You have a personality. Your company has a brand. Why shouldn’t your event be branded as well? And I don’t mean popping your company’s logo on the event website and materials and calling it good. I mean creating a real identity for your event–one that starts before the first planning spreadsheet and lasts after the name badges have been thrown away. Branding your event can be critical to standing out from the corporate conference competition. Here are some of the best event branding examples we’ve seen, and ideas for how you can emulate their processes (not their identity) for your own brand.
TED conferences are designed to share “ideas worth spreading.” Those ideas are usually at least loosely related to Technology, Entertainment, and Design, three elements that are unquestionably and rapidly changing our world. But TED’s real differentiation from other events lies not in its subject matter but in the passion of its speakers. You’ll never yawn while watching someone fumble through Powerpoint slides at TED. Many TED talks don’t have decks at all. TED recognizes that the value of an event is in people, and reflects that value by showcasing accomplished people with passion. That’s the TED brand, which is strong enough to carry through to independent TEDx events.
If passion is the what, video is the how. TED has supported the passion of its speakers by letting them (literally) speak for themselves. Sharing videos from TED events has helped inspire people around the world, as well as make them feel part of the passion. True passion has to be open, and TED has done an exceptional job of keeping its content accessible. Try the same with your event–start with passion, not process, and see where it takes you.
SXSW has panels. Hundreds, even thousands of valuable talks happen constantly throughout the SXSW music, film, and interactive festivals, as well as offshoots SXSWedu and SXSW Eco. But anyone who’s been to SXSW–or even in Austin during March–knows that this event is all about the parties. It’s not partying for partying’s sake (at least not all the time), though, it’s partying to make connections with people in your industry who matter. Whether you’re a garage rock band trying to get signed to a label or a garagebound startup trying to get funding, SXSW is the place to interact with people who matter–the actual sessions are just a nice seasoning.
So how did SXSW get this way? Its unique combination of musical acts and sessions on the recording industry helped make it more than an industry conference or a music festival. By bringing together performers and management, SXSW became a distinctive forum for interactions that didn’t happen anywhere else. It doesn’t hurt that SXSW happens in Austin, one of the most fun and friendly cities in the country. Holding the event in Austin as opposed to Los Angeles or New York makes SXSW feel more like vacation and less like work, even if the deals that go down are often legendary. Think about your industry and where might be a distinctive place to meet, or identify groups that aren’t brought together often. This could help you identify your event’s brand.
Perhaps lesser known than TED or SXSW, Ragnar is a popular running relay series where 12 (or sometimes 6) participants collaborate to run about 200 miles in about 24 hours. With 15 races around the country, Ragnar has quickly grown into a rite of passage for casual and dedicated runners alike. While Ragnar could have branded their relays as exclusive, competitive events meant for elite runners only, the organization instead appeals to the sense of adventure in all of us. Ragnar highlights the chance to participate in a fascinating event with friends, suggesting crazy team names and costumes, and brings everyone together with a fun afterparty. Named after an adventure-seeking Viking, Ragnar is truly a distinctive experience! While your corporate event might not involve sleepless nights, think about how you might be able to challenge attendees to try new things–this will truly create an event to remember.
After all that, do you know what your event stands for? If you can’t come up with something beyond building business, you should take some time to think twice about your motivation for having an event. If you can come up with your reason for being, start thinking about how you can use event branding to take your conference to the next level.