Research (and common sense) shows that collaborative, interactive experiences have a deeper, longer lasting impact than the traditional top-down, speaker-led event model. This understanding has created a real macro shift in the events sector, towards experiential events.
This shift has in turn led to a multitude of micro-trends, in order to facilitate a diverse interpretation of what this actually means. From investment in set dressing to create an engaging themed experience, to the creation of bespoke pop-ups in unusual locations, or the development of digitally immersive experiences through AR and VR, there are many ways to bring this to life.
The idea that the main value of a conference is ‘what happens in the corridors’ is not new. But it does highlight the importance of personal connection in creating a meaningful experience. Increasingly, these informal moments of connection are now being formally facilitated as a core feature of an event. At one end of the scale this is just a build on the traditional break out / networking café idea – but it can also mean integration of digital networking tools, like events apps that notify participants when someone with a shared interest or experience is nearby.
Co-creation is another key driver in creating an experiential event. It is no longer unusual to see attendees being invited to vote, comment and make suggestions around content. On the day, sessions are moving away from the one to many model, and embracing more inclusive formats.
Consequently, event designers are experimenting with non-traditional room setups, and implementing event technology to enhance the physical experience. In keeping with the engagement theme, events are increasingly more likely to hold meaning beyond what happens on the day. There is more of an emphasis on maintaining and developing the attendee community post-event, as well as on the development of post-event materials (video, white papers etc) to share key outcomes and keep the conversations going.
Finally, experiential events take the entire guest experience into account; not just the core programme. This means treating food, entertainment, logistics and communications with the same careful curation as the main event.
Published 5th June 2017
Sheena Dunne, Embolden Director of Operations