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#Metfest: Driving event engagement through creative experiences

Every year event agency mclcreate and Hilton Birmingham Metropole, one of the largest conference hotels in the Midlands, invite event planners to their complimentary joint showcase. This year the theme was Metfest - a festival experience.

Metfest campsite

The campsite in the hotel foyer at Metfest

On arrival guest were registered by the "crew", Hilton staff in relaxed, festival style uniforms. Once they had received their VIP festival pass guests were offered drinks in the foyer area, which had been transformed into a festival campsite, complete with bunting, barriers and tents . Hospitality staff were serving beer from wheelbarrows, whilst their colleagues, dressed in mobile vendor uniforms, served mini prosecco from trays hung around their neck.

Registration and pre event drinks at Metfest

As the doors to the main conference suite swung open, the sound of live music from a 50's style rock & roll band poured out and guests made their way in to explore the main room with a sense of anticipation.

Event theming transformed the event space into a festival at Metfest

Festival vibes had been created all around the room with décor and props from mclcreate's event theming partner, Eventologists, who were on hand at their garden swing styled stand to answer any questions and share details of their available services during the evening.

Street food stations lined the edge of the room and guests could choose from various international cuisines, prepared by the Hilton's catering team. A wine bar was operated from a vintage Volkswagen camper van and beer was served from a pop up bar made from reclaimed wood.

Various street food stations enhanced the festival theme at Metfest

Seating was provided by wooden picnic benches scattered around the room. Beer barrels were used in place of traditional poser tables, for guests to place their drinks on whilst they stood to eat.

Once the band finished their opening set, a welcome speech introduced guests to the activities that would be taking place throughout the evening ahead. It soon became clear that guests would be participating in the event but not in a way that felt contrived. More in a way that made them keen to discover more.

Fairground stalls and a glitter station at Metfest

Fairground attractions and glitter stations encouraged guests to get involved with the festival theme. The dress code "It is a festival - anything goes" was quite wide ranging so festival fashionistas were able to add the finishing touch to their outfits, whilst those who were more cautious in their choice of clothing were able to add a bit more sparkle. The fair ground attractions were a great way to encourage interaction between guests and acted as a great ice breaker, as well as a relaxed networking opportunity.

Gin and Whisky tasting at Metfest

Gin and whisky tasting sessions around the "campfire" created alternative physical spaces and offered shared experiences that naturally encouraged guests to network. Screens either side of the stage also encouraged online interaction between guests, by displaying the tweets of those using the event hashtag #metfest

VIP backstage tours at Metfest

The addition to the evenings itinerary that really set it apart was the VIP backstage tour. Every 15 minutes small groups of guests were escorted behind the set to see where all the magic happened.

Case study of a brief that mclcreate fulfilled for their client

As they arrived on the first stop on the tour guests were handed a pair of headphones each, so that they could hear the crew member talking above the noise of the festival. After listening to a quick introduction, they watched a short film which offered a case study from a particularly creative brief that MCLCreate had fulfilled for their client, Epson.

Demonstrations of the technology behind the scenes Metfest

Moving on to the next stage of the tour they stopped at the nerve centre of any live event, the tech desk. Cues were called by the technical team during a short visual demonstration before crew members then explained the process of what was happening and encouraged guests to interact with team to learn more about the equipment and what could be delivered.

Greenscreen demonstrations at Metfest

The final stop on the tour was the green screen experience. This is where guests got to discover how they would look as the headline act, with their own (superimposed) rock band! Green screens were offered as an opportunity for event planners to get really creative. How many combinations of scenes and uses for this in events can you think of?

The festival experience ended with a set from a (professional) pop band that filled the dance floor, before guests headed to the hotel bar to continue their networking.

Waterproof macs delivered to guests rooms and the festival themed breakfast station

The festival experience did not extend to the sleeping arrangements. Guests got a comfortable nights sleep in a Hilton hotel room and whilst they had been downstairs at the event a room drop had been delivered. The waterproof poncho came with a note from the organisers joking about the typical British weather making a waterproof a festival essential! The experience was then extended into breakfast with festival themed food stations.

Guests enjoying Metfest and the camping area

The focus of the event was on experiences. Multiple experiences combined to bring together the overall event experience. A more relaxed itinerary with no set menu, no seating plan and a variety of spaces allowed guests to participate in the event, rather than just attend it. Networking opportunities were created in a more relaxed way than in more traditional event environments.

The event organisers not only created the experience but shared it with guests, taking them on a behind the scenes journey that fully immersed them in the experience and offered deeper engagement through interactive experiences, that showcased the creative offering of mclcreate and their event partners. The event planner guests didn't just get to see the services that mclcreate could offer but they got to experience them, learn about them and gain inspiration about how they could include them in their own events. They also had chance to witness the flexibility that Hilton Birmingham Metropole offers as a venue.

What other creative experiences have you seen incorporated in an event and what did they add for both guests and the company hosting them?

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