Meeting and Event Planning: 3 Ways to Get More Creative
Corporate meetings and events haven’t traditionally been associated with creativity, but that’s quickly changing.
It’s easy to take a more formulaic approach to planning a corporate event like an annual meeting, a tradeshow or a conference. Yet as attendees continue to demand engaging experiences and corporate events become a more significant driver of business strategy, meeting and event planners are under increasing pressure to step outside of the box.
And that’s why creativity plays a growing role in both planning and execution. In fact, survey results highlighted in the 2018 American Express Global Meetings Forecast indicate that creativity is one of the things that most excites meeting and event planners, especially in the next few years.
“‘There is a need to mix it up and make sure we are engaging the audience,’ said a North American meeting planner in the American Express report. ‘The expectation is that we’ll create a level of excitement and engagement so attendees want to be there and part of the conversation.’”
The looming question, of course, is how to tap into the power of creativity when planning your next event or meeting. We’ve compiled a few ideas to help capture your imagination. Ready to think big?
Change the Venue
One of the easiest ways to leverage the power of creativity at your next meeting or event is to change the venue. Think about trying another city. Or, if the logistics of a geographic move aren’t feasible, consider different venues in your host city. It’s amazing how a change of scenery can refresh and invigorate not just your event, but also the attendees themselves.
And here’s the thing. It’s absolutely fine to start small. Perhaps you host a large group of attendees with a presentation-heavy agenda, and it’s easier to keep using conference or convention facilities. No problem! But can you also experiment with adding a different venue to your programming? Try an evening happy hour or networking mixer at a creative space like an art gallery or a museum. Or coordinate with a local coworking space to host smaller breakout sessions or workshops. Just one creative change can make a big difference to your attendees, and give you room to expand and refine your creative approach in the coming years.
Try a Different Format
Event agendas are another area that’s ripe with creative potential. You may have heard about the rise of the “unconference”—a more informal approach to a conference that includes ample opportunities for collaboration, learning, and sharing. As you plan your next event or meeting, take a look at your agenda (as well as your event goals). What do you want attendees to do, learn and feel while at your event? And what sort of impression do you want to leave them with? The answers to those questions can help you identify opportunities to make some creative changes to your programming.
Again, it’s perfectly acceptable to start small. Let’s say your event or meeting always includes a keynote address and a mix of relevant, topic-specific presentations. Can you modify your agenda to also include some informal breakout discussions organized by attendee role or area of interest? Even a small change like adding some welcoming collaborative areas throughout your event venue, complete with comfy seating and refreshments, can help your attendees feel a greater sense of connectivity to the event and to each other.
Whether they’re on vacation or attending an annual meeting or company event, people want experiences. This is especially true for young professionals, who are focused on seeing, doing and sharing.
Delivering an immersive, experiential event is one of the most effective ways to captivate and delight your attendees. And that means that they’re not only likely to return next year, but they’re also more likely to spread the word about what they experienced in a way that makes them influential brand ambassadors.
As you consider ways to add experiences to your meeting or event programming, it’s always helpful to go back to the basics. What are your event goals? What do you want attendees to know about and associate with your brand? And what are some ways you can tap into the allure of your surroundings?
We recently worked with an automotive client who wanted to kick off its annual incentive program in a memorable way. Not only did they want to make an immediate impression on attendees; they also wanted to highlight the warm, rustic aesthetic of the event’s Utah location. Our approach? An authentic farm-to-table dinner with five mouthwatering courses cooked open-kitchen style. The client had a chance to highlight the incredible culinary talent and array of local ingredients in a way that also set the tone for the event.
There’s no shortage of ways to add experiences to your next meeting or event. Some of our favorites include private musical performances, behind-the-scenes tours of local attractions or points of interest, rooftop dining or networking, and off-site workshops or demonstrations.
Embracing creativity as an integral part of your event or meeting not only delivers a more enjoyable, memorable and effective attendee experience—it’s also fun! Because let’s face it, if you’re planning a recurring annual event, it can be easy to slip into auto-pilot and follow the same tried-and-true format. Now, however, is the perfect time to shake off the cobwebs and try something new that makes a lasting impact on your attendees and your brand.
And if you find yourself in need of a gentle push to take that first step outside of the box? That’s why we’re here. We relish the opportunity to help you deliver innovative, engaging events that produce results. Whether you want to start small with a few key changes or go in a completely different direction from past events and meetings, we’ll help you bring your creative vision to life. Let’s explore the art of the possible.