The words “surprise and delight” are on the tip of every brand’s tongue right now. And for good reason. A pleasant surprise revealed at just the right moment stirs up the best kind of emotions – joy, excitement, nostalgia, giddiness.
These are the reactions we all want to inspire in the people who attend our events. But how do you create a memorable, captivating experience without, say, a surprise performance from Beyoncé? (Note: this is either possible if you have the world’s biggest budget, or you are her friend. And if so, please invite us. Thank you in advance.)
Find new ways to deliver the unexpected with these five tips.
- Start strong, and early.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your event begins with the first time slot in the program. It starts long before that, with the promotional materials and invitations that get people in the door, and then the check-in procedures and welcome drinks that set the tone. How can you make these mundane logistical details more fun or special? What will make people laugh or look forward to what comes next? A meeting-themed welcome cocktail? Childhood photos of attendees paired with current photos on name badges? A comedic welcome video on the meeting app that cues to play when they check in? (Don’t rule out the singing telegram invitation or the photo booth registration kiosk.)
- Make it about them.
Yes, absolutely – this is your company’s special day. But it’s really not about you. Instead of thinking, “How can we show them how great we are?” flip it around to center your attention on your attendees. What do they want and need? How can you provide value for them? Focus on providing something meaningful and worthwhile – whether it’s a gift or an experience.
- Go off script.
When they arrive, attendees think they know everything that will happen at your event. They have an agenda, a list of speakers, a timeline of happenings. Keep a few of the best items off the official program. Add a pop-up element, like a special guest speaker, a food truck, or game stations. This is also a great opportunity to use humor and comedy (with a tone that fits with your company’s culture) to entertain attendees in unexpected ways. (We happen to be really good at at this. Ask us. For real.)
- Engage the senses.
Some of the most successful events blur the lines among different genres. Want an event that’s part trade fair, part nerdy tech conference, part music festival, part motivational workshop? Sounds awesome! Scrap the idea that you have to squeeze your event into a narrow category. Aim to engage your audience in immersive experiences.
- Go out with a bang.
Plan a grand finale that gives your attendees all the feels as they leave. What do you want them to take away from the event? What will make them immediately block off next year’s event in their calendars? Wrap up with a big product reveal, a jaw-dropping show, a tasty treat, or a cool parting gift. Make your last impression an unforgettable one. And then, do this literally, with a short, fun, entertaining event highlight video you send everyone on their first day back from the trip.