How technology and SMS saved live events in 2020

As lockdowns and restrictions came into effect worldwide, many thought it marked the end of live events. Thanks to innovative thinkers and emerging technologies, this hasn’t been the case with many types of events still alive and well.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, event organisers have had to adapt and overhaul business operations. Large gatherings remain prohibited in many countries, and so live events have undergone a virtual transformation.

According to Jeff Downs, the founder and CEO of digital events service, Redback Connect, “Australians now attend virtual events so often, they know they can achieve most of the things that used to be done face-to-face in the digital environment.”

“People are looking for meaningful social, educational and commercial ways to interact with each other whether in the virtual or physical event world.”

Digital communication was already a prominent fixture in many businesses—now, it is ubiquitous. Real-time messaging is vital to remain connected and keep relevant people up-to-date. Companies have especially come to rely on SMS alerts and direct communication to inform customers and staff.

Communicating during a public health emergency requires dynamic messaging solutions. With restrictions ever-evolving, businesses have had to pivot operations with little notice. Notify staff, customers, and stakeholders instantly with direct messaging; whether events have been postponed, capacity has been reduced, or the event has switched to online.

From text message notifications to virtual event reminders, keep your audience informed as circumstances and operations change. For direct and reliable communication, business SMS solutions are essential.

Streamline communication processes and send timely updates with SMS:

  • Cancellation notifications
  • Event rescheduling
  • Health protocol announcements
  • Staff rostering
  • Informing staff of operational changes

SMS Theatre

A night out at the theatre is out of the question for the time being. However, that doesn’t mean missing out on the theatre experience altogether. Instead, audiences can enjoy the drama and suspense of a play right in the palm of their hands, thanks to the Q Theatre Company. That’s right, no more panicking to check if your phone is on silent. You can experience all the joys of a play with notifications as loud as you wish. In fact, it’s encouraged so you don’t miss a beat!

Aptly named Short Message Service, the script is delivered in a series of SMS messages over an hour from 6pm on Fridays. The production was written by emerging and established playwrights to give audiences a taste of Performing Arts while adhering to stay-at-home orders.

It’s safe to say Short Message Service is a nice reprieve from the emergency notifications and news alerts that have become part of daily life. Nick Atkins, a director at Q Theatre, says they chose SMS as a performance format to replicate the theatre experience.

“We went [for] the texting format because we wanted to capture that sense of ‘live,’ which theatre does really well, and to feel a closeness with audiences,’ said Atkins.

Digital technology has provided many communities and organisations with the ability to operate and connect like never before. And amid uncertainty, it has empowered struggling industries like Performing Arts to progress and experiment with new tools.


September usually marks the beginning of Fashion Month, kicking off with New York Fashion Week. However, this years’ NYFW won’t feature the usual crowds and rows of runway onlookers.

Instead, the Council of Fashion Designers America (CFDA) has introduced a new digital platform called Runway360. The platform was introduced as a response to social distancing regulations and travel restrictions. But also supports designers through the pandemic by keeping the fashion community and customers connected via a virtual medium.

The Runway360 platform facilitates:

  • Alternative Reality and Virtual Reality
  • Live video streams
  • eCommerce capabilities
  • Social media integrations
  • Virtual press conferences
  • Consumer activations
  • And much more

While some fashion week events are open to the public, most high-end runways are invite-only; issued to celebrities and the upper echelons of fashion society. But Runway360 will allow consumers to connect and experience the previously exclusive event for the first time.

Tech conferences and Animal Crossing; the perfect match

Released in March 2020, Animal Crossing: New Horizons became the perfect antidote to isolation-induced boredom. The live simulation game is set on a deserted island wherein users can explore and develop their customisable island. It’s the second best-selling Nintendo Switch game, with over 22 million units sold globally. The pandemic played a part in the game’s wild popularity, as more people looked for a sense of escapism.

With large gatherings prohibited in many countries, meetings and networking events are strictly limited to video calls. However, developer Austin Parker decided to mix things up by hosting the Deserted Island DevOps Conference on Animal Crossing. The conference featured talks on software development and working within the tech industry. Plus, companies could provide virtual merch with their logos using the games’ clothing customisation features.

To host the event, the presenters spoke through a Zoom call. PowerPoint slides overlayed the live video stream so attendees could follow along even if they couldn’t ‘sit’ in the virtual game conference. The event also employed a chat server to enable audience members to ask questions to the presenters.

Parker hopes that free virtual events like the Deserted Island DevOps Conference would open up the tech conference space. Especially for people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford the expenses involved in physically attending.

“By producing and presenting the conference as a free live stream, with closed captioning, it’s my hope that we reach people who may have always wanted to attend a tech event but weren’t able to,” said Parker.

Are festivals over in 2020?

Concerts and festivals are probably best-known for their mass crowds. Naturally, these events are on hold due to social distancing regulations. But thanks to advanced software, festivals have had a digital makeover.

COVID-19 has forced festival organisers to reinvent the festival experience, and possibly for the better. While many hope that future events will not be under a cloud of restrictions and lockdowns, virtual worlds could still be a feature of future festivals and large events.


One such festival is Tomorrowland. Normally held in Belgium, Tomorrowland’s organisers adapted to the limitations of COVID-19. After three months and involving more than 200 people, Tomorrowland Around the World was born; a two-day digital festival held in the virtual world of Pāpiliōnem.

The event took place in its usual month of July, with over one million people participating in the online experience. Visitors could access the digital festival through PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The interactive experience featured live performances, uplifting webinars, chatrooms, games, and DJ workshops.

To recreate the live experience, Tomorrowland combined 3D design, gaming, special effects, and video production. Alongside a lineup of electronic artists who performed in front of green screens. Users could easily navigate the virtual festival map where different areas and stages were just a click away.

Characteristic to previous Tomorrowland festivals, the eight virtual stages erupted in fireworks and laser shows. To capture the full spectacle and different angles, around 38 cameras were employed and six of them in ultra 4K HD. In comparison to modern computer games, Tomorrowland Around the World had ten times more polygons (used to create computer graphics that appear three-dimensional).

The evolution of the festival experience may even be carried into post-pandemic life to enhance future events. If Tomorrowland can be held as usual in 2021, the organisers have stated the digital version will make a comeback.

By providing a virtual form of the festival, more people around the world have access to the experience. Whether people aren’t able to attend the Belgian-based event due to location, expense, age, visas, or otherwise, the digital festival is accessible to everyone with an internet connection.