How can we think about events and content differently? How can we break the patterns of the normal approach to content that event planners have seem to fallen into? How can we connect the dots among events, user experience and content to provide events that have more of an impact for attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and all stakeholders alike?
These are the questions Pam Didner (@PamDidner), global marketing strategist and author of Global Content Marketing, and Mike Brown, founder of The Brainzooming Group (@Brainzooming) addressed in their session “Developing Event Strategies to Maximize Content Opportunities” at Content Marketing World 2014 last week.
C2 Montréal: An unconventional conference approach
To begin to answer these questions, Didner provided a case study that was inspired by her own experience attending C2 Montréal (C2MTL). While C2MTL appears to have all of the standard conference elements on the surface (keynote speakers, sessions, lounges, music, etc.), there are several creative variations on the norm that make this immersive three-day event a truly memorable, inspirational experience.
A few standout features of C2MTL:
- No typical teacher/student sessions; instead, collaborative workshops, DIY labs involving huge post-it notes, and brainstorm sessions held in ball pits to inspire creative thinking
- No standard free food/drink situations; instead, attendees purchased food and there was a full bar in the middle of the venue open the whole time
- No common floor plan; instead, a custom-designed Innovation Village, interactive exhibits and shops from local artists funded by the city of Montreal
Not only was C2MTL able to break the mold of conventional conferences showcasing over 100 workshops/garage sessions and 40 sponsors, but they were able to charge $3,850 a ticket and achieve 40% repeat attendance.
OK, so how can event organizers who don’t have a “Cirque du Soleil” caliber budget achieve a similar impact? It all starts with the mindset of the event organizer(s). It was very clear that every facet of C2MTL centered on meeting the mission to inspire collaboration and the emergence of innovative business solutions by those who gathered.
C2MTL identified their event theme first (social responsibility and energy in this case example), secured a few strategic partners (BMW, Tesla, 1-2 Canadian telco companies), and asked sponsors how they could use the event to help them solve their business problems. The concepts – and event content – evolved from there to include keynotes, panels, invitation-only parties, and on into every content piece from presentations to flyers. All elements revolved around the central theme, and all elements aligned with the event objective.
The question Didner posed at the end of the case study: How can WE, as event organizers, do something wildly creative and over the top with the experiences and content we provide?
Reverse engineering the experience
Next, Mike Brown from The Brainzooming Group talked about the concepts and models that worked for C2MTL that could work for any event planner. Brown broke it down into three experience variables:
- Start with personal needs and interests
- Think about how you can create intensity and novelty around that
- Determine how your brand fits into this
Brown argues that typical events often look at this in reverse, centering the event around the brand first. Instead, he suggests starting with attendee/exhibitor/sponsor’s personal needs and interests first, then go big with offering intensity and novelty at your event, and THEN you have achieved impact and memorability that is good for your brand.
Event planners should ask themselves: How am I going to deliver content through experience? How do I create interactivity and run attendees through exercises wherein they are creating content as well?
People attend events to create connections and exchange ideas, so events provide an unmatched opportunity to involve the audience in content creation. When people believe that they are part of the idea generation process, they are more inclined to create and share content to support those ideas.
Think about your event and ask these questions:
- How can you create an intimate setting poised for attendee idea sharing and content creation?
- How can you reimagine your event space to inspire creativity?
- How can you personalize experiences to establish a deeper connection with attendees?
- How can you go BIG with your ideas to achieve impact and memorability in your attendees’ minds?
Remember, content and in-person experience are connected. At the center are personal needs and interests, and face-to-face events are the perfect place for people to get inspired and creative. And from inspiration and creativity, share worthy content opportunities are born.