Think small. Think bespoke. Think niche. Thoughtfully-designed, intimate experiences are the new big. The craving for powerful in-person touch points comes as no surprise in today’s screen-centric, digitally saturated business environment. Smaller sessions, attendee tracks and micro-focused events are gaining momentum as attendees want more personalized experiences, richer content and lasting connections.
This is event architecture at its best, leading the way into the future. How do you design an event and agenda that’s incredibly purposeful and highly personal? Here we’re posing a few questions that will help you think ‘niche’ and drive impact.
ARE YOU PLANNING PERSONALIZED
Is your venue memorable?
Start here, and don’t be afraid to dive in to the unexpected and think beyond the hotel ballroom. Spaces like urban rooftops, art galleries, farmhouses, warehouses and studios might take you out of your comfort zone, but that can be a good thing. An unparalleled space sets the stage for an experience that will be equally matched. Within that space, consider informal living room concepts to lounge-style seating and coffee-house vibes; create inviting spaces that allow an event to flow from one experience to the next. If you’re moving from an instructor-lead general session to attendee-focused breakouts, it makes sense to have a warm, transient atmosphere.
Get lounge-style inspo from BCD M&E's 2018 Events Masterclass event.
And if your event does take place in a more traditional venue, how can you give it an alternative edge? Concepts like structured distractions and interactive installations can foster networking and help create a uniquely personalized experience. You can also augment traditional spaces with offsite receptions, pop-ups and smaller, ancillary events for different audience tracks.
Is your content relevant, purposeful and consumable?
In order to capture mindshare at your event, a unique approach is now more important than ever. Cookie cutter and predictable are out, and creative experiences that motivate, excite and innovate are in. Likewise, time is a precious commodity. Purpose, utility and versatility should be considered with every aspect of your event.
Design unique experiences one element at a time. Start by considering which elements will make the biggest impact on your guests. It may be the location, the catering, the format, the entertainment, the technology, the styling or the décor. Aim to create talking points that will get people raving about, sharing and promoting your event before, during and after.
Is your general session experiential and collaborative?
What about creating a general session that is a balanced mash-up of short sections dedicated to official announcements, brief panel discussions and thought-provoking keynotes? This blend is entertaining, educating and encourage mindfulness. Moreover, it can be the most valuable time in terms of social engagement. That increased engagement means your attendees are more likely to spread ideas well beyond the session itself.
Are you maximizing your ROB (Return on Breakouts)?
Breakouts are one of the most powerful vehicles for engaging participants at business meetings and conferences. A common pitfall is turning them into mini-keynotes, missing out on the opportunity to provide targeted and truly interactive attendee content. How are you reviving? Create moments like these for attendees to consume in a way that fits their learning style:
Introduce an Inspiration Hub as an opportunity for your attendees to take part in stimulating education and training sessions. Offer provocative sessions designed to elevate industry standards, maximize meeting performance and enhance your team’s personal and professional skills. Learning formats can vary from 30-minute small group brainstorming sessions to longer, classroom-style seminars.
Another breakout shift to consider is the Master Class, which can be a natural extension of the keynotes presented during the general sessions. In this format, your audience can get a well-delivered overview of key topics, and attendees have a valuable opportunity to go deeper into the subject of their interest on a more personal level.
While lectures are the safest bet in the session formats, what about enlivening them and make them more interactive? An audience response system can significantly boost the interaction in your general session by giving everyone an equal chance to ask questions and express opinions via live polls.
Set in a laid-back environment and simulating the campfire storytelling time, these sessions can be highly interactive. The facilitator drives the discussion but not the content; content can be created by participating delegates in real time.
Campfire sessions are an excellent opportunity to learn from others through the sharing of stories and experiences. It’s a collective, peer-to-peer approach that encourages genuine dialogue and networking that doesn’t feel forced.
Are your networking opportunities authentic and meaningful?
We live in an age when information and knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips. Because of that, beware of authority, status and ranks -hierarchies can disengage and deter. Across all generations, today’s audiences value authentic face time and organic conversations with leadership and peers. Hearing others’ career successes, challenges is relatable and infinitely valuable.
Nearly every generation will favor their network over a top-down approach to learning:
- Give your audience the opportunity to interact with the keynote speaker or leader following a presentation.
- Use your purpose lounge as an opportunity to connect with execs and leadership
- Deliver presentations and break outs in more intimate methods.
- Work with your sponsors to come up with ways they can connect by creating content and experiences that are wow-worthy and get people talking, connecting and inspired.
Are you trying new corporate meeting technology ideas?
Corporate Coachella? We might not be there yet, but the festival concept is effective for a reason. If the budget allows when planning your corporate meeting, create a less passive and more impactful, interactive experience for attendees through a “festivalization” style approach. For example, instead of attendees staring up at a screen all day, add pockets of interest and opportunities for movement and connection. Audio visual trends like LCD video walls/WOW displays (think jeopardy), virtual reality (cool, immersive team building) and conference table ipads (to increase real-time engagement) are, while sometimes pricier, a super-charged, memorable way to heighten the attendee experience. Always make sure you have the power and connectivity to make it happen!
Is your meeting technology fostering collaboration?
Collaboration is key to creating a personalized, unique experience for every participant. Keep audiences engaged by making collaboration as simple as possible – choose intuitive options that are easy to implement and user-friendly. Consider cloud-based solutions that allow unifications of tools and applications in one environment. From simple breakouts to large collaboration spaces, teams and audiences can quickly and easily contribute, combine and transfer knowledge in real-time. From collaborative white boards to engagement apps and social media walls, keep all of it as inviting and as intuitive as possible. Opting for well-designed, smarter collaborative technology brings more voices to the table and helps to diversify the conversation.
Event marketing - are you taking advantage of the white space?
Think of your meeting as one stop along the way of the attendee journey. You’d be remiss to not take advantage of the touchpoints pre, during and post event. Build “Fear of Missing Out” with communications, teaser information, content crowd-sourcing and thoughtfully planned interactions.
Content should be intentional in both the design and delivery. As you develop content for your event marketing campaign, take your business objectives and user personas into consideration, then define what those preferred touchpoints look like. For example:
- Unexpected, engaging video content
- Exclusive sneak peaks and teaser information
- Educational podcasts, destination information and interviews
- Social stories told across a variety of platforms
As you build your content, work to understand what resonates with your audience. Knowing this will help you build your personalized playbook and drive content development.
To build a fear of missing out, you must understand the experience from an attendee’s perspective – what do they want to be part of? To know this, you’ll need to blur the lines between marketing and customer service. From your audience’s point of view, this is always about listening to what they want and need. Use social networks, surveys and focus groups to listen to your event attendees prior to and during your event. By being audience-centric, you develop stronger relationships with your brand, build anticipation and give meaning to the user experience.