s main content. For instance if you’re organising a rock music festival, a tent where people can play the computer game ‘rock band’, will go down well.
5. Make some camping zones noise-free areas
We’re not talking about silent discos (although they are great).
For anyone who has been to a festival, especially if you’re not a night owl, one of the downsides is the lack of sleep. This makes you groggy during the day and unable to fully appreciate the acts or exhibitions.
Lack of sleep is usually (not always) down to the volume of people in nearby tents chatting, late night music and fairground rides. Cutting the noise at night in some areas could make for a better day time experience.
6. Take inspiration from hotels and offer a ‘porter’ service
Anyone who has ever camped at a festival, especially a major one like Reading, Glastonbury or Download, will know that one of the worst parts of the weekend is having to carry your luggage from the car park to your chosen pitch.
Tent, rucksack, alcohol, folding chairs, sleeping bag, pillow… it’s tiring just thinking about it. It’s especially bad when the rain has been falling and you’re having to wade through mud.
As a novel idea, why don’t you take this stress away from your customers by providing staff members to carry luggage for people? You could even provide them with trolleys of sleds so they’re not having to bear the load themselves.
7. Create convenience with an on-site mini mart
Usually at a festival, you’ll find market stalls selling clothes, keepsakes, cooked food – maybe some camping equipment. But what about the stuff that people might actually need? Glastonbury have got it right by supplying a pharmacy for their customers.
But why stop there? What about a tube of Pringles, a mixed leaf salad box, a pint of milk to go with the cereal selection box they brought?
Having a temporary mini mart improves the customer experience and adds an extra revenue channel for the organiser. You may even be able to negotiate with one of the big supermarket chains to supply or sponsor the shop if your festival is large enough.
8. Speak to potential customers
It’s one thing searching on blogs like these to find ideas for organising your festival, but why not go to the customer themselves?
If you ask your audience what they want to see, you’re more likely to give them a great experience. The best way to do this is through social media. Use Twitter and Facebook polls to suggest aspects of your festival and let your followers vote on their favourite. It’s also a great way of creating a buzz and selling more tickets.
9. Offer the option to reserve camping pitches
To get customer experience right, you have to consider what would improve or spoil their experience. This isn’t about improving the aesthetics or novelty value. It’s about being practical and solving genuine problems. And improving the experience for many people means giving them a camping pitch in a location that suits them.
Get the wrong camping pitch and you could end up right next to the late-night funfair or worse, the toilet block.
Allowing customers to pre-book their pitch, even if you charge them for the pleasure, gives them the peace of mind that they can arrive at a convenient time, and they’re not rushing or fighting for the best spot.