Think back to the last conference you attended. Did you have fun? That may seem like an odd question for a conference experience but should it be? Why can’t conferences or meetings be fun? When we enjoy the experience, it becomes memorable. Isn’t that one of the outcomes that an event planner wants from their events?
That doesn’t mean that you should erect a mini Disneyland in the venue parking lot. There are smart and innovative ways to weave a theme of fun into your conference without minimizing your content or spending a ton of budget. Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Meal and Snack Themes
If you are planning meals or snack breaks, assign cute, creative, or even snarky themes to the food and décor. For example, if you are planning an event for children’s book publishers or authors, a breakfast theme could be Green Eggs and Ham, a lunch theme could be Stone Soup, and a snack theme could be If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. All of these titles are classic children’s books. Make sure the food and décor are Instagram worthy to encourage social sharing, which is always an indication that fun is being had.
Everyone Loves Games
Reserve the last afternoon of the conference for a fun tournament-style game activity like team Ping Pong or Wii games. Promote the activity as a great networking opportunity and sign up teams throughout the conference to compete. It sets up a great last impression for your event. Or set up a special break room with video games, board games, or rented carnival games that attendees can take advantage of throughout the whole conference. Games are a fabulous way for guests to relax and relate to others and have some fun at the same time. Read more ideas in our recent blog – 6 Inexpensive Ideas to Add Gamification to Your Event
Social Media Contests
As I’ve already said, social media sharing implies fun. This is because humans are hardwired to share amusement and joy. Smart event planners leverage this by creating easy to share social media opportunities at events. Since many of us are also naturally competitive, contests are an excellent way to do this. Create a simple selfie scavenger hunt contest with a hashtag to track engagement or post a photo of something happening at your conference and ask for caption suggestions.
Offer cute and fun themed prizes or conference swag as prizes. I was just at a conference for women who work in the digital space that offered stuffed unicorns as prizes if an attendee visited each vendor booth and took a selfie with the representative. The unicorn was a nod to women who are still the minority in IT, UX and other digital verticals. The unicorns were fun and many women shared their prize with another selfie on Instagram and Twitter. Learn More
Arts and Crafts Swag
Everyone loves swag. Most people will love it even more if they created it themselves. Arts and crafts are not just for kids. The DIY and makers movement has really taken bespoke treasures to another level. And the interactivity of an arts and crafts table cannot be beaten. Set up a table with plain canvas tote bags or t-shirts (or with a small logo in a corner of the item) and fabric markers for guests to decorate them. Or give away a small branded coloring book and branded colored pencils. Attendees will have a little fun while they tap into their creative side. And when guests create their own takeaways, they are more apt to use them once they leave your event.
Making a difference can be fun. Plan a community service project for your guests either before the conference starts or as a special afternoon outing during the conference. Many local charities would love to host a group to serve a meal at a soup kitchen, read stories to children at a school, bag groceries at a food pantry, or visit with seniors at a nursing home. Your attendees will enjoy the break from meetings and they’ll feel great about giving back to the community. Those wonderful feelings and experiences will bring them back to your event year over year.
Introduce a little bit of mystery in your agenda by blocking out a surprise activity time slot. Leak out small hints and details in the weeks leading up to your event in order to build suspense and anticipation. Once your conference starts, ask attendees to guess on social media or on your event app, using a special hashtag. Continue to tease the activity all the way up to the event time. Make sure to plan an activity that is fun and surprising so that you don’t let everyone down! Bring in a comedian or a mentalist for a show or take attendees out for a surprise party bus tour of the city. Not only will the anticipation be enjoyable and fun for guests, but the activity will also be as well.
Sometimes the smallest ideas are the most fun. Create a “missed connections” chalkboard area where attendees can write dating app-type notes to each other or ask questions of speakers that they didn’t get answered in sessions. Include fun décor elements such as balloons, piñatas, or selfie frame stations. Give your session rooms fun names that correspond to your industry or conference topics. Print poster-sized “Wanted” photos of your team and post them near registration so attendees know who you are and can find you easily.
We all need more fun in our lives. Conferences and meetings do not need to be an exception. Let’s have fun at our next event!