Event attendees crave experiences that’ll sweep them off their feet. This so-called experience economy has powered the events industry over the past decade.
As the demand for live experiences grows, so does the event planners’ need for innovative event ideas that will impress clients and create meaningful moments for the attendees.
Inspired by our clients’ events as well as events that we attended, we collected this list of our 10 favorite event concepts. Give them a try and create a memorable experience for your attendees.
Secrets have always attracted people. That’s what makes these events increasingly popular. The hush-hush instructions and the unique, undisclosed locations intensify people’s curiosity.
The venue is usually revealed shortly before the event starts to heighten the expectations.
The Lost Lectures
The Lost Lectures is an underground series of enchanting talks delivered in secret locations. The organizers reimagine the concept of lecture and push its boundaries to create immersive worlds and unforgettable moments with world-class speakers.
These events bring together attendees from corporate and academic environments and take them to mysterious hideouts to start a journey full of thought-inspiring experiences.
The previous secret locations ranged from the historic ‘StummfilmKino Delphi’ in Berlin to an abandoned theater in London that had been closed to the public for over 65 years.
Secret Cinema has gained popularity in the world of immersive events. The concept has evolved from secret film screenings in abandoned buildings to major participatory productions in the most extraordinary spaces.
Imagine you could enter the film screen and start living the story. You can dive into a world where participants co-create the experience by interacting with the on-screen characters. The venue always matches the film setting to create a unique atmosphere.
Everything is kept top secret until the very last moment. Those who sign up, receive only vague advance cues about the film, dress code, and a meeting point.
Have you heard about silent discos where people equipped with wireless headphones dance to what the DJ is playing in their ears?
Motivated by positive feedback from the audience, conference organizers have increasingly started incorporating wireless headphone technology into their events. The reason is simple. It solves some of their most common problems:
- Lack of breakout space – wireless headphone systems enable delegates in a single room to break off into smaller groups and uninterruptedly listen to different presentations.
- Lack of time – with a packed agenda, you can set up additional speakers who can deliver simultaneous presentations and Q&A sessions on different topics.
- Lack of attention – in noisy exhibition halls, you can broadcast your content straight to your attendees without getting your message lost.
- Lack of engagement – the audience can choose who they want to listen to, which makes the content more relevant and the event more engaging for the attendees.
Still can’t imagine how it works in practice? Watch this video.
Instead of an ordinary lunch at a local bistro, people worldwide gather for a dance rave during their lunch breaks.
The organizer of Lunch Beat Stockholm, Daniel Odelstad, explains that this one-hour event is all about getting in as much dancing as possible.
Adopting the Fight Club narrative, the Lunch Beat organizers stress the importance of participation: If it’s your first time at Lunch Beat, you have to dance.
This concept creates a great bonding experience for the attendees, as the shared activity of dancing brings people together. There is no alcohol involved but the entrance fee will get you a sandwich.
Dedicated Q&A tracks at Startup Grind
Who wouldn’t want to hear their question addressed by a successful CEO or an influential thought-leader? However, packed conference agendas rarely leave enough time for Q&A.
Following speaker presentations, the delegates submitted their questions through Slido. The speakers then answered the questions during 30-minute interactive ‘Ask me anything’ sessions.
As a result, the speakers were able to elaborate on their topics further and the participants got the answers they were looking for.
Participant-driven open space
What better way to make your event impactful than by giving the attendees the full power to co-create the agenda at the start?
As BarCamp co-founder, Ryan King put it, usually, “there is much more expertise in the audience than there possibly could be onstage.”
The organizers enabled the delegates to propose sessions they wanted to run through Slido’s live Q&A feature. The attendees then selected the sessions they wanted to see the most.
The fired-up audience submitted twice as many pitches as there were available spaces. The outcome was a much more diverse and engaging event with impactful participant-driven content.
All sessions were led by passionate, knowledgeable people and attended by those who actively chose to take part.
If you want to duplicate this format, you can read a step-by-step guide in this blog post.
Devised in Tokyo in 2003 by local creatives, PechaKucha is a simple presentation format where speakers talk along to the automatically-advancing images. 20 images are shown, each for 20 seconds.
PechaKucha events involve a series of usually 8-15 short stand-up talks. These are often “elevator pitches” by the creatives, students, researchers or startups who want to spread their new innovative ideas.
This format is perfect for sharing quick knowledge and inspiring ideas in a short space of time. PechaKucha nights are now held in over 700 cities around the world.
For instance, Ignite Talks give speakers five minutes to talk on a subject accompanied by 20 slides, spending 15 seconds on each.
Similarly, Lightning Talks are informal 5-minute presentations, typically scheduled in a single track. Check out this blog by Charlie Coster about how Lightning Talks can improve company meetings.
The techies don’t bring about innovation only in their own field. Project-oriented software engineers usually like to get things done, and they inject this mantra into their events too.
[Source: Creative Commons Sebastian ter Burg]
These coding, brainstorming, and editing marathons usually bring together people from the same field or internal teams to collaborate on a specific project. They can last from one day to a whole week.
Such events always have a specific goal that they strive to achieve. This can range from developing a usable software, through brainstorming a list of innovative ideas, to editing a specific type of content.
Hackathons are gradually penetrating the events industry too. The FRESH conference in Barcelona ended with the first hackathon on the sea where participants brainstormed how to implement innovative, creative and artistic solutions to pharma meetings.
These sessions enable team members to learn from each other and use up the potential of the whole team’s experience. At Slido, we organized a World Café session during our all-company training.
We divided the team into groups of five. In 6-minute rounds, each member explained an issue he or she was struggling with and collected tips and advice from the others. One group member took notes so everyone could leave with actionable steps.
The participants found great value in bringing their own problems to the table and getting tailored answers from their peers. It helped strengthen the bonds between people, as individuals realized they were not alone in facing certain hurdles.
Alternatively, you can crowdsource the discussion topics through Slido’s live Q&A feature and let the audience upvote the best ones. You can allocate a topic per table and let people select their favorite one.
Campfire sessions are another excellent format for peer-to-peer learning and making new connections. As the title suggests, they attempt to bring about a laid back atmosphere of campfire-like storytelling.
This format was pioneered by MPI. It regularly holds such sessions at its annual congresses, EMEC and WEC.
The sessions usually last for 30 minutes. The facilitator introduces a topic and then drives the discussion but not the content itself. The latter is created by the delegates who discuss it in real time.
This is a super engaging meeting concept that is usually used in participatory events like Unconferences and Open Space Technology (see point 5 above).
A fishbowl panel discussion is derived from a popular open fishbowl conversation format. Two to three chairs are filled with guest panelists and one chair is left empty for audience members. The moderator introduces the topic, and the panelists start discussing it.
Any member of the audience can, at any time, occupy the empty chair and join the fishbowl panel. When this happens, an existing member of the fishbowl must voluntarily leave the fishbowl and free the chair.
The discussion continues with participants frequently entering and leaving the panel until the time is up. Then the moderator summarizes the discussion.
Besides learning and networking, events are becoming more and more about delivering impactful experiences to the attendees.
The above mentioned innovative event formats will enliven your next event and help you exceed their expectations.