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Creating Epic Events: What Event Planners Can Learn from the Movie Titanic

By Cathy Key
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When Titanic was released in 1997 it was an instant box office hit. The first film ever to gross over 1 billion dollars ($1.84 billion to be exact) it won a record 14 academy awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

What made Titanic so successful? Was it the ace direction, star acting and breath-taking taking special effects? No doubt all these were essential elements, however it was by no means the first movie to include all these ingredients.

EMB_image_Creating Epic Events- What Event Planners Can Learn from the Movie Titanic

What made Titanic so successful was that it moved us on many levels. It’s both a love story and disaster movie. It includes moments of heroism, romance, peace, danger and great sadness. It is multi-dimensional.

Here we explore how we can use those same multi-dimensional elements to create epic events.

Whether you are creating a movie, a work of art or an event you need to bring in many flavours and styles to create something truly amazing. One or two dimensions are boring. You might have a great line-up of speakers, but if you don’t provide a variety of content your audience will fall asleep.

To create epic events you need to include at least three dimensions and engage more than just the mind. Great events engage all the senses and they move us: we feel inspired, challenged, happy, may be even scared. Everything we see, hear and feel takes us on the journey of the event.

Here are some of Titanic-inspired elements that you can include in an event to make it multi-dimensional. You don’t need to include all of them, instead mix-and-match at least three depending on your audience.

Beauty/Visuals

Titanic is a dazzling movie. From the special effects to the period costumes, it is a visual feast. You don’t need to have a Titanic budget to create a beautiful look and feel for your event and it makes a huge difference.

Your choice of venue, decor, flowers, music and lighting all create the stage on which your event will take place. Pay attention to how you want people to feel (e.g. peaceful, inspired, bold, connected) and gather the backdrop and props to fulfil that goal.

Laughter/Comedy

Laughter is always welcomed and provides a great way to relax your attendees. Even when you are dealing with difficult or intense subject matter, comedy can provide welcome relief as long as you are sensitive to the timing and don’t trivialize the main content.

Comedy can be delivered in many ways, from including a comedy act, selecting speakers who are known to use humour, or using a witty MC.

Comedy can also be used to great effect in marketing and promotional videos. However, comedy in marketing has to be done well otherwise it is an instant turn-off.

Love and Connection

Titanic is a beautiful love story. Weddings, family reunions and special anniversaries are all events that naturally focus on love. However, many other types of events can include heart-centred activities to encourage warmth and connection.

One of the main reasons people attend events is to meet people and have meaningful conversations. Often what we will remember about an event is not what we learnt but who we met.

Design games and activities that help people connect beyond the superficial exchange of business cards.

Tragedy/Compassion

We don’t normally think of tragedy as an ingredient that could be included in an event. However, there are is a long list of issues that rightfully belong in the tragedy category, such as climate change, starvation, refugees, domestic violence and serious illness. These issues may be the main theme of an event or a part of it.

The flip side of tragedy is compassion. We are moved by these issues because of our compassion for other people. The recent earthquake in Nepal is a great example of a situation where many of us want to make a difference but don’t know how.

Finding ways for attendees to express compassion adds a whole new dimension to an event where we get to know ourselves as people who make a difference. This could be as simple as a few minutes of silence or organizing a fund-raising auction.

Heroism/Inspiration

Most great stories have heroes. They are the champions for good that we all want to emulate. By default, the heroes at events are the top performers and keynote speakers, especially when they have an inspirational or motivational theme.

How could you make attendees the heroes of your event? Gamification is a great way to bring an epic flavour to your event and turn your attendees into heroes by creating a series of tasks (or quests) for them to perform.

Another way to bring in the heroic is to create awards for people who are top performers or highly active in the community year round.

Peace/Tranquility

Events can be exhausting experiences. Conventions and trade shows, for example, are often a relentless stream of activity. The peaceful moments, the pauses between sessions, provide a great opportunity to relax and recharge.

One way to provide peace and tranquility is to create a quiet area or a meditation/prayer room. You can even build peaceful activities into the agenda such as an early morning yoga session. Depending on your location, outdoor activities can provide welcome respite from an air conditioned, windowless room.

Wonder and Joy

One of the most memorable moments in Titanic is the scene where Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) holds Rose (Kate Winslet) at the prow of the ship with her arms spread wide. “I’m flying” breathes Rose in wonder and amazement.

We all appreciate moments of wonder and joy. At a recent TEDx event I attended, a trio of jugglers created a simple yet brilliant performance that mesmerized the audience. Wonder leaves the mind in a state of openness and curiosity, which is perfect when you are learning new material.

In Consclusion

A truly epic event must contain at least 3 dimensions. Comedy, wonder, connection, heroism, tragedy, compassion, peace and beauty are elements that we all relate to and the clever combination of these different emotions will bring an event to life.

Music, visuals and creative programming will allow you to build an event that takes the attendee on a journey that engages a full range of senses and emotions, the kind of event that they will never forget.

about the author

Cathy Key
Dr Cathy Key has been working in the event technology industry since 2002. During this time she worked side-by-side with meeting planners and built her own successful conference software platform. She is now an independent consultant and writer for Online Registration Review.
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