Where do you get your best event planning ideas?

For some, it’s the same place you get any creative inspiration: in the shower, during walks, drives or similarly routine activities. The calm and clarity of these places often stands in stark contrast to a boardroom or meeting, where the pressure to deliver innovative and engaging event ideas can hamper the creative process.

At an FMAV webinar on Oct. 2, Kristen Peterson, senior partner with New & Improved, LLC, used her experience with generating growth through innovation to discuss how event planners can bring creative thinking into planning sessions with clients and coworkers.

Separate divergent and convergent thinking

Peterson explained that a variety of factors can disrupt the creative thinking process, but most event planners report one primary cause: time.

“The No. 1 thing you’ll almost always hear from people is time,” Peterson said. “People are busy, and it seems like they never have the time to be creative – but they have the time to do it over.”

Instead of wasting your time redoing an idea down the road, make an investment at the beginning of the process to get the concept right on the first try. To do that, you need to generate lists of the event’s needs, come up with options and then converge and make choices.

Divergent thinking is a critical thinking process by which a large number of creative solutions are proposed en route to finding what will work best. Convergent thinking, on the other hand, involves bringing together ideas from a number of participants to find a single solution.

Both have a place in event planning, but Peterson reported that people tend to want to do both at the same time. For effective problem-solving, this can’t be the case.

Defer judgment and generate ideas

Instead of coming up with ideas with your team or client and giving instant feedback in the same session, Peterson recommended separating the two processes.

Start by coming up with ideas – lots of ideas. To inject extra creativity into your events, give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm and jot down all your ideas, even if they seem bizarre.

Peterson explained that the first third of the ideas you’ll come up with are generally the basic event solutions that most people think of. The next third is more creative, and the final third is usually the most interesting. But too often, planners stop short in this process.

“More times than not, time gets in the way, and we don’t give ourselves the time or tools to get into those third-thirds ideas,” Peterson said.

Once you’ve given yourself options, now it’s time to go back to your team or client and make choices. Narrow them down by checking out your objectives and improving your ideas as needed to meet these goals.

Ask problems as questions

Finally, ensure that you’re addressing any challenges. Your clients may want a holiday party that celebrates diversity or a seminar that appeals to their target audience. To help inspire your creative thinking, frame those requests as questions. How can this holiday party celebrate diversity? What does the target audience want from a seminar?

By turning these statements into queries, you’ll begin to think outside the box while staying focused in on meeting the objectives laid out by your client.

The end result? Creative events with unique solutions that will set you apart as an innovative thinker in your field.

To hear more of Peterson’s tips, listen to the webinar “Design more inspired events using creative thinking tools and techniques” on the FMAV website here.


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