Tweak Your Biz » Marketing » 13 Innovative Event Ideas That Drive Engagement – Discover Lost Lectures, Fishtanks And Speed Geeking

13 Innovative Event Ideas That Drive Engagement – Discover Lost Lectures, Fishtanks And Speed Geeking



The focus on driving engagement and participation online should also be applied to your face-to-face events and experiential marketing. How? With innovative event ideas and formats that encourage real world collaboration and conversation between you and your audience.

No doubt; many of us have embraced the new paradigms unleashed by digital marketing on issues like driving engagement, conversation, social business, Person-to-Person and word-of-mouse marketing,  as we try to keep up with the changing expectations of our millennial markets.  If  you have already signed up to these notions online, it makes more sense than ever to carry those valuable psychological insights into offline marketing campaigns and real world business events. Which in turn create more engagement, legacy and viral content that may feed back into your digital marketing activity.

But first of all: WHY BOTHER Refreshing your Events?

Our current cultural Zeitgeist has thrown up a few interesting trends and  ideas associated with  capturing more engagement, creating user-generated content and awakening imagination.

  • We have moved from a world of Infotainment and Edutainment to one of Crowd sourced Idea-tainment. Don’t Believe me? Have you heard of TED Talks?
  • We have also moved from a world of Monologues to Dialogues.. and now to a millenial generation that has relentless digital access to Polylogues. A  discussion or new idea is no longer broadcasted top down only but is dessminated multi-directionally.
  • Content is increasingly user-generated both online and now offline through new experiential and participatory event formats.
  • We have too much information and not enough time to digest it.  Events have to be able to crunch, disseminate and present several new and fresh ideas in smaller packages of time. Apart from the busier schedules of our audiences, event and marketing  managers also have to accommodate more 2-way conversations, feedback and Q & A sessions to leverage more value  from our audiences, attendees and clientele.
Innovative Event Ideas

Innovative (and Counter Intuitive) Ideas to Refresh your Events

#1 . Lost Lectures

  • The Lost Lectures take audiences out of mundane corporate conference environments and transport them into secret pop up hideaways.
  • The location has got to be interesting enough to awaken your audience’s imagination and allow them to rejig their thinking. Examples can include derelict vacant space, a never before used space, a movie set, a mobile unit or going outdoors instead of indoors.
  • In addition, just think of how much more magical it might be if you preceded it with a secret tour. Definitely the sort of thing to encourage more opt-ins pre-event and word of mouth post event.
  • Add to this, a surprise interactive element to one part or all of your speaker programme so that potential delegates are intrigued and announce the programme only hours before the event via social media to heighten expectation.

#2. Unconferencing

A seemingly counter intuitive approach.

  • No preset agenda or programme exists for this conference pre event as a large part of it is developed through organic participation on site around a general idea.
  • The schedule is driven by attendees at the start of this open space event around a theme set by a Facilitator and advertised beforehand. Any attendee can claim a time and space within the event and initiate a discussion.
  • A marketplace for discussions thus develops at the start of the event. The event is therefore made up of a series of audience-sourced discussions rather than a top-down monologue.
  • Programming does not  have to be a linear list of speakers in chronological order. It is an organic process, and can have several sub-discussion groups taking place simultaneously.
  • People can drop in and out of discussions.

This Open Space style event has spawned many similar event formats and Unconference Methods

For example:

#3. Pecha Kucha talks

  • Japanese for “Chatter” or ” Chit chat”, these are now familiar to many in design based or creative industry events. They involve a series of short 5 minute stand up talks , usually 8-15  sessions in total,
  • These may or may not contain multi-media presentations.
  • Some events restrict presentations to “20 images in 20 seconds” .
  • Some Pecha Kucha talks are executed  soapbox style, with small stand-up audiences occupying temporary spaces.
  • Some allow for an immediate critique in the final 20 seconds.
  • Great way to see “elevator pitches” by not so famous people like students, researchers or start ups who want to spread their new innovative ideas.
  • Quite egalitarian and can be preceded by an open call for presentations.

Similar ideas include:

#4. Ignite Talks

  • An Ignite Talk is a brand of global events series, characterised by 5 minute talks and 20 slides per presenter.
  • Presenters talk about their passions, brave new ideas or news ways of problem-solving

Ignite Talk Videos say it all.

YouTube Preview Image

#5. Lightning talks | Data Blitz

  • A fast succession of 1-10 minute talks with no multimedia.

Apart from the Design based creative industries, new event styles are emerging from academia which include hands on participatory Think ins, Problem solving workshops or Hackathons. Here’s a few:

#6. Speed Geeking | Rapid Demos

  • A bit like  speed networking but not about selling businesses, it’s all about the pitching your big idea.
  • Presenters are dotted around the room
  • Each time a bell rings groups of 4-7 converge on a new presenter.
  • Presenters pitch their idea repeatedly to every time the bell rings.

#7. Fishbowl Conversations | Unpanel | Samoan Circle 

  • A concentric circular arrangement of seats whereby an inner ring of people discusses a topic
  • They are surrounded by a larger circle of audience members who may  just observe or
  • Dip into the debate by taking turns sitting in the inner active ring in order to  gain speaking rights.

#8. Knowledge Cafes | World Cafes

  • A Workshop styled event format that kicks off with a general keynote address event. A Facilitator provides some open ended questions based on the pre determined topic or puts forward a problem that needs solving.
  • The group gets into small round table groups, discusses, digests the problem and submits feedback for the larger group at the end of the round table pod sessions. Conversation and Participation are the key processes.
  • A World Cafe allows one person to stay behind while the pod moves on to the next table. The person that stays behind gets to infect the next group with their ideas.
  • Great for a self regulating guild, association or trade gathering that wishes to address issues facing their sector for example.

There are also some interesting ideas coming from the Cultural sector which may find their way into the cutting edge mainstream events.

#9. Silent Discos inspire Silent Conferencing

You must have heard of Silent discos by now – where attendees apparently dance in silence, wearing headphones WIFI-ed into the DJ’s sound system? Arts Festivals are incorporating these especially as Flash mob events.

Silent conferences or Silent product launches solve the problem of engaging distracted visitors within a busy exhibition or event space.

  • Hook up seminar audiences with headphones directly to the speakers microphone.
  • Great if you are worried about engaging distracted attendees to the event, being discrete with information and don’t have enough facilities for a closed-off seminar space.
  • Even better when you do away with the large screen slides and broadcast slides directly into their devices.

#10. Open Mic Jam

In the music world,

  • Open mic sessions invite members of the public or audience to step up to the plate and contribute.
  • Jam sessions especially in terms of Jazz, allow different performers to play together, experiment and most importantly improvise on stage.
  • Bring the 2 together and you’ve got a new format for engaging the attendees to your event. Creative business sectors are picking up on this with open mike storytelling or Jam sessions where you get to put out your latest ideas and have be open to feedback.

Here’s a local example : The Innovation Dublin Festival  will be holding an Open Mic Idea Jam where anyone with a new innovative idea can get on stage and share to an invited audience consisting of Venture capitalists or potential collaborators.

#11. Soundclash

  • Soundclashes take place when 2 different bands are pitched against each other on opposing sides of the stage. They often displaying different styles of music. A sort of duel takes place.
  • Add some frisson to your events by kicking of some soundclashes of your own. You could pitch opposing points of view like Buyers versus Sellers, Big Business versus Small business, or competing businesses and brands for example. Another way to approach this would be to get people from 2 different disciplines to tackle the same problem

#12. Multi Sensory Mash up

Talking about ideas can be so dry sometimes. Sitting through a profusion of words and intellectual content in the abstract can be challenging. Remember to present your information in a Multi Sensory format to break the monotony, provide conversation starters and talking points that make your event more memorable.

For example:

  • Use a visual mood board as an event installation rather than written material. Or a giant Mind Map to outline your programme schedule onsite.
  • Get Tactile and Tasty. When handing out  drink reception cocktails, Design consultancy Designgoat made attendees choose  from a series of  3D shape tokens instead of offering them a menu. The cocktail was served according to the shape chosen and it was a surprise recipe. Delegates were left guessing as to the ingredients.
  • Go Mobile, go outdoors and grab some fresh air. Cater for breakout coffee or lunch by getting delegates outdoors and hire mobile food trucks instead of a standard buffet.

A mobile catering unit like this Big Blue Bus Pizza cafe is an Innovative event idea

#13. Crowd Sourced Installations

The visual arts world are engaging more festival go-ers and members of their community with crowd sourced installations that get centre stage display rights during the event. This brings a sense of ownership to all contributors who are bound to spread the word virally and attend to view the end result.

Business events can take this further by:

  • Crowdsourcing ideas with a hashtag
  • Displaying them on the day via multimedia as a backdrop to the event. Here’s an idea:  Crowd source ideas into a pinterest board pre event and turn this into a large scale visual backdrop at the event, a real world display wall or slideshow.
  • It could also be a simple traditional idea. Like Yoko Ono’s wishing tree in the Dublintellectual biennale, whereby guests were asked to write down their wishes on tags
  • a crowd sourced installation is an innovative idea to drive engagement and participation at your event
  • Generate merchandise out of the contributions, programme content or publish the results as a takeaway momento of the event.
  • Use this as a basis for a pre event viral marketing campaign and use the onsite result as content for a post event viral ad .

 I was inspired by the arty ideas creative agency Tangible Interaction’s series of Artworks

Caveats to Crowdsourcing

I found this handy blog detailing the: 10 Commandments of Crowdsourcing

Blending the Offline with the Online

The full potential of these ideas and their execution is of course more possible now with the profusion of social media channels that can engage more people pre event. Tap into:

  • Event software that allows pre-event introductions, and networking. Basic event profiles in social networks like Linkedin and Meetup already allow a rudimentary facility for engaging pre-event.
  • Apps that can Gamify the experience in the build up and during the event.
  • Storytelling applications like Storify or Photo-tagging that have the power to create a post event legacy.

Summary

In short we have to change the way we look at our marketing events and corporate conferences.

Where Events were once a method of Con-tainment i.e. keeping a captive audience to yourself in an enclosed space, we have moved on from that way of thinking. Events are evidently becoming more useful as an explosive creative device.

Think of them as:-

  • a launch pad for generating more content for broadcasting into the ether,
  • a stage for crowd sourced ideas from outside the 4 walls of your business and the programmed thinking of your organization,
  • a 4D experience that extends beyond the conference or exhibition space.

I would really like to think there are way more examples of innovative event management styles, formats and conferencing ideas out there. I have more in my back pocket for future posts on various new styles so do stay tuned.

Why don’t you rise to the Polylogue challenge and throw some new ideas back at me? What other innovative event ideas and formats have you seen?

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The Author:

Elish Bul-Godley does Content Marketing and Copywriting with Digital Agency Ebow and is a Community Manager and Copywriter for guerrilla festival Bloom Fringe. Also Content Contributor for publications: LeCool Dublin, Tweakyourbiz.com, Furniture News Magazine, NI Business News & Meetingsbooker.com. Co-Founder and Creator of Press Accredited Blog-zine Eurovision Ireland. Elish is also an experienced B2B Events Professional with Retail management, Visual Merchandising, Project management experience. Born in Singapore, now in Dublin having negotiated the associated Cultural changes between East and West. Loves the odd shimmy as a Belly-dance teacher and binges on Sc-ifi in her spare time. Tweet @elishbulgodley http://www.elishbulgodley.wordpress.com

Add Your Comment

  • http://twitter.com/CRGroscurth Chris Groscurth

    Really creative modalities for structuring engagement and communication, Elish. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Elish Bul

    Delighted you had Fun with It! And yes hopefully the start to more inspired ideas and variations – looking forward to discovering more examples – if you come across them throw them this way!

  • http://www.sianphillips.ie/ Sian Phillips

    I love these ideas Elish. Being someone who isn’t very good at networking offline you certainly make it sound interesting enough for me to want to go if you were organising one

  • Elish Bul

    Thanks for that Sian! Don’t think of it as networking or selling then, think of it as an adventure, you are there to learn and so is everyone else (if they know what’s good for them that is…).

  • Martin Lindeskog

    Great ideas! You are welcome to participate at the unconference, WebCoast, in Gothenburg, Sweden, on March 15-17, 2013. A new word for unconference = potluck conference (“knytkonferens” in Swedish). For more information: http://webcoast.se/en/what-is-unconference

  • Elish Bul

    Thank for giving me a new term too add to this burgeoning collection : “Potluck conferences” Love it.

  • Martin Lindeskog

    Elish: You are welcome! I look forward to meet you someday! What’s your favorite food dish?

  • Elish Bul

    Being part Chinese and part north Indian my favourite dishes are a split choice between Hainanese Chicken rice and LLamb Bryani! ; )

  • Christina Giliberti

    More ‘off the wall’ ideas from our lady of creativity! Love speed geeking. It just shows how innovative we can be and the effect of technology as an inspiration for social events.

  • Elish Bul

    Yes who needs to be plastered “on the Wall” when you can live “off it”. Just doing my bit : cool-hunting ideas for the tweakyourbiz community just before they get too mainstream. Loving my new title ” Our Lady of Creativity” makes me feel almost holy.

  • Elish Bul

    Update – A LinkedIn Discussion has thrown up some great ideas too as feedback
    -Storyboard your event before it happens to make sure it provides with a more human experience
    -Do A Sensory Audit fo what your visitor will experience when onsite
    -Allow for playtimes

    there’s more in this blog by Kare Anderson

    http://www.sayitbetter.com/2012/02/come-back-to-our-senses-how-to-create-more-meaningful-and-memorable-meetings/

  • Elish Bul

    New ideas have been coming in as feedback fromour Linkedin discusion on this topic
    Kare Anderson has given me some great new approaches in her blog
    Amongst them
    -do a sensory audit of your visitor’s experience
    -Storyboard the event
    – and let them have time to play in between the serious stuff
    Here’s More
    http://www.sayitbetter.com/2012/02/come-back-to-our-senses-how-to-create-more-meaningful-and-memorable-meetings/

  • Ritu

    Im Ritu, community manager at http://www.eventsengage.com . We created EventsEngage for events organizer to be able to better engage their prospective participants through social channels by deeply integrating it in the system. Event organizers can specify every digital and social channels during the event creation process like, official facebook page, twitter hashtag, official event website, link to ticket buying page etc. Users can see who all are interested in the event who all are going to the event and same gets posted on user’s facebook wall to bring more visibility to the event. There are many more features that would be expremely benificial to event organizers. Pls explore it at http://www.eventsengage.com

  • Balaje Viswanaathan

    excellent ideas

  • http://www.culturalavoro.it Graziano Di Paola

    Thanks for the inspirational article. I’ve posted the 13 hints on our @sumlab twitter account. I’ve liked your synthesis of current trends also: Crowd sourced Idea-tainment and Polilogues