Think small. Think bespoke. Think niche. Thoughtfully-designed, intimate experiences are the new big. Are you planning personalized corporate events?
The craving for powerful in-person touch points comes as no surprise in today’s screen-centric, digitally saturated business environment. Smaller sessions, attendee tracks and micro-focused events are gaining momentum as attendees want more personalized experiences, richer content and lasting connections.
This is event architecture at its best, leading the way into the future. How do you design an event and agenda that’s incredibly purposeful and highly personal? Here we’re posing a few questions that will help you think ‘niche’ and drive impact.
Start here, and don’t be afraid to dive in to the unexpected and think beyond the hotel ballroom. Spaces like urban rooftops, art galleries, farmhouses, warehouses and studios might take you out of your comfort zone, but that can be a good thing. An unparalleled space sets the stage for an experience that will be equally matched. Within that space, consider informal living room concepts to lounge-style seating and coffee-house vibes; create inviting spaces that allow an event to flow from one experience to the next. If you’re moving from an instructor-lead general session to attendee-focused breakouts, it makes sense to have a warm, transient atmosphere.
And if your event does take place in a more traditional venue, how can you give it an alternative edge? Concepts like structured distractions and interactive installations can foster networking and help create a uniquely personalized experience. You can also augment traditional spaces with offsite receptions, pop-ups and smaller, ancillary events for different audience tracks.
In order to capture mindshare at your event, a unique approach is now more important than ever. Cookie cutter and predictable are out. Creative experiences that motivate, excite and innovate are in. Likewise, time is a precious commodity. Purpose, utility and versatility should be considered with every aspect of your event.
Design unique experiences one element at a time. Start by considering which elements will make the biggest impact on your guests. It may be the location, the catering, the format, the entertainment, the technology, the styling or the décor. Aim to create talking points that will get people raving about, sharing and promoting your event before, during and after.
What about creating a general session that is a balanced mash-up of short sections dedicated to official announcements, brief panel discussions and thought-provoking keynotes? This blend is entertaining, educating and encourage mindfulness. Moreover, it can be the most valuable time in terms of social engagement. That increased engagement means your attendees are more likely to spread ideas well beyond the session itself.
Breakouts are one of the most powerful vehicles for engaging participants at business meetings and conferences. A common pitfall is turning them into mini-keynotes, missing out on the opportunity to provide targeted and truly interactive attendee content. How are you reviving? Create moments like these for attendees to consume in a way that fits their learning style:
Introduce an Inspiration Hub as an opportunity for your attendees to take part in stimulating education and training sessions. Offer provocative sessions designed to elevate industry standards, maximize meeting performance and enhance your team’s personal and professional skills. Learning formats can vary from 30-minute small group brainstorming sessions to longer, classroom-style seminars.
Another breakout shift to consider is the Master Class, which can be a natural extension of the keynotes presented during the general sessions. In this format, your audience can get a well-delivered overview of key topics, and attendees have a valuable opportunity to go deeper into the subject of their interest on a more personal level.
While lectures are the safest bet in the session formats, what about enlivening them and make them more interactive? An audience response system can significantly boost the interaction in your general session by giving everyone an equal chance to ask questions and express opinions via live polls.
Set in a laid-back environment and simulating the campfire storytelling time, these sessions can be highly interactive. The facilitator drives the discussion but not the content; content can be created by participating delegates in real time.
Campfire sessions are an excellent opportunity to learn from others through the sharing of stories and experiences. It’s a collective, peer-to-peer approach that encourages genuine dialogue and networking that doesn’t feel forced.
Going all out with engagement also requires thoughtful, customized technology and communications plans. Mixed reality, crowdsourcing, on-demand services, bespoke apps and AI event assistance are becoming mainstream players in high-impact events. Don’t forget the way you deliver and present this technology should be as equally well-designed. Can your attendees still unplug and be present? Is your event app incredibly intuitive? Are your virtuals feeling the love? Are you engaging from the get-go and continuing valuable conversations post event?
Tech and comms plans are one-size-fits nobody. There’s a fine, crucial balance here that needs to be carefully navigated in order to simplify the guest journey. But what’s certain is these aspects of high-impact events must truly enhance the experience, drive valuable conversations, enable genuine connections and encourage mindfulness.
by Kate Bek, Content Specialist at BCD Meetings & Events
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