New Event Strategies: The Art of the Refresh

1. Ignite Talks. Ignite talks are fun, fast presentations that have become an international phenomenon since first appearing about ten years ago. For this format, speakers build five minute, 20-slide presentations, with each slide automatically advancing every 15 seconds. During the session, attendees informally stand around the speaker – which makes this format easy to implement in a wide variety of event venues.

According to Ignite’s founders, these five minute sessions and informal set-ups mean “anyone, anywhere can learn and present their ideas and stories.” Consider using an Ignite-style talk for rapid-fire new idea or research presentations.

2. PechaKucha Talks. Similar to Ignite Talks, PechaKucha (Japanese for ”chit chat”) is a simple presentation format where speakers show 20 images for 20 seconds each – to deliver a six minute and 40 second speech.

PechaKucha talks are especially popular in design-based or creative industry events. Some event hosts even invite all attendees to give a PechaKucha presentation – and then use the ideas shared to jumpstart brainstorming sessions.

3. Campfire Sessions. This year, the Advocamp schedule included campfire sessions – small groups of attendees informally sharing stories and strategies with each other during breaks. Advocamp even added marshmallows to the laid-back setting to simulate campfire storytelling.

A campfire approach is an excellent way for attendees to network and learn from their peers – with no real fire needed. And one of the new event strategies we are definitely warming up to.

4. Unconferences. Unconferences feature participant-driven content. For example, many unconferences start with the attendees creating the agenda on-site—and then deciding who will lead various segments. This format is also characterized by open group discussions versus “soap-box”-style speakers.

This format is best for groups with similar experience or knowledge—where high levels of attendee participation are likely. For instance, unconference sessions have worked well at tech conferences in lieu of traditional breakout sessions.

5. World Cafés.The World Café methodology is a flexible format designed to facilitate large group dialogue. The typical set-up is to seat groups of four to five attendees at small roundtables equipped with colored pens.

The host kicks the Café off by posing an open-ended question or sharing a problem that needs solving. Each table then spends 20 minutes talking about the topic. After each timed segment, participants move to different tables. Either a new topic is posed, or the same question is repeated. Following the roundtable discussions, the small groups share their insights with the entire group.

The benefits of this format are that it increases participation and make attendees feel like they’re part of the problem-solving process.

6. Tech Café. No relation to World Cafés, the Tech Café format gives attendees hands-on experience with new technologies and an opportunity to “test-drive” different solutions.

One way to implement a Tech Café would be to set-up a dedicated space for hands-on play. Place a Tech Café in a coffee break space to spark conversation and collaboration among attendees.

7. Graphic Recordings. Also called graphic facilitation, this popular process distills key takeaways from meetings, seminars, workshops and presentations into colorful, engaging drawings. A graphic facilitator/artist listens to speakers and summarizes key information on a large poster or sign.

The visual representations shared by the graphic facilitator help attendees retain and use the information they’ve learned at the event. Plus, the highly visual representation makes great shareable content that can be socially shared within and beyond the event.

8. Sli.Do. Everyone has seen an event staffer sprint up the aisle during Q&A so attendees can use the handheld mic to ask a keynote speaker a question. Sli.Do automates this process by enabling all attendees – even the shy, silent ones – to ask questions. Sil.Do works like this: attendees submit questions as they think of them at any time during the presentation. Then Sil.Do aggregates the questions into a queue for the presenter – and even allows participants to up-vote their favorite questions so the speaker knows what to address first.