The Idea Factory: Personal Favorites From Successful Events

Have you ever dreamed up an original idea, only to learn that your conference service manager has not only been there, done that—they’ve done it eight times this week! With so many new trends and various vendor options to choose from, “originality” sometimes gets lost in translation. Try as we might not to produce “cookie cutter” meetings/events, the fact may be that tried-and-true works perfectly well.

When I get together with colleagues, I thoroughly enjoy hearing what they are trying at their events. Like many of you, I want to stay current, making sure I am delivering the most engaging events to my attendees. I am always seeking fresh ideas to keep everyone engaged. And honestly, although it may be new to my attendees’, if I’ve seen it 28 times, I’m probably eager to find something fresh and new.

So today I thought I’d share some examples from my personal “highlights reel” in the hope that these successful ideas may just spark some fresh ideas of your own.


Look Who’s Coming to Dinner – At a final dinner, we surprised guests by seating a VIP at every table with 8 attendees. Over five courses, guests got to intimately engage with the VIP at their table. The VIPs were CEOs, authors, seen on ABC’s Shark Tank, and political figures. We took the concept of a guest speaker to a new, more personal level.


Top Chef – With chefs being the new celebrity, and the popularity of food shows on the rise, it was only fitting that we follow the trend. For a board of director’s team-building activity, we took the board out of the ‘board room’ and moved them into a kitchen. We put together teams of two. Each team won a ‘mystery box’ based on an earlier competition. The boxes all contained three different instructions for recipes ranging from easy to difficult. To judge the teams, we had a local chef, local food critic, and the local morning show host.


Something for Everyone – On an incentive trip, we did an off-site dine around. We started the night with a very engaging cocktail hour at a local artist gallery. The artist is also a jewelry designer so she set-up a station for the ladies to make earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. There was a station for the guys to roll cigars. Everyone enjoyed hor d’oeuvres and champagne as they strolled around the gallery.


Generating Buzz – To get attendees excited about an annual sales conference, we started a social campaign two days prior to arrivals. We asked attendees to show us how excited they were and what they were doing to prepare for the trip by tweeting photos with the company mascot (they all had a stuffed animal). All that participated would win a VIP prize at the meeting. Attendees tweeted photos of the mascot; of themselves buying travel-sized products, packing, dancing with TSA agents, and in the cockpit. We worked with Foursquare to create a badge that acted as an invite to a VIP after-party.

What have you done recently with your meetings? Have you heard of an idea that you eagerly want to try? We would love if you shared how you are keeping your meetings fresh!

Happy Planning!!!

Danielle Childress

Danielle Childress

Danielle Childress (Dani) has planned everything from board meetings for 6 to product launches for 500 to the NFL Experience at the Super Bowl for 100,000.

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