Creativity Counts

How to increase the creativity quotient at your next meeting or event.

Whether you’re tasked with planning a small corporate retreat, a company-wide annual event, or anything in between, one thing is certain: Meeting and event attendees will demand the best from their experience. Though it can often get lost in countless details and checklists, the No. 1 way to exceed your attendees’ expectations is to infuse your events with creativity from start to finish.

Hosting events in a creative way not only demonstrates an organization’s appreciation for its attendees, but helps make the event or meeting a worthwhile investment for the company or organization. Here’s how to get creative with your meetings.

1. Keep an open mind and work with your environment. Meeting planners rightfully focus on the objectives and requirements of the organization hosting the meeting or event. However, try putting yourself in your attendees’ shoes as well so you can get a fresh perspective on their wants and needs. Then, take a look at your surroundings to determine the best way to execute an event that meets the needs of the organization and attendees.

One way to do this is to use the environment in which your meeting or event is located to guide you toward a unique theme that will please everyone. Venues like the Universal Orlando Resort not only have themed on-site hotels with meeting spaces, but also the ability to build after-hours events for attendees and groups in attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. But the creativity to develop a unique theme can be sparked in nearly any environment.

2. Work with teams that can execute unique experiences flawlessly. With any meeting or event, there are a variety of internal and external resources that can help make your event a success. Take advantage of the talent at your disposal for maximum creative impact. I’m lucky to have a talented team that encompasses many aspects of the theme park world, including production, entertainment, attractions, food and beverage, and much more, all of who come together to execute flawless events. Make sure the venues you select offer not only outstanding facilities but also creative, talented individuals.

3. Carry your theme through for maximum creative impact. From team-building activities and company branding to themed food and unique experiences between meeting sessions, there are countless options for creative implementation of meetings and events. However, it’s important to stick to your theme throughout the course of any event.

One concept that has worked for us is the creation of a multi-venue block party in our CityWalk entertainment district, which includes venues like Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, Bob Marley A Tribute to Freedom, Pat O’Briens and many others. Focus on finding a way to pull the various elements of an event together so your creativity adds to the attendees’ experience, rather than distracting from it.

4. Add unique elements to make your meeting or event stand out. Although the venue, theme, and food are critical factors, try also including at least one or two unexpected twists that will leave your attendees in awe and create memories that will last.

We’ve managed “speakeasy”-themed after-hours parties on the streets of New York, rock ‘n’ roll–inspired team-building sessions, social media scavenger hunts, and more. Regardless of venue, opportunities always exist to give your attendees something they’d never expect.

5. Create exclusive experiences. We often incorporate attractions such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and The Simpsons Ride into exclusive events so attendees can enjoy private access to their favorite rides and attractions during after-hours dinner or cocktail receptions. Even if you don’t have a theme park at your disposal, there are plenty of opportunities to create one-of-a-kind experiences for attendees with special events.

Is there a new restaurant drawing rave reviews near your meeting site? Is there a local museum showcasing a budding young artist? By creating an exclusive experience, attendees will feel like rock stars and your organization will benefit from your creativity.

Lisa Jacobson is the senior director of event manage- ment at Universal Orlando Resort. With more than 22 years of industry experience, Jacobson has played integral roles in the grand openings of Universal Orlando theme parks and every attraction within the parks; Universal CityWalk; Universal Orlando’s three on-site hotels and Universal Studios Japan. Universal Orlando has 250,000 square feet of indoor, customizable meeting space and a variety of unique outdoor event venues that can accommodate groups and events ranging in size from 20 to 20,000. For more information, visit www.uomeetingsandevents.com.