Events are awesome! There was a time when that simple fact was enough and, actually, I still think it's enough. In an age of multi-screening and instant information (yes, we're all 'screenagers') an exciting and engaging 'coming together' is arguably more valuable than it has ever been before. What's more, if you get it right, the awesomeness of your event will reach, on average, about 30 times the number of guests who are actually in the room. So, if you think about it, we all want our events to be awesome above all else. If we consistently do 'awesome' then the rest will largely take care of itself.
So, what makes an awesome event? Well, that's simple. It's not easy but it is simple.
In a nutshell, it's this - a great experience which your guests talk about for a long time. It's not the venue. It's not the catering. It's not the entertainment or the ice sculptures, the lighting or the pyrotechnics. It's the people, the cloakroom, the loos, the transport links, the ambiance, the atmosphere. In short, it's the 'everything'.
I'm often asked this, so here are some of the most memorable events I've been to:
- A crazy Hawaiian party in a water park in Holland packed with outrageous surprises such as spandex clad arms serving food from the buffet through secret holes in the table and a leather clad lady spanking everyone with a whip as they walked past (don't ask - I've written all about it in a previous 'Will's Week' article if you want to seek it out!). This was the launch of a new theme park in a forest, owned by the mysterious Dutch Baron Von Something or other...
- A simple event at Coca Cola World in Atlanta, Georgia, made great by the Atlanta Falcons' cheerleaders mingling with guests, dishing out flashing rings and getting everyone to dance with them! This was hosted by Coca-Cola to promote their brand within the events world.
- An outrageous night at the Box with dinner, gangster rap and dwarves. Hilarious and freaky all at the same time. This was a (rather I'll advised) night out with clients! Great fun though!
- An International Special Events Society conference in the USA with the best keynotes I've ever experienced - a Canadian swimmer who won Olympic Gold against all odds and an actual Space Shuttle Commander who flew Discovery's inaugural mission. This was a global conference with a focus on Leadership.
- A Halloween party which started with a drinks reception in a locker room before we figured it out, opened a locker and climbed through into an enchanted forest. This was to promote events at The Brewery, Chiswell Street.
- Another Halloween party in a haunted house in Universal Studios, Florida. This was a commercial event and we paid top dollar to be there (totally worth it!)
- A Vekoma rollercoaster party on a skyscraper rooftop in Orlando. This was to promote one of the world's leading ride manufacturers to the theme park trade. Glamour personified.
All of these events were a great success for two reasons. Firstly I remember them and who I was with at each one. And secondly, I remember exactly what the purpose of each event was, even though one of them was when I was only 16! This is because the organisers of each of these events weren't necessarily focussed purely on ROI but rather were mindful of ROO (a return on Objective). They all clearly set out their key objectives and didn't let making a quick buck destroy the atmosphere. Events can generate fast results but it's not just about instant cash. I'm currently working with a law firm who I've never worked with before and it's almost certainly because I met them at a cool event they held last year in the London Aquarium. I remembered them for that reason above all else.
Anyway, the thing is, great events are memorable and memorable events are (mostly) great. In a way, companies should be looking to organise as many events as possible in any calendar year. That's because a well planned event, however simple, is statistically proven to help accentuate any initiative or campaign as a central focal point with a build-up, a central shared experience and a legacy. That's three birds with one stone!
With summer fast approaching, and with more emphasis on engaging experiences, we're about to enter the busy summer event season which is, itself, becoming more and more of a thing every year. There are more options and therefore more reasons to do something meaningful this summer and an awesome event is the best place to start. So, why not establish some key objectives (enabling you to measure that ROO) and get a date in the diary for a memorable (and therefore measurable) team and/or client experience.
Here are our top 10 summer event ideas:
1. Go Ape. The market leading outdoor activity and aerial adventure company is now in the heart of the concrete jungle - Battersea Park - and this is the best way to communicate with your 'tribe' and reach new heights with your team. They'll absolutely love this, guaranteed!
2. Alladale Wilderness Reserve. This magnificent 23,000 acre estate offers absolutely everything you could ever desire to get away from it all and "Re-Wild" your team. Simply give these guys a call and they'll create an unforgettable experience which enthrals, engages, invigorates and inspires from 2 to 26 guests. A truly world class few days away from it all can transform your team, their morale, camaraderie and productivity. It's far more accessible than you think too!
3. Warwick Castle. As one of England's most magnificent castles, it's almost amazing that this is an actual historic building as opposed to a Hollywood film set or custom built theme park! With dungeons and banqueting halls, suits of armour and torchlit chandeliers, even a gigantic (functional) trebuchet in the gardens, Warwick Castle really is a magical destination for a huge variety of awesome activities. Worth a short trip up the M40 this summer if you want something spellbinding for your guests.
4. West Wycombe Park. This magnificent estate, just outside the M25 offers a rural playground which is largely unrivalled in the world of quintessentially British country pursuits. Their E.J Churchill shooting ground is widely recognised as the finest clay pigeon shooting school in the UK and is amazing fun, even for those who have never held a gun before...
5. Gilwell Park. As the home of the world renowned and pioneering Scouts Association, there's no better location for classic team-building activities. Set in a magnificent estate, so close to central London that you can see it from its elevated position, Gilwell Park is both well equipped and well appointed to deliver the ultimate in corporate experiences.
6. Splash and Tickle mobile spa. Everybody loves a good pampering. Without exception. Splash and Tickle do mobile spas, in style, to go! So go on. Spoil yourselves!
7. EJB Events. With access to a world of talent and a little black book to die for, EJB Events can arrange anything, whatever it is! Give Emma a call and she'll get you whatever you want - from a fabulously original corporate summer activity to Sly Stallone and everything in between. Seriously.
8. Funny Women. As the UK's leading agency for female comedic talent (they discovered and nurtured many of the most famous comediennes on the scene), Funny Women offer a series of unique corporate programmes which is arguably the most entertaining (and original) team building experience imaginable. I know because I've experienced it. After a few fun and interactive comedy workshops, my colleagues and I performed a ten minute comedy routine in front of an audience of 200 in the City. And it was utterly liberating! Just don't look it up on YouTube!
9. The Tower Hotel Garden. This is one of the best re-thought uses of prime real estate in Central London. Previously a car park on the banks of the Thames with the most magnificent (wasted) views of Tower Bridge, this beautiful lawn, complete with pop-up camper van style catering facilities, has a spectacular backdrop encompassing some of London's best loved Landmarks - from Tower Bridge to the Shard. Perfect for alfresco London summer events.
10. Venturi's Table Corporate Cookery School. Food, glorious food! Every sane person loves food and food tastes even better when we've toiled to create it! As long as we've resisted picking at it as we go - which is technically impossible BTW! That's reflected in this fabulous new cookery school which can 'cater' (pun intended) for up to 70 guests, regardless of skill levels. You have to try this to understand how great an engaging experience it is but they sum it up best when they say "we don't force team-building, it happens all by itself". Presumably because everyone's hungry and wants to eat what they've enjoyed creating!
11. Center Parcs Woburn. This secluded and multi-faceted retreat has quickly established itself as a 'center' of excellence, combining the best large-scale conference facilities (up to 600 delegates) with the most diverse and elaborate activity programme, from aerial adventures to badminton, there's something for everyone. And a sauna at the end of the day in your own luxury log cabin, of course. Like being on holiday. In Bedfordshire!
If we've succeeded and the often illusive 'Summertime' is now on your mind, check out these other articles on Secret Gardens and Out of Town venues for further inspiration.