Conscious events

If you want to apply conscious event management principles the questions you should ask yourself, your team and your client are:

Why are we organizing this event? Which surrounding, look and feel suits best for spreading your message? Why and what would you want to contribute? How do you integrate socially and environmentally responsible decision making? How do you find the best speaker for your audience? How do you make sound a part of your event? How do you use visualization? Why does an experience teach your participants the most? How can you make connecting fun, easy and meaningful? How can you use energy for an event?

1. Designing with deep intention

Why are we organizing this event?
The first essential question, when organizing a conscious event, is: Why are we organizing this event? By looking into this question, you will be able to realize an event with a deeper meaning. This question isn’t about money making — that is a result — but about your intention, purpose and belief. Why do you want to put your heart and soul in spreading the word about this specific topic or product? What is your inner connection to the topic or product and to your will to organize an event for it.

Event: Lightning
In 2015 I was in the lead of the organization of this international event, for a community of people who are interested in a transformational change theory called ‘Theory U’. I did not get paid for it but just felt that this event had to be organized. When I first read about theory U years before, I felt a strong connection to the content. It was like reading my own thoughts. This and my belief in the power of co-creation and the value of meeting people in real life made me organize this event.

2. Finding the right location

Which surrounding, look and feel suits best for spreading your message?
For every event, there is a different best location. Your location can be outdoors, in a factory or a hotel. The location you choose depends on the content, ‘the message’, of your event. Which surrounding, look and feel suits best for spreading your message? Your goal is to make an unforgettable experience for the participants. The ambiance of the location plays a big role in achieving this. If the event lasts several days it might be convenient to organize it in a nice hotel (bedrooms!). If the content is related to spirituality, it might be good to find a location close to nature. When you are at the start of organizing your event, be sure you will go location hunting soon!

Event: The future of work
In 2011 I was part of a team that organized an event about the future of work. The main topics were: transformation towards being able to work from anywhere; using social media as a tool to connect to a bigger audience; work in open spaces instead of separate offices. The location we chose was a factory, which used to be a milk factory, but had been transformed into an event location. The transformational story of this factory was a great example of transformation.

3. Working in co-creation

Why and what would you want to contribute?
In order to create an exceptional event for a certain target group, participation in the creation process of people from that group is essential. Being mindful of each other’s thoughts and feelings is crucial for making a connection, which is significant for real co-creation. Key questions for potential event team members will be: why and what would you want to contribute and what could you achieve when you would contribute? Key questions for the final event team will be: what kind of skills do the people in the team have and which other skills does the team need and can the team as a whole connect with ‘the Why’ of the event?

Event: Social innovation
In 2010 my colleagues and I had to organize an event for about 300 potential subsidy applicants on the social innovation measure of the European Social Fund. One part of the event was a webinar (at that time not yet well-known). We had organized this in cooperation with and at the location of one of the potential subsidy applicants because we didn’t have the tools to do this but they did.

4. Paying attention to sustainability

How do you integrate socially and environmentally responsible decision making?
During the organizational process, there will have to be particular concern for sustainability. This means, that socially and environmentally responsible decision making is involved in the planning, organization and implementation of, and participation in, an event. I will give you some examples to make it more clear:

– no paper waste, use recycled paper or digitalize if possible
– preference for vegetarian, locally distributed food
– minimization of transportation pollution

Event: Lightning
During the two-day event ‘Lightning’ that I organized in 2015:
– the organizational team, internally and externally, only communicated through online channels, so no paper waste
– we only served biological, vegetarian food
– the second day we live streamed two speakers, which gave people the opportunity to participate without having to travel to Berlin

5. Touching people’s hearts

How do you find the best speaker for your audience?
Speakers, workshop leaders and facilitators play a very important role during an event. Often, they are the ones people come for! The best speakers are inspirational, approachable and touch people’s hearts by their talks. It’s not only about the content they share. The way they share their story, their authenticity, makes the real difference. In order to get the best speakers for your audience, you have to know your audience and the speaker. What does he or she have to share and how will he or she share it. Which content and which way of sharing will reach your audience the best? You can choose to share information for example through a Pecha Kucha presentation, a video clip or by giving people an experience. Think about what is needed in order to reach the best possible heart connection between your speaker and your audience.

Exhibition: Atman
Recently I went to the exhibition ‘Atman’. This exhibition is set up as an experience. Before we entered the rooms, where the pictures of the photographer are shown, we were given an instruction. We had to walk in silence, as a group, towards the huge pictures, which were installed in separate rooms. We had to stop where a white line was drawn because from that distance our experience would be the best. This is a good example of an exceptional experience which touched people’s hearts.

6. Using silence and sound

How do you make sound a part of your event?
Silence and sound are essential for an event. Suitable music or a well timed moment of silence can help you create the atmosphere you want. Therefore it is very important to think about:
– How do you want your participants to enter and leave the event; calm or very energized? 
Which suitable sounds or music can create this feeling? For making them feel energetic, happy songs will do the work. For a calm energy, you could use relaxed meditation music.
– When do you want to use moments of silence during your event? Often there is a lot of talking during events and little silence. The power of silence is often neglected. For a moment of reflection and deep inner connection, silence can be key. Good moments for silence are the start (to set a deeper intention with all the participants) and after a talk or exercise which touched people’s hearts.

Event: Business Bootcamp
In 2015 I went to an event about growing your business, for people who are self-employed. For me, a down to earth Dutch woman, it felt like an ‘American event’. At the entrance of the event space people were standing to give me high fives and the music in the room was very loud and energetic. During the event, we were asked to dance and a lot of the participants did. The organizers succeeded in getting people in a good mood and ready to order their products.

7. Memorizing through visualization

How do you use visualization?
To get your event’s participants attention, you will have to try to connect with their senses. Their vision is one of them. The paintings on the wall, the color of the furniture, the video’s you show on a screen, all of them will affect the participants. So when choosing the location, also the ambiance, reflected through paintings and colors inside the event rooms, have to be taken into consideration. When it comes to sharing content through a video clip or drawings, be sure the message reaches your audience, your target group. 
If the right visuals are used, their meaning will stay in the participant’s minds forever.

Massive open online course: u.lab Leading from the emerging future
Live events of this massive open online course, organized by the Presencing Institute, are always accompanied by visualizations of what is shared by the speakers. By now, because of the many live streams, there have been since the start of this course, participants recognize those visuals, and their meaning, instantly. During many topic related events visualizers use a similar style.

8. Learning by experience

Why does an experience teach your participants the most?
Nowadays, thanks to the internet, we have access to a lot of information. If we are interested in a certain person’s knowledge, we can easily find publications, books and video clips of him or her online. Therefore experiencing something at an event is becoming more important than spreading knowledge. When people experience they will more likely learn something and therefore afterward remember your event. “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” In order to participate in an experience, participants need something first: a feeling of safety. Therefore it is important to create an event space where people feel seen and taken care of. 

Event: Lightning
During the event that I organized in 2015, for the international Theory U community, one of the speakers, after showing the participants an exercise, told them to form pairs and do the exercise themselves. Instead of only talking and sharing knowledge, she made people experience the theory in practice. Thanks to this the impact on them was a lot higher than when they would have just absorbed the theory.

9. Focusing on connections

How can you make connecting fun, easy and meaningful?
Thanks to technology we have access to a lot of interesting talks of speakers from all over the world. Therefore nowadays not content, but finding valuable connections is one of the most important reasons to go to an event. It’s important to realize this and to anticipate on it while organizing your event. You have to think of ways to make connecting between participants fun, easy and meaningful. There are many ways to do this. You can use small incentives. ‘Topic-tables’ is one example, tables labeled with clear topics and a list of questions on it. Your intention should be to make all the participants, also the persons who enter the venue alone or who are more introvert, feel comfortable.

Event: SenseCamp Berlin
Last year I was at an event where the participants had to make their dinner together. This was a great way of connecting with people in a relaxed way. While cleaning the potatoes and cutting carrots in pieces people were talking about the event, themselves and their dreams. Sometimes those seemingly not important moments, but oh so important for sharing reflections on experiences and content, will have more impact on someone than a presentation by an expert.

10. Noticing the energy

How can you use energy for an event?
During the preparations for the event, and of course the day(s) of the event, it is important to notice the energy. Is it nice, warm and soothing or stressful, cold and unsettling? During an event, the energies change through for example the talk of a speaker, an amazing activity or an impressive video clip. It is important to notice this change and whenever you feel that it’s moving towards more negative energy to try to redirect it. Even if this would mean changing a part of the ‘official’ schedule. For the participants, it is more important to feel good about what is happening than to see that the schedule is followed minute by minute.

Events
I have worked in event teams where at moments, because of stress related to deadlines and uncertainty, the energy was negative. I think we all have had those kinds of experiences. The best way to overcome those periods is to start sharing your feelings about this atmosphere. Those moments of sharing on an emotional level, instead of on content level, will lead to more openness, more connection on heart level and eventually to a better event than you could have ever dreamed of. 

Conclusion

Are you ready for an event which will touch the hearts of the participants? An event that will lead to real connections. An event that will make you smile while you are organizing it? Then apply the following 10 essentials of conscious event management:

1. Designing with deep intention
2. Finding the right location
3. Working in co-creation
4. Paying attention to sustainability
5. Touching people’s hearts
6. Using silence and sound
7. Memorizing through visualization
8. Learning by experience
9. Focusing on connections
10. Noticing the energy

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