Thoughts on creating events that exhilarate

The power of the unexpected at B2B events, part 1

Each day of your meeting can offer surprise, much like episodic television. From The Sopranos to Breaking Bad to Modern Family, these and other successful shows continue to surprise us, no matter how well we’ve come to know the characters.

Whether it’s through action or the plot line, your meeting storyline can and should engage through the element of surprise. You can think of your executives as recurring characters, hired keynotes as guest stars, and each day of the meeting as episodes, where your messages and theme both unfold and drive toward a specific direction.

Did you ever get hooked on a show because you knew exactly what was going to happen next time? Not bloody likely. It’s the same reason people watch sports. There’s a lesson for us here, too. You know the teams and players but not what’s going to happen on any given shot or play, at any point in time, or in any game.

Similarly, once you lose your audience to predictable patterns and expectations, whether related to content or execution, it becomes even harder to get them engaged. As a meeting or event planner, that’s the last place you want to find yourself: playing catch up with your audience’s attention.

Game shows are all about surprise, too. Like your agenda and format, they’re scripted and very tightly controlled but they’re subject to chance. Reality television not only makes use of surprise, it became an established format because viewers are constantly curious: What will so and so do next? What is going to happen now? While they’re all controlled in editing, some are wholly unscripted, some follow a consistent structure.

The same holds true for a Quentin Tarrantino movie or a Broadway show whose set design, characters, and plot twists keep us on the edge of our seats. And that’s exactly how we design our programs: so the audience’s mindset is “What’s going to happen next?!” All of these examples relate to how we hold and transform audiences.

The only thing your attendees should expect is an exciting, memorable, and worthwhile time away from their homes and offices. After the program? We surprise them with useful content, information, and/or a reminder gift, whatever is appropriate, and puts our takeaway where it belongs: staring them right in the eyes.

Predictability is great—for analyst meetings, symposia, and routine training—not business meetings, users conferences, product launches, award shows, gala fund raisers, and other special events.

Enhance your audience’s event experience and the memory of it by minimizing predictability and maximizing the element of surprise.


Thoughts on creating events that exhilarate

The power of the unexpected at B2B events, part 2

When you go to a concert or play, watch a film or TV show, go to a party, or get into a good book, which do you prefer: predictability or surprise?

I thought so.

Why would you do any of those if you knew exactly what was going to happen? Should it be any different with your business meeting? Certainly not. That’s why we help our clients infuse the element of surprise before, during, and after their programs.

Think about it. If you had to distill the single most critical ingredient in producing meetings and events down to one word, what would it be? For us, it’s engagement. Nothing is more important and everything flows from it—learning, celebration, recognition—and the element of surprise is one of the most powerful tools you can use to make create it.

Engaging your audience by way of surprise can be quite simple. For example, we look for the unexpected speaker, not the one who’s necessarily on the circuit or the usual ‘go to’ expert. When you hear hard core business messages from someone outside the business world, speakers from the arts, for example, it comes as a surprise and the impact of our clients’ messages is enhanced.

Want to promote such a speaker in advance? It can be a surprise when you announce it and it builds anticipation. Want to keep it a secret until they’re introduced just before they go on? An even greater surprise.

Surprise in the form of planned interruptions can make for great meeting theatre from the stage during an executive’s presentation, particularly if the topic is on change but it can work for any business theme.

In an instant, we’ve shocked, amused, and engaged our audiences—not only by the experience we create for them, but by the way their executive is perceived: cool, calm, collected, and as having a sense of humor, all valuable traits that catapult his or her stock.

We’ve also produced and choreographed everything from flash mobs that spring unexpectedly from the audience, to videos that interrupt presenters on stage. There is no limit to how you can surprise an audience.

(In Part 2, we’ll see how surprise can transform and hold an audience!)


Got a million ideas? Or none at all? No matter, because the real genius is in our collaboration. So let’s create something astonishing together. Leave a message here or call us now at (866) 984-8766.

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