On Monday, 60 event professionals gathered at Convene’s property at 333 South Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles for a unique type of presentation, hosted by BizBash founder and CEO David Adler.
The title of the session—Designing Immersive Events for Multiple Generations.
Just like the topic they were there to discuss, participants in this event were immersed in the discussion themselves. No PowerPoints, no long lectures. Instead, Adler had everyone in the group introduce themselves, then dove into some loose discussion points and let the group guide the conversation from there.
Here are eight takeaways from the group, from hot new trends to lifelong lessons from the event world.
Experiences and Events Impact People’s Lives
It’s easy when planning events to get lost in worrying about how many people attend, but as any event planner knows, the real magic is in the experiences you provide to people. “Judge an event not by how many people attend, but how many conversations you’re curating,” said BizBash CEO David Adler. “It all goes back to that famous Maya Angelo quote. How you make people feel is what matters. We’re trying to get people to feel things.”
The first guest presenter of the day, Larry Abel of Abel + McCallister + Abel, shared a story of how he pulled together an incredible production feat in the span of one week—a stage made of Godiva chocolate for a special episode of Oprah Winfrey’s show. As he stood watching from off-stage, Abel found himself crying as he reflected on the feeling of turning an impossible dream into a reality. Never discount the value of creating these type of memorable experiences for attendees.
Embrace Age Diversity
Larry Abel’s daughter, Olivia Abel, is also a partner at the firm. The younger Abel encouraged attendees to embrace age diversity on their event planning teams. Abel said that as a millennial, she’s able to bring social consciousness and digital savvy to the Able + McCallister + Able team, and incorporate technology in novel ways for both the business and clients.
Never Forget the Value of the Insta-grammable Moment
A hot topic of discussion: Instagram and its role at events. “Now, everyone wants to know, ‘What’s your Insta-moment?’” said Larry Abel. Abel has a rule that décor in his installations should be at least 5 feet off the ground, so that it’s captured in selfies and group pictures.
The value of Instagram isn’t just in giving attendees something to put out on their social media profiles, but reaching an audience that didn’t attend to create more buzz beyond the walls of your event.
“You’re not just talking to the 50 people in the room, you’re talking to the thousands observing on social,” said Adler. “That’s why 25% of all marketing is now event driven.”
“I was producing a festival a couple of weekends ago,” said Karen Marshall of Lucky Pineapple Events. “Photos are vital to us. From the first day on, we’re posting like crazy and we get more people to that festival. It’s marketing, real-time.”
Digital is Important… But Don’t Forget the Human Element
In an increasingly digital world, one of the benefits of in-person events is the opportunity to make connections on real, personal level. No one doubts the importance and power of a digital strategy for social influence, but planners in attendance stressed how important the human connection was for people at their events.
“People don’t want to be owned by an algorithm,” said Adler. “We’re going to have to change the way we think—put surprise moments in, break the fourth wall, and don’t be so perfect.”
Influencer Strategy is Growing
A hot topic of discussion was influencer strategy when it comes to events. The world of influencer marketing is getting increasingly complex—there’s micro-influencers, celebrity influencers, niche influencers, and more. With all this complexity—and occasionally, lack of transparency—planners must have a strategy in place if they want to be successful using influencers.
One challenge is getting influencers to share photos from an event. One planner in attendance discussed how in her experience, influencers want a more specialized experience in order to share—a customized jacket, for example. They’re not likely to share a simple selfie from inside the venue. “The average consumer is just excited to be invited, they want you to know they’re at a (particular) event. An influencer is a bit more selective.”
Learning and Development is Hot Right Now
BizBash CEO David Adler thinks learning and development will be a huge portion of the events industry in the coming years. The reason? Learning and development events add a level of purpose and experience to events that people enjoy, and companies are able to justify expenses for more easily. “Everything you do should be more purposeful, strategic, and something people can learn from,” said Adler.
Adler went on to share an example from a restaurant where he recently dined. Rather than simply bring out the plate, the chef came out to explain how the sauce was made, fascinating the diners. Suddenly, the experience is elevated beyond just delicious food.
Most Powerful Word in the English Language: “Let’s”
Taking a page from the political world, the group discussed the power of getting people involved in a mission. Adler discussed how he’s seen politicians struggle to connect with audiences when they simply talk at them, rather than invite them to participate in a movement.
“The most powerful word in the English language is ‘let’s.’ Let’s go to lunch, let’s go to dinner, let’s hook up, let’s have a revolution!”
Finally, the group discussed augmented reality and its potential for events. AR can allow attendees to access additional information about speakers, sponsors, or the space around them. Larry Abel is using augmented realities in his firm’s RFPs. Instead of having to be there in person to explain a vision, they can bring the pitch to life using AR technology.
Overall, the discussion was well received by all in attendance. Participants expressed how refreshing it was to actively take part in the discussion, rather than sit back and watch a PowerPoint presentation. The day ended with some networking over lunch, where new connections were made and the discussion brought to an even deeper level.