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30 Creative Event Ideas to Engage Your Audience

In The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, Chip and Dan Heath explain:

"If we understand what powerful moments are made of, we can be more intentional in creating them."

Conferences and events provide great opportunities to create powerful, even life-changing moments. But as with any significant undertaking, you need to be intentional - moments rarely happen by accident. Here are 30 event ideas to get you thinking - please share your ideas in the comments below. And here's a summary of one of the most memorable events I have attended - Catalyst 2012:

  1. Start late. As in, don't make people wake up early to get to the first session. Not needing to wake up early or rush is a nice break from routine.
  2. Use spoken word. I heard Stevie Wills at The Justice Conference in 2016 and she was brilliant. Propaganda is another great example of the impact of spoken word.
  3. Use drama. The People of the Sun at the Justice Conference is one of the few times I've seen drama done well.
  4. Include a musical item. This is a great opportunity to mix it up with different genres and styles to connect with delegates.
  5. Share the impact. People appreciate hearing how other delegates are being impacted by the event. Collecting these stories (social media, text message, etc.) and then sharing them from up the front is one way of doing this, and also encourages others as they see how others are benefiting and being transformed.
  6. Be surprising. Do what people don't expect - at Catalyst I saw an interview with a couple who had for many years sponsored a boy from Haiti with Compassion. They then brought the boy onto the stage to meet them for the first time - it was a beautiful moment.
  7. Share the Lord's Supper. Don Carson leading 1400 delegates in communion at Oxygen in 2014 is one of the most moving and memorable conference moments I've experienced.
  8. Say things together. At Christian events there is often singing but speaking together (e.g. the Lord's prayer, a confession, or some other form of liturgy) can be another way of uniting delegates around common beliefs.
  9. Be generous. At the Oxygen conference, money was raised to provide delegates with quality book packs. Even 7 years on, this experience is something that delegates remember and talk about.
  10. Review resources. Books are frequently reviewed but don't forget about music and apps either. I have reviewed apps to help with for Bible reading, devotionals, prayer and accountability software.
  11. Mix up the length of talks. At BASECAMP we've introduced 12-minute 'Build Up' talks where men from different backgrounds share practical wisdom for living well as a Christian man.
  12. Create a 'wall of action'. Provide a space for delegates to share (e.g. on a post-it-note) their next steps, or a reflection or something they are thankful for.
  13. Run a poll. Using a tool like Glisser, PollEvent, Poll Everywhere or Sendsteps you can poll delegates and show the results live.
  14. Do something (e.g. sing) in another language. This is a great way of expressing unity with others who come from a different background.
  15. Share a testimony. This could be someone came to follow Jesus, or how their life has been changed as a result of knowing Him.
  16. Make it fun. An event cannot be serious all the time and it's important to vary the levels of intensity. The best example of this I have seen was having comedians Tripp and Tyler lead the sessions at Catalyst. I've also used the Prayers You Might Hear in Church video.
  17. Be quiet. In a world of noise, silence can be very powerful. This time can be used to reflect or to pray.
  18. Launch a new initiative. The Human Rights Alliance was launched 2 years ago at the ACL's national conference. Hillsong has used their conference to launch a new book (and give people copies to give to their friends).
  19. Give permission to skip sessions. I've noticed that some delegates (not me!) feel that they need to attend every session of an event. Give these people permission to not attend every session if they would benefit from some time out.
  20. Say thank you. There are many people involved in making an event happen, and it is good to acknowledge this and thank them. At past events we have provided delegates with thank you cards to write in and give to a volunteer during the event.
  21. Encourage joint action. At Easter Convention 2 years ago we encouraged people to post a message to Facebook about the meaning of Easter. It was fantastic to hear and share the stories of how God used this to reach people with the gospel.
  22. Encourage participation outside of session times. Also at Easter Convention, delegates were invited to film themselves singing Colin Buchanan's song 'Trust in the Lord'. There was great participation from delegates with lots of videos submitted and then played in the evening sessions.
  23. Invite delegates to stand or kneel. Sitting is a passive action - adopting a different position makes us think about what we are doing and why. As a start, you could stand when the Bible is read or invite people to kneel during prayer.
  24. Don't do something. For example, you could not eat a meal. Handled well, this could be a great opportunity to remember those who are less fortunate (e.g. the persecuted church).
  25. Do a live cross. For example, this could be a live cross to the bookstore to review some resources (see #10).
  26. Celebrate something. There's always something to celebrate (a birthday, a volunteer who has served for 30 years) - take the opportunity to celebrate together.
  27. Help people to take action. It's easy to forget what you have heard and been convicted by at an event. You can help people by providing space in the booklet to write down actions, or get more creative (e.g. invite people to write a letter to themselves in the future).
  28. Play a video. Video is such a powerful medium - I'm sure you've noticed how the audience goes quiet when the lights are dimmed and a video begins. Some of my favourites include What is Love, He Came Down, What Are You Living For and God Wrote a Book.
  29. Host a speaker Q&A. This provides delegates with the opportunity to dig deeper with speakers and ask any questions that have been prompted as a result of their talks.
  30. Open registrations for next time. The best time to ask people to register for the next event is during the current event. This is also a great opportunity to launch the event.

Finally, don't ask for feedback at your event because nothing kills the mood of an event quite like the following statement: “Please take a moment now to fill out the feedback form.”