5 Ways to Use AI to Help Spark Event Session Ideas

Artificial intelligence is the new power tool for events, but keep in mind its limitations — and be ready to verify and edit the information it gives you.

Author: Beth Surmont       

woman typing on laptop with chat Ai floating aboce

“The combination of AI and our own creativity will deliver powerful experiences.” — Beth Sumont

beth surmont

Beth Surmont, CMP-Fellow, FASAE, CAE

There are three times in my career (so far) when I have felt like I’ve seen the future. The first was when I saw an online registration system and rejoiced that I would no longer have to deal with faxes and manual credit card payments. The second was when I got my first iPad, and I realized I no longer needed to lug my bulging binder around on site.

The third was in January, when I first started to play around with the generative AI tool ChatGPT. I asked it to write a session description for me and give it a catchy title. I asked it to develop a list of panel questions. I asked it to source a list of experts to sit on that panel. A day’s worth of work was completed in about five minutes.

Since then, I’ve used it to count how many people are in a list of speakers, teach me to analyze data, punch up email messages, make content shorter and more compelling, write event value propositions for different audiences in different tones of voice, generate ideas for décor around a theme, and so much more. I even asked it to write the first draft of this article for me. (That was not so great.)

What I love about AI is it frees up brain space for me so I can focus on other things. Like online registration and a mobile device, it’s a tool that saves me time, energy, and effort, all while leveling up my productivity and end results.

Here are five session-related things you can use AI for right now:

  1. Ask your chosen AI tool to identify the big issues that your stakeholders’ industry is experiencing that you could develop a general session around. Then use the output to write a session description.
  2. Take the session description you just wrote and ask the tool to make it more succinct and compelling. For an additional boost, ask it to rewrite the description for different audience types, like professors or technicians.
  3. Next, ask it to write a set of fireside chat questions for your CEO to ask the expert speaker during that mainstage session.
  4. Ask it to write an invitation letter for the session that you can send to possible speakers.
  5. Finally, ask it to provide a list of experts who could be speakers around that topic for you to send that invite to.

The above tasks would normally take a few days to complete. AI should be able to do them for you in less than 15 minutes. But it’s very important to keep in mind the limitations of the tool. Here are three:

  1. Anything that an AI tool gives you needs to be verified. Wanting to increase diversity in the speaker lineup at my event, I asked for a list of BIPOC experts in a certain industry. At least three that it gave me were white, and two seemed to be completely made up.
  2. Whatever you post into the tool is like posting on the internet. The models are continually being trained and using our inputs for learning. Be very careful that you don’t input private or proprietary information.
  3. Consider the text you get from AI to be a first draft. It needs to be proofed, edited, and reviewed. There’s also a tone to AI writing that I’m starting to recognize — it can be overblown and overwrought. I find that I’m usually rewriting what it gives me into something that feels more realistic, authentic, and human.

And here is one important thing to remember about AI tools: AI cannot think. It can recognize patterns and combine information, but it cannot be creative. It’s a great way to get started and spark ideas, but it requires human thinking to get to that final draft.

As event planners, we’re constantly on the lookout for tools to make our work more efficient and innovative. With AI tools like ChatGPT, we’re stepping into a future where we can work faster and smarter. It’s when we can combine these kinds of tech tools with what makes us human — like using empathy for our audiences in the way we design events and putting our own creative stamp on them — that we will deliver truly amazing experiences.

Beth Surmont, CMP-Fellow, FASAE, CAE, is vice president of event strategy and design for marketing, strategy, and experience agency 360 Live Media.

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