The perils and privileges of being the ‘first’ to return to IRL events

Photo by Maxime Bhm

We’re seeing a bevy of “firsts” pop up in XP news this week, as in first [fill-in-the-blank] since the pandemic started. Here’s what’s been happening in the land of firsts of IRL events:

The Oscars, which planned to host all of the Academy Awards nominees IRL, is also getting blowback over its plans. Several of the nominees expressed trepidation about traveling to the April 25 event as the coronavirus surges in Europe and other hot spots, and the Academy appears to be rescinding its “participate in person or not at all” mandate. Oscar “hubs” are now being set up in Paris and London so that nominees around those areas can participate.

All of these refreshing activations have us thinking about the privileges and perils of being the first to IRL events.

In our imminent post-pandemic-but-not-really world, there is a great deal of responsibility tied to initiating group gatherings. A lot of risk involved. Yes, being able to bill yourself as “the first XYZ” since our world changed brings awesome buzz. However, it’s a calculation. Heavy is the head that wears the XP crown, as they say.

Comic-Con jumped full on into the fray last weekend. The San Diego flagship event, which in B.C. days garnered 160,000+ people from around the world, will be IRL over Thanksgiving weekend. However, the reception was not warm.

“What actor or producer is going to give up their first post-vaccine Thanksgiving holiday with family to travel to San Diego to publicize a project?” Fumed one studio rep to The Hollywood Reporter. Many other Hollywood insiders jumped on that bandwagon. Some also questioned the wisdom such a large gathering, even in its toned-down 30,000-attendee capacity.

Our big takeaways for IRL events?

  • Safety remains paramount. Things are good in the U.S., for the vaccinated, but not everyone is. Be mindful of varying degrees of safeness people feel now.
  • Timing is crucial. Yes, a first festival and concert and what-have-you are awesome. But as one would-be Comic-Con participant said, “We’ve had Wonder Woman and The Mandalorian, but not a hug from our parents and grandparents.”
  • Flexibility is essential. The Oscars quickly adapted their policies and provided alternatives for people uncomfortable with traveling. It’s okay to make mistakes. That happens with any “first.” It’s the ability to pivot that will keep you in the game.

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