Planning Pod Blog

Fresh insights and best practices for event professionals

Best Event Design Ideas and Tips
Event Design, Event Management, Venues

Amanda Knaebel
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How to Shake Up Tradition With Innovative Event Design

As an experienced event planner, you know that good gatherings and parties don’t just “come together.” Creating quality and wow-evoking conferences, corporate meetings, marketing events, product launches, premieres and more all require careful planning, meticulous detail and innovative event design. And with more and more companies pushing the envelope on party theatrics and attendee engagement, wowing your guests requires a lot more input than it ever has in the past.

The key elements of successful event design

Event design is more than flower arrangements or place settings (contrary to what your friends probably imagine you do for a living). Instead, it is about evoking emotions and moving people to indulge in all of their senses. To do this, event designers need to engage with every aspect of their event from the playlist to décor to create a cohesive, beautiful, purposeful and unforgettable experience.

The four pillars to event design are:

  • Making connections – Whether it’s connecting people to other guests, to your company’s mission or your products, events are all about bringing people together with a purpose.
  • Creating moments – Moments are where stories begin. Give people great stories to relay by making plenty of small, memorable moments throughout your event.
  • Setting the mood – Smart event design has the power to pull people into different worlds and even change the way they think and behave at the moment. Tell your guests what to do by creating the mood that goes with it.
  • Telling a story – Each event has its primary purpose, and through your event design, guests should understand exactly what that purpose is. Tell a tale about where your company came from, where it’s heading and how your guests can go there with them.

Without these four basic principles, you really aren’t getting everything out of your event that you should. Continuously reflect on these event design pillars throughout your planning and ask yourself when, where and how they will happen.

Event Design Ideas and Best Practices

Shaking up traditions with new event design tactics

Another emerging must-have element of event design is innovation. The expectations from guests are higher than ever, and if you want to break through the constant sensory overload they are subjected to every day, you really need to do something that grabs their attention.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to (or should) go all Cirque du Soleil just to stand out. Usually, the biggest impacts are found in the tiniest of details. And if you need help brainstorming, sites like Pinterest have thousands of amazing event design ideas to get you started.

Here are some exciting ways to break-up traditions and set a new norm for event design:

Change the flow

Design dictates where guests go and how well they enjoy the event. If you dump your guests into a room with tables and chairs, people will quickly find their seats and wait for the awkward table conversation to begin. Instead, enticing your guests by moving them through various spaces and setups will build excitement and give your guests time to loosen up. And employ the latest event design software tools to help you test out your ideas before you start spending money and deploying resources.

Make a statement

Statement pieces are taking on a more literal sense in event design. Instead of displaying a massive piece of art, announce your message throughout each design feature. If your company is going green, convey that by ditching plasticware, utilizing reclaimed furniture and displaying recycled art. Oh, and your design statements don't have to be expensive, just creative.

Break out the technology

What better way to move into the future than through technology. Digital display walls offer opportunities to change the mood as the party progresses, transforming the look and feel of a room in a matter of seconds. Tablets can also play double-duty as centerpieces, showcasing beautiful digital designs while also sharing important information and helping guests interact directly with the event content.

Event Design Best Practices

Make it exclusive

While many people are focusing their design around Instagram backgrounds and shareable content, nothing gets the gossip going more than the allure of a mysterious and secretive event. Create a no-camera rule for your event to let guests loosen up and have people flocking to the velvet ropes the next time around begging to be added to the guest list.

Get into character

Why create a theme when you can create an entirely new world. Utilize every aspect of your design, from chairs and linens to the staff uniform, to transport your guests into a fantasy world of your design. Committing to your vision will force people to believe that they’ve left earth for a day.

Create magical transformations

Keep guests guessing by transforming spaces throughout the event and pulling their attention into new directions. Use dualling stages to turn heads throughout the event and change up stage design. Lower ceiling décor for a post-dinner surprise. Transform overlooked spaces into unconventional uses, like turning the elevator into a riding bar. Alter spotlighting to bring focus to various elements of the design throughout the night, compelling people to notice parts they’ve missed.

Sit on something new

Chairs are a standard part of almost any party, and everyone is used to the standard “party” chair (tall back, linen cover, maybe something draped over or wrapped around it). Give them a comfortable surprise by changing the seating arrangement - pull in couches, a collection of mixed-match vintage armchairs or unconventional seating that fits your theme, like bean bags, pods, bales of hay, etc.

When to stick to the basics

It can feel tempting to swim against the mainstream and challenge every aspect of traditional event design, but don’t ditch all of the core principles just yet. There are reasons why certain things have become tradition, and sometimes it’s better to bend the rules then break them altogether.

Put a system in place to challenge your new bold ideas and reel you in when you might have gone too far down the rabbit hole. And look to leading event designers for advice and tips to understand how to walk that fine line between tradition and innovation. Having respect for the paths our event planning predecessors have laid out for us helps ensure that your big risks will still come with predictable rewards.

Event Design Ideas and Tips

Wrapping it up

Being a successful event planner is more challenging than ever. Guests expect big surprises, perfect execution and an unforgettable experience when they attend an event—and this pressure is forcing planners into new creative corners of event design. Because of this, parties that once would’ve been described as “unimaginable” are now taking shape.

To shake up the event design on your next get-together, remember to think past the basics, make changes in the details and find ways to surprise your guests (without confusing them). You should also check in with the key elements of event design and make sure you are serving your highest purpose. Finally, keeping some traditional elements doesn’t mean your event won’t be memorable; it just means it will run smoothly.


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