After a few years away from in-person events, people are looking for something more from the meetings they travel to. Problem is, you may not have the budget to do something big and splashy in your efforts to surprise and delight—maybe quick and clever is the name of the game.
The key? Focus on moments of joy. Here are just a few ideas worth considering.
Think About Aesthetics
Do your events feel a little drab—a mixture of enclosed spaces and colors that run the gamut from brown … to beige?
Adding a small pop of color and design might infuse your event with a little more soul. In a 2019 interview with PCMA, Ingrid Fetell Lee, a former design director at IDEO and publisher of the Aesthetics of Joy blog, explained that a focus on design can have a visceral effect on the people taking part in an event by lending a sense of unity.
“[I]f you want that sense of cohesion and contagion, there really is no better emotion than joy,” she told PCMA. “Because research shows that joy is the most contagious of our emotions. It spreads quickly within groups. It spreads because of our body language, our expressions, our tone of voice. And that can actually have really surprising effects, even from a business perspective.”
You may not have total control over the furniture, but the use of striking visuals throughout the event—interesting colors and inventive signage, for example—could be just the spark your attendees need.
Give Attendees an NFT
The blockchain and other crypto-related technologies like nonfungible tokens (NFTs) have had their ups and downs in recent years, but they can nonetheless provide an opportunity for excitement, with the right event and the right audience.
The International Society for Technology in Education had one of those when it integrated NFTs into its 2021 annual meeting. ISTE collaborated with a presenter who planned to talk about NFTs at a future event, and ended up building a set of NFTs for the conference.
“There were very little expenses,” said Craig Gill, ISTE’s senior director of marketing, in an interview last year. “We shared the hard costs, but there wasn’t a need for us to hire expensive consultants or a firm specializing in this, given our simple and limited goals.”
The NFTs in a way were an extension of the conference pins ISTE had traditionally given out at the events. (And if NFTs aren’t your attendees’ bag, consider other kinds of swag.)
Maximize the Coffee Break
Between sessions, attendees are on the prowl for refreshments to tide them over. Use this time to go beyond just putting out a couple of carafes. On its website, the Barceló Hotel Group suggests using the moment to bring out experimental food displays that will get people talking. Maybe it’s an offering that’s on theme for the event, or maybe it’s just a pop of inspiration during a short break between sessions.
And don’t be afraid to play with the pick-me-up options beyond ingestibles. One suggestion from Skift Meetings is to offer physical activities between sessions to help attendees keep up their energy after lunch.
Show Off the Host City
If people are traveling for an event, it’s important to give them a chance to enjoy the place they’re visiting—even if it might not seem like a major tourist destination.
Use your site-selection prowess to give your attendees a taste of what’s nearby. Perhaps you can put on a “crawl” to highlight the city’s nightlife, its art scene, or its shopping district. Give your attendees an idea of what makes the destination special—and give a little support to the host city while you’re at it.
Pull Out the Confetti Cannons
Say what you will about the benefits of virtual meetings, but despite all of the efforts technologists have put in over the years, none of them have found a proper replacement for the power of the confetti cannon. (Nor the T-shirt cannon, but confetti obviously has much more of an effect on the whole audience.)
This idea, originally highlighted by BizBash in 2015, was sparked by an event for wedding planners at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World. During a group photograph in one of the sessions, attendees were asked to yell the phrase, “We’re going to Disney World!” Then, right on cue, the confetti hit, creating a moment of genuine surprise that maximized the moment for attendees.
Do you have a confetti-worthy moment? Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the explosion in energy.
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