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Event Openings: Shock & Awe

I don't speak Dutch, but as Annemarie Steen opened Content Marketing Fast Forward in Amsterdam, I didn't need to speak her language to know one thing: I was shocked.

As the event's emcee, it's Annemarie's job to get the whole room fired-up. It's her job to get everyone talking. She's supposed to get them excited about the speakers about to take the stage. I've even seen Annemarie emcee before, but I had no idea she was going to do this.

Annemarie Steen started ripping up my book.

That's right, after, what I imagine where a few introductory words, Annemarie grabbed a copy of my book and started ripping out every single page. Two minutes later, I'd realized what she'd done to the audience was shear genius.

Before I tell you what she did with this desecrated copy of Brandscaping, let's talk about event openings.

The Problem With Event Openings

The typical event kicks-off in one of three ways:

  1. An over-produced video montage (usually something that sets up the theme for the conference) chocked full of scary industry stats.
  2. Some booming, high-energy music, with a nice V.O.G. (Voice of God) track introducing the head honcho of the event. (Who could never be expected to carry the energy of Turn Down For What.)
  3. A live music performance by acts ranging from Cindy Lauper to the local high school marching band (or even a street performer we booked the night before at the hotel lobby bar.)

There is nothing wrong with opening your event this way. Really, I love all three of these openings. The thing is, we've seen them before. If you want to set the stage for a kick-ass event, open your event in a new, interesting, exciting, or imaginative way.

If you want to kick-off a kick-ass event, you've got to get creative. Annemarie is creative.

So, what did she do with the ripped up book?

As she violently tore page after page from my "masterpiece," she walked down the aisle of the venue handing 15-page chunks to the person at the end of each row. Her instructions were to take a page and pass it down.

In order to comprehend how powerful her concept was, I need to give you a little background on the event itself.

Content Marketing Fast Forward was designed to help attendees extract the big ideas from thirty of the most popular marketing books and the presenters were ready to dive in deep.

Annemarie took the theme to heart.

Before she started ripping up the book she explained to the audience that I'd given her a copy of Brandscaping months ago and that she hadn't had time to read it.

"That's where I'm going to need your [the audience's] help," she exclaimed. "It is called Content Marketing Fast Forward, isn't it?"

As the awestruck audience started reading the page they'd received, Annemarie continued:

"Instead of one person reading a 200-page book, why don't 200 people read one page each and tell me what you learn? Go ahead, share your page with your neighbor. I need to tell Andrew, I've read his book."

The venue erupted. Everyone started talking about the page they had. They started talking about how crazy this was. They started laughing at how unrealistic this task was. The energy skyrocketed.

It was genius.

Ask Yourself...

I want you to think about the three things Annemarie did to create a unique, exciting, and fun open for Content Marketing Fast Forward:

  1. She embraced the theme of the event and came up with a unique and relevant way to kick it off.
  2. She gave the audience time to talk together, to introduce themselves, to break the ice, using the pretense of sharing the page you'd received with a neighbor.
  3. She invited the audience to participate from the very beginning.

Ask yourself, what can we do to kick-off our event in a new, interesting, and fun way? What if, you ripped up a book?

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