Or me, a milestone is a bit like cookie dough: the crunchy little sugar cubes mixed with butter, the exotic scent of vanilla blending with the robust aroma of dark chocolate chips. Even before I start browning the cookies (my “event”), I know that the ingredients are going to be essential to the success of the recipe. Creating a memorable event is just as simple and quite similar. It all depends on what you put in during the preparation process to achieve a great result. And to create a memorable event, you need four key ingredients:
Of course, a good jingle, a unifying theme, an excellent master of ceremonies or a brilliant speaker can make the difference. Still, with just these four ingredients, I’m convinced that you can bring the little “extra” that makes the difference to your event, whether it’s a medical conference, a product, a shareholders’ AGM or a TEDx event.
An exceptional event is like a good novel; it is based on action. The goal will point to the shares to be incorporated. So here are my twelve tips to make your event memorable.
Less is more (especially during presentations)
While traditional, long-format presentations are often used to open or close a conference, they are not the best way to communicate information. Here are several ways to connect and dialogue with your audience during and after the presentation:
Be concise: When using a presentation, be sure to re-capture the audience’s attention every ten minutes, as John Medina, the author of the “12 Laws of the Brain,” reminds us. You can do this by asking a question or sharing an emotionally charged anecdote. The more concise and focused we are, the more our message will be retained. Limit your critical words to a maximum of three.
Panel: Gather a few recognized influencers and experts, internal or external. Aim for difference, diversity of opinion, and use an experienced moderator to create a dynamic and engaged discussion.
Q&A: Give your audience the opportunity to ask questions. Give sincere, clear, direct and concise answers. This can be particularly useful when rolling out a new project, or to help rebuild trust on a topic or around a leader.
Working groups: Allow your team to work in smaller groups to discuss a key topic or issue with enough rules so that they know how to use their time effectively. Each group then reports its findings through a spokesperson.
This does not mean that people should never sit down or be artificially kept moving. It also doesn’t mean just including an escape game and thinking you’ll be active. What I’m suggesting is that you use the full potential of your team. We’re human beings, not computers. Our brains work much better when we’re not sitting around all the time. Movement, creative activity and collaboration improve learning and memory. Here are some ideas for getting your events moving:
Hands-on workshops: When participants get their hands dirty, touch the problem and look for solutions, other skills are called upon, commitment increases, as does their involvement in finding solutions. The use of LEGO, in particular, can bring a whole new dimension to these workshops.
Pitching: Instead of long presentations, try to do 2-5 minute pitching sessions. It’s even more fun when organizing a contest, with the election of the most persuasive or creative pitch.
Brainstorming session: Before listening to a presentation, why not ask your team to break into small groups around a board, set a time limit and have them think about a question or problem-related to the topic of the presentation or the event. After that, they will be much more receptive to hearing what you would like to share with them because they have had a chance to think about the needs first.
Play: Ask participants to improvise a skit, record a video or write a song following the purpose of the event. Thinking differently and sharing creates new synergies, builds trust between groups and releases new ideas.
Make it memorable with the unexpected.
We have seen traditional companies hosting technology conferences and pharmaceutical teams originally presenting their results, creating a moment of surprise and wonder in the audience. That makes all the difference. Here are a few tips to spice up your event:
Theme: Giving your event a unifying theme will make it more meaningful. We worked on an event called “SHIFT,” whose goal was to change the culture of the company to make it more efficient, connected and customer-centric. They used activities such as testing a Tesla and a Formula 1 simulator during breaks.
Team building: We also worked on an event that included a team treasure hunt around Athens, near the conference venue. Great ideas can come up when you least expect it, like when you take refuge in a Greek café to avoid a rain shower.
Simple things: have you ever left a welcome note at your event or a small gift in your guests’ room to wish them a pleasant stay? Or invite your teams to wear their favourite T-shirt? Or everyone the same colour? Why not have a party the length of a single song in the middle of the conference? The result is movement, laughter and a sense of invigoration.
Don’t avoid breaks: we suggest the “Disney” rule that our natural needs call us about every hour and 20 minutes, especially when we drink coffee to stay alert. Also, consider taking longer breaks every three hours for a meal or snack. Healthy food will prevent your participants from falling into a semi-coma during digestion.
In short, events can be memorable, meaningful and create a lot of value, especially when they are active. A game that brings people together, well-orchestrated, dynamic and involving will give energy, motivation and envy back to your employees. This energy is invaluable in re-launching an initiative, improving employee retention and stimulating innovation.