As live events make their triumphant return, the pressure is high to make the experience one that’s impossible to forget. And while an impressive agenda and amazing speakers are still essential, there is an unspoken expectation for the experience to be more than a little extra.
So where do event organizers even begin?
Here are 15 creative event ideas that have proven successful for wowing guests, boosting morale, and exceeding expectations, even in 2021. Be sure to get inspired but don’t forget the basics of event planning.
1. A Corporate “Camping” Retreat
Red Carpet Events and Design organized a themed camping retreat that its guests won’t soon forget. Hosted at the Squaw Creek Resort, the event included custom-built a-frame tents that housed all the essentials-beer pong, jumbo chess, a s’mores bar- while guitarists and astronomers provided entertainment with the essential glow of a roaring campfire to set the scene.
2. Primetime Outdoor Screening
To celebrate its new teen series, Panic, Amazon Prime Video hosted a special outdoor screening at a ranch in Malibu, California. The event impressed participants with the length it went to emulate the show’s small-town Texas feel, complete with Tex-Mex catering and tabletop fire pits for cooking s’mores.
3. MTV Movie & TV Awards
This year’s MTV Movie & TV Awards, produced by MTV and Den of Thieves, was broadcasted live from the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles. In keeping with post-2020 fashion, a sleek stage was presented adorned with huge video walls where celebrities and fans participated from home. A second night, hosted by comedian Nikki Glaser, was added to celebrate unscripted television.
4. Abstract Koi Pond Party
To honor its annual awards event, this luxury hotel chain turned this obscure theme into a night full of elegance and visual seduction. Using subtle Asian accents, flashes of color and, of course, koi fish, event planners chose to showcase the beauty and atmosphere of the true honorary guest of the evening- the hotel itself.
5. Tats for Tots
New York’s Walker Hotel Tribeca hosted a pop-up tattoo studio, “Tats for Tots”, featuring a celebrated tattoo artist who inked Mother’s Day-worthy permanent and semi-permanent tattoos. All proceeds were donated to New Yorkers for Children, a nonprofit supporting New York City’s youth.
6. ‘Run the World’ Premiere
To launch the new Run the World series, STARZ hosted an intimate screening at the Beekman Hotel rooftop in New York. Participants could explore the area- staged with park benches and other urban essentials- for photo while listening to music by DJ Tiff McFierce, evoking the look and feel of the series’ Harlem setting.
7. South Beach Wine & Food Festival Back in Action
For its 20th anniversary, the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival came up with creative ways to adapt to 2021. Double-session tent events were incorporated to allow smaller groups of attendees to try more food in less time. The famous gala dinner experiences were held outside, also split into two evenings, resulting in a beautiful evening al fresco, with premium service and mouthwatering cuisine.
8. Satisfy your Soul Tour
House of Marley headphones repurposed vintage Volkswagen vans to create a unique, laid-back experience for their “Satisfy Your Soul” Tour. Parking at targeted retailers and lifestyle events, participants could hang out at the hipster mobile listening stations and create their own Marley track and support the “Little Kids Rock” organization that provides music education to underserved children.
9. South Park’s Great Escape
Comedy Central’s “South Park” capitalized on the show’s success and occult-like following with one of the most epic escape rooms to date. The network confined attendees in a replica classroom of “South Park Elementary”, requiring them to bust out their in-depth knowledge of the show to escape before time ran out. A clever tactic that brought record numbers of participants demanding that the event go on.
10. GSTQ Launch Event
Dany Garcia launched her new lifestyle and fashion brand Hollywood style, featuring a pop-up shop with personalized monograms, a drive-in movie screening of Warner Brothers, In the Heights. The event also included the famous Oscars 360 Cam, adorned with roses, where guests could get a digital keepsake of the new garment, they scored at the GSTQ pop-up store.
11. Lights, Camera, Action!
Delta Airlines also used Hollywood to wow its top marketing executives with an event not to be outdone. Each section of Paramount Studios’ backlot was dedicated to an iconic time period, recreating its most celebrated movies and sitcoms. Muscle cars and hamburgers from the 50s era of Grease and Laverne and Shirley to a Italian ghetto district full of gangsters and pizza, straight out of The Godfather.
12. United Way finds A better way
United Way for Greater Austin hosted their first ever scavenger hunt, successfully creating a unique memorable experience for participants while raising the desired funds and awareness they were aiming for. The event included:
- Goodie bags, t-shirts, post-event lunch & rewards ceremony
- An online experience to find clues, answer trivia questions & share photo ops
13. Christmas Carol Celebration
To leverage the spirit of the holidays, Bright Ideas Event Agency recreated the holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Event organizers custom-built a European village straight out of the 1800s, complete with courtyards, storefronts, and cottages adorned with historic Victorian features and traditional Christmas decor. Participants were transported back in time as they feasted on and listened to their holiday favorites from days of old.
14. 20-Year Anniversary in Portugal
To celebrate 20 years in business, this corporate CEO planned a 4-day trip of a lifetime in Sintra, Portugal. The experience included a scavenger hunt through the Portuguese countryside, ending with a catered picnic at a local winery. The final celebration did not disappoint, culminating in a dinner fit for a king (literally), held in a famous castle complete with trumpet players and a red carpet to welcome the honored guests.
15. GHD’s 20th Anniversary Extravaganza
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, U.K. hair tools brand, GHD, transformed a double-decker bus into an interactive customer experience. Targeting popular California influencers and professional salons, the bus’s platinum design served as a traveling billboard, while the inside was transformed into a series of pedestals where guests could watch tutorials and try out products.
With the resurgence of in-person events, event planners know it’s time to step up their game. This list of event themes only scratches the surface of possibilities and can be combined or adapted to whatever parameters align with the overarching event strategy. But whether the result is, a quiet gathering or an extravagant affair, these unforgettable event experiences are sure to leave guests excited to tackle 2021 and beyond with gusto.