Christine de la Huerta|Jun 20, 2012

At one point or another, most PR people will have to plan and stage an event. Whether it’s a media opportunity, charity ball, industry conference or launch party, there are loads of do’s and don’ts in successful event planning.

Among those do’s is coming up with those special details that make an event alluring, unique and memorable. However, it’s important to remember that while no two events are ever alike, they often have similar checklists.

While at the SXSW Interactive conference earlier this year, we observed some interesting trends that can—and should—be applied to your event planning agenda, especially in the digital age.

SXSW itself was basically a conglomeration of smaller events—some educational, some social, some inspirational. From appealing to the senses to providing easy social sharing opportunities, these are some of the best takeaways from SXSW for making your next event shine.

  1. Food (and drinks) – You can usually appeal to an audience through their stomachs.There was no shortage of tummy wooing in Austin. What stood out? Branded food. Yummy buttercream Dell frosting. Popcorn bags stamped with Foursquare. Chocolate Microsoft cupcakes. Imprinted food stays imprinted in your brain. (As for the popcorn: Crazy colors and flavors are IN. I never thought I would like lemon dill popcorn, but it was GOOD!)
  2. Make scents – There are other senses to tempt aside from taste. Scents are a possibility for your event, too. If you are trying to create a unique and memorable atmosphere, you can pump aromas into your room mechanically, especially if they tie into your product or event theme. Non-visual brand cues are often stronger than the obvious ones.
  3. Photo booths – These are still the rage. Consider this digitally-savvy twist we spotted at SXSW: Instead of just getting an instant print, there’s a picture file you can view on an iPad and instantly share over your own social media accounts, complete with a branded photo frame and links to the sponsor.
  4. Touch wristbands – As guests enteredmany SXSW events, they were offered a wristband to “check in” at the various stations.Wristbands are linked to a guest’s social media accounts, to extend the reach of your event to friends of friends online.This can also provide data to help you track event traffic and audience insights.
  5. Smart freebies – Branded freebies are still in; the difference is the call to action. Rather than a logo or website, have promotional tchotchkes direct attendees to your online communities on social media sites. Also, thanks to 3D printers, you can now design and print your own marketing swag.
  6. QR codes – Web marketers everywhere had predicted their imminent demise, but QR codes were prevalent at SXSW. Know your audience and determine whether they would be well received.
  7. #Hashtags everywhere – This is probably the single most important tactic you can employ. Establish a hashtag for your event. Display it early and often. Use it in email notifications, on your website and throughout your event. It can be on signs, screens, tables or the footer of a slideshow you’re presenting. This will encourage social sharing and extend the online visibility of your event. Display monitors with a live Twitter feed during your event so everyone can participate in the conversation. Make sure you tweet throughout the duration and reply to active participants.

These are just a few of the trends in creative event planning we picked up at SXSW. As you can see, new technology allows us to blend digital physical and sensory worlds in fascinating ways. Event checklists have certainly evolved in ways your caterer could never have predicted!

What other event ideas do you see as game changers? Let us know in the comments!

rbb’s events division can help make sure your event is flawless, memorable and meets your organization’s strategic goals.


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