In preparation for a couple of presentations and some consultancy I’ve searched and found a whole host of innovative and dynamic events. I wanted to see if I could distill a list of the things that make them exceptional. From that search I’ve come up with five things creative events do. And here it is:
- Power attendees
- Create great content
- Unleash the power of social media
- Engage the senses
- Create a narrative
So in this post I thought I’d not just the five things that creative events tend to do much better than more traditional events, but I’d expand and explain why I think they are important, and also drop in some links to those events so you can check them out.
1. Creative Events Power Attendees
The great events turn attendees into participants and merge the audience with the performers or the performance. These creative events allow the attendees to play a role in the content. SXSW for years now, has allowed part of the programme to be influenced by the power of the “SXSW Community”: in part the attendees are the curators of the content. Check out their PanelPicker.
Taking one step further the Bar Camp movement creates content solely sourced from the attendees who volunteer to speak – should they be selected of course – during the event.
By “Powering Attendees” creative events to do more than allow them to select the content. Many innovative events are designing an experiential element by enabling attendees to affect the lighting, sound and other environmental factors. You’ve probably been to a wedding or a gala dinner where you have been asked to select the music and the creative events take this a few steps forward.
At pitch style events it is now very common for the audience – not the investors! to judge the winner. And my final example is the events that create a powerful brand – CYCLEHACK being one of my favourites – and then let attendees run with the event. This is truly powering the attendees!
2. Creative Events Create Great Content
At the heart of every great event there is great content. Think the main stage at Glastonbury or this years line up at Primavera Sound in Barcelona! It’s obvious that festivals need great content, but so do conferences and meetings.
The success of TED, one of the best known conference brands in the world, is not down to the format, but mainly the content. A lot of people focus on the maximum 18 min session length, but it is the content that makes these events so incredibly popular. If you think of the best conference you’ve been to it will be the content that is memorable, content that changed your approach to work or even to life.
Unfortunatley, it is still “unusual” for conferences, away days or AGMs to have truly stand out content. And there is no real reason that these events can’t have fantastic content. The key is to spend the majority of the time sourcing, tailoring the content and briefing those involved. Or of course if you are “empowering your attendees” creating unique content from ALL the participants.
3. Creative Events Unleash The Power Of Social Media
As noted above, for those attending your event great content is crucial to its success. But being able to share that content is just as important. And everyone should embrace it!
The oldest golf tournament in the world The Open used to ban mobile phones. They had all the best golfers in the world taking part in a competition in some of the most picturesque places in the British Isles: content by the bucket load! But they did not want you to share any of that rich content. That was until 2012 when the Royal and Ancient fully and properly embraced the power of Social Media. If one of the most traditional of organisations can embrace social media there is hope for every organisation! Although the Ryder Cup took a step back last year banning fans from posting photos online from Gleneagles.
4. Creative Events Engage The Senses
Creative events do all they can to engage all of the senses. When we ran the British Dietetic Association annual conference we placed it in the heart of Borough Market in London. We ensured that the delegates made their way past the stalls, all selling fresh food, before they arrived at the conference – a conference all about food. We also placed dozens of apple sensed air fresheners throughout the event. A conference with a “theme smell”. Conference theme tunes are now pretty common but think of all the senses!
When creative events take place they spend a lot of time thinking about the location. Creative events don’t happen in downstairs lightless hotel basements. They happen in environments that add to the event. They use light and space. They mold their event around the space.
5. Create Events Create A Narrative
Everyone loves a good story. Some of the largest and most successful events have been great at telling their story of growth or the quirkiness that launched them. The Web Summit grew from 200 attendees to 20,000 in only four years. Secret Cinema‘s story is fantastic. I remember seeing their guests – all dressed in 50s Americana pass my flat in London – on the way to one of the first secret events. Their story of launching and very quickly selling their exceptionally quirky events is very interesting. They also totally get engaging the senses: “In July 2014, the company launched Back To The Future screenings, set in a life-size recreation of the 1950s Hill Valley town“. Brilliant now that’s a story!
Every creative event has – or being creative types – creates a story. I wonder what the story of your next event is?
5 Things Creative Events Do
Now many of the events I’ve covered are from larger than average events, but creativity doesn’t have to happen only at the large events. Creativity has a place in all event shapes and sizes. And it is normally easier than you think. I hope this little guide gives you some inspiration.