Do you ever struggle to think of new event ideas, or reinvent the attendee experience to keep it fresh and new? You’re not alone.
To help you get inspired, we’ve compiled 76 popular event ideas, themes, and formats you can mix and match at will for your next great event.
Event idea #1: Auctions
Items or services are sold in front of an audience to the person who is prepared to pay the highest amount. Audience members place ‘bids’ for each item or ‘lot’, with bids being managed by an auctioneer. Competitive bids are placed increasing in value, until each person has offered the maximum amount they want to for the lot, at which point the highest bidder has secured the item. Great for non-profit fundraisers.
Event idea #2: Award ceremonies
Think Oscars, The Emmys, etc. Of course, not all award ceremonies are quite as slick and glamorous, but they’re a wonderful way to recognize and reward the hard work of teams and individuals.
Event idea #3: Bar Crawl
Not to be confused with bar brawl, the bar crawl is a tried and testing event format. However, it can also be a great way to encourage networking, explore a new city and show your attendees a good time.
Event idea #4: Breakfast briefing
A morning event format often used when the host has an announcement or launch to present. Great for those who want to reach a business audience, who would be unable to attend an event in office hours or after work.
Event idea #5: Cabaret
Cabaret is a stage performance, typically held in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It mixes music, song, dance and drama with an overarching theme that is normally more suited to adult audiences.
Event ideas #6: Trunk sale
One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. All you need is a car and things to sell. Attendees pay a small fee to line up their cars, open the trunk, and sell items that they no longer want.
Event idea #7: Conference
Conference are made up of several sessions, often mixing up formats including keynotes, panels, breakouts and roundtables (to name just a few) and also blend learning with networking
Event idea #8: ConfEx
A ConfEx is part conference, part exhibition. As you’d imagine, there’s a heavy emphasis on talks and learning, but with a large number of exhibitors walking around too.
Event idea #9: Congress
Congresses generally refer to formal meetings between politicians or government representatives. Many conferences also adopt the name of ‘congress’ to sound more formal and important too!
Event idea #10: Consumer show or fair
These are usually big events full of vendors selling their products or services all linked by a specific theme like home wear, travel or weddings.
Event idea #11: Convention
This is another broad term that can something been a conference, a trade show or, more commonly now, a gathering of fans (i.e. a fandom).
Event idea #12: Dance, ball, or disco
Not many events feature so strongly in our culture as those that revolve around the dance floor. Whether you go ballroom dancing or clubbing, just for fun or to compete, their variety is almost limitless — and so is their enduring appeal.
Event idea #13: Debate
Witnessing talented, passionate debaters is an event that can make a huge impression. In fact, great debates can influence elections, build credibility for causes, and get spectators questioning their original assumptions.
Event idea #14: Endurance race
Endurance events are normally individual feats of endurance where you race against yourself to complete the distance. Like races, the most common forms involve running, cycling and swimming (or all three), but they could involve dancing for 24 hours (like Dermot O’Leary did for Comic Relief).
Event idea #15: Exhibition or trade show
Trade shows are similar to consumer fairs, but are normally restricted to professionals and not open to the public. They focus on selling high-value B2B goods or services.
Event idea #16: Masquerade
Most common around Halloween, masquerade parties are a great excuse to get dressed up and revel with others in equally outrageous, amusing, and esoteric clothing.
Event idea #17: Fandom gathering
An event focused on fans of a particular part of popular culture — usually referring to geek subcultures such as science fiction, anime, and gaming or cult TV series.
Event idea #18: Fashion show
The buzz and theatre of a runway at one of the major fashion weeks are hard to replicate, but fashion shows can be run anywhere and anytime. They can be a great, fun way to raise money for charity, too.
Event idea #19: Festival
Often music, but can be on any topic. An organized series of concerts, screenings or plays, usually at the same venue and often over several days.
Event idea #20: Flash
These events may be organized months in advance, but they are promoted merely days before the event. These types of events are great if you have a large following or a high demand for your event. The sudden release of news of your event is sure to trigger impulse buying.
Event idea #21: Flashmob
No, not a big gather of angry flashers. Flash mobs are large groups that all descent at a pre-arranged time and location to dance together. Orchestrated through social media, they look spontaneous (and pretty cool) to those who are there to witness them. A favorite for brands who want to look cool and youthful.
Event idea #22: Food and Drink
Food and drink events can be as varied as food and drink itself. There are typically a large variety of stalls and vendors selling their goods (they normally have little tasters available too). They’re a great way to sample a lot of variety before making a decision on your favorites.
Event idea #23: Forum
Historically ‘the Forum’ was a Roman center of public life where citizens would gather. In the context of events, a forum is usually a great format for debate and airing of opinions and so associated with legal and political proceeding. Equally useful for families to hash out what you should have for dinner or housemates to debate who needs to do the washing up.
Event idea #24: Gaming
Whether it’s gathering social gamers or attracting gamers that play for cash prizes as a sport, gaming is a big industry to penetrate. These types of events can help you target a niche audience.
Event idea #25: Gig
Wikipedia explains this one best: “Gig is slang for a musical engagement in which musicians are hired. Originally coined in the 1920s by jazz musicians, the term, short for the word engagement, now refers to any aspect of performing such as assisting with performance and attending a musical performance.”
Event idea #26: Hackathon
When you gather a room full of programmers, designers, and other digital professionals and ask them to build a prototype within a set period of time, you’ve got yourself a hackathon. The stereotype is that they’re fueled by pizza, caffeine, and beer.
Event idea #27: Historical reenactment or role-play
Frequently military or fantasy themed, groups of enthusiasts gather to immerse themselves in the period or theme, and enjoy role-playing or re-enacting famous battles with their fellow fans.
Event idea #28: Immersive
Immersive events normally follow a tight narrative that leads the participant through the story, with the help of actors who always stay in character and setting like you might find on a movie set. A favorite event for fans of zombies and apocalypse scenarios.
Event idea #29: Improv show
Improvisational comedy: a comedy gig where the performers have no set script, and instead develop ideas from the audience into jokes and sketches on the fly.
Event idea #30: Interview or fireside chat
This is a great format for those who want a keynote speaker but they can’t invest the time in creating a presentation. Instead, you can hire a comfy chair, put them on stage and then ask all of the questions you and your audience want to know.
Event idea #31: Kidult
What adult wouldn’t like to regress to their younger selves and bounce on bouncing castles, jump on trampolines, or just play games? Growing up is a trap, so target people’s inner child.
Event idea #32: Meet up
Whether it’s attending an exhibition, a gallery, or a book club, it’s great to meet up with like-minded people and enjoy the company of those with a shared passion.
Event idea #33: Networking evening
Often geared towards professionals, networking events are designed to bring like-minded people together to chat, share experiences, and hopefully find common ground that will ultimately lead to a mutually beneficial business relationship. Something they’re just about eating free pizza and grabbing a beer.
Event idea #34: Obstacle races
These are similar to endurance events but with lots of obstacles now in your way (and typically lots of mud too!) These can be tough and grueling, or they can be fun, with bouncy obstacles. Both options are widely attended.
Event idea #35: Open Mic
An event where you get the chance to be the star of the show. They usually focus on poetry, music, and comedy and give aspiring artists the chance to showcase their skills and get comfortable performing in public.
Event idea #36: Paint jam
Find a great space, grab a handle for street artists, and you’ve got yourself a paint jam. People love watching amazing art come to life.
Event idea #37: Panel session
A perennial favorite at conferences, they can also be stand-alone events. Gather a few (3-4) experts, throw in a moderator and a series of questions on their topic of expertise and you’ve got yourself a panel.
Event idea #38: Participatory
This is where you become a part of the event, helping shape and change the experience and the outcome as it goes. This dynamic makes them unpredictable and exciting, and always unique.
Event idea #39: Party
Do we have to define a party for you? Really? Okay, then… parties are simply a gathering of people (friends or strangers) who come together to have fun, relax and often celebrate something (whether that’s a birthday, wedding or just the arrival of Friday and another weekend).
Event idea #40: Performance art
You never know what to expect from performance art. It’s as completely original and unique as the artist with very little common ground between one event and another, other than it being “a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary.”
Event idea #41: Pitch
The format is normally a rapid-fire session of startups or speakers pitching to the audience, or a panel of experts, usually to win a prize.
Event idea #42: Pop-up
Host your event in the same venue, at the same time? Why not change things up with a pop-up event somewhere totally different? Pop-ups are mainly known in the food and drink industry, but these could relate to any event.
Event idea #43: Presentation
A presentation isn’t another word for “power point,” contrary to the popular understanding of most conference speakers. A presentation should inform, persuade, or build goodwill. While usually found as part of a conference or other larger event, there’s no reason you can’t have a single presentation as the star of your event.
Event idea #44: Product launch
Product launch events are often held in a party format to showcase a company’s latest release, so they’ll generally involve a demo, lots of cool branding, important people, and plenty of drinks and nibbles.
Event idea #45: Prom
An American staple and movie classic. Give your attendees the chance to relive their high school experience — with (legal) drinks.
Event idea #46: Puzzle or Escape Room
Solve puzzles in a group, within a certain amount of time, in a closed space. This creates the right mix of excitement, curiosity, and agitation to make this format a stand-out success recently.
Event idea #47: Q&A
Question and Answer sessions are very common after a talk or panel as a business event, but they’re not limited to that situation. Artists will often launch their latest film or book with a Q&A session so their fans get a chance to dig behind the scenes and ask their burning questions.
Event idea #48: Quiz
A fun event usually consisting of groups or teams competing against each other, and a ‘quizmaster’ who poses questions to the competing teams. Teams then write down answers to each question with the winning team having the most correct answers.
Event idea #49: Race
A competitive endurance event, over a specified distance or time. Often running, cycling, or swimming. Occasionally involves an egg and spoon or sack.
Event idea #50: Rally
A rally is pretty synonymous with politics and social issues, which take the form of a whole lot of people taking to the streets in support (or against) a specific shared cause.
Event idea #51: Rave
Big in the 90s, less so today… but what about getting your attendees to party like it’s 1999?
Event idea #52: Religious events
Whatever your religion, events will likely play a crucial role in bringing together believers, spreading a common message, or raising funds.
Event idea #53: Reunion
Class reunions are great fodder for Hollywood and a much bigger deal in the US than in the UK, but if you believe we eventually adopt most of their events (think Halloween and Proms) then this is one to watch in the near future.
Event idea #54: Ribbon cutting
The classic ‘ribbon cutting’ event has the town mayor, dignitary or famous guest come to open up a new public space, like a school or library. It’s a great way to gather the community and acknowledge the new amenities.
Event idea #55: Roasts
Roasts, in the opposite tradition of toasts, are events where the main subject is honored but with some gentle mocking and ribbing. A great way to keep egos in check. Think of a best man’s speech, minus the wince-inducing innuendos.
Event idea #56: Roundtable
All in attendance are posed the same question and then debate the answer. Think city planning, business innovation, or fighting obesity as the kind of topics often discussed at roundtables.
Event idea #57: Scavenger hunt or treasure hunt
Scavenger hunts can be a fun and enjoyable way to get people working together (assuming they don’t fight).
Event idea #58: Film screening
Ranging from traditional Saturday nights at the movies, to exclusive documentary screenings to raise money for charity, screening events can be surprisingly diverse and flexible.
Event idea #59: Secret event
Keeping the agenda of your event a mystery really engages people’s curiosity. Sometimes telling them nothing at all makes them buy a ticket just to find out what it’s all about.
Event idea #60: Seminar
A session focused on a single theme where attendees are invited to participate by following along with specially designed academic exercises.
Event idea # 61: Signing engagement
Signings are generally associated with books, so fans and readers can meet their favorite author and get their latest release signed by them. They’re also a common component of fandoms and comicons too.
Event idea #62: Silent auction
Like an auction, but bids are placed in a closed box, with no one knowing how much anyone has bid. The box is then unlocked and the highest bid wins.
Event idea #63: Silent disco
If you want to hold a house party with no complaints about the music volume, this could be the solution! Instead of blaring out dope beats from speakers, each attendee of a silent disco is given headphones and dances to the tunes only they hear. Looks hilarious to the uninitiated onlooker too.
Event idea #64: Speed dating and speed networking
If you’d like your awkward silences to have a short time limit on them, this is the event format for you! On a more serious note, they can be a very efficient way of helping attendees work a room, meet a lot of interesting people and not get stuck in one boring conversation all night with no means of escape.
Event idea #65: Standup or comedy show
Everyone loves to laugh, and stand-up has been around as an event format since Ancient Greek times to service this basic human need.
Event idea #66: Street or block party
These are great community events, very often organized to celebrate huge milestones or anniversaries, such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, or the end of the World War. A great way to bond with your neighbors and build community spirit, why wait for an excuse to host one?
Event idea #67: Symposium
Traditionally, a symposium was a Greek social affair that was heavy on drinking and revelry. These days, symposiums are commonly associated with medical, scientific or highbrow gatherings of experts who debate and exchange key industry developments. But there’s probably still a drink or two!
Event idea #68: Talent or variety show
A competition where entrants compete to demonstrate their unique talent in front of an audience and judging panel.
Event idea #69: Tastings
Tastings give you a tantalizing flavor of what’s to come. If you have a workshop or series of classes, they could be a great way to get people interested in your more expensive offering.
Event idea #70: Team competition or sports day
Anyone heard of basketball? Great, you’ve got the idea. Team sports events are a brilliant way to engender team spirit and competition in equal measure.
Event idea #71: The arts (Ballet/Musical/Opera/Theatre)
Yes, we’ve lumped 4 major types of events into one, because they share a common factor – a center stage occupied by talented artists, appreciated by an attentive audience.
Event idea #72: Unconference
Unlike conferences, they focus on a specific theme but with no pre-formed agenda. Attendees usually decide the topics for discussion at the start of the day and then self-regulate as the event progresses.
Event idea #73: VIP or invite-only party
“Do you know who I am”? Is a common refrain at VIP events. These are exclusive, invitation-only gatherings of important people that everyone else wants to attend. If you’d like to up the FoMO factor to 11, think about hosting a VIP event.
Event idea #74: Virtual reality
A new type of event that will continue to grow will be in virtual reality. This could mean attending a live event virtually, or even a whole event created in the virtual world. The possibilities are endless!
Event idea #75: Walking tour
Walking by name, walking by nature – these are group events led by an expert on the location or focus of the tour – who takes the group between venues on foot.
Event idea #76: Webinars
An online seminar where attendees dial in either by phone or web and follow the slides on screen. It’s a great event if lead capture or education are your primary objectives, and there’s also the option for live Q&A too.
Event idea #77: Workshops
Workshops are often used interchangeably with training sessions, but their traditional meaning was a room where people could build stuff. So in event terms, your event should probably focus on helping people create something tangible – like a painting or a teapot warmer.
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