No matter what sort of event you’re hosting, one of your main goals is to make it as memorable as possible for all the right reasons. You want your guests and attendees to leave with a big smile on their face, and having been inspired, motivated and informed about whatever it is your event was based around.
This isn’t always easy to do. As any event planner will be quick to tell you, it’s all too easy for attendees to gather into cliques and small groups who struggle to interact with each other.
This is human nature, after all. It’s by no means uncommon to feel slightly hesitant to mix with strangers or new faces, even if it is in our best interests to do so.
However, in order to make your event go off with a bang, your attendees are going to have to step out of their comfort zone, and interact with all the other people they’re sharing a space with.
This will give everyone an opportunity to make new connections, and they’ll leave your event feeling more fulfilled, and with a fantastically positive impression.
Tap into a competitive spirit
Easier said than done, right? Well, not necessarily. More and more event management companies are thinking outside the box when it comes to getting attendees communicating with each other, and immersing themselves in the experience of being at an event. Many top events companies are now recommending using off-the-wall contests and fun, interactive games and challenges to promote this heightened level of immersion.
It’s worth remembering, however, that for people who attend events quite regularly, coming across the same contest again and again can cause them to become jaded and cynical - exactly the feelings we’re trying to get you to avoid! It’s hard not to get bored of raffles, spinning wheels and games guessing how many sweets are in a jar, and these are hardly contests that will have people chatting excitedly after your event is over.
It’s well worth dreaming up some unusual, unexpected contests and inventive, imaginative games and competitions for your events. It’s this that will get people buzzing, sharing their experiences on social media, and eagerly awaiting your next event.
A word of advice, though - if you want your event contest to truly garner enthusiasm and involvement, it always helps for them to have some relevance to the subject of the event. There’s nothing worse than setting up a contest, presenting it to your audience, and for them to look back blankly, muttering to each other about what on earth they’ve been asked to do. Make sure everything slots together, and add in thematic details which link to the wider event.
If you’re stuck for ideas we’ve thought long and hard about the subject, and have come up with seven suggestions that are flexible, fun, and sure to help spice up any event and get attendees on their feet and get involved. Give them a try, and see the results for yourselves.
1. Get creative with photography
In the age of the smartphone, we’re all amateur photographers nowadays, so why not tap into that and incorporate it as part of your event?
There are thousands of things you can do regarding photo contests at your event. One of the most effective is to get your attendees to try and take artistic photographs of the event or surrounding areas, and upload it to a photo sharing site with a pre-decided hashtag.
You can then judge the photos at the end of the day, and pick out your favourite three, or have winners in different categories such as ‘funniest snap’, ‘best wannabe photojournalist’ or ‘best surrealist shot’ etc. Selfie contests, too, are a great way to add an element of fun to the day, and it’s something that everyone can get involved in with a smile on their face.
2. And the award for best cinematography goes to...
When it comes to video, we’ve seen some really effective contests based around short film clips recorded by attendees. Some events have set up ‘confessional booths’ in some corner of their space, in which guests can record their thoughts about the event, or suggestions for how it might be improved next year.
Others simply ask their attendees to make a short film which represents their feeling about the event, or which could best sum up the day - we’ve seen people even make short music videos, David Attenborough-style nature documentaries and breaking news reports, which are things attendees can really get their teeth into!
At the end of the event, these videos can either be edited together to make some sort of show reel, or the best of the best can be gathered and voted on by the attendees. Not only do guests love expressing their inner movie director, but you also end up with some top shareable content for your social media profiles - its win-win!
3. Game Show Inspiration
There’s loads of inspiration to be taken from TV game shows, and most people have quite nostalgic feelings about some of the classic quizzes and contests we grew up watching on the TV or listening to on the radio.
We all have our favourites, but some work better than others. Some of the most effective game show-based contests you can hold at events are those which require a bit of preparation. ‘Family Fortunes’ is one which, when executed properly, can work really well. It involves sending out a questionnaire to your guests before the event in order to get the popular answers your chosen teams will have to find, which is something which can build up excitement and anticipation before your event starts.
Another really effective contest is a timeless one taken from BBC Radio 4. ‘Just A Minute’ requires teams to speak about a chosen subject (again, a great chance to bring in thematic elements from the event) for exactly one minute, without hesitating, repeating themselves or deviating from the subject - it’s more difficult than it sounds, and it can lead to hilarious results.
So, think back to your favourite quiz shows from yesteryear, and we’re sure you’ll be able to come up with something fantastic for your event.
These kinds of contests tend to work better at slightly smaller events, maybe with a maximum of 50 people involved (as some will have to be audience members or involved in a different way), but there are always ways to adapt them to include more people.
4. Pub Quiz
When done properly, this can be a great way to round off an event, get people teaming up with each other in order to share knowledge, and giving your guests the opportunity to enjoy themselves and win some top prizes.
Make sure you provide a wide range of categories for your questions, throw in some unusual rounds (music rounds are always fun, as well as filling in the blanks), and have at least one round of questions dedicated to the event itself.
One of the best things about pub quizzes is that they can be quite intimate or quite large in scale, and are suitable for the end of a conference or awards ceremony, as well as other types of events.
Make sure you have a minimum and maximum team size, though - it’s not fair if one team has 10 members and another has only 2.
5. Getting Poetic
You don’t have to be William Wordsworth in order to get a kick out of writing poetry. In fact, you don’t need to have any discernible literary talent at all - you just need to pick up a pen and a piece of paper, and have a bit of fun with your words.
Poetry competitions are great for event contests, for many reasons. One of the best things about them is that - as long as everybody engages with it - you might end up with a massive range of different submissions - from silly limericks to parody poems and genuinely beautiful pieces of writing - and they can be presented back to your guests at a designated time and place in your event.
You could even hold a ‘poetry slam’ or open mic event, at which people could get onto a stage and read their pieces aloud (you could judge them by the volume of the applause each one receives).
The most effective poetry contests that we’ve seen have been those which had some sort of structure or challenge element to them, just to get things kicked off on the right foot.
For example, attendees might be asked to write a poem containing certain words or themes, or a poem in which every word begins with a sequential letter - such as the letters on a QWERTY keyboard.
6. Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are a classroom classic which maintain plenty of appeal for adults, and they’re also a perfect way to get your attendees talking to each other.
The best scavenger hunts are presented as group activities - ideal for networking - and we often see groups merging with other groups, making deals and alliances in order to get a tactical advantage!
The hunts often end up being great for teambuilding and networking, and they’ll also get your attendees moving freely around your event space, familiarising themselves with everything that is going on.
You could think up some cryptic clues which relate to the location of some of the prizes. You can introduce riddles, red herrings, and pirate maps… whatever you feel will work best with your crowd!
These are actually great fun with conferences and trade shows, and they allow attendees to move among stalls and they may need to talk to a wide array of people.
7. Construction contests
Construction contests at events really give your attendees a chance to get their heads together, pool their resources, and exercise some leadership skills, too.
The classic version we have seen involves building a structure strong enough to suspend a large dictionary or house brick off the floor, using nothing more than sheets of A4 paper and some sticky tape. Of course, there are endless variations on this, but each is designed to get people talking, and get them involved in a real challenge which can yield surprising and impressive results.
Of course, there’s also lots of opportunity to have fun with this challenge as well - not everybody needs to take it so seriously! You can have a prize for the best decorated structure, or the ‘most ambitious’ one, but we have been genuinely bowled over in the past with how ingenious some constructions have been!
Building positive energy
This can be achieved in many ways, and it may be that your attendees will find plenty to love about your event without the need for extra or interesting activities.
However, if you want your event to be memorable, and if you want your guests to be sharing their positive experiences on social media, and booking their tickets to the next one as soon as they leave, contests are a great way to increase that level of immersion.
People want to meet people. They want the ice to be broken for them. They want to laugh, to think, to come away from an event having achieved something… even if that achievement involved reading a poem in front of 100 strangers, or deciphering a series of clues in a scavenger hunt.
They want to be challenged, and to be full of smiles and positive energy. Contests aren’t the only way to hit that sweet spot, but we really do believe that they are one of the most effective!
So, there you have it - 7 top ideas for involving contests in your next event! Have you encountered any similar contests at recent events? Have you come across anything totally different and exciting that you think should have been on this list? We’d love to hear from you all about it!