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Running a successful event usually involves growing a powerful idea and implementing it in a bulletproof concept. The thing is that inspiration is the truffle of our industry, very tough to find. Here are some brilliant event concepts guaranteed to inspire you.
If you are a regular here at EMBlog, you are accustomed to these roundups and I am sure you crave for them. If you are a new reader, allow me to give you a bit of background about what I am trying to achieve with this article.
My mission is to inspire your concept design. In order to achieve it, I search in the most absurd locations of the Interwebs to give you a selection of new and disruptive event ideas.
The search usually takes a week. It encompasses running weird Google search strings, subscribing to awful looking (but definitely quirky) newsletters and reading hundreds of blog posts and magazine articles.
Despite the heavy research load necessary to write such an article, I am super happy when I finally click on "Publish". In fact, you always reward my research by sharing the post with your colleagues or friends. That works for me.
How to Use This Article
I want you to think of this post as an electric stimulus to that side of the brain that involves creativity, innovation and emotion.
Event lovers are by definition obsessed with details. While such obsession is fundamental to deliver a spotless event, it can sometimes impact on creativity.
Therefore my mission is to make your event a little bit less perfect and a bit more innovative. After all great concepts carry a great deal of emotional involvement. I want you to embrace innovation to the full, surprising your guests. I bet a glass of wine they will forgive you for a couple of imperfect details.
Before delving into the selected events, I decided to highlight the core themes powering these brilliant case studies. This will help you to isolate the concept from the implementation so you fully grasp elements to apply to your event.
The main themes are:
- Proper Marketing
- Self Expression
- Immersive Experience
- Concept Fusion
- Bottom Up Pricing
- Remote Audience Involvement
- Community Customisation
At least this the way I like to call them. In the following section I will present one or more case studies that will better explain the idea at the core.
The result, hopefully, will be an innovation injection to our industry 🙂
10. Collaboration: Brooklyn Skillshare, OuiShare Fest
Communities getting together to share skills and expertise are not a new concept to this blog. Brooklyn Skillshare is taking this powerful concept to the next level.
The effort is lead and organized by the community and it aims to deconstruct the idea of education as a commodity. Everyone is invited to contribute with a class, on the most disparate subjects.
Classes include: Japanese Bookbinding, Make Your Own Butter and Ricotta, Knitting 101: fingerless gloves in the round, Japanese Shibori dying techniques, How to order wine in a restaurant and so forth.
GOTTA LOVE IT!
Where: Brooklyn, NY, USA
Spotted on: Using Smart Google Queries (you'll need to torture me to know which strings)
Website: Brooklyn Skillshare
UPDATE: This event is no longer in existence but it still serves as great inspiration.
Another interesting example is OuiShare Fest that uses the '40 year old concept of collaborative design' to co-create a unique experience.
The organizing committee used a collective action toolkit and tools like Trello to coordinate with volunteer organizers. The approach was particularly interesting insofar as each volunteer is in charge of developing a particular section of the event. This year's theme/challenge is to "explore how digital technologies and a more collaborative culture can address the great challenges of our time."
9. Proper Marketing: Hero Conf
This is an example of a blog running an annual conference. No news there.
I happen to be a subscriber PPC Hero and they made a few articles about the conference. It really struck me as an example of how you should market an event in a social world.
They took all the best practices and some of the coolest trends in 2013 and applied them with courage.
Take for example this post where they announce that sponsor opportunities will be allocated via bidding. It is a ridiculously cool idea. Some sponsorship packages started at $0.99 and sold for respectable amounts considering the size of the conference.
They also allow attendees to select the program of the conference by voting for their favourite topic.
This is what I call event marketing of the future, a perfect blend of audience involvement and crowdsourced sponsorship. Top!
Where: Austin, TX, USA
Spotted on: I subscribed to the blog - I was lucky
Website: Hero Conf
8. Secrecy: Secret Cinema, The Secret Garden Party
I feel somewhat attracted when I do not understand what an event is about.
It is the case of Secret Cinema. Attendees sign up for a view slot without knowing the location or the film they will actually experience.
Can you feel the curious child in you getting super excited?
Where: London, UK
Spotted on: I got to know about it in London
Website: Secret Cinema
Same goes for The Secret Garden Party. In this case, the venue is known but after spending a good hour on the site, it is still tough for me to say what it is about. Some would call it lack of clarity, yet I can easily see why people attend. There's a new theme every year. For 2013 it was Superstition. In the organizers' words this is what it is expected from attendees:
"This year the Secret Garden will be asking all Gardeners to explore their affinity to the supernatural, the inexplicable and the irrational… to indulge the tussle between the left brain's sober analysis and the right's need to conjure its own reality. "
2017 brings a VIP extravaganza. The organizers rave, "...SO, we’re donning our finest threads and polishing up like never before; for the biggest VIP LOL-off you’ve ever seen. Where everyone likes / follows / adores you, the bouncers all know your name and the Sweet Dreams are made by You…"
In both cases, the attendee reaction can be either very positive or very negative. Both events really push the boundaries of event participation, using secrecy as the main tool to stimulate involvement.
Where: Cambridgeshire, UK
Spotted on: Stumbled across them on Twitter
Website: The Secret Garden Party
7. Self Expression: Nowhere
Nowhere is the natural prosecution of Burning Man. It also combines a festival and art show element. The objective here is to set the attendee free by creating a platform where participants escape society's norms.
There is also a strong participation element, making every attendee a volunteer.
Nowhere happens in the Spanish desert and features inspiring principles:
- Radical self-expression: The freedom to be yourself
- Radical self-reliance: Being responsible for yourself, in a harsh desert environment
- No commerce: Forget about money – there’s nothing to buy
- Leave no trace: Dust to dust – leave only footprints
- Participation: Get involved – Nowhere is what we make it!
This event is once again a divider. I can see some of you thinking that there is no actual learning in it. Well, you should read how attendees become strenuous advocates of Nowhere, depicting it as a once in a lifetime experience.
Allowing our guests to express themselves freely may positively impact on the perception of our event. As event professionals, we cannot ignore that.
Where: Spanish desert.
Spotted on: Quora
6. Immersive Experience: Geeks on a Plane
I always look to the startup, tech and geek community as a source of innovation for our industry. The most revolutionary event concepts of the last decade were born in these environments.
Geeks on a Plane is an invite only event where participants tour a country with all means of transportation. The mission is to find business opportunities, meet new contacts or simply learn more about a specific market.
Startuppers and geeks do not work because they have to, they have the nerve and motivation to make their business an incumbent part of their life. The organizers fully grasped these values offering an immersive, 360-degree experience.
The travelling, the meetings, the networking are extremely demanding. Organizers are not scared to ask full commitment and attendees seem to love it.
Where: Around the World.
Spotted on: Quora
Website: Geeks on a Plane
5. Concept Fusion: Weapons of Mass Creation Fest
Maybe it's the economic downturn, maybe it's the thirst for the unexpected. Truth is that more and more events are mixing different formats together.
A great example is WMC Fest. The event features 20 Speakers, 20 Designers and 30+ Musicians. The thinking is that by mixing these diverse performers true creativity arises.
The fact is that running an event that defines itself as a conference, art show and music festival attracts a larger audience. An audience that will be extremely happy if coherence is granted.
This model is by no means new, as events like SXSW made it extremely popular but more and more events are reinterpreting it for new purposes.
A concept cocktail, if ingredients mix well with each other, is indeed an interesting proposition.
In 2017, for the event's 8th rendition it's returning to their roots with bowling, music, and fried chicken.
Where: Cleveland, OH, USA.
Spotted on: A friend recommended it.
Website: WMC Fest
4. Forking: 99U
For those not familiar with forking, Wikipedia describes it as:
In software engineering, a project fork happens when developers take a copy of source code from one software package and start independent development on it, creating a distinct piece of software.
In other words, take a concept, change what you don't like and create a new one.
In our case the original concept is TED, 99U is the fork.
Despite the organizers do not state it on the website, it is fairly obvious that they are positioning themselves as a TED prosecution. If in fact TED's motto is "Ideas Worth Spreading", 99U seeks 'perspiration' or idea execution.
The mission is definitely agreeable. It is common after watching a TED speech, to experience a feeling of inspiration mixed with a persistent voice that says 'Now What?'.
99U organizers fully embraced such feeling turning it into an event that takes TED a step further.
Where: NYC, NY, USA.
Spotted on: On my radar since 2009, first learned about it from a magazine.
3. Bottom Up Pricing: Caravana de Emerxencia
The concept is fairly simple. Attendees decide what to pay for the event. No fixed pricing.
The simplicity of this approach is staggering, challenging, mind blowing. It can definitely make or break the event but it surely conveys a message.
The message being to give responsibility to our audience and treat them like adults. Another facet is to involve attendees to the extreme, to the extent that they decide the financial success of the initiative.
Of course, this is not always possible. Some may see it as insulting to the profession or a way too risky approach to running events. Yet it is difficult to deny the disruptive power of such a simple message.
2. Remote Audience Involvement: Hybrid Chocolate Tasting
This was a session I attended at BeConf, the annual meeting of MPI Belgium. The session was run by Ruud Janssen.
Different samples of Belgian chocolate (yum) were sent around the world before the event to allow remote audiences to experience a hybrid tasting. It was a terrific experience.
You can learn everything about it together with super useful info on running hybrid events in the presentation below:
Where: Bruxelles, Belgium (and other cities around the world).
Spotted on: I was there.
Website: Hybrid Choc Tasting
1. Community Customisation: GLI.TC/H
As soon as you land on GLI.TC/H website you feel that your computer has been hacked. While I can ensure you that your computer won't be hacked, your mind probably will.
GLI.TC/H pushes the concept of collaborative event planning to the extreme. The event is structured in conversations or threads as you would expect in an online forum:
"GLI.TC/H 2112 consists of four participatory "threads". These threads will facilitate experimentation/conversation during the day and share "outputs" in the evenings."
The event is customised by the community. The community decides how to make it happen.
Even the website can be seen in a user defined style. While the less nerd reader may not understand such approach, the message is very powerful: allow attendees to define what, where, when and how and allow the community to customize the event.
Where: Chicago, IL, USA.
Spotted on: Kickstarter.
What should you do with the above list? Read it and look for inspiration, you won't be disappointed.
The aim, do not forget, is to run a better event with a more engaging concept.
The idea at the core of your event should move audiences, disrupt, divide, unite and challenge old-fashioned paradigms.
Don't be scared to innovate as the only real risk is to keep things as they are.
If you want even more inspiration, check out our additional reading on this topic: