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Why Now is the Perfect Time to Conduct Ideation Sessions to Help You Plan Your Next Event

As we navigate these challenging times in the event industry, now is the perfect time to consider conducting Ideation Sessions as a highly beneficial approach to reimagine, redesign and plan your next event. Conducting ideation sessions can help your team strategize and plan what your next event experience might look like – whether it’s virtual, hybrid or in-person. 

Humans are naturally social creatures and rest assured that without a doubt, people and companies want to return to in-person events and experiences as soon as it’s safe and feasible. In my opinion, I believe live events will return with a vengeance AND they will be even better than ever – with upgraded, innovative experiences and activations that did not exist pre-COVID-19.

If you embrace what I call “aggressive curiosity” to observe and listen obsessively for trends, insights, sound bites and behaviors from your event audience and industry colleagues, you’re likely to become more aware of people’s mindset, desires and needs. This “aggressive curiosity” allows us all to find those pain points leading us to ideate “unimagined opportunities” and develop innovative solutions for future event experiences.


What are Ideation Sessions Anyway?

Ideation Sessions are more than simply whiteboarding, brainstorming, or strategy sessions, although these are all important steps in the process. They allow you to challenge assumptions and standard practices by putting yourself in the minds of your audience. They also allow your team to go beyond the obvious solutions and seek innovative, unexpected solutions or ideas. Ideation Sessions are focused, structured, facilitated workshops based on the “Design Thinking Five-Step Process”.


1. Empathize
Learn as much as you can about your event attendees.

What are their interests, needs, pain points?

2. Define
Define and prioritize a list of challenges and pain points that matter to your target audiences to consider ideating.

3. Ideate
Conduct facilitated, structured brainstorming to develop innovative solutions and creative ideas.

4. Prototype
Select which concepts to prototype and determine if you want to Beta test or launch these new ideas/solutions at your next event.

5. Test
Assess and measure what works. Conduct research, observe real-time, gain feedback from your attendees to determine success and if the concept needs to be tweaked or redesigned.


Ideation Session Quick Tips:

Below are a few tips as you consider preparations to conduct Ideation Sessions:

  • Set clear objectives upfront - Ensure your participants are all on the same page and have a common vision of the purpose and desired output.
  • Prep work is key – Leverage any recently conducted research of your event, survey results of your attendees, insights on your target audiences, benchmarking other relevant events and any other macro trends and insights.
  • Consider using an unbiased facilitator – As with any creative thinking workshop, it’s always a good idea to assign or bring in an outside, unbiased facilitator who can provide the guard rails to keep the discussions productive, moving forward and help eliminate roadblocks or going too off-topic.
  • Select diverse, open-minded thinkers to participate – Consider including team members or colleagues who you believe are “growth-minded” and look for solutions instead of resisting change. Also, if you have a larger group (such as 15+ people), divide them into smaller groups of 4-5 for the ideating exercises.
  • Timing – Consider using this current time to take a step back and spend time ideating how to innovate and take your events to the next level. Whether you have enough time to influence your next event or you want to focus on events in the immediate future.
  • Complexity – You don’t need to dedicate a large amount of time to plan and conduct ideation sessions. Even a half-day ideation session with your team will provide value in your future event strategy and planning efforts. Don’t be dissuaded by thinking Ideation Sessions require extensive time and resources. Any level of work ideating on innovative solutions will offer benefit to your event marketing efforts.


Sample of Ideation Session Topics for Event Marketers:

I’m sure you and your team have identified pain points or opportunities even prior to COVID-19 that needed attention or improvements. Since COVID-19 hit the events industry, our team at GES Events has been listening to what people are talking about, investigating or exploring. We know people miss the networking opportunities in hallways, over drinks or social activities, and at in-person events. We’ve heard from our clients about the challenges of marketing your brand and achieving valuable ROI through virtual events. We’ve also noted the challenges event planners are experiencing in finding new ways to monetize their virtual and hybrid events.

As we all hit the proverbial reset button and take time to leverage strategy and insights, we all have an opportunity to proactively conduct Ideation Sessions to solve specific pain points and needs for virtual/hybrid/in-person events. What if we ideated on innovations and unimagined opportunities to address some of these pain points:

  • How might we offer “hallway conversations” in a virtual event experience so that people can network and connect?
  • How might we offer customized attendee “tracks” in the hybrid show experience?
  • How might we offer ways for clients to monetize their virtual and hybrid events with new types of sponsorship opportunities?
  •  How might we redesign use of space events, conferences, and trade shows beyond social distancing practices but to offer upgraded activations?
  • How might we design an engaging digital exhibit hall experience for attendees and sponsors/exhibitors to interact in a virtual show environment?


Closing Thoughts and Additional Resources:

By taking at least a little time now to conduct Ideation Sessions, your team can tap into innovating and solving challenges and pain points to help you continue to stay connected with your key audiences. This will allow you to offer even better hybrid and in-person events once it is safe and feasible for us all to return to face-to-face events.

For more background information on conducting Ideation Sessions, please find a link to download our Ideation Session Quick Guide.

And if you’re curious to explore conducting your own ideation sessions, GES Events is here to help you discuss it further and organize a session with your team.

Happy ideating and stay safe and healthy,

Jen Beindorf

VP, North American New Business Development and Global Strategy

About the Author

Jennifer Beindorf is the Head of North American New Business Development and Global Strategy at GES Events. Jennifer brings more than 25 years of business development, client experience, event marketing strategy along with designing holistic brand experiences. Her strong business acumen combined with a curiosity to leverage strategic insights allows her to partner effectively with clients to offer innovative and tailored solutions.

Profile Photo of Jennifer Beindorf