As any regular readers of my blog will know I try where possible to back up my claims about events with some evidence. And such is the importance of the message in this blog that I am willing to call in both the big guns: evidence and examples. So here goes, here are my three favourite ways to demonstrate that running a creative event costs very little (and in a few circumstances actually makes money)

A very brainy example

I list this first as it’s the most wonderful example and annoyingly it wasn’t my idea! The Planner of a large congress for Brain Surgeons in the US was wondering what to do to get her attendees more engaged in the content at her event (a very common problem I am sure you would agree). Like most large medical events they had some of the leading research presented but still struggled to get Doctors into the actual sessions.

Now you can imagine the brainstorming (excuse the pun) in the pre planning meetings to try to come up with ways to increase engagement. Suggestions no doubt covered loads of expensive ideas including many wonderful gadgets and other expensive ways to solve the problem. However in the end the solution cost in total around, maybe $50? It was so successful that the Conference Chairman told the Planner that the hairs on his neck stood up when he took the stage to welcome the attendees. He added that “somehow you have changed an unreceptive audience into a totally engaged room” And here’s how she did it.

On the morning of the meeting along with the standard pack and badge every Doctor was given an A4 size cardboard cut out of a brain with the simple instruction: “Please take a moment to share with us your memories of a patient you saved or were unable to save. You don’t need to give any names of personal details. Please pin your brain to the Brain Wall outside the conference room. Thank you for remembering.”

Steadily across the morning the wall grew and grew. Minutes before the first session over a hundred brains had been marked with the details of patients who would had been lost. You can just imagine the things those Docs would have written. They crowded the wall reading the notes and stories of loss and of courses some stories of success from their colleagues.

Now place yourself in their shoes. Would you be slipping away for a morning smoke or heading straight in to that meeting to hear the latest research? With a tiny spark of creativity that Planner pulled an audience in to her main room. And heck – while we are at – by doing this she probably saved some lives! I think she has given every planner the belief that if you are creative you can change the world!

Why being creative is only SOMETIMES a gamble

I ran an event for Risk Managers and I was looking for a way to involve a sponsor who had expressed an interest in the event with only a couple of weeks to go. It was too late to integrate a session in the programme and everything had been printed. It was also a small audience so I didn’t have an exhibition alongside. We needed the sponsorship money but my options were limited. So I got creative. 

Getting Creative

I think fate smiled on me and the number of attendees sat staring at me: 52. I had the same number of Risk Managers in the room as cards in a pack. The idea formed in my head and I’d come up with an idea that would be the best £6K my sponsor had ever spent at an event. It cost me around £200 and as all good creative sponsorship should it added significantly to the day from the perspective of my attendees. And here’s how I did it.

At the start of the day every attendee was given a playing card (sponsor’s logo on the back – they had no other branding for the £6000) and told to guard it with their life. My staff said nothing about what it was for, helping build the mystery.

In order to aid networking and discussions we placed the attendees at tables of 5 – as many delegates on a table as cards in a poker hand. Before the first refreshment break, the Chairman asked the attendees to take our the cards and form a poker hand on the table. The penny dropped. The winning hand before the break was a lowly pair. The Chairman then suggested that over coffee attendees should find the best possible hand and return to the room, more than likely at a totally different table with different people.

Now a group of 40 to 50 year old risk managers are a competitive bunch. Many delegates knew each other and almost without exception everyone dashed about the room carrying their card (with the sponsors logo on the back – clutching it like it was the key to great wealth). This created a fantastic buzz, had every delegate talking to each other and was greatly enjoyed by the attendees. I think they now call this gamification. 

My sponsor stood taking pictures of a room full of clients rushing around with cards embossed with their logo: she had never been happier. Well, that was until I agreed to send every attendee a branded pack with a note from the sponsor. I wondered how responsive my sponsor’s potential clients were to a call a few weeks later?

I received my answer a few months later. The sponsor spent a five figure sum across a package of events.

It’s exhibition stands, furniture, fixings and lighting that are expensive not creativity 

When we organise exhibitions we start from a base point that we need all of the above. We think that we need all these things because most exhibitions we’ve been to have them. Using, what Winston Churchill called “cork-screw thinking” allows us to look at what we actually really need to make an exhibition work.

When I’ve analysed this I’ve found that not only can we jettison costs but we can remove the barriers that make exhibitions fail. Here’s a few shots from the “British Dietetic Association Live” event that we organised in 2013. And here’s a link to how we laid out Tech Fest 2013. Spot the shell scheme in either of these creative events. Result. Both events saved thousand of pounds and created atmospheres that were so much more conducive to networking and doing business. 


These are three of my favourite examples of how running a creative event can cost very little money. I know there are so many more great examples out there.

At the Event Innovation Summit in Barcelona in October a charming Spanish Gentleman and I got speaking about hashtags. As you do! He said he had seen the Event Innovation Summit hashtag being used and advertised but wasn’t sure exactly why the organisers and everyone else would use it. I very briefly said they are great and I have been going on about hashtags for a while!

We then started talking about EIBTM. He said “how can I get the most from the #eibtm? I said that would depend form what perspective he looked from. Was he talking as:

  • an attendee
  • an exhibitors
  • a speakers or
  • the organiser

Using EIBTM as an example he wanted to understand exactly how a hashtag if used properly could add value to his next event. I said I would drop him a note. And here it is in Blog format. I’ve looked at how each stakeholder could use the event hashtag to best effect.

How to get the most out of the #eibtm (or any event) hashtag

Now I am using the #eibtm hashtag as a live example but the outline really could be relevant for ANY event hashtag.

And I will look at how each stakeholder can use the hashtag to get more value from the event. With one week to go to EIBTM I would love to see an increased awareness of how useful the tag could and should be. So please feel free to forward on the Blog.

So first up and most importantly: how attendees should make the most of an event #tag

1.Use it to keep up to date. As we build up to the event the hashtag is a great way to find out more about the event in an easy, hassle free way. At a large event there is a lot going on. If you want to stay on top of what’s happening simply FOLLOW THE HASHTAG. Following the #tag is easy. Just type it into the search function in Twitter and save the search.

2. Use it to help you network. Most of the people and organisations using the hashtag in the run up to the event will be attending. You can use the #tag to help make the most of your time at the conference.

 – Is there anyone who is ‘talking your language?’

– Is someone they tweeting about the areas that you want to know about?

If so why not contact them and ask to meet up? The hashtag is a great way to open up communication with people outside of your network who have similar interests.

3. Use it to help you decide what to do at the show. You have a whole host of choices at a show the size of EIBTM. It is impossible to go to every stand or to see every speaker. So use the hashtag to help you make those decisions. If you aren’t sure about a session why not see if that speaker has tweeted using the hashtag? (in the speaker section below I will cover what they should be tweeting about) If they have tweeted I would say he/she is more likely to have put more effort into their engagement and involvement with the show. The same goes for exhibitors. As an attendee I will be using the hashtag as a pointer to the sessions I should attend and the stands I should visit.

How speakers should make the most of an event #tag

1. Use it to provide more learning. It is unlikely that any speaker is really able to get everything over to those gathered to listen to her during their short session. So use the hashtag as a way to point to extra content. It’s a great way to get people to do a bit of prep before they attend your session – perhaps a blog on the issue you are covering or other content related to the session.

2. Use the hashtag to engage with your audience. Jump on the hashtag and use it to check and tailor the content you are covering. Ask your potential audience. After your session use it to see if you missed anything out of your session as well as highlighting more content related to your session.

3. Use it to promote your session. You want the right people at your session so use the hashtag to tell people who that is and why they should attend your session.

How exhibitors should make the most of an event #tag

1. Generate leads. Follow people who use the hashtag. Retweet their great content. Start engaging with attendees before the event. Try to make sure that the people who arrive on your stand already know who you are and more importantly that you have taken the time to know who they are.

2. Shorten your sales pipeline. Use the hashtag to see who is attending the event. You won’t have a complete list from the organisers so use the hashtag to find out. Find out a bit more about their business via their Twitter profile. Contact them if they are relevant, if you think you can really help them. With this proactive approach you could have them arrive on your stand to discuss the proposal you’ve already worked on.

3. Don’t just highlight that you are taking a stand but highlight why people should seek you out. Upload links to content using the hashtag. Demonstrate that you understand your clients business by commenting and retweeting.

Use it to prove that you are committed to your customers and serious about doing business at the show.

How organisers should make the most of an event #tag

This is the simple part. As organisers we can add so much value to our events if we lead on use of the hashtag. This link explains how organisers can best use the hashtag in detail.

But in general all we have to do is promote the benefits (like I’ve listed above) to our stakeholders. When people use our hashtag there is so much in it for us so we have to put that bit more into it. We have to educate and inform. And most importantly we have to lead and demonstrate that we really know what not only we are talking about but what our attendees, exhibitors and speakers want to talk about.