Wednesday Wisdom: How to Design an Unforgettable Event Concept

Create an event concept that attendees will talk about for months afterwards through a combination of strategy and creativity. In this article we’ll get into how to do exactly that along with plenty of inspiring examples and ideas. 

But First, What Is Event Design? 

Event design is the appearance and feel of an event. Things like decor, venue layouts, and theme all play a role in designing an event. 

And What Is Event Styling? 

Event styling refers to all the visual aspects of an event including things like lighting, flowers, and tablecloths. As you can probably guess, an event stylist is in charge of bringing these features to life. Typically they’ll follow the event designer’s vision and do their best to make sure their work aligns with the client’s desires as well. 

The main differences between event design and event styling are that event designers focus on creating an overall aesthetic of an event and mainly stick to big picture ideas. And an event stylist, on the other hand, creates and executes the details of that vision. Their job will often involve styling not only the venue but also the food and even the featured attendees (like bridal parties or guest lecturers) or staff sometimes too. 

The Difference Between an Event Theme & an Event Concept

An event theme is the big idea behind the entire shindig. It often involves the overall tone, structure, and goals of the event. An event concept sounds similar but is distinctly unique. By definition, an event concept is the event details and elements that make up the practical aspects of the event itself. 

For example, if the event designer chooses to do a luau theme, it’s the event stylist’s job to figure out what activities will take place, what decor elements they’ll need, and basically everything else you’d need to know to actually host the event. 

Tying it all together: Event designers spend more time dreaming up the general event theme while event stylists focus on the event concept (i.e. bringing the theme to life). 

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How to Design an Event Theme in 4 Simple Steps 

No matter what type of event (corporate, private, etc.) you’re designing, follow each of these helpful steps. 

1. Have concrete and detailed event goals, as well as a system in place for measuring event ROI. 

This is the foundation from which all event theme decisions are built. Otherwise you’re just picking random event themes that sound fun. Instead, make sure you and your company or clients are on the same page about why this event is even important to begin with. 

Conferences like MozCon aim to educate marketers on the latest in SEO, mobile, and other types of digital advertising. The event solidifies the brand’s status as an expert in digital marketing while also boosting sales of their SEO tools and software. To support that goal, MozCon’s chosen event theme is a tech-savvy, high energy party (prompting at least one past attendee to compare it to riding Space Mountain at Disney).  

Your event theme should have that clear of a vision as well: something that fits the brand, the event goals, and the audiences’ tastes, all at the same time. 

2. Get to know your audience. 

The best way to identify your target audience for an event is to analyze any data you may have about attendees from previous events. Surveys, ticket sales rates, and even social media shares can help you uncover clues about their likes and dislikes. Look for patterns and make a list of elements you may want to remix into this new event concept. 

If you don’t have attendee data from past events, you can always try: 

  • Analyzing your competition’s key demographics
  • Looking for ideas at other similar industry events
  • And sending out a survey to social media or newsletter followers. 

3. Gather information on your potential attendees to get a better understanding of their interests, likes, and personal goals. 

Data is your best friend. Look at numbers and patterns across every available resource. Use web analytics, ticket sales performance, and attendee surveys to gain greater insight into the wants and needs of your audience. 

One of the latest trends in marketing for 2019 and beyond is people-led planning. This approach relies on audience feedback to determine event budgets, messaging, and even what type of events they host. 

Compared to the old ways of thinking (when planning every dollar and activity before Q1 of a new year sent event organizers around the country into a frenzy during the holiday season), this idea of going with the flow and allowing audiences to practically make decisions for you is pretty radical. 

4. Choose an event venue that supports your goals and caters to your target audience. 

Your event venue determines most of what your event will look and feel like, making it very easy to narrow down your theme choices. There’s even been growing demand for nontraditional event venues in recent years. For example, if your event theme is catering to paralegals who need help building team rapport, you may consider choosing an escape room or indoor volleyball court for your venue, something that helps them build relationships outside of the office. 

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How to Design an Event Concept in 3 Simple Steps

Now that we’ve cleared up any confusion about all the relevant terms and dipped our toes into the event design process, it’s time to learn the best practices of event concept creation. Use these ideas to get inspired and wow your attendees! 

1. The Attendee Journey Map

Step into your audience’s shoes and consider your event concept through attendees’ eyes. When you create an attendee journey map you’ll be able to figure out why participants would feel motivated to attend, how they’d be most likely to discover it, and how you could use your event concept to drive attendance. Sometimes all a potential attendee needs to click that registration button is a fresh event concept

2. Choosing the Event Focal Point

This main attraction will form the center of all your other event concept ideas, tricks, and strategies. Once this is in place you’ve done more than half of the hard work needed to pull off an awesome event concept. 

3. Factoring In Partners and Sponsors

Communicate well with partners and sponsors by seeing the event from their perspective and understanding what information is most relevant to them. For example, a conference sponsor is going to be more concerned with their banners and signage than what caterer you chose. 

So only communicate the most important and relevant information to each individual party. Focus on 3-5 event areas that most greatly impact your stakeholder’s goals. Then ask the stakeholder which areas most interest him or her. They’ll get the information they need and you’ll make sure that each decision is being made by only the most relevant parties. 

The best way to negotiate with all three decision making parties (clients, designers, and stakeholders) is to come up with an event concept that: 

  • Helps everyone achieve their goal 
  • Allows each brand to cohesively mingle
  • Is unique enough to capture the attention of everyone’s target audiences
  • Meets the aesthetic expectations of everyone involved 

And last but certainly not least, be sure to check out these 5 questions to ask when creating an event concept. 

Now, it’s time to dive head first into some of the latest/greatest event concept trends and ideas you can use to make your next project a huge success. 

6 Effective Ways to Wow Your Attendees With Your Event Concept 

Here are some highly effective event concept ideas that will entertain, surprise, and delight attendees. 

1. Speakeasy Venues

We’re about to enter the Roaring 20’s – again! What better way to celebrate than by bringing back some super fun themes from the time period? This event concept trend relies on having an adventurous audience – people who are totally game to register and receive an address (and secret passcode, of course) mere hours before the event. From wedding receptions to office holiday parties, this versatile idea adds a little mystery and intrigue to any event type. 

2. Intellect Marathons

Basically anything you’d normally do at an event can be turned into a marathon if you do it long enough! At least that’s the motto at most tech events like hackathons and editathons. But really this concept can apply to almost any other event goal. 

For example, let’s say your event goal is to bring a network of like minded customers together to form a community of lifelong fans. To do this, you could create a meet-and-greet athon, where everyone at the conference has to introduce themselves to everyone else. And we mean everyone. You can even incorporate your event app to help facilitate the process.

3. Blank Slate Periods 

Remember when we mentioned letting your audience make some of your event decisions this year? Well it’s no wonder why blank slate periods have become so popular too. Blank slate periods are entire event agenda blocks that are left intentionally empty. Attendees can sign up to attend these blocks and, when they arrive at the designated venue, they will then work together in groups to come up with ideas for how they’d like to spend their time. Facilitators can help get the ball rolling or keep people on topic, but for the most part your attendees get to be as creative as they’d like. 

Similar to free period for adults, they get to engage with one another directly, spend their time however they want, and expand their networks in ways most events wouldn’t allow them to. 

For example, say you’re hosting a one-day seminar on leadership in sales. During the blank slate period, groups of attendees can opt to rehash that they’ve learned so far or give each other advice on what their biggest pain points in this area. Or they can participate in fun team building exercises that build on concepts presented in lectures from earlier in the afternoon. 

4. By Invitation Only

Want to make every event attendee feel like a VIP? Then use this trending event concept for your next get together. The idea is simple: only those who have received the golden (or emailed) ticket may attend. It’s a great way to make those chosen few feel special, maximize attendance rates, and strengthen relationships with your most significant brand partners or clients. 

5. Mix Business With Pleasure

There’s a lot of buzz around nontraditional corporate functions these days, which would explain why companies like Wanderlust are using this event concept as an excuse to host well-attended mindfulness retreats and live concerts. This event trend is all about leaving work behind and engaging attendees in activities they already love doing in their free time. High value experiences like the ones Wanderlust has programmed are especially effective, for a few reasons: 

  • Some professionals don’t have the time or ability to take vacations, enjoy leisure activities, or participate in hobbies outside of normal daily life. Which is why this event concept would be especially appealing – they get to have a lot of fun while they’re still technically at a work function. 
  • Leisure-centric events promote greater holistic health, can lead to improved creativity, and present more opportunities for attendees to form lasting connections
  • They’re easier to market – who wouldn’t want to go on a kayaking trip or visit a theme park? 

6. Surprise Pop-Ups 

Mystery and intrigue is one big overarching theme in 2019’s event concept trends so it makes sense why this type of experience would be in such high demand. The bonus benefit to hosting a surprise pop-up is the fact that it can be added on to any event you already have in the works, no matter how last minute. And while you won’t be able to market what the surprise is exactly, you can let attendees know that when and where that special mini event will take place. 

Here are some ideas for surprise pop-ups you can include in your next event: 

  • Meet industry celebs. Coachella attendees who stopped by the BMW pop-up at this year’s event were treated to and meet and greet with DJ Khalid. 
  • Trips down memory lane. Nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s is going strong (as evidenced by the latest Pokemon movies and Stranger Things season). Unexpected experiences that bring audiences back to these times in their lives can be a very powerful tool for generating event ROI. For example, the movie premier of Where the Wild Things Are set up a surprise shop with collectible merchandise and photo ops that brought out the kid inside every one of their attendees. 

All in all, a surprise pop-up experience might be just the wow factor your concept needs to make the event extra special. 

Now You’re Ready to Create Memorable Event Concepts and Designs!

Think you’ve got the hang of creating event concepts and designs by now? If so, you should learn which key event KPIs to consider or how integrating event data can solve your greatest event ROI mysteries

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