Brand Connection

Three New Formats To Increase Engagement At Your Event

/ Oct 9, 2019 (Getty Images photo)

Everyone wants to make their event more engaging, output-focused, and fun. But it’s hard to know how to get started. Here are three formats to try!

Interactive is the word of the day. Everyone wants to make their event more engaging, more output-focused, and more fun. But it’s hard to know how to get started. The Event Innovators Exchange is here to help!

The Event Innovators Exchange is a group of creative and tactical people who are looking to build and iterate on their ideas. This team of event experts from across multiple associations focuses on experimenting with innovative formats and sharing actionable tips and tricks that planners can implement immediately in their programs.

At our last gathering, we experimented with an Idea Jam. The goal was to try out three formats for idea generation, refine the experience so it could be easily shared with the community, and also generate solutions for our own issues in the process.

Want to hold your own idea jam at your next event? Here is an overview of the formats we explored:

Solutions for Humanity

This play on a popular card game format allows every voice to be heard. In each group of 4-6 people, one person is the ignitor. This person puts forth an issue that they are trying to solve. Each individual in the group writes their idea on an index card and passes to the ignitor. The ignitor reads the cards aloud and selects the solution that is the best fit for their problem. Another round begins with a new person serving as the ignitor. This format creates a safe space for idea sharing because it removes the fear of an idea being not good enough, as the ideas are submitted anonymously. It also allows each person to contribute, instead of strong personalities running the conversation.

Idea Aquarium

This is a play on the traditional fishbowl format. Participants are invited to sit in the circle, leaving one seat empty. Those who are not seated stand around the chairs to observe. The only people allowed to talk are the moderator and those in the circle.

A person in the circle poses an issue and the people in the circle discuss it. When someone from outside of the circle wants to comment, they step in and sit in the empty seat. When the empty seat is taken, someone from inside the circle must self-select to leave the circle so that there is always a seat left empty.

This is a great format to use when tackling a difficult issue. It creates a space for active listening and meaningful contribution.

Rapid Idea Generation

This is a high-energy format that is great to use to break up the afternoon slump.

After a warm-up/icebreaker question, an issue is posed to the room. Each table is asked to generate as many ideas as possible in seven minutes. They are instructed to write one idea per post-it. After seven minutes post all of the ideas on the wall and have the participants group them and vote for the best ideas. They then self-select which of the winning ideas they want to work on. The group then spends 15 minutes building out the idea they selected. They pitch to the room and the room has the opportunity to add to the idea.

The tangible output of the post-its provides a great visual, showing how much the group can do when they work together in a focused way.


For more information on how to run these sessions, download our Idea Jam guide.

Interested in more? Subscribe to“Otter Talk,” a bi-monthly newsletter that highlights trends, ideas, and actionable takeaways for your association events, written by an experienced member of the planning community who has lived the “planning life.”

Beth Surmont, the Director of Experience Design for 360 Live Media, has nearly 20 years of professional planning experience. A Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) since 2008 and Certified Association Executive (CAE) since 2016, Beth has worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors and has a wide range of knowledge, with experience in almost every aspect of meeting planning, from registration, to logistics, to program management and production.