Make Your Conference More Like Eurovision

In an interview with one of the UK Event Magazines back in 2011 I was asked “if you could organise any event in the World what would it be?” I pondered. The World Cup Final? Glastonbury? The Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh. No “Eurovision” my unequivocal answer. It would have to be the glam, camp fest that is the World’s largest watched musical extravaganza. However the closest I am likely to come to that (until Scotland achieves independence and The View take back the prize to Dundee!) is to seek inspiration from it for my meetings and conferences. And inspiration there certainly is!

1. Add some gamification

Eurovision is nothing without the competition. The gamification of the event is at its very heart and it is more evidence for #eventprofs that gamifying your meetings works. Attendees (both in the room and online) are more involved and they are more engaged with every aspect of the event. Gamification is growing on me almost as much as a standard Eurovision entries melody does and it should do the same for you. Gamify where you can.

2. Make it social

Eurovision is one of the best examples of how we can make every aspect of our event social. The organisers understand the power of amplifying the content and the social proofing of the event. They encourage at every opportunity your engagement with the content via social media. This picture from the App demonstrates a few crucial points for meetings planners:

– lead with the hashtag

– add some tailored and personalised content

– make it very easy to share

Eurovision App

3. Have a semi final 

Every single country who is able to compete enters the competition but only 26 (out of 37) make it to the grand final on the night. There is a semi final to weed out the weeds (which is a little harsh, the Latvian entry “Bake A Cake” which didn’t make the final was more of a rose) and this is something that your meetings could do with its speakers. Wouldn’t it be great to actually have a semi final with all of your “potential” speakers presenting in front of a panel of experts the night before the conference? And from those only the best make it! A mini competition that also provides a full live dress rehearsal for the speakers who make it through to the final. This may sound silly but many meetings are doing something similar; allowing attendees to vote for sessions augmented by the normal call for papers process. So why not take it up a notch and have a massive all or nothing semi final!

4. Take your event seriously but do have some fun

On the surface this is nothing more than simply a huge fancy dress singing competition but it is really so much more. From the producers to the performers, from the clothes designer and the make up artists through to the stage manager; everyone knows the importance of their role. It is a very, very serious event – Eurovision has an audience of over 100m viewers – more than any meeting we meeting planners will organise. But it is more than OK for all of the attendees to enjoy the show and have fun. Every part of the machine seems to focus on the same objective: to put on as massive spectacle. Behind the scenes of fun and frivolity we planners know that there are planners making this all happen and that is evidence that we can be serious and still deliver no matter the objectives.

5. Don’t be scared to be controversial 

Courting controversy is a sure fire way for your meetings to gain some extra coverage. The eventual winner of Eurovision – the neatly bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst – was the talk of the Web in the weeks leading up to the event. Other contestants, Eurovision fans and predictable some Eastern European politicians all had a comment to make about the hotly tipped act from Austria; all of this fuelling the online and offline buzz. To drop in a bit of context but on a significantly smaller scale, in 2001 I persuaded the Department of Environment, a UK Governmental Department, to invite Friends of the Earth to speak about Pesticides. It was very rare for a Government Department to invite a pressure group with very strong views on to a panel and this ensured (in very small circles of course) that some extra buzz was created. Court controversy and see increased buzz and sales. 

Not often do I have beard envy for someone in a dress

6. Hybrid events are not new

The first televised Eurovision contest took place in 1956. At its very heart was the idea for the event to reach as many people as possible: it was Hybrid way beyond its time. It’s in the name. It’s Eurovision. You should try to find a clip from the 1950s on line. You will see that the quality of the production value from that decade sits too comfortably next to many of our current online conferences. One camera, a performer not knowing where to look and an overall very low production value. If we are running hybrid events of any decent scale we have to set the bar much higher then we do. Our online events have to be production led. We have a lot to learn and event planners have a lot of skills to add to be able to run proper hybrid events – look to Eurovision circa 2014 and not circa 1964.

7. Internationalise your content

Having speakers at your conference from other countries is almost always worth doing. It is normally more expensive of course but Eurovision shows you that if you look outside of your boarders you will find some weird, wacky, challenging and very different performers. And all of this adds to the dynamic of great meetings.

8. Widen your eyes to the power of some spectacular AV! 

It was simply mind blowing to see how spectacular the event was and this was partly down to the role of the stage set. It is incredible how quickly we have advanced in the last few years and this really opened my mind to the types of things we can do to create environments and atmospheres at our events. Rain, fire, old buildings….anything is possible with some top of the range Event Technology!

Event Technology really did its stuff at Eurovision

9. A proper, strategic event app

From the free app you were able to do a huge list of things:

– engage in a much more meaningful way than simply watching the event on the TV

– engage for free (there was no charge for the official app)

– stream all of the songs (for free)

– follow a rich stream of media on different threads (your country hashtag, your act in the green room etc)

– link to iTunes to buy the songs

– play games

This is a benchmark for the type of interaction that a brilliant app can add to an event, any event including your next conference. 

10. The power of the brand

Eurovision is an exceptionally strong brand. It has been built over almost 60 years and is now an international phenomenon. It has a very strong USP: it is the only international mass singing competition. It knows exactly what it is; it can be summed up in one sentence. This is one of the reasons it is so popular. All of our conferences and business meetings can learn so much from an event that knows exactly what it is and importantly doesn’t try to be what it isn’t.

Like Eurovision itself this blog post may seem very tongue in cheek. However like many large congresses Eurovision started in the 50s. It moves country every year, like almost every large congress. It includes representation from many countries across the World, similarly like many of our largest conferences. It is a hybrid event, has an event app, has sponsors, raises revenue, has a stage set. Attendees have badges and at the heart of it there are stakeholders and event managers. Eurovision on the surface may not look like an event a meetings planner can use for inspiration but like many of the Eurovision entries, a second look (and listen) brings a lot more to the foreground.