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February 20, 2024

Eventex events industry trends: Memorable event experiences 

Eventex events industry trends: Memorable event experiences 

With Stephen Whelan, Creative Director at FUEL

One of the most notable trends, highlighted in The Eventex 2024 Events Industry Trends Report, is experiences over events. This means that event organizers need to create deeply personal, memorable experiences that feel authentic to the attendees, invoking emotions and as a result, creating lasting impressions. 

To underscore this, Stephen Whelan, Creative Director at FUEL, has provided an account of attending one such event, which made a lasting impression, and as such, contains the recipe for creating memorable events. Read his story below. 

Creating memorable event experiences

"Last night I went to an in-person event for probably the first time in maybe 2 years. Qualify, the first in-person event in 2 years that had nothing to do with work. That wasn’t about researching ideas or tracking brand trends. That had no commercial sponsorship. An event that I PAID to attend. A ticket I bought out of my own pocket.

That event was a 2-hour talk by a lecturer in Games Development from the University of Greenwich, London. The topic? The history of Nintendo. 

Two questions struck me walking into the venue — a somewhat grimy upstairs room in a pub in Brixton. Firstly — why had around 100 grown adults chosen to come out after work to sit on uncomfortable chairs and listen to a stream of facts freely available on Wikipedia, most likely all or most of which were known to us already? And secondly, why did this feel different from just sitting at home fuelling our standom with yet another deep dive YouTube video on the Japanese video game giants?

Less alone 

The first question was solved in the room before the talk ended and was remarkably simple. As I sat there humming along to a piece of music from the Super Nintendo game Donkey Kong Country 2, the stranger next to me, a Dad who’d brought his teenage son along with him,  turned and asked “Hey did you ever see that whole checkpoints thing online?” I literally started grinning. Hard.

This stranger was referring to an obscure and now deleted YouTube video of the track that was playing in the room which an anonymous Japanese user had posted online in (maybe?) 2000-something. The comments section had organically and without intention become a repository for people to log their hopes, fears, trials, and successes. Example: “my mom is going to the hospital. Tmrw ill get to see my brother for the first time I'm beyond excited just home alone hoping that everything is gonna be okay.” That word. Alone.

Before it was taken down (likely due to a copyright claim by Nintendo before they started to get their heads around the value of fan-generated content) the video had something like 300k comments. 300k people had chosen to share their most intimate and vulnerable experiences as 'checkpoints” to come back to later and revisit the life challenges they’d overcome. Why? To feel less alone. And this stranger asking me that simple question made me feel exactly that. Less alone.

(Spoiler alert — the same user reposted the track 11 months ago. It already has 3.6m views and 168k comments, reigniting the Checkpoints community.)

Being part of a unique community 

The guy had just casually dropped a deep-cut lore reference and it had literally made me grin knowing he’d explored the same outer reaches of the Nintendo metaverse that I had. And that’s why we were all here. To be amongst other people who’d also laugh at the same obscure gamer jokes, to hum along together to 25-year-old video game music, and to open doors to our usually hermetically sealed personal time to realize other people were into the same sh*t we were. 

We were all looking to momentarily escape the loneliness of individual reason. Our personal mental hard drives were temporarily connected to other people in the room. We were forming a transient neural network.

“I’m… feeling!”  

The second question, the one about why we had to do this in person? The answer to that one took a while longer to land as I was walking to McDonald's on my own to get a burger because why not tonight was about not adulting. 

As I got further and further from the pub the feelings of relief and complete carefree joy (which, to some extent are the same feelings I get playing video games) seemed to get stronger rather than diminishing. As I sat chewing a Big Mac plugged into the same track from before the talk, Stickerbrush Symphony by the incredible composer David Wise, the answer dawned on me. Feelings. Emotions. 

There’s an incredible scene in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” where Jim Carey’s Grinch falls to the snow, contorting in agony and overwhelmed with emotion for the first time in forever. His character has been triggered by the realization that he’s finally been accepted by the community he’s been self-isolating from and he turns to his dog and implores “Max! Help me! I’m… feeling!” 

The magic of other people 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with “me time”. Me time is great. I can listen to the latest Ariana Grande release on repeat for an hour fully convinced I’m nailing the vocal and not have my evident lack of singing ability called into question. I can triple screen the TV and a Switch and my mobile phone and not irritate anyone else in the room. I can binge eat Hob Nobs when I wake up at 3 a.m. because I have a chocolate craving. Me time is a blast.

The kick I get from me time isn’t shared though. It’s something I curate, and experience, on my own. Being on my own doesn’t automatically mean being lonely. It can be great. But there’s something magical about being around other people. The wonderful magic of the presence of other humans lies in its ability to amplify and intensify emotions. Why? Because we know someone else is having them at the same time. Which may just be another way of saying it makes us feel less spiritually alone.

The secret to memorable experiences  

All of which is a long-winded way of saying there are fundamentally two components to creating memorable experiences — brand-funded or otherwise. 

Truly memorable experiences tickle both sides of our brain. The rational side that says “other people also have the same cultural references as me” and the emotional side that says “someone else is feeling a version of the same happiness I’m feeling right now”. There’s a very specific type of fusion that can only occur in the company of other people, and contrary to Oppenheimer’s quoting the Bhagavad Gita, that fusion doesn’t have to result in the bringing of death. The exact opposite in fact. It makes you feel ALIVE.

So what do I think the secret to memorable event experiences is? Simple — creating moments that invite us to experience the dual sensations of “we get you and we feel with you.” It’s really not that complicated. 

So yes, you can listen to Ariana Grande's solo and “be your own fkn best friend.” But even Ariana needs backing dancers and studio technicians and Max Martin to say that sh*t with her chest. People need people. We’re innately social creatures. And the best events remind us of that fact, let us feel it and celebrate it. Together."

The bottom line 

Creating memorable event experiences doesn’t necessarily entail ground-breaking tech, artificial intelligence, and elaborate gimmicks, as long as it evokes feelings and facilitates a connection with like-minded people. And while a lot more goes into organizing events and experiences, this particular trend is one that transcends. 

For more industry trends and insight, check out The Eventex 2024 Events Industry Trends Report

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