2014 was the year that movie stars and members of the British Royal Family become event planners. I bet you never thought you’d read that!

The inspiring events of 2014

2014 was the year that thrust the humble conference into the limelight leading news bulletins across the globe. In four months an international sporting event was conceived and delivered in London. In Dublin 22,000 people attended a summit about the web: a mere 21,500 more than attended the same event in 2010. In Chile a wee football competition positively impacted 97% of those who took part; pulling 100s of homeless people up by the boot straps. And in Scotland a series of events led to something short of a revolution in political awareness. It was some year.

My five best events of 2014

1. Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict – 10th to 13th June

I think it was when I heard the word “conference” leading a BBC news bulletin that I thought something special was happening. Lifting my eyes I saw Angelina Jolie towering above a bald politician outside ExCeL. Whatever is this about?

The Summit agreed practical steps to tackle impunity for the use of rape as a weapon of war, and to begin to change global attitudes to these crimes. At the very heart of this complicated process was an international event.

Event planners should be inspired that their role can support initiatives like this. The event was the window to the world. The message best delivered in front of a thousand attendees and hundreds of cameras. Only at an event can we harness the true power of communication.

Inspirational events of 2014

The UK Foreign Minister trying to appear unfazed as if standing next to a Hollywood movie star was, like, well, an every day occurrence.

2. Invictus Games – 10th to 14th September

When Prince Harry gives you a call you are very likely to answer the phone. I wonder if he’s up for doing my sponsorship sales? Just a thought, you know where I am Harry……. Anyway, this is the story of an idea that very quickly turned into a massive event in a very short period of time. I AM impressed!

It proved what can be done if you have the resources (it helps when they include an HRH). It reminded me of the picture I took of the Empire State Building which charted its growth from foundations to topping in only 13 months! Yes, anything is possible even in the world of events. When there is a strong desire, a dedicated team and the resources to flesh out the plan the Invictus Games proved anything is possible.

All too often I meet planners in organisations who are expected to build a skyscraper of an event with tools that would give them trouble constructing an event the size of a garden shed. The Invictis Games showed that planners can do just about anything with the proper tools. Give the planner the support and see skyscrapers and international events rise from the ground to pierce the sky.


3. The Scottish Independence Referendum – September 18th

More a culmination of events than one actual event, the Scottish Independence Referendum (which would be sadly rejected by the voters 55% to 45%) proved that events are the very cornerstone of our democracies. Throughout 2014 thousands of events were organised in Scotland to discuss and debate the pros and cons of Scottish Independence. From debates involving thousands of young voters, to small village discussions, professional and amateur event planners were bringing political discussion to the masses.

For the first time in the UK social media played a key role during a major vote in informing political discourse and encouraging attendance at events. Gatherings of every shape and size brought people together and proved to be the key tool for campaigners on both sides. You should watch with interest the role of super sized events in the UK General Election campaign which is already underway. YES! More powers to the event planner!

Yes, to the power of the event planner

Yes, to the power of the event planner

4. The Homeless World Cup – 19th to 26th October

The homeless world cup is a rare thing. A community project set up in Scotland that has spread across the world. The Homeless World Cup’s street football partners operate in 420 cities, reaching 100,000 homeless people every year. So far the Homeless World Cup and its partners have impacted the lives of 1 million homeless people around the globe. And at the heart, of course, is an event!

It’s not just the size of the event which should be an inspiration to planners but the impact it has on the participants. It is a wonderful demonstration that an event, any event, can help an organisation achieve the most rewarding of objectives.

Using the Homeless World Cup as inspiration we should all look at our events and set more challenging targets for our events. Our events don’t need to change the world’s perceptions of homeless people or pull people from poverty but the events we run for our organisations should deliver more value. Value to our organisations and importantly real value to our attendees. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all our events, conferences and exhibitions were able to impact our attendees in such grand numbers and inspiring ways as the Homeless World Cup does. Here’s the highlights on their webpage:

Of those who participate:

  • 94% say the Homeless World Cup positively impacted their lives;
  • 83% improved social relations with family and friends;
  • 77% changed their lives significantly because of their involvement with football

5. The Web Summit – 4th to 6th November 

In 2010 five hundred attendees moved through the doors and into their seats at the first Web Summit. Four years later over 20,000 tech attendees would be bursting through the venue to take their places at the largest tech event in Europe. The Web Summit is now seriously mixing it with the continents’ largest and most important business events.

The Web Summit makes my list not solely on size – but its impressive growth does certainly require this planner to doff his cap – but rather on how differently and obviously successfully the event has been marketed. And here’s the impact it has had:

  1. If you have received a plain marketing email for an event, which perhaps looks hurriedly put together, it is likely they will be coping the Web Summit. There approach has shattered the myth that fancy HTML is needed to sell an event.
  2. Maybe you’ve noticed event marketing having more of a personal touch. You have probably already been getting used to messages from “Nicky” or “Bob” rather than the actual company, again we have the Web Summit to thank. Paddy Cosgrave signs off every email.
  3. If over the last year or so you’ve seen the structure of ticket pricing change for a business event that you are interested in attending more than likely it is mimicking the Web Summit. With its “application for 2for1 tickets” to its steadily increasing ticket prices they have been inspiring planners across the globe.

The hope for 2015?

This year is already underway and no doubt there are events which have already inspired planners. The hope is that events will take place which alter the way our attendees, and the wider world, see our events. The hope is that everyone will see events for what they can be: the centre of a campaign; the physical embodiment of an idea and a vision; the collective will of many and the key to success for any organisation. My hope for 2015 is that every event planner will be inspired by the events of 2014.

If you have an inspirational event to add please drop the details in the comment box below.

Published On: January 13th, 2015 / Categories: Conferences & Congresses, Events Marketing, Innovation /