5 easy ways to add a bit of 'Rebel' into your 2020 events!
Updated: Feb 10
I’m currently glued to a book called ‘Rebel Talent’ by Francesca Gino and it’s fascinating to read about how we perceive rebels, especially in the business world.
We’re so conditioned from a young age about rules, traditions and societal norms that sometimes our adult selves don’t know any better than to replicate inefficient behaviours of adults past- simply because it’s what we've always known.
By the time we reach the office environment anyone wearing anything other than a traditional suit sticks out like a sore thumb- even Mark Zuckerberg was perceived as ‘immature’ and ‘lacking respect to his investors’ by wearing t-shirt, hoodie, jeans and trainers on the day that the biggest tech IPO to date went public!
“After all, we conclude, if a practice has been around for a long time, there must be a very good reason for it, right?”
- Rebel Talent
Put into the context of corporate events, there are a few tried-and-tested things we’ve come to expect and are almost blindly loyal to in this ripe old era of 2020. It’s not to say they’re all bad but some are definitely ‘broke’ traditions that most attendees would be glad to see the back of. In the spirit of a new year there is no better time to rethink some of those practices and how we can add a little rebel into our corporate events…
Registration & format
Whilst a start time gives a clear and fixed point of attendance, I’ve learnt that people hate time-wasting and arriving too early for something that they quite possibly don’t particularly want to be at. Don’t get me wrong- there will ALWAYS be latecomers rushing in, but I think we can be a little more transparent with our agendas so that it allows for attendees to decide exactly when they need to arrive. If registration is from 08:00 but your first keynote isn’t on until 09:00- clearly define that last call/ admission will be strictly at 08:50. That’s 50 whole minutes to get themselves registered, coffee’d and seated in (hopefully) a much less frazzled or restless state.
In case you didn’t get the memo- I am not a fan of name badges. They’ve been the bane of my event life for years and are- to me- a massively unnecessary part of the occasion. It’s 2020; you don’t need a plastic badge to tell you someone’s name/profession/company. Just ask. Or eavesdrop until you get their name then follow them on social media like a new-age (slightly creepy) Sherlock Holmes.
Breakfast & Buffets
Go to almost any seminar or conference and you’ll be met with a breakfast of either sausage, bacon or egg rolls followed by a buffet lunch featuring a bowl of chilli or curry. Whilst these are general all-rounder options, they’re boring and don’t take into consideration the updated and albeit never-ending list of dietary requirements that our attendees have. Guests will always remember the food so build in vegan options (especially in Jan/Veganuary), deconstruct your buffet to give more options or open up a pop-up coffee shop with a selection from around the world. Those little touches will be the most mentioned in your feedback!
This can be interpreted in so many different ways as one person’s ‘business casual’ might be another’s ‘hiking chic’, so only enforce a dress code where necessary. I’d love to see an event that encourages attendees to stand out and bring a bit more of their personality into the room- one of the examples in ‘Rebel Talent’ was a lecturer wearing red Converse with a suit and noticing the impact that the bold fashion statement had on her own behaviour as well as that of the students who were much more receptive.
It doesn’t have to be as random as demanding that the whole room of lawyers should wear bright red converse or they’re not getting in (I’d pay to be at that event…anyone?), but maybe support a charity that asks for donations of clothing or footwear by encouraging attendees to bring an old shirt or an old pair to your event and showcase them throughout the night. If it's safety in numbers then drop the dress code altogether but incorporate a theme/ colour to create that comfort zone but still encourage conversation- easy wins could be bright socks, handbags, pocket squares or nail polish colour to stay on theme.
Networking & the old ‘Q&A session
I always love how an agenda includes allocated time for networking or a Q&A session- read by all attendees as ‘time to disappear as quick as you can because you’ve got better sh** to do’. There is value in both but both levels of engagement require your attendees to feel a certain level of comfort in their surroundings to be able to participate.
I've seen wristbands used to pair attendee types together (ie talk to 3 people with x colour bands before the end of the night, grab a drink from the bar with a person wearing x colour wristband before the end of the night) and actually can help to break the ice without the awkward balloon. If you need questions for a Q&A session that follows, then get those pairs to come up with questions between them and submit via an app or drop box, giving you enough fodder whilst removing them from that 'spotlight' moment of raising their hand in a room of strangers. Failing that, reward each question with a prize or drink token thrown into the crowd which should wake them up a bit!
In a nutshell...
These are only light suggestions, and each requires you to know your audience and what it is you ultimately want from them during and post-event. The idea is to not be afraid to shake things up a bit because chances are, it’s what your guests have been waiting for!