Thursday, April 3, 2014

Using Space Creatively to Better Your Event

Once you’ve found the right venue to suit your event, getting creative within the space can enhance the whole experience of your event. Most venues are big, open spaces—a blank slate—that welcome creative ideas.

Having all of your event activities in one location, and allowing guests access to all areas at all times, can adversely impact your fundraising. If your audience walks in and takes their seat because you’ve allowed them to, they won’t walk around and spend money on the silent auction or raffles. And if they can’t get to the silent auction items because of layout, they won’t bid either.

The trick is to take a look at your program and the flow you’d like to create with your crowd, and then build the elements of the space to match. Doing so can be as simple as shifting seating and adding some pipe and drape.

American Red Cross held its annual Surviving inStyle event at Castaway this year and transformed the big, open space into different, smaller spaces that they moved the crowd through to create different experiences within the event. 

When guests arrived they walked into a silent auction with cocktails and passed appetizers. The auction items were stationed around the perimeter to allow space for people to move through and bid. The space where the live auction and special appeal took place was a stage set with theater-style seating, but access to this space was cut off by beautiful pipe and drape ‘walls,’ essentially creating a space-within-a-space. When the program began, the drapes were pulled back and guests were invited to take a seat.

While guests were in the program ‘room’ raising money, the silent auction space was quietly flipped by catering to house the dinner buffet tables. After the program, guests were invited to mix and mingle in that space again. The program room was then reset with cocktail tables and a live band for an intimate dinner party, all of the walls were pulled back and guests moved freely within the larger space.

All of these decisions were based on how to focus the crowd on the fundraising. Allowing people to stand and talk when you want them bidding are at odds with one another. By seating them and removing all other obstacles, you allow your crowd to focus. But they won’t sit there forever without food and drink either, so a tight, focused program allows you to raise the money and then allow them to move into the party once the fundraising is done.

Thinking about the options of your big open space, and how you can create momentum for your crowd, allows your event to evolve over the evening and play into the human economics of time and attention to maximize fundraising.

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