Thoughts on creating events that exhilarate

people partying with confetti flying 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.



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