Does this sound familiar? Is this all we have to offer our attendees? Follow the above formula and go home? The vast majority of event organisers all seem to follow this ritualistic agenda. Why? Well, because it has worked in the past, and largely continues to work now. But, and it is a big BUT: the single biggest reason this works is due to conditioning. Conferences have always been organised this way. Conference attendees have come to expect it, so they put up with it. After all, they paid a small fortune to attend. Does that sound about right to you?
Now, picture this, a bright, vibrant, airy venue. No stages, no sponsor logos plastered everywhere, clever use of space, no rubbish giveaways or mountains of paper detailing maps and agendas. Imagine being left to roam free in this vast space all targeted towards making your life easier. With perfectly delivered presentations and content, and carefully curated workshops that give you the control to shape your own experiences.
Sounds like bliss, right? Conferences are changing from an environment that is ‘speaker > attendee’ to one that puts control back into the hands of participants. Fostering open learning and creating connections not only between speakers and participants but also with partners and stakeholders. It is this type of creativity that creates that WOW moment. One of the biggest opportunities to create unique engagement comes from co-creation and planning. By changing the label of ‘attendees’ to ‘participants’, you involve the participants in shaping the event; letting them create and develop their own learning experience.
Here are my top 6 tips for embedding innovation into events
Baby Steps “I would love to do that, but my director says ‘we’ve always done it this way’ or ‘it’s to expensive,’” I hear other event organisers say. Well, change doesn’t happen overnight. We have to introduce innovative techniques slowly. Equally, these tactics may not be appropriate for every conference; however there are still plenty of things you can do to be more creative, foster interaction and create these memorable experiences that will leave your participants hungry for more
Setting the Objective Before we can jump into the creative stuff we need to set event objectives. What are we hoping to achieve with this event? How are we going to measure the events success? What stakeholders are involved? What are the potential barriers? For Haelo events, I use the 5 W’s; who, what, where, when and why method with particular focus on why. That’s the space for innovation. Without solid objectives any event can quickly fall into disarray and this can lead to failure. Only once the purpose has been set can we start to build the event and incorporate creativity
Creating Creativity Put simply, being creative is not just limited to aesthetics and visual appeal. Being creative is about taking risks, exploring new methods and laughing in the face of adversity. Being creative is about providing a stimulating and beneficial learning experience for our participants. It doesn’t need to be expensive either.
Pinterest is a great resource to find great low cost ideas to brighten any dreary room
Use of lighting and colour can add additional depth and impact to a presentation
Providing the standard carb heavy bland food can limit attention spans (does that 2pm lull sound familiar?) and distractibility, all which distracts from the learning that can take place at the event. Changing menu’s and addition some nutrition to the menu’s can really go a long way in keeping your attendees engaged for the whole day. Who doesn’t share food on Instagram these days?
The Space Have you considered moving away from standard space? Why host your event in a hotel basement or conferencing centre when there are some great alternatives? Why not host it somewhere that is iconic and creates that wow factor all by itself? The event industry is seeing many more events being held in non-standard spaces as Haelo did in partnership with Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust at the Human Factors Conference 2017. Though it will sometime require more planning and co-ordination, a novel space can sometimes work out cheaper than a standard space. It provides an environmental driver to open up your participants to change and creativity.
Interaction Technology The fastest growing area of events planning, especially in the ‘millennial’ age. Over 80% of adults own a smart phone. Taking advantage of this is crucial, and it brings about a whole new level of interactivity, creativity and engagement between your participants, speakers and stakeholders. Interactive features and segments are becoming ever more popular at events. Any event planner failing to incorporate interactive technology is aiming for failure. At Haelo, we use our event app to put control into our participants hands allowing them to define and shape their own learning experience
Speaker and Facilitators In traditional conferencing the speakers present their ideas, attendees sit there and listen. In modern conferencing the participants take part in the experience, and the speakers help facilitate learning. Linear presentation formats are no longer appropriate or de rigueur. Event organisers need to think of other ways of utilising the knowledge we are trying to bring into the event, and how best to disseminate it and this can be done through the right content, the right speakers and the right facilitation.