Event co-creation is a powerful way to boost attendee interaction and participation. To build this practice, though, requires a dynamic context beyond traditional audience engagement tricks.
Too often, event professionals focus on engaging their attendees, without encouraging collaboration or event co-creation.
For example, by using multiple gamified systems (via apps or event management software), planners usually fire up the competitive vibe among their guests. Motivated to earn more points or to position themselves in first place, the attendees will actively engage in “combative” contests against each other.
This approach may produce a certain degree of fun, but it will also prevent the audience from enjoying the collaborative opportunities during an event.
What is Co-Creation, and why does it Matter?
Before moving forward, let’s start by understanding what co-creation means.
Mostly defining a business dynamic, co-creation highlights a series of interactions among different stakeholders (such as businesses, investors, and customers), with the end goal of producing value.
As professor K. B. Akhilesh explains, “Co-creation is a sophisticated, value-based, context-driven, collaborative effort to develop new paradigms, products, and services to satisfy human wants. Co-creation builds on the perception of challenges, cause-effect relationships, constraints as well as alternatives available to deal with or overcome problem situations.”
The author highlights that co-creation can’t exist without trust, respect, and mutuality. “Not appreciating these three aspects can result in misrepresentation, promoting self-interest at the cost of the common good, and misdirecting the efforts or misleading each other.”
In their book The Co-Creation Paradigm, Venkat Ramaswamy and Kerimcan Ozcan suggest that “we are witnessing a paradigmatic shift in value creation, away from a centric, utilitarian view of unilateral value creation to a co-creation paradigm of value creation.”
In other words, co-creation refers to new spaces or platforms for interaction, where people could collaborate by harnessing their own skills and abilities to innovate and generate value.
Why should this matter or change the way you plan and run events?
First, co-creation represents an experience itself, based on active participant engagement for the common good. Second, event co-creation defines the new era of a conscious attendee who has the control over his or her environment. Third, collaboration relies on authenticity and crowd expertise, indicating a broader notion of value creation.
Why Should You Care about Event Co-Creation?
During his talk at IBTM World Barcelona 2017, meeting designer Bo Krüger explained, “Co-creation creates better solutions, and participants take more ownership of decisions they have helped create.”
James Morgan, lecturer at the University of Westminster, talked about the democratization of the event experience, through collaboration and co-creation. Morgan argued “the collaborative approach to co-creation results in unique perspectives on your event. It is made up of the opinions of the stakeholders that you would like to involve in co-creating an event.”
Just as customers have changed (from passive subjects of marketing and product studies to active participants), your attendees want to experience a meaningful interaction with the environment and other participants.
If you want to offer a fresh experience that will enhance your attendees’ ability for active engagement and provide them with a value-based interaction, you must choose event co-creation as an indispensable planning framework.
The 4 Elements of Event Co-Creation
The first thing you need is a safe environment that will predispose your guests to interact and collaborate effectively with each other. Usually, a theatre-like room with stadium seating will decrease the engagement level. That’s why you should consider a friendlier, more interactive space design, such as banquet sets with 5 to 10 attendees per round table or a U-shape setting.
Second, event co-creation can’t happen without an experienced facilitator, someone who knows how to make the audience feel at ease and can encourage active participation.
Third, for a successful co-creative experience, don’t forget to make good use of event technology. There are multiple digital solutions, such as live polls or quizzes, voting tools, and event gamified systems that can provide a powerful base for efficient and flawless co-creation. Apart from that, this technology will help you collect and display the ideas your audience generated.
Finally, a key element to integrate the attendee experience is to ensure a coherent event co-creation journey. You can’t expect immediate and active collaboration from your guests without a previous contact. You must accompany your attendees throughout the entire experience, clearly stating the goals and rules of each co-creative exercise.
Moreover, you must think about circumstances in which the attendees will see how their collective choices actually influence the event and their experience. You can achieve this by letting your guests choose the topic they want the speakers to tackle or the main questions they want addressed during the event.
How Event Co-Creation Will Impact the Attendee Experience
The main reason you want to apply event co-creation is to enhance the experience of your attendees. Giving your guests the chance to engage actively with the environment—and the content itself—will help them to obtain more worth from the event. Plus, they'll have an overall truly meaningful experience.
Here’s what event co-creation can do:
Transform the event into an innovative pool
Since it involves creativity and a constant flow of high-quality ideas, co-creation is the tool you (or your attendees) can use for innovation. Be it finding new ways of improving the attendee experience or increasing the value of the event content, co-creation is tapping into the creativity and intellectual skills of your audience. That’s how you can easily identify and collect those ideas that involve a certain degree of innovation.
Harness the crowd wisdom and the expertise of your guests
As Krüger explains, “Today, meetings are often about telling or selling knowledge and readymade solutions to the audience. In the future, they will be more about participants creating knowledge and solutions. We have to draw on participants’ knowledge and creativity; we cannot rely on experts and CEOs to have all the answers.”
Establish a meaningful networking atmosphere among the guests
Event co-creation means attendee collaboration. While taking part in co-creative dynamics, your guests will have the chance to get to know each other better and spot valuable business or professional contacts.
Apply event co-creation as a learning tool
By co-creating value through engagement, your attendees will have the opportunity to understand better the event content. Moreover, they’ll be able to learn from each other and find new ways of solving different challenges.
Empower the attendees to design their own experience
Event co-creation is not just about improving the content—it’s also about focusing on co-creating the event experience together, by analyzing different options and by choosing what works best for everybody. Empower your attendees through event co-creation and let them take control over their own experience.
Tips on How to Make Event Co-Creation Work
Tip #1. Initiate the event co-creation long before the event
You don’t have to wait until the event starts to engage your attendees in co-creative dynamics. You can do it weeks before the event itself. For example, you could use the social media platforms to crowdsource different questions for the Q&A session. Or, you could conduct a content poll and ask your potential attendees what topics they’d like to discuss during the event. Subsequently, you can align your event with your attendees’ expectations and needs.
Tip #2. Encourage your attendees to put away their electronics
You can’t expect people to be truly involved in the co-creative exercises during the event if they are constantly looking down at their phones. Your attendees must be fully present in the moment and totally disconnected from the digital layer. Encourage your audience to put their gadgets aside and take a minute for guided meditation before the session begins.
Tip #3. Create a vibe of camaraderie between the audience and speakers
To provide an efficient co-creative space, you must assure the attendees feel comfortable with the speakers. To make this happen, you could start the session with a personal Q&A dynamic, where the speakers could introduce themselves by answering the guests’ questions.
Tip #4. Collect and present the generated value
Make sure to use the appropriate digital tools so that you can collect and display your attendees’ contributions in real time. This will help you efficiently map the wisdom of the crowd and register the constructive ideas your attendees are generating.
Tip #5. Don’t pressure introverts to express themselves!
When being part of a co-creative exercise, the obvious think is to have your attendees talk about their ideas or experience. However, this could present a slight discomfort or stress for those guests who are introverts or simply aren’t interested in participating. That’s why it’s important to highlight that both all interactions and conversations are voluntarily. Make sure nobody feels forced to participate.
The real value of co-creation revolves around potentiating the collaborative spirit of your attendees, transforming the audience into the real experts, and allowing people to design their own event experience. By crowdsourcing attendees’ knowledge and ideas, you’ll open the platform for massive significance, meaningful interactions, and truly creative experiences.
Don’t deprive your attendees from the possibility of engaging with your event and the environment through collaboration and consistent flow of ideas. Use event co-creation as a tool for innovation, active participation, and event experiences that are built together.