Four Ways to Change the Event Experience

Event marketers can find new inspiration almost anywhere they look – from music festivals to retail stores. Here are four ideas borrowed from outside of the world of corporate events that can upgrade and energize your customers’ event experience.

Take it Outdoors

Moving a major event from a well-established indoor location to an outdoor venue can energize event attendees – and have a pay-off so big that it may be worth taking the new challenges that come with an outdoor venue including weather, crowd control and management, and staffing logistics.

This year the annual Google I/O developers conference moved from its traditional indoor location at Moscone Center in San Francisco to the outdoor Shoreline Amphitheatre, located just one-half mile from Google’s Mountain View, CA headquarters. Unlike prior years when the main theater at Moscone couldn’t accommodate everyone, the new venue enabled all attendees to convene in a single space for the keynote presentation by Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai.

Taking it outdoors allowed event organizersto create a “fun, festival-like vibe.” Open-air tents, clear span structures and geodesic domes hosted highly technical sessions during the day. At night, the same structures turned into entertainment venues complete with video games and a virtual planetarium that used projection mapping to display constellations on the ceiling.

If you’re not ready to move your entire event outdoors, experiment with a segments of your event experience. Move an opening night reception or networking break outdoors to give attendees – and your event – a breath of fresh air.

Give it a Casual Vibe

Lounges have long been a popular way for attendees and speakers to relax and recharge. But instead of treating tables and chairs as a utilitarian element, design your event lounges with casual comfort in mind from the get-go.

Take a page from Starbucks. Its retail stores include oversized wingback chairs and communal tables designed to increase the time customers spend in the store. Your lounge space can do the same. The more comfortable it is, the more likely it is that attendees will hang out.

For example, casual seating areas and a coffee bar at Comcast’s Studio Xfinity store encourage customers to stay long after they’re done shopping. This year the TED Conference gave their lounges a fun vibe by adding a ball pit filled with beanbag chairs and beach balls where attendees mixed, mingled and watched simulcast sessions, all designed to shake up the event experience.

You can also create a casual vibe by breaking from the traditional seated breakfast or lunch. Pack “to-go” bags with food and drink so attendees can take their breakfast or lunch to the public areas of your venue. Or, if your venue can handle it, arrange for local food trucks to serve up unusual specialties in the parking lot or other large outdoor space.

Provide Deeper Experiences

Traditional classroom-style sessions remain popular. But for many events – especially highly technical ones – attendees want deep dives into specialized content or topics that require a hands-on element. And, when event attendees can talk technical and have hands-on participation, learning and retention are boosted.

Deliver these more robust learning experiences that attendees crave with longer hands-on workshops and labs. At Twitter’s annual developer’s conference, Flock, attendees met one-on-one with product managers and interacted with the company’s software development kit at dedicated demo stations. During Samsung’s national sales meeting, “pod stations” lining the tech fair space gave attendees hands-on experience and the ability to talk detailed technical specs with each product line’s managing rep.

Plan Shareable Moments

The growth of social and mobile platforms means that sharing an event experience is just a few clicks away. Instead of waiting for attendees to share on their own, upgrade the event experience by finding ways to inspire attendees to spread the word for you.

To promote a custom, retail pop-up experience, TOMS used a virtual reality experience and a #ShopperSuccess photo booth sweepstakes to spread the word. During The Championships at Wimbledon, Twitter engaged attendees waiting in long lines by pulling social content and data from around the globe and displaying it on a custom outdoor LED installation.

Event attendees’ expectations continue to rise. Use these ideas and keep your eyes open for more inspiration to keep attendees coming back for more.