Every year, Biz Bash recognizes the most innovative meetings and events. Let’s take a look at what makes them innovative and how you can implement some of the ideas into your next program.

  1. Consider moving your yearly meeting or event to a non-traditional venue. Google did this with their I/O developers conference by creating a festival-like event. If moving the location is not an option, brainstorm ways to reinvent the look and feel of the space. Tie the environment to the purpose of the gathering and watch audience engagement levels spike.
  2. Support a lasting outreach project. Give-back projects are a great engagement tool, but once the group leaves, the give-back ends. To really create lasting impressions in the communities surrounding conference locations, the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo selects an annual “Legacy Project,” which has included the building of multiple educational facilities including a job-training center and an urban food studio.
  3. Build a data warehouse. Past and present attendee data will help you make informed decisions about the future layout, content offerings, or even location of your next event. At the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo, tiny battery-operated beacons were placed on name badges to measure booth dwell time and aisle traffic.
  4. Create micro-communities. Start connecting attendees before the event begins. The Social Media Marketing World conference did this by setting up internet chat groups based on a number of factors such as geographic location and industry. Opportunities for networking continued in full force throughout the event, helping the participants make the most of it.
  5. Understand audience personas. Tailoring content to each target audience will ensure the event is hyper-relevant to participant interests. Salesforce’s Dreamforce Conference created intimate events and specialized zones to appeal to each audience type. Asking the right questions upfront, thinking strategically and optimizing attendee data will help you understand personas to create maximum engagement.
  6. Provide real-time session suggestions. It has become more prevalent to receive a coupon on your phone when entering a store or a ping about product information when you pass a company’s booth at a trade show. But now, the ever-innovative South by Southwest Interactive Show (SXSW) analyzes attendee profiles, identifying things such as previously favorited sessions and location and behavior based on real-time data from GPS tracking and beacons around the event site.While it takes time and money to develop algorithms to suggest personalized session recommendations, it can positively influence the attendee experience, especially at large, complex events.
  7. Re-think the old PowerPoint. Marriott replaced PowerPoint presentations with a live fashion show at its Marriott Sales, Marketing, Revenue Management, and Event Management Conference. The unexpected and highly energetic show visually depicted the target audience for each Marriott brand through designer label clothing. Many content presentation formats have emerged lately, but the most successful examples create thoughtful audience interaction.
  8. Demand diversity. The Social Capital Markets Conference, a gathering to discuss impact investing and social entrepreneurship, requires every panel at the conference to include participants that reflect gender, racial, and ethnic diversity. Also important is ensuring the content is relevant to a broad audience. This also helps foster innovation by being open to diversity of thought.
  9. Unplug. It’s easier to unplug when it’s hard to connect to Wi-Fi. It’s rarer now that you’ll hear of a “no social media policy”; however, the Summit at Sea swears by it. Taking place on a cruise ship, organizers want to promote intimate conversations and genuine togetherness during the entire experience. Although seemingly more manageable for a small group, the Summit at Sea was able to pull this off for a group of over 3,000.
  10. Be unusual. The C2 conference (which explores the intersection of commerce and creativity) created special “brainstorming environments to propel participants out of their usual frame of reference.” One activity paired attendees to walk together under an umbrella while simulated rain fell, to explore topics like collaboration and trust. Last year, they suspended hanging chairs 18 feet in the air to change people’s perspectives. Adding out-of-the-ordinary elements is a great way to ensure your event remains memorable.
  11. Ask for feedback. Feedback can be collected in a wide variety of methods; whether in real-time at the world’s first hotel in “live beta,” or with post-event surveys on a mobile event app. SAP’s Sapphire Now conference worked with University students to gather brief, in-person interviews with attendees throughout the show. This helped to capture impressions immediately, ensuring they weren’t lost.
  12. Welcome newbies. Setting the stage and guiding newcomers on what they should expect throughout a conference can help them focus and not get overwhelmed. Microsoft has taken this one step further at their Worldwide Partner Conference by staffing a live “help desk” and adding a post-event workshop to provide next-steps and real-world applications for first-time attendees.
  13. Run a volunteer program. The tech start-up – Collision Conference – invites volunteers to help with registration, social media and speaker services for the four-day event. Instead of hiring staff, the volunteers are compensated with complimentary access to the event. Considering running a similar program for large events, or a “scholarship” program for smaller events. This will help with event publicity too.
  14. Inspire attendees. The wedding industry summit, Engage!16, inspires its attendees by making them feel as special as couples feel on their wedding day. Organizers shower participants with luxurious gifts and take them on a journey of surprise and delight. Creating your experience using emotional storytelling, will inspire the audience and make the message more impactful.
  15. Think outside your industry. A professionally diverse audience fosters fresh thinking. The Re/Code annual Code Conference organizers did this by manually curating the invite list instead of offering attendance to past attendees first. Industry diversity can easily be implemented into speaker presentations or panel discussions to offer different viewpoints to the audience.

We hope these ideas will inspire you to continually innovate, making each event you host a more memorable and impactful experience than the last. For more information on creating the ultimate experience for your participants, download our free white paper below. 

photo credit: C2 Montreal 

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