Digitalization has changed how humans see, experience, and interact with the world around us—and the ways we use technology in our daily lives is constantly evolving. Ten years ago, we were connecting to friends, family, and colleagues by cellphone, email, social media, and video calls. Fast forward to today and the development of digital experiences has advanced so much that virtual conferences and networking events are commonplace—as is distance learning, livestreamed theatrical performances, and long-distance collaborations in real time. At Theatre Projects, we’re always trying to anticipate the next big thing so we can stay ahead of the curve and be part of the innovation process. If you’re wondering why we do it, it’s because we understand that technology can be used to spark human connections and enhance experiences—and both of those things are crucial to creating immersive storytelling spaces.While the past year has included a lot of buzz about offering digital programming to audiences at home, we’ve been seeing an increase in venues investing in high-definition video capabilities—not just to broadcast content out to their communities, but also to bring the outside world in to their spaces. The possibilities this creates are endless.
- In a teaching facility (such as at Harvard Business School’s Klarman Hall, pictured right), it allows guest speakers around the world to remotely join a conversation with educators and students to share insights, information, and ideas. It also permits students in different locations to do research projects together, encouraging inter-school collaboration and cultural exchanges.
- In a performance space, it enables artists in other locations to join in or amplify what’s happening live on stage. Or it can be used to support a performance in other ways, such as an artistic director speaking directly to the audience to highlight interesting details about the production they’re about to watch, followed by an interactive Q&A session.
- In a creative environment, it can connect an artistic organization to other arts companies, generating new partnership opportunities and helping to bring unique and exciting content to audiences.
Technology is already revolutionizing the way we think about performances and venue design—and advances in augmented reality will only continue to push the boundaries of what technology can offer to human experiences. And while the organizations that can afford to invest in and profit from these technological innovations have traditionally been leaders in their field, you don’t necessarily need a big budget to introduce digital content to your in-person productions. To some extent, you do get what you pay for, but limited budgets can still use digital content to enhance and support conversations and performances. It’s worth considering because it offers flexibility and additional presentation options for audience engagement. It can also break down social and intellectual barriers, introducing your audience to new ideas and perspectives that they may not otherwise be exposed to.
Other advances we’re seeing are the sales, marketing, and security opportunities that can be generated from data collection. In a world where consumers are often less willing to interact with strangers or touch items that may not be sanitized, the cellphones we each carry with us when we leave our homes are a lifeline. They connect us to others, provide information and entertainment, and bring us a sense of comfort and security. Operators can harness the power of these personal devices to connect with communities in ways that consumers are already comfortable with:
- Contactless business transactions speed up efficiency and safeguard the health of our visitors and environment. These transactions include paperless box office sales, ticket scanning at the door, and secure payments for refreshments and merchandise.
- Guest Wi-Fi access can help build development databases, capturing new data about the kinds of event that are of interest to each buyer, improving targeted marketing campaigns, on-screen advertising, and concessions information.
- QR codes on tickets and billboard posters can instantly bring up a virtual program on smartphones, offering access to more paperless resources and information about the performers, production information, sponsors, and other related links.
- Crowd intelligence software can be installed to work with security systems around a venue to track when specific areas are reaching capacity so you can better manage congestion before a crowd size becomes an issue.
There are countless possibilities for the successful integration of technology in a venue. We’ve worked on many of these kinds of projects—both large and small—and we’re always happy to offer advice on the options that are the best fit for your organization, community, and budget.