We’re living in what economists have dubbed “the experience economy.” It’s a time when people are more excited about spending money on experiences than material things.

But while people are attending events in droves, there are also more events to choose. The result? Your competition is tougher than ever.

Creating unique and buzz-worthy event experiences is the best way to differentiate your event. Spark your imagination with these innovative event ideas to draw new crowds and keep attendees coming back for months and years to come.

Mix up your event format

Tired of relying on boring old event formats? Start by asking yourself what recent innovative events have been building buzz lately:

  • Secrecy-based events: Whether they’re invite-only or take place in a location that isn’t announced until just before go time, secrecy creates intrigue. Intrigue creates ticket sales. The Lost Lectures, an underground series of lectures at secret locations, has mastered just this sort of intrigue.
  • Silent conferences: You’ve heard of silent discos, where dancers wear headphones to hear the music? Silent conferences, too, use wireless headphone systems keep the environment nice and mellow. Another perk? You can hold breakout sessions without needing an extra room.
  • Speed-presenting events: Replacing stodgy old Powerpoint decks, business event organizers like Ignite are hosting sped-up presentations around the world. Presenters get 20 slides, which can only stay on screen for 15 seconds each. In under five minutes, presenters have to engage an audience with a short, impactful story.

Take your own spin on these ideas. For example, for a nightlife event, speed presentations take on a slightly different but equally popular form: improv shows where comedians present a Powerpoint they’ve never seen before.

Pushing these ideas one step further will establish your credibility as an innovative event brand.

Add distinctive elements to your event

You can’t just be trendy if you want to truly differentiate yourself. Even if you start with a standard event concept or a trending idea, find unique ways to embellish your event.

Consider going beyond the convention center or music venue with a nontraditional venue that doesn’t normally host events. Think revamped industrial spaces, rooftops, art galleries, and even vineyards.

Urban pop-ups have been using this tactic for a few years now. From intimate dinners held at coffee shops to designer clothing sales in warehouses, pop-up events combine an old model with a new venue for a fresh experience.

If your event is a big one, you can even host sessions in multiple unexpected venues. Techweek takes this tactic by hosting sessions within its annual technology conferences in various locations across host cities. In the spirit of tech innovation, Director of Operations Tom Lawlor says: “We want Techweek to stay interesting, quirky, and full of character.”

Create hands-on innovative events

Even if you’re holding your event in a conventional space, creating unique installations that encourage crowd participation is a great way to differentiate yourself.

At Adobe’s 2016 digital-marketing summit in London, ICC ExCel, organizers installed a 13-meter LED-cube sculpture on the ceiling. When participants moved in front of a nearby screen, the cubes changed color according to the movement.

This sort of radical interactive display draws participants in. It provides an experience rather than simply information or knowledge, which also makes these installations a prime sponsorship opportunity.

Inspire your audience to collaborate

Burning Man may have pioneered the model of audiences not just participating but actually creating events. Thousands of people come together every summer in the Nevada desert to make art and celebrate community. Since the launch of this iconic non-festival in 1986, many other innovative event organizers have taken a creative cue.

When Wilco headlined their Solid Sound Festival at Mass MOCA in Lenox, Massachusetts in 2017, the band crowdsourced the playlist. In advance of the show, Wilco asked fans on Twitter which full-length album they’d like to hear in its entirety. Old fan favorite Being There won out, and Wilco played the double-length album from start to finish.

In the same vein, the “unconference” is a Silicon Valley event that abandons formal presentations for more interactive attendee-led learning. There’s no agenda, no program, no schedule. The topics of discussion are crowdsourced among participants on site, and open discussions reign.

Pair your event with innovative marketing

Innovative event ideas are only as successful as the marketing that precedes them. To attract people who will not just show up but love your event, make sure your marketing campaigns are creative, personal, and targeted.

  • Creative: Modern marketing tactics that attract attention usually have a grassroots vibe. Think influencer marketing on social media, for instance.
  • Personal: One of the simplest things you can do to make your marketing more personal is to insert the recipient’s name into the opening line of an email campaign. Email marketing platforms like MailChimp let you do this quite easily.
  • Targeted: Instead of just sending email blasts to everyone on your list, segment your lists into types of recipients. For instance, those who have already been to an event should get a different message than those who’ve simply shown interest by signing up for your email newsletter.

Do something different, and you increase your revenue as attendees rave about their unique experience. But you can’t get creative until you have the basics of event production nailed down. Take your event experience to the next level with the strategies in How to Craft an Unforgettable Event Experience.

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