Attendee experience is as important as ever; just last winter, GBTA updated their SMM wheel to include participant experience as key to a successful SMM program. After all, no matter how much money you are saving, you have to achieve your desired outcome for the event to be considered a success. Attendee experience is a huge contributing element.
Many successful planners take it a step further to provide truly unique experiences for their attendees. How do they do this? They plan their events through the eyes of a disruptor, looking for experiential, interactive and memorable opportunities for their attendees to engage with the meeting.
If you aren’t a disruptor at heart, this concept may feel uncomfortable to you; don’t worry! We have gathered up some tips and tricks to incorporate disruption into your next event. Big or small, these tactics are sure to leave a lasting impression on your attendees and ramp up your event ROI.
Disruption is all about the element of surprise. You want your attendees to think, “I did not see that coming!” With forethought and a keen eye for opportunity, planned spontaneity can be an impactful and memorable part of your event. Moments of surprise create conversation and lead to natural networking. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Between items noted on an official agenda, use an event app to send out an invite to an “impromptu” meet-up. This could be for a coffee cart before a planned breakfast or a reserved pool cabana with specialty cocktails during free time.
- Break up a session with an unexpected activity—like chair yoga or a drum circle.
- Plant audience members to interact with the presenter, unbeknownst to other attendees. Think of improv comedy (Saturday Night Live) when planning this interaction. Select an attendee with the right personality—someone well-known to the group ups the ante.
Mix things up
Breaking away from the norm is a nice change, especially for attendees who are accustomed to the typical meeting setup. Even small changes can make a big impact. Put your disruptor hat on and identify areas where you can shake up the flow to surprise your attendees.
- Think of all your standard setups and take them off the table. Transform your room, seating type and standard menus and throw something new into the mix. Take it a step further by holding afternoon and morning sessions in completely different venues.
- Have attendees move chairs in session.
- Encourage attendees to sit in different spots throughout the day—make a game out of it by placing a gift card under a new chair in between sessions for attendees to find.
- Don’t forget about your stage. Place the stage in the center of the room with attendees surrounding the stage for a more intimate and connected feel.
Audience curated content
Even with disruption, content is key. Don’t shy away from incorporating this idea into the information presented. Audience members are more likely to retain the information if there is a strong and vivid memory tied to when/how it was presented to them.
- Let the audience shape the content. You could collect requests for content before the meeting or even gather ideas during the conference. Lay out general tracks and interact with the audience to determine where those tracks go and what they really want to learn/talk about.
- Attendees are not visitors, they are participants. Give them a voice throughout the content being presented. This can be as easy as adding a question and answer session (think about timing to cause the most disruption) or pulling them on stage to help illustrate a topic. The options are endless.
Attendee immersion is another way to disrupt the norm. In today’s culture, people don’t expect to be simple bystanders, but look to be thoroughly engaged in the location, activity, event, etc. While building your agenda, brainstorm areas where you can provide an immersive experience.
- Meals are an easy way to immerse your attendees in the experience. Have attendees assist in whipping up the food or shaking up the cocktails.
- An often-overlooked element, décor presents an additional opportunity for an immersive experience. Instead of a simple backdrop, consider using interactive décor like a graffiti wall.
- Entertainment shouldn’t be relegated to a stage but mixed into the room. Give attendees musical instruments to add to the performance or have the performers out in the audience and interacting with guests.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive list on how to incorporate disruption into your next meeting or event—that is the fun part about this trend. The options are endless as long as you keep your eye out for ideas to cause a stir—in a good way.