Events are lots of things when they're done right. Exciting, engaging, effective, immersive and inspiring. But for all of these attributes to come together and make a good event a truly great event, there's a vital, all-consuming ingredient and it all comes down to three letters. F.U.N.
If your event is fun, then everything else will (almost) take care of itself. And it hides a multitude of sins. Throughout every step of the event planning process I have this little rhyme in the back of my mind - "If you're not focusing on fun, you should. Cos fun is FUN! And FUN is good!"
Last week I was honoured to host the COOL Venue Awards at the iconic Cafe de Paris (which I recently discovered suffered a direct hit from a German bomber during the War, in the middle of a packed concert on a Saturday night. Cue carnage on a scale of the...err...the COOL Venue Awards!). It's an awards show with a difference. It's fun. Seriously, ask yourself - "have I ever attended a fun awards dinner"? The answer, at best, is probably "the awards were long, the rubber chicken dinner was a bit rubbery (and, worryingly, not that chickeny), there were a few fun bits, the cute little one from Top Gear was a cool celebrity host, oh, and there were lots of pretty people dressed in little black dresses, of course"! Totally worth it then!
But really? Two hours of sitting through seemingly never ending and increasingly obscure awards categories? And then you don't win because you didn't advertise with the bloody magazine, that nobody really reads, anyway! And how much did this table cost!? You get the (not so professionally taken) picture. Well, you'll certainly get the obligatory photo booth picture (some photo booth companies are way better than others btw!), that's a guarantee. I've got a great photo booth story but that's for another time - ask meabout it the next time you bump into me at a boring awards dinner!! Well the COOL Venue Awards deserve a mention because they are FUN! Overcrowded? Maybe. Rowdy? More than a little bit! Fraught with the edgy excitement of pending disaster which could/will flare up at any moment? Yup! Messy? Hell yeah! FUN? It's categorically guaranteed. And that's more than you can say for any other awards ceremony in the sector. In fact, in any sector possibly bar the The Brits and the Oscars - and even they're predictable and more about dress designers than music or movies. And for that reason alone, it was a blast to compere it! Plus, I can say whatever I like and get away with it. In fact I was encouraged to! I seem to remember uttering the word "F**k" in my opening sentence. And that was effectively a "housekeeping" announcement!
If your event is fun, your audience will be instantly engaged. And enthused. They will then tweet about it. It's that simple and that's what we all want. Reach.
The fun factor is, in fact, more of a fun formula and that starts right at the very beginning, with a fun venue or location. Once you've got that cracked, there are a multitude of super fun suppliers to choose from, many of which are designed to be immersive and engaging in their own right.
So, now that we've established that fun is officially on the agenda, here are our top 10 fun venues in London.
1. All Star Lanes. In a word, Bowling! In four words, Rock n’ Roll Bowling! All Star Lanes is a fun, vibrant place to be, combining one of the world’s most easily accessible participative sports with an excellent environment, specifically designed for corporate gatherings.
2. Bounce. Everybody loves ping-pong, right?You’ve probably noticed table-tennis tables materializing everywhere – from pub front-rooms to garden squares and it’s no coincidence. It’s simply because nobody can resist picking up a paddle and having a whack! Bounce is a cool, New York style art-deco warehouse with an amazing array of spaces and TT tables. They even have a glow in the dark room…!
3. Bodo's Schloss. Quite simply one of the most fun venues of all time. A cosy, chic ski chalet with bar tenders and waitresses to match, Bodo’s has become a modern day classic. With log cabin good looks, a cable car DJ booth, ski boot cocktails, live music and decadent cheese fondues, this place is as magical as it is fun fueled…!
4. Cirque Le Soir. If it’s no holds barred wild and crazy fun you’re seeking, then Cirque Le Soir is the only place you need to be. Except for maybe The Box, but that’s arguably a step too far for anyone but the most daring of hosts! Cirque is a crazy carnival of intrigue and seduction, underpinned by an insatiable appetite for the gloriously unusual, unpredictable and, above all, remarkable!
5. Steam & Rye. Previously the Bank of New York, this crazy fun palace in the City is a great place to let go of reality (in a good way!). Themed as a great American Railroad entrepreneur’s fun-house, Steam & Rye delivers a no holds barred north American experience complete with live music, an actual railway carriage with dining booths and even London’s most famous Rodeo Bull. You have been warned!
6. Beaver Lodge. Combining two of my favourite things – beavers and lodges, Beaver Lodge is rather accurately described as perfect for “Sharp shootin’, rootin’ tootin’, cowboy bootin’ good times”. And, you know what? We couldn’t put it any better ourselves! It’s mad and therefore it’s un-phased fun!
7. Team Sport Karting. Ok, so there’s categorically nothing more fun than Speed (in a racing sort of way, of course)! After an age of political correctness, abject timidity all underpinned by a distinct lack of adventure, Karting is back on track and it’s more impactful than ever before. With their two sensational sites (a massive 800m track in the Docklands and another one at Tower Bridge) these guys are the leading inner City Karting specialists with indoor/outdoor options and a flawlessly fun themed environment to suite all abilities.
8. Shaka Zulu. Undoubtedly one of London’s most sensational themed venues, which also happens to be an authentic African restaurant serving all sorts of exciting, exotic, unique and original platters, Shaka Zulu is an awesome experience. The event space is huge and impressive too – with giant statues of tribal leaders and all sorts of interesting artifacts, Shaka Zulu is an intriguing and dramatic twin-decked venue for a diverse array of fun-filled events.
9. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. The most prominent of all the new generation of themed attractions, Harry Potter World is a truly immersive and magical 4D experience which will leave your guests and delegates spellbound and inspired! This is a complete no-brainer for the corporation who wants to re-create the irresistible magic of childhood in a World-class, hi-tech way! So, what are you waiting for? ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ people!!!
10. The Vault. Why arrive in a car when you can arrive in a bus? Well, not just any old bus – the ultra smart, leather-seated, DJ boothed, private roomed, Champagne fuelled, uber-cool Vault London! With a fully functioning bar, a super-charged sound system and an impressive lighting rig, all fully integrated, The Vault is the most fun way to arrive (and leave!) a party. In fact, it’s often the best bit!
11. Ripley's Believe it or not! London. The quintessential 'weird and wonderful' Leicester Square icon is a crazy fun-house of unimaginable discoveries! From eye-poppingly stupendous human feats (quite literally!) to an entire upside-down room and a large central event space literally packed with exciting artefacts, Ripley's will thrill your guests with interactive and in-your-face fantastical fun…!
And a bonus at number 12…
12. Le Peep Boutique. We’ve recently discovered this secret little Speakeasy on Mayfair’s Park Lane and the fun starts as soon as you discover their secret metal door (complete with surreptitious peep-hole!). Inside is a magical world of ceiling projections, secret gardens, window-silhouettes of skeletons and general gorgeous nakedness all creating a cool, sophisticated and intriguing environment for discerning and adventurous corporate pioneers…