An Important Announcement From OfficeNinjas Founders →We’re Taking a Hiatus

Kicking off Our 9-Part Event Planning Series: Experiential Events

Read the Full OfficeNinjas Event Planning Series:
Experiential Events | Digital Tool Belt | Venue Checklist | F&B Planning | Photography & Photo Booths | Audio Visual | Event Design | Live Music | Corporate Gift-Giving

Which do you like better: attending parties, or planning them? While most people would probably rather nosh on mini crab cakes than negotiate vendor contracts, we know that event planning often comes with an Office Ninja’s territory. So we’re hoping to close (or at least narrow) the gap and bring y’all closer to event planning mastery (and enjoyment!) with our 9-part event planning series.

Over the last few years, we’ve collected tons of event planning tips, tricks, and pointers—and we can’t wait to share them. Plus, we’ve had the honor of working with some of the most innovative event wizards in the biz. From décor to entertainment and photo booths to gamification, we’ll cover all the must-have components of a memorable event. At the conclusion of our ten-week series, you’ll be ready to plan the most successful event of your Ninja career!

We’re kicking things off with a deep dive into adding experiential elements into events. Our first featured event expert Erin Mills, the Chief Operating Officer of the michael alan group, a New York-based experiential marketing agency, explains:

Experiential marketing is the use of live experiences to achieve brand objectives.

She works for clients like Nickelodeon, Fox, and New Balance, but her ideas and advice are completely adaptable for the holiday parties, client events, and product launches you may be charged with planning.

Ready to get experiential? Here are Erin’s top ten experiential marketing trends and some ideas on how to use them at your next event.

1. Gamify

Erin points out that gamification isn’t just about making everything into a game. Gamification really just refers to tracking progress in a fun way. For example, you can tap into event attendees’ competitive sides by featuring a participation leader-board and awarding badges. Erin recently used an online trivia site at a corporate event to quiz guests at the conclusion of each session. Attendees stayed engaged, and the winners were awarded prizes after each session.

2. Make Connections

Photo courtesy of Culture Summit
Photo courtesy of Culture Summit.

People show up at parties and events to connect with other people, whether that means networking with potential clients or bonding with existing coworkers. You can add more value to your event by facilitating connections between your event attendees.

Culture Summit does this beautifully with their conference registration page (btw, OfficeNinjas HQ will be attending their conference on 8/18. Email us for a 20% discount code if you’re interested in joining!).

They ask a few simple questions about each guest’s strengths and challenges, and offer to match them with other attendees who may be able to offer guidance or benefit from their strengths.

3. Bring the Event to the Guests

Photo courtesy of 1Up Events
Photo courtesy of 1Up Events.

While there’s a time and place for big, show-stopping events, you can often achieve your goals with smaller, intimate gatherings that can actually be delivered to your audience. If your guests are strapped for time and resources, they’ll appreciate an event that comes to them.

We love this “Hoppy Hour” concept from 1Up Events. The team at 1Up Events will deliver everything your office needs for Hoppy Hour—bunnies, bunny wranglers, bunny ears, and hoppy beers—for a fun, stress-relieving cuddle session.

Even engineers can benefit from bunny cuddles!

4. Make it Personal

OfficeNinjas co-founder Edwin Salgado rocking the spiked mullet trend. Both Edwin and his hairstyle have come a long way since high school!
OfficeNinjas co-founder Edwin Salgado rocking the spiked mullet trend. Both Edwin and his hairstyle have come a long way since high school!

No matter the event’s size, Erin says it’s important to make attendees feel like it’s all about them. Personalize the experience by using customized welcome letters or featuring attendees through slideshow profiles between sessions.

The Admin Awards nailed this concept by featuring presenters’ high school photos on their intro slides. We’ll admit that we groaned a little at the request to send in images of our awkward teenage days, but seeing everyone’s brace-faced grins and questionable hair styles turned out to be a fun way to break the ice.

5. Pick a Theme

You don’t have to save themes for just social events and holiday parties. When executed tastefully, themes can make any event more fun and engaging.

We love what Blueprint Studios (our Admin Bash wizards) did for Coupa, a spend-management software company, by creating a math-themed user conference. The gold color palette, graffiti-style number décor, and “Math Bar” videos were all sophisticated ways to make the event special and interactive without being cheesy.

6. Ask for What You Want

Chances are, if an event has a budget, it also has a goal. Whether the point of your event is to get publicity, score new customers, or recruit new employees, don’t beat around the bush. Ask for what you want in a direct but tasteful way. Being a little cheeky can help sometimes too.

Erin shared this story about software company Bigcommerce and their clever, unconventional, super-direct recruiting event. Their goal was simply put: poach engineers from San Francisco
giants Google, Facebook, and eBay. So, during morning commute hours, they set up stations by bus stops populated by area engineers and offered them free egg sandwiches—poached egg sandwiches, that is—and coffee, with a side of company info. Over the course of the campaign, they engaged with over 1,200 candidates and saw a 150% increase in job applications.

7. Throw it Back

While it’s a thrill to live on the cutting edge, you can’t deny the feel-good vibes that come with a blast from the past. OfficeNinjas HQ is a big fan of “nostalgia marketing.” We’ve teamed up with Joey the Cat for past events (they’ll be back for our IRL event in Silicon Valley on November 1st!) and delighted Ninjas with interactive old-school arcade games, such as skee-ball, Whac-A-Mole, and pinball. But you could just as easily celebrate the good ol’ days with a retro candy bar or ‘90s tunes from the days when MTV played actual videos.

8. Get Techy

If you’re worried that introducing a tech aspect to the event will also introduce a few zeros to your budget, Erin makes the point that “high-tech” doesn’t always mean “high-cost,” especially if you invest in interactive technology that can be used more than once. “You’d be surprised how many scalable solutions there are in the innovation space,” she says. “An investment in tech can often serve a larger purpose than a single use.” For example, virtual reality goggles from Oculus Rift are reusable and relatively affordable at around $600 a pair. And they can be used to transport event attendees everywhere from the North Pole to a mid-flight hot air balloon.

9. Trade Trades

In order to walk in someone else’s shoes, you’ve gotta get up and out of your chair. That’s the idea behind asking event attendees to try their hands at an entirely different job. Erin recently energized a client’s marketing team by asking them to create a business plan for a food truck. This unexpected twist shook things up and got the participants to think differently.

OfficeNinjas took a similar approach at the Admingling retreat in Santa Cruz. Team Bonding helped us create a product pitch contest, a la Shark Tank. It was a fun way to get the creative juices flowing and encourage communication between the attending Ninjas.

10. Aim for More Character, Fewer Characters

If your event also involves a presentation, take some time to make sure your slides are up to standard. After clipart or stock photos, nothing dates a slide presentation like wordy bullet points. Your audience knows how to read; if they can have the same experience skimming your deck solo, you need to reevaluate your presentation.

Erin suggests using info-graphics, parody videos, listicles, and Pecha Kucha presentations—seven-minute presentations that use 20 slides, each of which gets only 20 seconds of time. If you’re looking for a dynamic, engaging presentation, check out this one. Bonus—the topic of the presentation is how to improve your PowerPoint presentations (two birds, one stone).

Congrats, Ninja, you’re now ready to turn your next event into a true experience! Stay tuned for next week’s article on everything TECH TOOLS!

Seasoned event pros—did we miss any clever tricks and valuable tips? Leave your questions and ideas in the comments!


  1. Awesome article with actually helpful tips. Nice job, Ninjas!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Kera! Which tips do you plan to incorporate in your events?

  2. Great ideas, and I am totally up for the Oculus Rift and sled dog experience, though in my state, sled dogs are out of the question. Not the dogs, but the pulling part is not allowed. Thanks. Making a few suggestions to those in charge of the next campus event.

    1. Thanks for letting us know about the sled dogs, we had no idea!

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