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Looking for ideas to add more attendee participation into your events? Here are some ideas for activities you can adapt to suit your objectives.
Participatory activities at events get attendees involved, keeps their interest and provides many unique opportunities to incorporate branding, sponsorship and the soft sell while also improving on the event experience. Increasing event participation can be tricky, and may even be off putting for some guests, but there is something to appeal to everyone in these activities and some inspiration on how to mix up some classics.
Burning Man has a tradition for mutant vehicles or art cars - a unique, motorized creation that shows little or no resemblance to their original form, or to any standard mode of transport. Sometimes they are safely modified from their base vehicle and sometimes the whole vehicle is made from scratch.
Bringing together mutant vehicles at Burning Man is one of the ways attendees participate and showcasing the different ideas and techniques used in these unique vehicles is a participatory activity on its own. They even take things further by playing mutant vehicle polo on teams against the opposition to see the weird and wonderful cars compete. The Red Bull Soapbox Race is a similar kind of spectacle.
Of course, your event probably doesn’t have the space, time or resources to create something on such a major scale, but plenty of inspiration can be taken from the idea. Why not get teams to build mini go-karts from a basic chassis or decorate bicycles and parade or race them to see who can design the best option, which can be voted on later. Alternatively if you have access to a river at your event location, task groups with building rafts and seeing which team can get their team across to the other bank the quickest.
Credit: State Of Light
Although this idea is commonly used at musical events and festivals where artists and musicians are invited on stage to perform or jam new music, it doesn’t have to be restricted to this type of event or limited to musicians. For example, you could use a spoken open mic approach at a conference to allow startups or entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas in quick pitches, in front of industry professionals. It can be a great way to gauge reaction in a fast moving environment and attendees can vote for the best idea.
You could also use this idea with a group brainstorming session, where attendees jump up and share ideas or innovations out loud. The energy of the room could even work well by using a throwable mic.
Gone are the days where pole dancing was considered seedy, now it’s a fast-growing fitness craze which showcases strength and technique (plus it’s a lot harder than it looks!). Some poles are portable, temporary and free standing and don’t require fixing. This can be an exciting idea to give demonstrations of the skills involved, with instructors there to lend a hand so everyone (male and female) can have a go.
Traditional wishing trees involve asking guests to write down their wishes and attaching them to the tree and while this can be a fun activity in itself you could mix this up and create a networking tree instead. This would involve attendees attaching business cards to the tree as a fun ice breaker and unique low-pressure way to get your name out there. (don’t forget the hole punch and string!)
You could also create a brainstorm tree where others add ideas or inspiration to the tree based on a certain topic or theme. Alternatively you could create a mini feedback or guest book tree for your booth that allows attendees to tell you what you what they think, offer advice and interact.
Credit: Lauren Mccormick Fisher
Involving specialist or unusual sports can often be popular and gain a lot of interest, for example this archery arena can cater to teams, individuals, adults and children and creates a competitive atmosphere which can be fun and inclusive at your event.
Circus skills, such as stilt walking and juggling are other fun and easy taster sessions which might appeal to your audience or create a music making or singing experience.
Credit: Chris Farris Events
With an increased emphasis in health and wellness with attendees, incorporating this into activities makes sense and will be a crowd pleaser. You can opt for group yoga classes, something more lively and active, such as a fun run, or make it more specific such as a Zumba and dance classes, to suit the tone and type of your event.
Laughter yoga is something that everyone can take part in and provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter.
Making your own signature scent to take away with you is a great combination of a participatory activity, creative sponsorship idea and cherished event swag that would certainly be memorable. Plus, once you know your specific recipe you can have it recreated in the future which keeps the memory of your brand and the event alive. Workshops can be run for any number of people.
Incorporate a CSR message or encourage attendees to help others by having group volunteering activities to benefit a charity of your choice. For example you could have attendees assemble food baskets for the homeless in the local area or could work together to create a community garden or vegetable patch. Not only will this increase awareness for worthy causes and provide positive event marketing but it makes attendees feel better about themselves and this will transfer to your event.
This involves attendees being strapped inside an inflatable ball and rolled down a hill but can have many variations including adding multiple people, completing an obstacle course while inside or even zorbing on water. They are perfect for outside events and can be used for races or competitions.
Encourage attendees to get in touch with their creative side and incorporate a craft workshop into the event. It can provide them with a souvenir and gives the opportunity to sit down and discuss your brand, product or services with them as they craft, paint or create. It can also gives them a positive note to remember the event by and can help promote mental well being and relieve stress. Ideas could be pom pom making, sock puppets, pinecone animals, colouring or calligraphy.
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Credit: The Art Faculty
Offer the option for attendees to contribute to a large scale project, such as creating a mural or other form of display, perhaps a gingerbread city. The project needs to be well chosen to ensure that everyone can play a part and that a realistic amount of time can be dedicated by participants. Think about what happens to the element created after the event is over. Can it be a lasting display, transported and housed within the company office, or is it a temporary installation?
This activity can be adapted depending on your facilities, budget and event size. Incorporating elements like “capture the flag” or getting your team to infiltrate enemy lines can also encourage team work. If you have the outdoor space you can create obstacles, hideouts or higher towers for attendees to use and teammates need to strategize how to achieve the goal.
You can also scale this down as an indoor activity for smaller events. For trade show booths you could create mini games that could include a laser target practice range and scoreboard that attendees can keep returning back to, to check on where they are placed, with prizes for the winners (and of course also driving more attendees to your booth).
Adult Ball Pit
It is important to remember to add the fun to your participatory event activities because even for corporate or serious events they can allow attendees to feel at ease and therefore networking becomes easier. Fun activities that also give a sense of nostalgia can bring out the inner child - you will be surprised how many executives you find jumping in the ball pit!
Incorporate it into a team building game or activity by hiding things in the ball pit and challenging teams or attendees to find them in the fastest time. You could also extend this into a branding opportunity by not only branding the balls but hiding giant letters spelling out your brand name in the pit and making individuals or teams find and spell out the word!
Incorporate trending event technology into your participatory events by using virtual reality headsets (or provide a cardboard headset they can use their smartphone with) and transport attendees anywhere to play games or enter a virtual world. Virtual sports stations or a virtual theme park could be set up if you haven’t got much space. Attendees can virtually ski or race against other attendees or ride the biggest roller coasters.
Scale up a Scalextric track to accommodate numerous attendees at once and have incentives for winning such as sponsored prizes or vouchers they can use elsewhere in the event. Games that encourage competition tend to do well with attendees and act as icebreakers to get the adrenaline pumping. You could also create a leaderboard, tournament or have an area for people to place their bets on who they think will win so that more attendees can get involved. Having sponsor branded cars would also be a quirky opportunity to include in your sponsorship package.
Credit: Amit Rao
Ultimately, it is important to make activities fun and interesting for your attendees to keep them talking about it, and if you can incorporate a souvenir or memento that will get you extra bonus points (everyone loves free stuff). Don’t forget to look at how you can add a branding or sponsored element to make the most of the activity and maximise social media postings from excited participants at the event.