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April 16, 2008

BE INSPIRED:Building an inspirational element into your event

We’ve all been inspired. It’s a great feeling that’s difficult to forget. Not only that, but inspiration can stir you into action. It can be a catalyst. Create an event that’s inspirational and you’re likely to have this effect on your audience.

But being inspired is a very personal thing. That’s why you can only create an inspirational event when you know what makes your audience tick.

“Knowledge is everything – knowing what will get them sitting up and thinking ‘I love this’, ‘I want that’, ‘I’m going to change’ or ‘I can’t wait to tell everyone about what I just experienced’,” says Ian Irving, sales and marketing director at experiential agency Sledge. “It’s about getting the message across in the right way and using the right tools or the right people.”

Do the research
Once you’ve got to know your audience, it’s time to use this research to devise exciting, engaging and relevant content, as this is the key to inspiration.

“I was involved in a very, very low budget client-managed event last year that had poor sound, bad lighting, lack of appropriate technology,” explains Irving, “but this event hit hearts and minds like I have never seen before. The content was aimed at changing attitudes to the problem of drug abuse and despite the low production values, the event owners knew that they had to inspire change and they did so with overwhelming content that made the production values irrelevant. I was amazed at the power of their content and the emotional rollercoaster it took the audience on.”

But you can heighten the experience and get your message across more effectively with the right delivery technique.

“We believe that events which inspire the most are the one’s that use interaction,” explains Chloe Couchman, head of media communications at the Imagination Group. “That interaction – whether it’s through technology or through live entertainment – means that the audience is, and importantly, feels more connected to the event and takes home a very personal experience.”

Keep it simple
She also believes that simplicity can help. “It’s often the case that the simpler the idea, the clearer the communication,” Couchman continues. “You obviously have to be careful that even though the idea is a simple one, the execution and production should still be seamless.”

As an example, Couchman cites the recent London Motor show where ice lollies were given out to members of the public who visited the ice-bar by Ford. “This wasn’t a huge, extravagant piece of entertainment,” she says, “but it was a personal connection between Ford and the visitor and it created a clear moment of interaction, which visitors really remembered.”

Interaction can also be introduced through roleplay and interactive games of relevance to the company involved, according to Julie Besbrode, director of creative events and video specialist Fresh. “If delegates are engaged in this way it means that they are not just being talked at,” she explains, “but are themselves playing an important part in moving the organisation forward by buying into important messages and remembering their importance."

Speaker's corner
A well-chosen motivational speaker can also be instrumental to driving home the all-important messages, and it’s often something delegates will remember for a long time.

Sledge created an event for Royal Mail that was aimed at raising awareness of the organisations cultural diversity and rewarding those that had embraced it. The highlight was the appearance of Paralympics gold medal winner Ade Adeptian and star of the BBC channel idents, who gave a moving and motivational speech that lifted the audience and made them realise the importance of inclusion.

Catching your audience's attention using striking, original presentation techniques can also help to inspire.

“Depending on the type of people you are targeting, stimulating them by creating a sound, light and visionary experience can provide various sources of inspiration.” says Melanie Page, Electronic Systems Architecture, Nimlok. “The atmosphere becomes a sensory one and so they feel part of it.”

In the end, choosing the right technique or techniques to use is all down to deciding what’s relevant to your audience.

“It’s important to think about the audience demographic, so that the inspirational techniques are appropriate and relevant to the delegates,” says Besbrode. “Organisers should also take into account what delegates have seen at previous events and either offer something memorably different or build upon the success of previous themes.”

Taking these factors into account will help you create a truly inspirational event that will stick with your audience long after they've left.

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