I've heard many an event manager proclaim: "Wow! Did you see that amazing meeting/presentation/product launch /________ (fill in the blank)?! Where'd they get the idea for that?"
This praise, however, is often followed by disappointment: "I wish we could afford to do that!" or "I just never see anything new/exciting/memorable/ ___ (fill in your own adjective)."
In response, I say: Expose yourself! Now don't get nervous; what I mean is, you've got to challenge yourself and your suppliers. Get out there. Expose yourself to what's new in the world, not just what's new in your industry.
To develop truly creative ideas, go see events, attractions, and environments that are truly creative. Take in as much as you can. Spend whatever free time you have on the road experiencing theme parks, museums, science centers, theme restaurants, theatrical productions, corporate visitor centers, films of all sorts, zoos, and sporting events--anything designed to entertain. These are the places you'll see the creativity of people from a variety of different backgrounds--not just corporate event producers.
And exposure leads to inspiration. The truth is that all creative events are reassembled creative ideas from other events.
Weirder Is Better What should you see? The list is long, but your production firm should be able to help. For example, as we approach October's end, this is the time of year that I invite my clients and prospects to a slightly pagan, rabble-rousing event that comes around only once a year. You may think I mean Halloween, but it's actually much weirder than that. It's called IAAPA, and it's one of the most creative annual events in the world. IAAPA is the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, and each year it puts on one hell of a conference and. The general sessions and breakouts all focus on what's new and what's next in the world of entertainment, attractions, and events. Walk the floor and you'll find virtual-reality pods next to doughnut makers next to large-format film companies next to floating torsos serving as presenters who want to engage you in a rational conversation.
Although the IAAPA exhibitors sound like a motley crew, they share one thing--they are all in business to enhance guest experiences. One way or another, they are in business to make sure the end-user walks away whistling "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!" (If you would like an invitation, let me know.)
The IAAPA Conference and Trade Show is one of the most exciting and productive events of the year for my clients (other than their own events, of course). But it doesn't stop there. I keep them informed thoughout the year about new events and attractions. The companies you work with should be able to do the same if you are looking for outside-the-box, new, emotional experiences for your events. Other great resources include trade journals like At The Park, Park World, Entertainment Design, or Funworld.
Or, forget the entertainment industry research entirely. Look for ways to stir up your personal inspiration. People tell me to take a hike all the time, so finally I did. I climbed Mount Rainier last month. I'd been postponing it for a number of reasons, but finally just picked a date and started training. I don't want to sound too much like Dennis Hopper in "Apocalypse Now," but the experience opened my mind. Now I'm able to look at risk-taking and other challenges with new eyes. Like me, I'm sure there's something that you keep putting off. My advice is to go for it. Do it. Not just for the inspiration to design a truly creative event, but to enrich your life and make your time here more enjoyable. Expose yourself.