How an event is experienced online is almost as important as the in-person experience at events. If it’s not plastered across social media, it basically didn’t happen. This is why providing social event experiences to your attendees is so important. In one way, it’s just another touch-point on the customer journey to purchase. In another, it’s a valuable digital tool to create online FOMO, help sell tickets and get people excited for next year’s event. We’ve compiled a list of some really great social event experiences that we’ve taken part in. They are fairly simple, relatively inexpensive, and will enhance your attendees experience. They will also encourage social sharing, and help promote your sponsors without being a hard sell. In turn, it will increase the amount of user generated content (UGC) that goes out on social surrounding your event’s conversation.
1. Cut outs
Remember when you were young and you’d go literally anywhere with your family; seeing a cardboard cut out to interact with was so exciting and your entire family had to take photos of you in it. This type of nostalgia is incredibly popular now in terms of social event experiences. Gone are the days where you could only take fun and goofy photos when you were a child. These don’t even have to be cut outs in the traditional sense where it’s a “your-face-here-cut-out” – it can be an Instagram-inspired photo frame, or backdrop that you can interact with. Brand them, or have an associated hashtag displayed right on them; this ensures it is clear that it’s related to your brand, product or service so when people share their pics, they are sharing you too! Give attendees a reason to engage in real life, and they will likely engage online too.
2. Media Walls for photo-ops
Media walls are a vitally important part of social event experiences, especially if you have access to a professional photographer at your event. They are important because they allow for additional exposure for your valuable sponsor and vendor relationships; and when the images are shared on social media, people are usually enthusiastic to tag themselves, thus giving your event images even more reach on social media. In addition to the professional photographer, most people will snap cell phone selfies or have their friends take photos of their social event experience so they can share it in real time. Just remember to include your social handle or hashtag to help collect UGC later.
3. Check-in to win (or other incentive)
Many local businesses have benefited from utilizing the Facebook ‘checking in’ feature to help expand their reach. This same concept can certainly be applied to social event experiences, by having attendees ‘check in’ to either be entered to win something, or receive a great bonus incentive, making them more aware and engaged with your event, vendors, sponsors and other event components. To enhance the live aspect of the checking in feature, having attendees show the different booths their checked in status to receive live acknowledgement or mini branded merchandise. Though this is typically less engaging than sharing an image, or branded hashtag, it still greatly helps some of the smaller vendors by including them in the check-in part of the promotion.
4. Snapchat Geofilters
Typically, Snapchat is most popular among the teenage female demographic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also widely used. Snapchat Geofilters are often used for Weddings, much like custom branded hashtags to help compartmentalize and keep track of special moments.
“A national Geofilter can typically be seen by 40 to 60% of the daily Snapchat audience — that’s 40,000 to 60,000 people.” 
Snapchat Geofilters for events are an excellent day of marketing tool as they are very geographically specific niche (you cannot use it in more than 50,000 square feet – smaller is better).
“Snapchat Geofilters are one of your cheapest social media paid marketing options, so it’s worth giving it a try if it fits with your target audience.” 
Not only can you specify your location for this filter but you can also specify a timeline for how long it is active, making it ideal for short, multi-day events. Guests are already snapping images of interesting and interactive content while at your event so offering a custom Snapchat Geofilter is one of many social event experiences you can offer them. Just make sure you give them lots of content to photograph and let the Geofilter do the rest for sharing your event with an even wider audience.
5. On-site scavenger hunts or similar activities
Providing your attendees with social event experiences that are active, rather than passive, is a great way to keep them engaged and interested (and overall, at the event for a longer length of time). Scavenger Hunts with either a “booth visit” checklist or hidden objects throughout the event venue give customers something fun to do; rather than wandering around and feeling like they are just being sold to. It helps break up the experience because the truth is, at a trade show, companies who have rented booth space do want to make money, so customers will feel at least a little bit ‘sold to’ no matter how you slice it. A game or incentive for entering a social or photo contest like this adds some fun back into a potentially repetitive day for them. Because they are having fun and experiencing an enjoyable day, they are also more receptive to your vendor or sponsor messaging.
6. 3D photo booths: an enhanced social event experience
Chances are, you’ve gone to an event that has had a photo booth, or a branded backdrop. With emerging technologies, you have even more options for producing not only digital image content, but also branded, in-person experiences (and upselling options for unique gifts). Toronto-based company, Selftraits offers both in-studio sessions to get 3D printed selfies and also fabulous social event experiences, where you can engage with a relatively new and fascinating technology.
The shortened version of this experience:
- Register with your information (name, email, etc.)
- Enter the giant 3D photo booth
- Snap 3 poses
- Exit the booth and watch yourself appear in the 3D space
- Choose your favourite and have a 3D rotating gif emailed to yourself.
An experience like this is great because it allows for additional sponsorship and branding ($$$) for you, the ability to brand digital assets and also purchase branded bases if attendees go further and buy a physical product in the future. Plus, they get to enjoy the experience either way without being “forced” to purchase something.
7. AR, VR or real life contests with social sharing component
Human beings are competitive by nature. We have this innate drive to beat other people and get a certain amount of bragging rights. Just think of how popular Cineplex Timeplay is in the movie theatre pre-show. Creating a mini experience, or a digital (or in-person) trivia game, or an Instagrammable activity give your attendees something else to participate in; and it makes them want to share their success – especially if you require sharing as part of the contest (or offer bonus entries for sharing with a custom branded hashtag). All of these added social event experiences create positive brand association in your event attendee’s minds. They also make your event more memorable.
8. Props, set pieces or exhibits that encourage photos
There’s a reason that movie theatres are so popular; or why Netflix content is being consumed in record numbers. There’s even a reason that travelling photograph exhibits like Happy Place or the Museum of Illusions are constantly selling out. People want to be a part of things that they love. Creating simple (or complex – it’s your call) social event experiences where your attendees or fans can be engulfed in their favourite pop culture things or even in sets that just look cool is a great way to encourage photo sharing on social media. Photo-ops are popular because if gives you something
to take an image in without just taking another selfie or another photo of the great dinner you made. If your event guests have already taken the time to buy a ticket and attend, they are definitely going to be willing to enthusiastically share things with a ‘cool factor’ all over their social media channels.
9. VIP meet and greets
People are fascinated by “celebrities”. These can be expert speakers, celebrity partners or Influencers. Stories about the time you met “Joe Shmoe at a Starbucks” or “shook hands with the Queen at a charity event” will help increase word of mouth association with your event and also help keep positive share of mind space in the customer’s head. Offer this to all event attendees (for a limited time only); or do a meet and greet lottery – or reward your best and brightest brand advocates. Since many celebrities are expensive to book, you can also enhance a relationship with a vendor or sponsor by splitting costs and allowing co-branding opportunities on a media wall backdrop, whether you are offering autographs or just photos. This also helps strengthen your companies brand by associating them with whatever celebrity, VIP or Influencer(s) you are providing attendees with access to.
With demonstrations, you have an opportunity, especially with food, for doing special seminars, or hands-on cooking exhibits, or giving people the chance to experience something really unique. If you provide cool (and quick – it’s hard to keep people’s attention beyond a minute or two at trade shows) social event experiences to your guests, and allow them to get close and personal with a product, it increases it’s share-ability. Getting hands-on with a product or brand also helps keep it top of mind with customers, so adding this tactile touchpoint helps get customers even closer to your brand. If your company involves itself in any major sponsorship you have a unique opportunity to offer entertainment as a demonstration rather than a literal product demo. You might be ‘that booth that had the cool dancers or soccer tricks,’ but, with the right backdrop and branding, you still can use demonstrations to get your message out there. And if your ‘demo’ is quick and interesting, you can bet on getting at least a few Instagram story posts or Snaps depending on your event attendee audience.
Want to see the cool factor of the food bubble (left) and why we loved it so much? Click here
BONUS: Famous Characters
Have you ever watched a Transformers movie and became sad when your favourite character (cough Bumblebee, cough) got injured? Hollywood does a great job at humanizing inanimate objects or creating fictional characters for you to fall in love with. Give children and adults alike the chance to ‘meet’ an imaginary familiar face that they know and love. In doing so, you’ll help create one of many unforgettable social event experiences and a strong emotional association. Hint: these character actors are also very shareable on social media.
You’ve already worked hard to create an unforgettable event and partnered with sponsors and vendors who add value to your target audience. Providing a variety of social event experiences that allow customers to be online, offline and photographing their experiences help create lasting memories and positive brand associations with your event itself, and with the partners you have helped set up these moments with. If you want to chat about other cool event experiences you’ve seen or taken part in, or have any suggestions for how we can help enhance your next event, drop us a line here
Ashley Saunders, Matriarch, Strategist, Live Social Coordinator
Main: The Cookie Room (yes, it smelled like fresh cookies) in Happy Place in it’s Toronto stop
Right: Downey’s Farm Pillory
Left: Toronto International Film Festival Princess of Wales Visa Infinite Lounge
On site scavenger hunt
Corn Maze at Downey’s Farm (with QR code and associated interactive landing page)
3D photo booths
Other: Screengrab of ZBrush 3D sculpting software; two ‘customers’ and their 3D prints
AR, VR or Real Life Contests
Warner Bros. guerilla marketing escape room experience to promote the new film, The Accountant at Yonge-Dundas Square
Props, set pieces, etc.
Main: Game of Thrones Exhibition at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Others: eOne A Christmas Horror Story promotion at the Scotiabank Theatre
VIP Meet and Greets
Main: Director Don Mancini and Chucky at the Cult of Chucky Premiere in Toronto
Food Demo: CSE LIVE
Bonus: Famous Characters
Dave from Despicable Me makes an appearance at the CNE