How unique venues can amp up the event experience for participants

By Caroline Gair on 11/04/2017

In the world that we live in today, where we are surrounded by technology, it can get highly distracting. Capturing the minds of delegates attending an event and keeping them engaged throughout is a challenge. Of course, there are many aspects to an event that converge to deliver the finale, and a key component of this is the venue.

Today, we are no longer limited to a hotel ballroom or convention centre. "The world is our oyster” when it comes to venues, and it is only limited by our imagination: from an outdoor space as a blank canvas to a pop-up retail store transformed into the "Garden of Eden”, or an old warehouse split into two with formalities on one side and the big reveal on the other.

Clients today are looking for a unique bespoke experience that engages the senses and drives both the personal and professional development of attendees. Integrating technology and physical engagement in an atmosphere that engages all the senses is a winning formula.

This is not to say that hotel meeting rooms and ballrooms do not have their place. In fact, they offer a very compelling proposition that continues to deliver highly successful outcomes for their customers.

Where they need to be clever is by diversifying their offerings so that their spaces can be transformed and become multi-faceted.

How to engage event participants

As basic as it sounds, we like to start with the Five W’s – who, what, when, where and why, when planning a conference or event. It’s important to firstly understand who your audience is. Demographically, where they sit is a great starting point for delegate engagement.

Today, conference attendees have a much higher expectation when it comes to content and learning. It is as much about their personal development as it is about their professional development.

Gone are the days of endless Power Point presentations and a keynote speaker. Attendees want to come away richer from the experience and therein lies the magic word “Experience”.

Creating an environment that excites and engages the attendee from the moment they enter the room can be challenging but simple things can make a difference, from the way the room is set up to the lighting and the way the screens are positioned.

By positioning attendees in a seat and/or table that enhances their cognitive engagement, you are framing their ability to be engaged with the people around them, the content and post the event, remembering what they have learnt.

It is definitely not an exercise of one-size-fits-all and it is important to design the room to maximise comfort and stimulate the mind through the visual (we love colour) and acoustical elements of your event.

We like to look at it as taking your attendees on a journey so once they are in the room, we inject content with surprising elements throughout to keep them wanting more. If it is a conference, the use of mobile apps for content and live polling is a great way to engage your audience.

Encourage people to post content with your event hashtag, engage with attendees online and answer their questions. Find out who the influencers are in your audience and actively engage them in discussion to attract a wider audience. And simply, make sure the programme allows plenty of time for people to have face-to-face networking. Technology is a powerful tool but face-to-face social engagement will always be a winner!

Why unique venues?

10 years ago, venue choice was limited and hotels did a great job at providing an end-to-end solution for meetings and events. As the market evolves, and with technology driving innovation and change, so too has customers' expectations and importantly, the end-user (the delegate or attendee). Without question, hotels still do a brilliant job in this space but they themselves would admit that they have to adapt to the changing market place to remain relevant.

Over time, we have seen the rise of the “unqiue event space” – a blank canvas as such where you can get as creative as you want and be the master of your own destiny. This is the most appealing aspect when looking at a venue outside of a hotel. You get to create what you want and as an Event Management Agency, this is where we can really leave our mark.

Of course there are the pro’s and con’s of using a space like this not least of all that most things have to be brought in like AV, furniture, food and beverage even lavatories. This all needs to be considered as this can increase a budget substantially and whilst you get to create something unique, you potentially can overspend on your budget.

The best way of communicating pre- and post-event

The point of engagement starts way before the actual event and in part is driven through social media. For example, setting up a unique meeting hashtag launched prior to the event or an event group on LinkedIn where delegates can start networking before the event. Similarly, driving content in the lead-up to the event and getting delegates excited about the programme is a great segway to the start of your event. Consider a video as the launch pad to the big day.

And post your event and like any good party, people love a photo so make sure you have a photographer on site and set up a “media wall” and share it with attendees. Survey’s are always a great way to get feedback (short and to the point) post an event and thought leadership articles around the subject matter to keep attendee’s engaged is a great way of extending the content.

Lastly if it is a repeat event, get delegates excited about the next one by sharing snippets of information.

Caroline Gair brings more than 25 years experience to her role as Global Director of Product at cievents. A passionate advocate of the travel industry, Gair is committed to building strong and successful relationships with suppliers globally to maximise spend and ensure that the best solutions are delivered every time. 

Article code: 4112

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