As event professionals, we always look for new, creative concepts that would raise the bar of our events. And we understand that a great idea is worth its weight in gold.
Since time is another precious thing, we wanted to save some of yours and have done the research for you.
Taking inspiration from our clients and partner events, we cherry-picked these 7 creative event concepts. Try one of these to keep your attendees engaged, educated and entertained.
Show & Tell
This concept has its roots in kindergarten. Kids are asked to bring their favorite object and tell the story behind it to their friends.
Show & Tell fits for introducing basically anything that is worthy of showing: new software, product prototypes, long-term project findings, etc. It’s a powerful concept if you aim for educational presentations.
For example, this year’s SXSW EDU held nearly twenty Show&Tell sessions, where multiple speakers showcased teacher tools, collaborative projects, research results or other resources to the community of teachers and trainers.
To replicate this concept at your event, allow 30 minutes for each Show & Tell session and divide it into presentation and Q&A sections, either 20/10 or 15/15.
Typically, the speaker demonstrates their work to the audience and explains why it’s important, what it does, and how it’s used in practice. This often gives rise to many questions from the participants and leads to a lively discussion.
The Newlywed Game
Inspired by the popular wedding game and an old-school American TV show, the newlywed game can be easily turned into an interactive panel discussion.
The main point of this concept is that the panelists represent the opposite sides of a spectrum and have different views on the topic that’s being discussed. Say, doctors v. patients, teachers v. students, etc.
We saw this concept do wonders at Gainsights’s Pulse 2018. The panel consisted of 2 CEOs and 2 VCs, plus the moderator. The panelists were given markers and large boards. Whenever the moderator posed a question, she asked one of the pairs to write their answers down onto the board. At the same time, the moderator prompted the audience to answer the same question via Slido live poll.
Once there were enough submissions from the audience, the moderator invited the panelists to reveal their answers. Meanwhile, the audience poll results were displayed on the screen. The moderator then asked the other pair of speakers to comment on the answers, before moving on to the next question.
This panel format turned out amazingly well. The panelists had fun and the discussion was on fire thanks to the contribution from the audience. You can watch the whole session here:
Related story: The Newlywed Game: How to Run Amazingly Interactive Panel Sessions
‘Food for thought’ lunch debates
Besides networking, lunch breaks allow the attendees to follow up on the event discussions in an informal setting. So why not make the most of the lunch hour for your delegates?
Take inspiration from this year’s OECD forum and their ‘Food for thought’ lunch debates. They have 10 tables, each accommodating 10 delegates. Each of the tables gets a menu of “biting issues”. These are conversation topics from which the participants pick one for a discussion.
Each table focuses on a different topic. To ensure maximum interaction, dedicated speakers encourage and steer the conversation. By the end of lunch, every table selects one delegate who summarizes their table’s debate and shares the most insightful takeaways with the rest of the participants.
This activity helps you turn uncoordinated networking time into a facilitated debate that allows the delegates to make the most of their day spent at your event.
Pitching ideas is standard practice in the world of startups. Young entrepreneurs stand before the cautious eyes and ears of VCs in the hope they’d find their idea worth investing in. But what happens if the tables turn?
Reverse pitch is a daring concept that zooms in on investors to reveal their innovation initiatives and state reasons why startups should want to receive funding from them.
Besides money talk, the VCs and organizations’ representatives pitch the problems they consider important and explain how their cooperation with startups would help to solve these issues.
This concept can spark a very dynamic discussion, just like it did on this years’ Money 20/20 Asia or at the last years’ Corporate Innovation Night in Cambridge.
Give the classical keynote presentation a new spin by way of storytelling. The goal of these sessions is to illustrate the authentic experience of an influential person in the industry who tells it to the audience as a compelling story.
The theme of the story can be practically anything from building a successful enterprise, to reaching 1M followers on social media. The point is, to make it a narrative with a captivating beginning, fascinating middle part, and a thought-provoking end. For example, JAM London built the whole agenda of their conference on storytelling.
Another popular concept, especially in the tech industry, is the ‘Founder stories’. The focus here is on startup owners who share the good, the bad, and the ugly of starting a business of their own.
These stories usually resonate with the audience greatly, since they touch on the challenges that the participants face as well. Hearing real-life stories and experiences of leading people in the industry is hugely inspiring.
If you want to stir passionate discussion among the audience, give the expert debate a try. This concept has something from an Oxford-style debate and something from a panel. It’s an interactive, conversational format that consists of two experts, and a moderator who leads the debate.
To make the most of this concept, choose high-end experts with contradictory views on the main topic. The more controversial their opinions, the better for the dynamics of the session.
At the beginning, the moderator introduces both speakers and the main theme of the debate. Each speaker has 10 minutes to present his or her arguments, followed by the facilitated discussion.
To give you an idea from real life, the Festival of Marketing wrapped up one edition of the event with a powerful expert debate between Mark Ritson and Professor Byron Sharp.
The debate grew more dynamic as the people in the audience were sending in their questions via Slido. By the end of the session, the attendees were asked to vote for a debate winner through a live poll, which made the session even more intense.
Related Story: Expert Debate: an Interactive Alternative to a Traditional Keynote Session
Bring two brains together in a one-to-one conversation, and you get an in-depth session with maximum value for both sides.
Invented by the company e180, Braindates have already found their way to many events’ agendas worldwide. They offer the delegates the chance to book 1:1 slots with other participants or guest speakers via an app.
The point of braindates is to offer the participants the time for knowledge exchange and deep conversations. This concept takes the best from networking and adds in rich peer-to-peer learning.
Alternatively, you can run braindates as small group interactive sessions. They allow the attendees to talk through the topics of mutual interest, or simply continue the debates of the day.
Similar to braindates, IMEX runs ‘Expert clinics’ or ‘Hot Topic Tables’ and OECD Forum holds informal ‘Talk Together’ one-to-one sessions.
Over to you
Were you looking for inspiration on how to perk up your next event or conference? You may have just found what you were looking for. Give one of these seven super interactive sessions a try, and your participants will leave impressed and inspired.