Four Tips for Transformational Events

Author: Don Neal       

Don Neal

Don Neal

I drove past a sign in front of the church near my home every day on my way to work. Its message activated my passion for working in the live events industry.

The sign read: “Come as you are, leave transformed.” While the simplicity and elegance of these six words need no further explanation, what that means for each of us who work in the live events, conference, meetings, and trade-show industry is worth a bit more discussion.

Let’s start off with the unique opportunity each of us has to design and execute an experience that liberates the human soul, stimulates the mind, elevates the passion, and accelerates the professional progress and careers of those who attend your events.

Your event guests pay a high price to attend your events. An ASAE & Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research study found that the average trade-show attendee spends $1,375 in order to attend an event. We already focus on giving them a return on their investment, or ROI. But let’s make those initials stand for something else: return on inspiration. Even the slightest transformational moment they experience on site is worth our effort.

Think about your own career: Who or what tipped the scales for you? What teacher was there to help you see your challenge from a different perspective? What boss gave you an opportunity to step up and be your absolute best? Events are a living, breathing environment where human beings come together to be their best selves. We have the privilege and obligation to help people see things not as they are, but as they can be. The introduction of a new product, the spark of an idea in a learning session, the conversation in line at registration — every moment is rich with possibilities.

Here are four simple ways to make the most of that opportunity.

1 Help your guests “thaw.” Everyone needs time to tune in to a new environment, get used to a new city, and feel comfortable surrounded by new people. Host an opening session that is “low energy” — think relaxing and quiet enough for conversation. Allow people to let down their guard and have a speaker set the stage by sharing how to best learn, connect, and enjoy the event they are about to experience.

2 Rethink “comfort food.” There’s no better way to get people’s minds and bodies aligned than in the way we nourish them. Skip foods loaded with carbs and sugar in favor of an array of colorful and delicious items, locally sourced, that prepare people’s bodies for peak performance.

3 Introduce “transition zones” allowing people to “center before they enter.” I’ve seen event designers place tents filled with art and music in areas that attendees walk through on their way to the next session. It’s a great way to engineer intermissions for people who are herded from place to place at the venue.

4 Give people more spaces to sit. It’s a simple thing, yet it’s missing from almost every event I attend. And make it clear that you have added enough seating for everyone to take a load off, recharge, and talk with fellow travelers. You’ll be amazed by the results. Bonus: Each of these seating areas is a great sponsorship opportunity.

So, whose life will you change? Whose career will you make better? What introductions will you be the catalyst for? How many of your live event guests will come as they are — which is often tired, stressed, overworked, and anxious — and leave inspired, better prepared, renewed, restored, and more passionate about their future?

Don Neal is founder and CEO of marketing, strategy, and experience agency 360 Live Media.