Event organizers are increasingly taking a 360 approach to conferences, panels,meet-ups and business traveling experiences.. Events “start” weeks before the opening curtain and use all available channels to engage with participants. I’ve spotted three trends that are refining the conference experience as we know it.
1. Multi-faceted experiences. I attended the inaugural edition of Techmanity, a conference about technology “that improves human creativity, productivity and quality of life” in San Jose, CA this month. The agenda included speakers and networking like any other conference, but also a documentary screening in a nearby movie theater, concerts by Thievery Corporation and Weezer and a cook-off between Bay Area ramen chefs. While not all of the elements came to perfect fruition, they gave attendees many different ways to interact and brought the breadth of the conference topic to life.
2. Investment in event creative. Earlier this year I was lucky to be at Bloomberg Businessweek (BBW) Design, one of the best-looking events I’ve witnessed. Hosted in a relatively common location, the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, BBW’s (very original) visual identity was everywhere. Every single piece of event collateral – personalized attendee badges, menus and presentation design – reflected BBW’s style, creating an immersive space that reminded attendees at every turn that this was an organised business conference.
3. Peer-to-peer interaction. Conferences typically have had a top-down approach – how can organizers maximize engagement with their content? Today, odds are good that fellow attendees can offer experiences and insights that the host can’t provide. Smart organizers are getting better at connecting people and getting out of the way. Online tools like Twitter event hashtags and dedicated DoubleDutch conference apps as well as offline classics like icebreaker questions on printed cards are driving peer-to-peer interaction at events.
The good news is that you don’t need a million dollar budget to put these trends to work. Whether it’s a salon dinner, an investor day or a full-fledged conference, challenge yourself to create a richer experience at your next event. Your attendees will thank you for it.