Have you ever received an email invitation that makes you dance?
I got this special email notification in September. I was invited to an exclusive Julius Solaris Innovation Lab at Northwest Event Show. First, I was first shocked and then excited to join an exclusive group of 50 people who get to work together to design innovative event experiences.
I remember dancing with joy and dreaming of possibilities for creating a memorable experience for my upcoming Women In Cloud Summit.
During the Innovation Lab, I remember dreaming and beginning to architect experiences on how to get 1000+ attendees to be part of the experience and empowering them all to have ownership for creating economic access movement.
Here are the 5 innovative and emerging event trends that we adopted to make our community events come alive and our audience wanting more:
- INCLUSIVITY AT THE FOREFRONT: As the world moves deeper into the digital space, human connections become more valuable. And from what I’ve seen, people want to meet their idols and thought leaders in person, eager for inspiring and enriching dialogues. We focused on identifying, inviting and engaging with people who can create share diverse ideas and perspectives.
- We had over 350+ speakers appy to speak and we created inclusive opportunities for 125+ speakers. It was an undertaking. Our speakers were part of highlighted experiences such as Plenaries, Community Roundtables, Breakout, Receptions, Executive Roundtables, #AISolutions2030, #CloudInnovateHER Pitch Challenge, and the Cloud Accelerator Graduation Ceremony.
- We also announced the New York Proclamation where the The New York Comptroller’s Office issued a proclamation to support economic development with women tech entrepreneurs by Women in Cloud. Wendy Garcia, Chief Diversity Officer person ally awarded the proclamation in front of 1100+ people at Women In Cloud Summit. This showed inclusion and belonging. This expression of support helped me learn that to create inclusivity at the forefront, you need the following ingredients:
- Experiences : Design experience where the attendees and speakers are taking ownership to educate each other
- Speakers : Selection of speakers from diverse communities and giving them the platform to advance their dreams and goals
- Technology : You need to evolve with technology. 100% required. Relying on Excel as your primary tool is no longer effective.
- SUSTAINABILITY: When we were planning for our event, everyone wanted a sustainable event. I was excited to take on this challenge and position our community as global citizens to ensure that we don’t cause intentional harm to the planet, our home. We adopted reduce, reuse, and recycle mindset for our event and then made tangible decisions to make our event sustainable:
- Venue Choice: We picked Microsoft conference center as they had already adopted sustainable practices. Recently they announced that they will become carbon neutral by 2030. This took the majority of the stress away as they handled all the nuances of sustainability.
- Mobile Event App : No paper program was handed out. All information regarding the event was shared digitally and attendees interacted on our app
- Water Access: No paper cups. In partnership with Cupanion, we handed out water bottles that actively encouraged reuse. Every time somebody refilled a bottle, 2 cents was donated toward improving water accessibility in Bangladesh.
- Food Choices: We chose to offer 80% plant-based food and only 20% meat. It was heartening to see how plant-based food was consumed more than meat, which goes to show that people choose better when they are provided options.
- Badges made of recycled materials and we worked with a company that helped to make this possible – plus we got discounts for using recyclable stuff.
- Signages were designed for reusing for year over year. We picked the event branding guidelines to use the signages in every event. This will save money and our carbon footprint over the long term
- IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE: The Innovation Lab gave us the framework to design immersive experiences. To accomplish this effort, we made these decisions:
- Collective Action Lounge: We invited 7 partners to provide experiences where our attendees could take action. The experiences that were made available were : Rock Your LinkedIn Profile by Extra Mile Marketing, Executive Coaching by International Coach Federation, Create Smiles By Sharing Your Gratitude Box, Wellness at Work with Saje Natural Wellness and others, Sign the Pledge and Learn your UN SDG Goals and more. We provided space and logistics support. They created all of the experiences. It was amazing.
- Interactive Photo Booth: I wish I had 3 of them. It was so popular. Everyone wanted to take group photos and create memories. The lines, buzzing with excitement, felt like a mile long with smiles the whole way. Highly recommend.
- Immersive Session: Self Improvement using immersive learning like experiences are always fun. This allowed everyone to get engaged.
- Audience Engagement: We had Patty Dobrowolski and she made everyone draw their future. It was so cool to see everyone build their future in 10 minutes.
- #AISolutions2030 Innovation Hub: We partnered with Ideagen and they engaged the community to build AI solutions to solve UN Global Goals.
- TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION: I cannot emphasize enough that technology was the secret sauce for adopting innovative tech trends. We used 5 solutions to reduce chaos:
- Eventbrite: All registrations were done through one system. It was easy to manage all activities with attendees.
- SpeakerEngage: We managed all our speakers, sponsors, community members, and resources on one platform. From data collection, managing relationships and sending communications we managed through it. We had over 350+ speakers apply to speak and gave access to 125+ speakers. Ultimately we saved over 350+ hours as the system tracks time savings. We didn’t use Excel to manage people and data. Everyone knew the agenda and communications that were sent so no finger pointing at each other. Disclosing: We are the builders of this solution to help us create an inclusive & interactive experience.
- Docusign: We get all sponsor and partnership agreements signed through docusign to reduce the legal paperwork. No printed papers and a much more sustainable solution.
- Upstream Event App: We leveraged an Entegy solution for managing onsite event communications. It left the community feeling empowered to take actions on their own without visiting a help desk.
- MightyNetwork: We used the community network for engaging our community before, during and after the event. Highly recommend it.
- AFTERGLOW EXPERIENCE : As I mentioned before, your event must be an experience, not just an “event”. An experience that provides benefits and fun for your audience. Have an after-party and invite everyone, activate community action plans immediately after the event, or just take everyone to a basketball game! For the Women in Cloud Summit 2020 after-party, we secured 1000 tickets to go watch a game of the Seattle Storm, a WNBA basketball team based in Seattle, Washington!
And there we have it – A list of what to definitely include at your event to make it inclusive, indispensable and immersive. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to execute your dream event. Curious about how to join some of the WiC after-event experiences, check my blog on LinkedIn.
After all, together we can do anything! Feel free to reach out to me if you are thinking of partnering with us and co-creating experience that is immersive, sustainable and inclusive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chaitra Vedullapalli is recognized as an Influential Business Leader with a passion to enable digital equity and access to achieve economic prosperity in our communities. She is the co-founder and CMO of Meylah, focused on helping customers to modernize their business with cloud solutions. Vedullapalli is also the co-founder of Women in Cloud, sits on many boards and drives global conversations with the United Nations and top corporations throughout the U.S.
Using the power of AI, Cloud, and IoT, Vedullapalli Is fiercely committed to empowering business owners to access the digital economy. She is recognized as an author, speaker and change leader, holds a patent, is a TEDx and United Nation Speaker and was honored as a top 100 Small Business Influencer. https://www.beautiful.ai/player/-LjPm_XdXJny-g6si2E8
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