By Amit Singh, senior director, APAC sales, Aventri

It’s no secret that the marketing world has turned digital first, so it’s easy to question why live events remain so popular, but the answer is simple. It all comes down to in-person connections.

In the Australian market alone, the event sector is estimated to reach $8.2 billion by the end of 2019, and has experienced strong growth of 4.6 per cent over the past five years.

Evidently, there’s no replacement to the connections you build from engaging with like-minded people in person. But that alone isn’t enough.

To get the masses to look up from the blue glow of their smartphones and realise the true benefits of events, the event itself must remain relevant, interesting and engaging. There must be more than just hours of discussions with only short ten minute coffee breaks to look forward to. Interaction, creativity and relatability are key to making it a success.

So, how exactly can marketers push the creative boundaries at their next corporate event? Here are 10 sure-fire ways to make your next event stand out from the crowd.

  1. Interactive, icebreaker rooms 

Icebreakers can be awkward and uncomfortable, but done right they can be an entertaining way of encouraging guests to interact and connect with each other. Perhaps you can use an escape room where small groups have to work together to find clues to a puzzle in order to be set free, or provide a space where attendees demonstrate an activity related to their area of expertise.

There are plenty of ways to get creative with your icebreaker, and for smaller, more intimate events they can be an effective way of encouraging communication. Just remember to keep it light-hearted and aligned with your brand.

  1. Keep it fun (and simple!)

Nobody remembers a boring conference and, even if they did, you wouldn’t want your brand to be remembered for being the one that hosted it – so keep your event fun.

Integrating a fun activity doesn’t have to be complicated either. A great example is Volkswagen’s piano staircase. The brand wanted to test whether it could change human behaviour, so it installed a piano staircase next to an escalator. The results were incredible, with vast numbers of people swapping the escalator for the stairs on their daily commute. Simple, and fun!

  1. Do things that are unique

There are so many logistical elements involved in creating an event, which can make it hard to find time to come up with a big wow factor idea. But plan ahead and put aside time to come up with ways you can push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Whether it’s partnering with a well-known athlete to break a world record, or seeking a real-life Spider Man to climb the tallest building. Think of unique, big ideas and choose a stunt that speaks your brand’s language. Remember everyone has a smartphone, so everyone is a potential photojournalist. Do things that will make attendees snap and share content from your event.

  1. Hold a contest during the event

Tap into peoples’ natural competitiveness. Do you have something on-brand you can give away or would a sponsor contribute a prize as an incentive?

Think of a contest that would engage audiences and that relates to your brand. Perhaps a selfie competition would work if you’re a camera company, or is there an activity that sums up your company that guests could perform when spontaneously picked by a speaker? Make it unique, easy to remember and not too embarrassing!

  1. Socially responsible events

With so many issues that need our attention – from climate change to world hunger – you could engage your audience by raising awareness of an important cause. While giving back is obviously an important thing for businesses to do, it also has the benefit of bringing people together and forming social bonds to address issues.

Since 87 per cent of Aussies believe that businesses have a responsibility to bring about positive social change, there’s never been a better time to stand for a greater cause at your event. Choose one that aligns with the passions of your attendees, making your corporate presence both conscious and relevant.

  1. Pop-up booths

Pop-ups aren’t a new thing, but recently they seem to have had an impressive resurgence. There’s no better time to jump on this trend by bringing an innovative pop-up to your next event.

Be sure not to fall into the trap of being boring or overly commercial and make your pop-up as impressive as possible. Why not build it out of environmentally-friendly materials such as bamboo or even all-cardboard and add an interactive element to it?

Consider what ways the pop-up can be used to engage audiences and bring forward an element of surprise. Think about what they are interested in, what will be the most memorable experience and ultimately initiate action.

  1. Launch a mobile app 

Event mobile apps are the ideal attendee on-site companion, helping them engage with brands and others in so many ways. From access to real time information about the event itself, to getting notified of any changes that may occur while the event takes place, all the way to rating the event experience.

The mobile app not only informs attendees about what’s happening during the event, it can also provide so many networking opportunities and establish new relationships via matchmaking and messaging services. Added to which, event planners can monetise features such as banner ads, sponsored push notifications and premium listings.

Providing such a plethora of opportunities, creating an app is a must for any event that is progressive and wants to offer a memorable experience while raising brand awareness and monetary value.

  1. Artificial intelligence, robots and VR

People are naturally curious about artificial intelligence, robots and VR, and it seems brands are responding. In fact, earlier this year Deloitte predicted that 65 per cent of businesses will create AI applications using cloud-based development services.

So why not make the most of this technology trend, which is something people instantaneously gravitate towards? Whether that’s investing in a chatbot that can answer attendees’ questions, creating an interactive VR experience, or a drone live streaming your event, there are many tech tools available. Cherry pick those that will work for your event, theme and audience and be sure to give it a test run in advance to avoid any pesky tech issues on the night.

  1. Interactive presentations

Don’t just speak to people, engage with them. This could be through a live poll during a presentation or by getting people up to demonstrate a product. Even just one audience member being involved will help others feel engaged and a part of the presentation.

  1. Instagrammable spaces

Discover those venues that have a look and feel that stands out from the rest. This will likely entice key audiences to not only attend, but also share their experience on social media channels. Pairing an impressive venue with a catchy event hashtag will increase awareness of the event and brands associated with it. Long term, this will provide much more exposure and value.

Live events are the real deal. There are many ways they benefit your company, from enhancing relationships, building brand awareness, and creating deep and lasting connections.

It’s a fact that people view brands more positively when they provide a great experience. Treat your event as a window into what your brand is all about, think about how you want to be remembered and what you want to achieve.

Be brave, be creative and aim high. If you do so, your next event will be the best yet.