Text by: Gorazd Čad
Photo credit: C2 Montréal, Conventa Crossover, Tina Ramujkić

SEEKING EXPERIENCES RATHER THAN LECTURES

Engagement, experience, festivalisation and the experience economy have been the world’s event industry 2017 buzzwords. This is a new era of events carrying a variety of super names, but it seems that next year we will be hit by a real attack of “new” events and formats, and the bombardment of technological innovation changing events is undoubtedly behind us.

The situation can be captured by my experiences from last week that summarize the obsession and situation in this field.

Firstly, at the Conventa Trend Bar I realized that my colleagues from the region are sincerely hoping for change and different kinds of events. In both Belgrade and Sofia, the excitement for the Power to The Meetings methodology was unanimous. Most participants were hoping for a change in the ‘foreground’; they co-created the programme and the debates on the benefits of a new way of event organisation was clear. They were surprised, however, that a lot of work needs to be put into a good event and that effective events are those in which the organisers bear a huge amount of empathy and goodwill.

Secondly, when as a member of journalist jury at the Best Event Award I was evaluating the 50 best European events, I was most impressed exactly by the initiatives of interactive formats. If years ago events with technically extremely demanding and spectacular production were in the majority, now is a completely different era – more than half of the registered projects build on the active participation of attendees and I am truly excited about this. The technical, video and background effects are solely the support to an activation of the brand or other strategic goals in a personalized way. In all of the fields content is coming to the fore.

The third story is connected to the fact that in one week I received at least 10 emails with an invitation to the ‘experience’, ‘engagement’… This all sounds wonderful and maybe you even believe in the story, until the moment when you actually participate in the event and realize that it is just another form of packaging, but the event itselfis completely and irrevocably useless.

On first sight Festvalisation is inspiring, but it is more worrying that only a few really understand and know how to put a participant into the foreground.

Rarer still are those who are aware that the production is extremely complex., Most agencies that are good enough stand out so much in this respect that they made the Best Event Award competition, and I dare to claim that this is the elite of the European event scene.

At a time when everyone knows everything about anything, the key to change still remains in knowledge, training and the connection between marketing and the event industry, as well as innovative IT staff and masters of light, sound, video and scenography. One cannot gain wisdom either on Twitter or on Facebook. In this sense, the meaning of the Best Event Award could be compared to the beginnings of the festival scene in the field of advertising.

For inspiration, check out some good examples of event festivalisation:

C-HR Berlin Innovation & Creativity Festival
An interdisciplinary creative festival in Berlin lasting two weeks and for inquisitive pioneers, communication revolutionaries and avant-gardists, and the market launch of the new SUV coupé Toyota C-HR

www.chr-festival.de

Ynspy Festival
Offline & Online community platform for Generation Y to share their life/work inspiration, meet key influencers, award significant personas & stories.

www.ynspirology.cz

Teniskology
A new generation of event combining an exclusive sneaker fair with exhibition, workshops, concerts, influencers’ talks and shows.

www.teniskology.com

Discover Festival
Discover celebrates science and innovation, engaging young minds to stimulate interest in science education to meet the demand for future scientists.

www.generationdiscover.nl

Blend Dates Nesspreso
For 6 years, Arnaud Deschamps, CEO, has organised a federating and innovating event for all his employees: the blend dates. Breaking rules of traditional internal conventions, this event has no plenary sessions, but provide a strong experience to communicate on the key messages of the year

The equation for success of these events is usually in the combination of the following elements:

1. Choice of unusual venue: often this is a pop-up venue, industrial building or a beyond-the-ordinary outdoor venue with a special energy. Often it can even be a space that fits the personality of the brand that the event is promoting.

2. Setting the event into different zones: which enables the smooth transition of attendees between different experiences.

3. Co-creation: inclusion of attendees into all phases of the project, including the co-creation of the event’s scenography and content. Moderators with a wide set of skills have a crucial role here.

4. Extremely effective communication with the attendees: by the use of social networks, apps and classic communication tools.

5. Fans of the fan base: is crucial for the event’s success. Good projects bring fans the feeling of affiliation and comradeship. This is also how an extremely successful social network that drives the whole project gets built.

6. Interdisciplinarity: with the professional fields that seem as though they don’t belong in the event’s topic, this creates new cognition and formats.

7. Extreme concentration of emotionally loaded experiences: that are driven by music, art, theatre, circus, stand-up, rock’n’roll, gaming.

8. Experimenting with new formats and shapes of presentations: such as Pecha Kucha, Tedx, Elevator Pitch, Open Space, Live Polls, Ingnite, JigSaw, Unconference, Interactive theatre, The Lost Lectures, Lunch Clubbing, Knowledge Cafe, Hackathon, Thinkathon, Editathon, Mashups, etc.

9. Lifestyle: that, as a rule, like minded individuals in a relaxed way unites and is demonstrated by the event’s brand and communication style. This happens at the level of personalized content.

10. Wow zones: or ‘Play & Experimental Zones’, are the constituent part of every project that aims for a viral effect. One of the participants had an interesting comment when presenting his philosophy – that participants at a good event have to say wow at least 10 times a day.

The most important thing, however, is that the younger generations of whom we often speak of as alienated, extremely digitalized and atomized, positively respond to such events. This is because alongside socializing, events also allow them also to cooperate in social change and offer the personal realization that social networks do not ‘enable’, despite the pervasively fake feeling of connectivity and sociability. This is also the case for the simple reason that we, people, are social beings and simply want to socialize.

So, what’s next? It seems that more or less the creative industry knows clearly in which direction the world is actually heading. However, despite this fact the most difficult thing is always to get the most simple solutions that work. The biggest challenges are in store for all of the providers of infrastructure that still vigorously sell plain and predictable congress halls. Partners that sincerely understand the new meaning and the changes needed remain still very few.

When the imperfect becomes perfect, and when even the biggest cynic gets caught up in the new ‘story’, then you know that you are on the right path.

We therefore see our own project, Conventa Crossover, as a tool for changing the whole industry. When the attendees’ fear on seeing a completely different setup of space evaporates because of the music, when the initial distrust dwindles, when the imperfect becomes perfect, and when even the biggest cynic gets caught up in the new ‘story’, then you know that you are on the right path. The main criteria, however, is to always be open to new ideas, new people, and new energies.

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