Friday, 20 November 2015

What did the Ancients ever do for events?

Forum - Public square in an ancient Roman city, a place for citizens to gather.
Symposium - A Greek or Roman drinking party with intellectual conversation.
Auditorium - From the Latin - place where something is heard
Amphitheater - The Colosseum was Rome's leading amphitheater and held 70,000 
Roman Saturnalia - Celebration of winter solstice in which masters switched place with slaves 
Circus Maximus in Rome - chariot racing venue in Rome that held nearly 200,000 citizens
Olympics - ....

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Event Creatives Forum

Coming up through the event industry, working in different creative and strategic roles, I was always disappointed that there was no group or organisation in which to meet people doing similar things. I've always gone to Account Planning Group meetings or D&AD things, but they're for advertising and design folk and never focus on live stuff. So, with that in mind it is now great to be helping to start the Event Creatives Forum. If you'd like to get involved in some way do get in touch. More info to follow.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Where to focus your event innovation

Julius at Event Manager Blog asked me to write something on deciding where to innovate your events. This seems to have been well received.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Hot Content

I've been taking another look at Into the Heart of Meetings and came across a useful content framework. Content is an overused and nebulous word, often confused with format, so it's good to see a simple way of thinking about how to achieve 'hot' content.

Next time you're designing content for an event try using the below. Firstly, define which of the six possible reasons for having the event (down the left-hand side) apply, then think about what is going to make the content hot (four areas along the top).

Content that's sticky - means understanding what really drives people / what they are afraid of / excited by / annoyed by.

Content with an impact on participants' lives - topicality is key here, what are the hot topics within an organisation?

Content that presents an inner conflict - for example, an organisation has two choices, but can't afford to do both.

Content that arouses curiosity - people want to know how something that has started continues and ends. Find the unfinished story in your content.

Monday, 24 June 2013


I'm halfway through reading Into The Heart of Meetings. The authors have done their 10,000 hours of event design and have some good things to share.

They make the often forgotten point that people participate in events with their minds and their bodies - 'the mind can only absorb what the bottom can endure', to quote Mark Twain. They reference the fact that in the first of a series of talks between Regan and Gorbachev in the eighties to end the Cold War, one of them tried to change the meeting conventions by inviting the other for a walk in the garden.

This got me thinking and googling the concept of walking meetings and sure enough....

The WonderWalk

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

What is this place?

One for you narrative designers.

Here's a simple but true piece of advice from Margaret J. King, Director of The Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, interviewed in The Immersive Worlds Handbook.

"There's an intuitive cascade of questions the mind asks when it enters a new place. It never varies. Before they can do anything else, designers have to answer the Cascade. The first question a designer needs to answer is "What is this place?" The answer has to be clear and instantaneous, which means that the first element of the design must be the Mindsetter. The Mindsetter is the capsule, the thumbnail portrait, the abstract - the first thing people see that gives them an impression of what they can expect the place to be. Without it, you have uncertainty, and uncertainty leads to avoidance. Time and time again I've seen people walk into museum lobbies - stunning architectural statements - look at the admission price, and see nothing that gives them any idea of what experience they are being asked to buy into. They turn and walk out. Without an effective instantaneous Mindsetter, the rest of the designer's work is wasted because it will never be seen."

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Kinetic Rain

Monday, 16 July 2012

Wisdom of Seth

I just rediscovered some screen grabs I used to take of pertinent Seth Godin posts. Here's a good one (click it to view).

Thursday, 5 July 2012

New Conferencing

I haven't been writing much here recently, but have been posting things on the Live Union site,  including this piece on the changing drivers behind conference attendance.

There was a time when people predicted the demise of the conference, digital channels ending the need for audiences to come together in the same physical place. In fact, the reverse has happened, in spite of our economic woes more people are finding the time and money to get out of the office and go to events. But their reasons for attending and what they want from a conference have changed.
Successful event organisers need to understand the changing dynamic of conference attendance and respond with a new type of exciting, brave and fit-for purpose events – what we call New Conferencing.

So, firstly what are the new drivers behind conference attendance?

1) Concentrate
The brilliant book The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working highlights just how distracting the modern work place is. Increasingly conferences offer that rare chance to get away from the office and spend time thinking about the things that really matter.

2) Collaborate
Pre-internet conferences had a role to play in simply sharing inspiration. Today we’re overwhelmed by the amount of inspiration we receive, whether through twitter or our RSS feed. People go to a conference not simply to hear more inspiration but to do something with that inspiration, to discuss it, to apply it to some scenarios, to test out a few half-baked thoughts on other attendees.

3) Contribute
Thanks to blogging, forums and social media many of us are more confident about creating our own content. Where in the past people were largely happy to go along to conferences to listen and maybe tentatively ask a question, today a growing sector of the audience want to help shape the agenda (both in advance and on the day) and have a platform for their own voice.

4) Catalyze
Ideas first raised at conferences are given oxygen by the online conversations that continue around them. As the number of digital channels and the sheer volume of discussion around conferences grow so does their ability to catalyze innovation. People are attracted to the very best events to be at the epi-centre of new thinking.

5) Connect
Ok, so people have always gone to events to network but in the age of digital social networking, real world connections are becoming ever more highly valued.
So how can those of us who create events for internal and business audiences ensure that we are meeting these changing audience needs? Here are five things to think about:

1) Build more hallways
Architects use the expression ‘collision zones’ to describe the important areas in buildings where people bump into each other and chat. Conference spaces should be designed in the same way to help people network and collaborate.

2) Drop a few speakers
Too often conferences are jam packed with presentations and workshops and don’t leave enough time for delegates to chat amongst themselves. Think about longer breaks, and allocating more time for discussion and networking.

3) Open up the agenda
Most people have heard of unconferences – events organised around a particular topic that turn over the entire agenda to the audience and encourage people to host their own sessions on areas of interest to them. Whilst this might not be right for your event, the spirit of pushing boundaries and turning attendees into participants is a good one. Perhaps you could have a part of the day where groups of people facing similar challenges can get together and share experiences?

4) Try some new technology
The printed conference pack will soon be a thing of the past replaced by event Apps that not only supply the information people need but help them hook up with other attendees and contribute questions and opinions. At the same time virtual conference technologies are getting much better at helping remote audiences play an active part in an event. Consider trialling some of these things.

5) Make it fun
As many of us become more desk bound, we crave an excuse to get out and have some fun. Conferences should be the antidote to the flat-lining corporate HQ. How about trying some new presentation formats such Pecha Kucha? Or, perhaps you could use gamification as a way to involve the audience in the content?

Audiences are willing you to do something different, hopefully this list is a useful start-point.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Reprogramming the city

In 2009 Volkswagen started something called Fun Theory, most of you have probably come across it. The was that the best way to change behaviour is to make something fun and they invited people to put forward ideas, the best of which they made happen. So we got piano stairs, each step playing a different key as you walked up them, encouraging people to take exercise rather than the escalator, and the world's deepest bin to encourage people to be tidy.

Volkswagen's programme is part of a wider trend to make urban spaces more playful, the great Pop-up city blog calls this trend Urbanism Made to Like. Often intended simply to encourage more interaction between people or challenge how we see our surroundings, these projects are growing in number and you can expect to see many more of them in the future. Here are some that are either running right now or very recently.

Currently living in a Selfridges' window in London the Word-a-Coaster fortune dispenser, designed by It's Nice That and Stewdio, contains 30,000 different fortunes for shoppers.

City Swings
21 musical swings installed in downtown Montreal. Each one triggering different notes when in swinging to create a changing soundscape.

Photos by olivierblouin

This Cultural Olympiad art project, currently underway in London , features 30 red and black LED screens placed on the tops of bus-tops and hence visible only from the upper deck of a bus. Anyone can have their idea displayed simply by uploading an animated gif to the website.

photos by 4lfie 

Responsive Railings 
One day these fantastic railings designed by  Cinemod Studio appeared around the corner from our office. Twenty meters of fun.

Finial Response from Cinimod Studio on Vimeo.

These projects are a street level reflection of a general trend for planning fun into cities. You see it in the vogue for giving London buildings silly names; the gherkin, the walkie talkie, the cheese grater, not to mention that there is currently a boat grounded on top of the Southbank.

Perhaps they'll come a point when we stop wanting our cities to be like playgrounds but for the moment we seem happy to for these projects to challenge how we see our everyday surroundings.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Rebirth of Real

"Paradoxically as we spend more time online, demand for stuff that can't be faked becomes greater... authenticity as compensation." David Byrne - Bicycle Diaries

Thursday, 22 December 2011

How to read a book

Via Brain Pickings.

... hardly anything captures both the utilitarian necessity and cultural mesmerism of marginalia better than this excerpt from the classic How to Read a Book, originally written by Mortimer Adler in 1940 and revised with Charles van Doren in 1972:

When you buy a book, you establish a property right in it, just as you do in clothes or furniture when you buy and pay for them. But the act of purchase is actually only the prelude to possession in the case of a book. Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it – which comes to the same thing – is by writing in it. 

Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? First, it keeps you awake – not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author.

Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. Presumably he knows more about the subject than you do; if not, you probably should not be bothering with his book. But understanding is a two-way operation; the learner has to question himself and question the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him."

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

More of this

 More Christmas tree based jollity over here.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Lego Tree

Clever partnership between Lego and St Pancras. Great fit for both parties.