Remember the Seinfeld episode with the “close talker”? Elaine’s new boyfriend, Aaron, got physically close when he talked. He got so close to Kramer that Kramer backed up until he fell in Jerry’s kitchen.

I bet when you saw that episode you felt some level of discomfort imagining Aaron coming that close. Consider that happening today, as we continue to make our way through the pandemic.

The contract for adhering to pre–COVID-19 social rules was understood; the rules have drastically changed. As humans, and communities, especially in experience marketing, our social contract permitted us to shake hands, hug when we met or departed, or high five as we celebrated a win.  In many instances, sharing a meal together was woven into the very fabric of our culture.

According to Kantar’s 2020 U.S. MONITOR COVID Wave II poll, 65% of Americans think face masks will be a normal part of life five years from now; 73% believe it very/somewhat likely that the handshake is dead. What COVID-19 has done to our social comfort level is not temporary.

We are now left wondering about the new social rituals and how to enforce them. Not only can brands guide the way, there is a desire for them to lead by example and demonstrate they can realistically help reduce risk and anxiety, and drive change. This sentiment is strong with younger Americans who expect brands to play a role in solving social issues.

Event marketers have an opportunity to create experiences that offer both time and space separation. Spreading out the components of events, creating deeper engagement over longer periods of time, will create long-lasting value exchange.

Some are talking about the ‘new normal;’ Hargrove is defining the ‘future normal.’ The approach to event marketing from a month ago has already outlived its relevancy. We are turning to the future normal, planning for continued shifts and rapid adoption of how we engage audiences. This pandemic has created cravings for connection; it will be critical that we provide intimate moments that scale and evoke curiosity in a way that’s authentic, while remaining fluid in the reality of these new social rituals.

We now have a tremendous opportunity to break through the physical limitations of an event and leverage it as one point of the engagement spectrum. It’s time to truly embrace the power of hybrid experiences and the technologies that allow us to engage audiences as never before.

Our focus on customer experience is front and center. The tools and the technologies available to us in events are not new; the rapid adoption of them, however, will be new for many. Understanding audience segmentation profiles and considering generational shifts taking place is ever more critical.

As you look to the future normal, embrace this moment, reinvent your experiences and dig deep.  We will continue to disrupt the status quo because we have to; it’s time to rethink experience marketing and explore opportunities for deeper engagement.

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