The hottest word in the events world right now? EXPERIENTIAL.
It’s all the rage. Event planners are no longer producing trade shows with traditional booths, or designing spaces that are simply aesthetically pleasing. Brands are now insisting on engaging, interactive and shareable experiences. Every brainstorm we’re a part of now centers around the question: “but how can we make it experiential?”
While we can all thank Refinery29 for making 29Rooms a consumer sensation (you haven’t been?! It’s a must and the New York tour is about to start!), there are several other pop-ups taking place nationwide that are nailing experiential, creating one of a kind, shareable experiences that allow brands to really shine.
Here, we’ll talk about what we’ve learned through our experience producing experiential events as well as from observing and taking part in the pop ups that have been sprouting up all over our city. We'll highlight 7 key requirements to ensure your brand’s next event is an Instagram-worthy experience. And lastly, we'll share some favorite moments from New York’s latest fascination, the Rosé Wine Mansion!
1. You Had Me At Hello.
While we don’t expect you to go full-on Jerry Maguire, we do want to emphasize how crucial first impressions are for brands when executing events and how making a good first impression will set the tone for the rest of the event.
How do you make a good first impression? Find ways to grab your attendees’ attention before they enter your event. Try something risky or balls to the wall, outrageous... we love to shock our guests with live entertainment greeting them at the entrance. But we’re not talking about the good ol’ man on stilts, we mean something they have never seen before like a model wearing a dress made out of 1,000 Chinese takeout boxes branded with your company logo, or an entire head-to-toe outfit made of mirrors. Bold examples like these will instantly excite attendees enough to take their phones out and share their experience on social media.
2. Go Big or Go Home.
You’ve heard this a million times – well, it couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to making your event experiential…and we don’t mean financially (although a healthy budget always helps!).
When producing a consumer experiential event, think about the space becoming an adult playground. This will guarantee onsite and social media engagement. A winning recipe for this is taking an expected experience to an unexpected level with larger than life props. One of our favorite ways the Rosé Wine Mansion did this was their oversized throne. I mean, let’s face it - who wouldn’t want a photo with all their friends piled up on a giant throne? And yes, we absolutely had our photo taken here - check it out!
3. Right This Way.
One of the most important things to think about when designing an experiential environment is directional signage or how your guests will find their way. You want to ensure that you dictate the path your attendees take BUT in a way that lets them feel like they are in control (wink wink).
Big, bold colorful signage always seems to work well, BUT there are plenty of ways to go outside the box with this one too. We have used string art, oversized balloons and even larger than life bowling pins to create a path for our attendees. Human arrows are also a great tool, especially if those humans are dressed in adorable outfits. Lights and/or sound can also help move your guests from one location to the next. We once used sound in the way of a high school marching band. You read that right - we enlisted a high school marching band to help lead our attendees from one event location to the next, in the middle of Times Square, no less.
4. Reflect on This.
It seems you can’t be experiential without an activation or a branded moment that involves mirrors or some other shiny reflective material. Those fun houses from back in the day were on to something!
We recently created an experience using disco balls that had our attendees going wild. For starters, there were over 100 boxes of disco balls delivered to the venue (remember when we said go big or go home?) for a space not larger than 20x20. Everything that went into this space was reflective. From simple tactics like holographic streamers that guests walked through to enter the space to reflective mylar used as wallpaper to make every inch of the space shine bright. Layer on over 100 disco balls, additional thematic props, great lighting, and the space was on fire! Guests took their time going through the experience to ensure they got their money shot with the disco balls, boomerangs dancing through the streamers, and then some.
5. It’s Not Just Catering – It’s An Experience.
Let’s face it, for us foodies, catering has always been an experience. Although, with food bloggers on the rise, even non-foodie attendees expect more from food and beverage at events now. While having a great catering partner is key, here are a couple of items to consider that can take your food and beverage from great to “This is so amazing, I have to post this!”
We all love specialty cocktails, so let’s take them to the next level! Let your attendees play bartender by letting them pick their perfect combination from a select menu. For example, create a margarita bar where guests can pick from a spicy or traditional mix, or from add-ins like mango, mint, or jalepeño...and voilà! You’re specialty cocktail is now a buzz-worthy experience.
Remember when we said to be bold? Well, catering is no exception. A great representation of this was when we worked with a caterer to create a 20-foot long donut wall in the shape of a company logo. Best part about it? We had separate donuts for guests to eat! Bold branding that is interactive and delicious, that’s a winning recipe (permission to roll your eyes at the corniness)!
6. All About Me.
Event attendees these days are looking for experiences that are catered to them. They want to feel important and that the brand or company hosting the experience cares about them personally. And while this may seem difficult to achieve, it actually isn’t and can actually be quite simple.
At the Rosé Wine Mansion, there were two very simple activations that were all about the attendee, and you were hit with them right at the start. The first experience was a room with white walls and furniture. The activation included giving each person grape stickers to decorate the room however they wanted - leaving their personal mark on the space. The second experience was a map with push pins with a headline asking attendees “Where do you drink the most Rose?”. Done! Just like that - guests felt important, and the experience felt personal to them.
7. This Is Not Goodbye.
The event ends, everyone goes home, and you pat yourselves on the back for getting through an awesome and successful event. And then what? You pack up and move on to the next project? Nope! The experience can’t end there. There has to be follow through - a way to continue the conversation and ensure your guests don’t lose interest after leaving your event. The simplest way to check this box is by sending a thank you email to all those that attended. But the key to making these types of emails successful is an interactive and dynamic communication.
The Rosé Wine Mansion nearly nailed their follow up email as it included several informational links to help you connect with them via social media, register for a wine club, purchase tickets to attend again, and learn more about upcoming special events. All amazing things! But, there are two items they missed the mark on. One: an engaging, aesthetically pleasing design. They developed an entire experience that was vibrant, modern and colorful - but did not carry this through for their thank you email. If felt too templatized for an event that was anything but that. And two: they included a link that didn’t serve a purpose - the link about future special events. When recipients clicked here, it took you to a page that said “coming soon!” If you aren’t ready to share your news, don’t tease us. Instead, wait until the details are finalized and send out another email that can get me uber excited for more.
We’ve sent a gazillion thank you emails and have always focussed on keeping them fun, light-hearted and personal. But that’s not the only way to keep interacting with attendees. We have created interactive departure gifts tied to a social media campaign that gives guests a chance to win something. We’ve also shared photo galleries from the event and sent attendees thank you gifts such as a framed photo of them on the golf course, for instance, after one of our VIP client golf outings. These are all great ways to continue the conversation and leave guests wanting more!
So there you have it - no matter the size or scope of your experiential event, these 7 tips will be essential in creating a total Insta-worthy experience. We hope you found them helpful, but if this is all still a little overwhelming for you, don’t worry, that’s what we’re here for.