10 reasons why your conference should be more like a basket ball game

18,000 people packed in to a college basketball arena in Memphis. It’s Friday night and the place is rocking and rolling like Elvis, buried a few miles away, would have loved. Every single fan discussing the inform run from the Tigers who would no doubt make the Memphis loving King of Rock and Roll proud. Except me thinking about how Conferences could learn from the basketball. Here’s some inspiration for creative ideas for conferences. 

1. The power of lighting and sound

This was a show. Lights, camera, action. Booming sound and flashing lights. Which is a bit weird when you think about it. At heart this is less than a dozen men running up and down a squeaky court bouncing a ball and chucking it into a suspended net. But let’s all think about it as something more; something great. So consider this ethos when you run your next conference. Ask yourself why doesn’t your conference have its own theme tune? A fluffy Mascot? Teenagers spelling out your event in weirdly supple manoeuvres. T-E-C-H-F-E-S-T! Tech Fest! We would surely all love that!

2. The Fan Cam

I mentioned this crowd engagement in my rodeo blog but the basketball boys have gone two steps further; the kiss cam, the dance cam, oh yes! Just imagine panning the audience at your next conference, zooming in and asking them to interact and entertain. Talk about the audience being participants. 

3. Cheerleaders

Julius Solaris (editor Event Manager Blog) talks about the “army badge” wearer as part of his rather wonderful Vitruvian Attendee There she is at your event singing your praises, shouting loudly and pogoing up and down about the amazingness of your event. I think Julius really means Conference Cheerleaders. 

4. Allow the audience to call for timeouts

White space in events is where it is at so I am going to love the idea of timeouts. Apparently team coaches, refs and even the TV Director (no it is, it’s true) can call for a time out. Everyone seems to be in on the act. I would extend it further: I love the idea of the attendees at our events being able to call for timeouts. At most conferences they are really needed. How about it?

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5. The shot clock

So the players have a set amount of time for something to happen. If they can’t muster a shot in 35 seconds (College basketball) and 24 seconds (NBA) it’s over to the other team. How about this for speakers? If they aren’t making any sense of engaging the audience the shot clock buzzes: “time violation!” A speaker shot clock. It’s the future. 

6. Sponsors really tailoring their engagement

I’d love to be able to show you the adverts that were played during breaks and the inventive ways the sponsors engaged with the event: they were fantastic. In one colourful section glasses were superimposed over the screen to slot over members of the audience eyes for the prize from the local optometrist. Now there’s an example of how tailored your event marketing can be. No generic lazy advertisers here. As an organiser I wish my exhibitors and sponsors thought so much more about tailoring their message to the audience. They would have so much more success. 

7. Really great use of the event app

Want to upgrade your seat? We can do that with an app. There is a certainly an irony here that’s for sure with the most popular seats at the basketball being at the front and the most popular at a conference way near the back! Anyway at the game if you want to upgrade “Move Down!” during the game to an unsold seat nearer the front you can do that via the app. This is a great use of technology. There’s no gimmick here. It’s great for the venue and the attendee. Event Tech that is really useful. 

8. Different prices for different seats

Building on from number 7 this is about the price for seats. Almost every seat is priced differently. I have no idea how a conference could do this but I want to know when someone susses it out. 

9. The in game highlights

It’s the end of the first half. Maybe you’ve missed a few things for whatever reason (see number 2 or 3) No matter the big screens will catch you up. You want to see the best 3 pointer or slam dunk. Don’t fret it will be shown again. So can we do the same for our conferences? What I really miss when I am an attendee at an event is a great summary of the proceeding so far. With so much going on it is great to have a recap. So how about the video guy, overseen by the Social Sidekick editing a short highlights piece with key questions, answers and comments from the sessions so far? Kind of useful huh? And to be honest not that hard.  

10. Fans

Tiger fans grow to love that team and man do they enjoy being known as a Tigers Fan. Can we learn anything from this as we try to encourage our attendees to engage with our events 365? There are a few event brands TED obviously that have achieved this cross over from attendee to fans so it is possible. So ponder, how can you turn your attendees into fans? 

This is firmly tongue in cheek of course. We can’t approach our learning and networking events like the organiser of an NBA basketball match but of course we can seek inspiration from any event to improve our conferences. And why not do it shouting “Grrrrrrrrr, Go Tigers!” and supping Bud Light. I am a fan of that. 

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