Within minutes of entering an event, you generally have an idea of what to expect. Often, you enter a bare conference room in an anonymous hotel and hope the speaker is engaging enough to make up for the setting. Or, ideally, you enter a space and feel immediately compelled.
Every event planner strives for the second scenario. When an audience is completely consumed by an experience, they’re especially receptive to the message. They leave with a clear memory of the content and a confident understanding of the issues and ideas. And because they were so captivated from beginning to end, they’re eager to evangelize for the speaker and his or her talking points.
Creating an event that truly grabs the audience requires a careful balance of elements and a complete attention to detail. The recent C2 Montréal is a great example of this in action. Everything from the networking technology to the lobby soundscape to the structure of the seating areas was perfectly calibrated. As a result, attendees felt like they were having an experience that was both seamless and all-encompassing at the same time.
Every event is different, and what works for one audience may not work for another. But there are elements that characterize all great events. First and foremost, great events have great content. Everything from the speakers to the activities to the event staff offers something to experience rather than something to ignore.
The event should also make networking easy for both attendees and presenters. Fun is important, but everyone in attendance has an agenda as well. Make it simple to meet, greet, discuss, and deal so all guests leave feeling both pleased and productive.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, an event must feel immersive while still maintaining a flow. The creative use of decoration, scheduling, layout, and staff helps guests feel somewhere singular without causing them to feel overwhelmed. Everyone leaves happy when they feel like they’ve experienced all an event has to offer.
Use these tips to craft an event experience that is memorable and meaningful:
Make a full commitment. A bad event, regardless, still requires lots of time, money, and planning to be a failure. Understand that your events really matter — cutting corners accomplishes nothing. Be willing to invest the resources necessary to make an event special.
Enlist the experts. You might have bold ideas, but that doesn’t mean you have the expertise necessary to pull them off. Bring in specialized expertise for staging, technology, location, planning, or any other area where you don’t feel completely competent.
Open lines of dialogue. Full sensory events have many moving parts and require a lot of input. Bring everyone involved together as early as possible, and make sure the flow of information is open and encouraged. Creating a seamless experience requires you consider every detail.
Be resourceful. Creativity is more important than a big budget. Finding clever ways to create stage backdrops, concourse experiences, or booth decorations costs little but immediately commands attention. An amazing experience does not have to be an expensive one.
So how do you know whether you’ve successfully created a full sensory experience? Take a walk-through in your guest’s shoes. If you feel engaged and excited, you’ve created a sum that is greater than the parts. Expect the guests to notice the minute they walk through the door.
Scott Schoeneberger is the executive vice president of marketing at Bluewater, a company devoted to creating live events and AV technology experiences for strong brands.