It’s no longer just enough to plan an event that looks cool. In this competitive business, professionals have to take their game to the next level by giving guests an “experience”.
That word may sound like silly jargon now, but once you’ve gone through our tips you may change your mind. We’re going to give you five actionable ideas that you — yes, you! — can implement at your next event to offer a powerful experience, rather than just another session of boring talks.
Three, two, one, GO!
#1 Rent a selfie booth
As much as selfies are maligned publicly, we’re willing to bet that more than a few of those complaining about social media narcissists have snapped one or two in their time, whether or not they shared it. People who freeze up with a professional photographer might feel more relaxed in front of a laid-back selfie booth. It’s also an easy way to get people to chat and break the ice.
Depending on how casual your event is, you could have a box full of props to encourage people to join in the fun and get snap-happy. Silly moustaches, wigs and glasses are usually a hit. You could also make speech bubbles, or even signs that feature a hashtag for your event if you have one. There are lots of possibilities (we won’t say endless, but there are certainly enough that you won’t get bored).
You could either let attendees take home a strip of photos themselves, or post the pictures online later on. Make sure you include a backdrop that includes the event logo or name so they’ll remember where the pictures came from!
Companies like Party PhotoBooth Hire let you rent selfie booths for events.
#2 Offer healthy catering
Lots of people will appreciate being offered a healthy option when it comes to catering. All too often, you go to an event and there’s nothing but greasy finger food on offer. Which can be delicious — who can say no to pizza? — but sometimes people would rather not eat something that could be also described as “sports bar finger food” at a professional event.
Of course, there is also nothing wrong with the aforementioned good pizza. But lots of your guests will enjoy at least having the option to go for a nice salad instead (or whatever other healthy option you feel like having). That way, you’ll also help avoid the post-lunch slump that often happens, especially when people are served a heavy meal.
There are lots of non-boring healthy options that are both good for you and taste good. If you’re at a loss, get in touch with a few local restaurants and catering companies to see what ideas they have. Chances are, they’ll have worked with clients who wanted healthy food offerings and they’ll know what will work for your crowd.
#3 Plan some fun activities
Scheduling in some downtime is especially good at long events where attendees are going to be sitting for lengthy stretches of time. If you can make that downtime fun, then that’s even better! There are lots of small, fun activities you can organise ahead of time that attendees will enjoy.
A quick scavenger hunt can be a great way to get guests moving and chatting with new people. You could also try icebreaking games of all kinds so that people get talking too — try this list of 10 to get started. They don’t have to be as cringe-worthy as the ones your teachers probably forced on you at some point in school!
With any leisure activity you schedule into your event, make sure that it doesn’t take so long that it outshines the rest of the day. Also, mind how long it might take — nobody wants to be kept late because of some frivolous pursuit.
#4 Rent drones to make amazing visuals
Drones can capture some seriously incredible images that the human eye just doesn’t get a chance to see. There are a few companies who were quick to catch on to the trend and are now experts in capturing the perfect bird’s eye shot. Places like Bookadrone let you rent a drone for different purposes.
Make sure you’re actually legally allowed to use a drone at the venue you have in mind. Some places have fairly strict laws regarding when and where you can use drones, so to avoid any nasty surprises check it out beforehand. You should also check with your photographer, as a decent one who uses drones may very well be up-to-speed on the latest laws.
#5 Tell stories, don’t do pitches
Nobody likes being stuck in a room full of endless sales pitches — haven’t you seen how fed up the judges on Dragon’s Den get? And they’re getting paid to be there! Imagine how much worse it is for conference goers, who have possibly done quite the opposite. When giving a talk, the last thing you want is for people to get bored and start wishing they had stayed at home binge-watching Stranger Things instead.
Simply put: don’t pitch. Nobody likes it.
Instead, try to tell your audience stories. We get it, we get it — “storytelling” is another one of those shudder-inducing slangy buzzwords. But it all comes down to getting people hooked and telling them the same information in a more compelling way.
They’re also more likely to remember your product or point if you tell them a story about it, rather than just pitching it to them.
Need some tips on how to become a better storyteller? Try this guy, who has a short series of articles that’ll help you improve the way you tell stories. It’s really not as intimidating as it sounds, so give it a try.
#6 BONUS TIP: Pinpoint exactly what it is you want your guests to take home from the event
Nailing down exactly who you’re hoping to reach and what you want them to hear is a crucial part of pulling off any event. Really think about who you want to come and what you hope they get out of it. Once you’ve got a specific plan (it should probably be more than wishing them to “have a nice time”), it’ll be easier to laser-focus your ideas and activities to give attendees exactly what you’re hoping they’ll take home with them.
Let’s say the aim of your conference is to get lots of networking done with professionals in a similar field and swap ideas. That should make things a lot simpler when it comes to planning out what sorts of events to do. If you shape everything around this central concept, you’ll be well on your way to giving your guests a full-on experience rather than just another afternoon of speeches.
We hope that by the end of this article, you’ve got a few more concrete ideas about what creating an “experience” for attendees at an event or conference really involves. Actually, as this point, we hope we can take away the quotation marks and just call it an experience from now on. Is that alright with you?
For more actionable event tips, go over to our “50 Commandments for Conferences” Infographic where you’ll learn even more ways on how to improve the experience of an event.