Best moments of the Best Event Awards World Festival

10 januari 2020
Categorieën: Art and value of moderation, Best practices ... or not, Je publiek beter bereiken
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Although the list of great projects we – as Masters in Moderation – did in 2019 feels almost endless, there can only be one absolute highlight: the recent Best Event Awards World Festival in Milan. In cooperation with Salvatore Sagone and his briljant team at ADC, everything we do emerged into one big climax. Our efforts were highly rated by the participants, the captains of our industry. I’m happy to share my thoughts on this great event.

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For those of you, who don’t know us yet: we provide professional moderators, moderator-trainings and interaction design. And you can imagine what it felt like, being asked to moderate and (co)design the Best Event Awards World Festival: it is like playing the Premier League and a huge appreciation of our efforts to bring a new way of moderating to the world.
In Milan, we were designing and moderating for the peers in our own industry, so we were extra happy when the evaluation-ratings turned out extremely high.

Traditionally, the festival was divided into three parts: the pitches, the educational conference and the award show. On each of these elements, we stayed true to our typical Masters in Moderation style of doing things: engaging, participant-centric and objective-driven.

The Pitches

First, it was pitching time: from all entries for the awards, the best were invited to do a live presentation for the jury. For us, this part probably was the biggest challenge.
In four rooms, spread over a range of categories, dozens of projects were presented to the four juries. To be able to do this within a day and to make sure there’s a level playing field, timing is tight and the format is strict. This gave our four moderators (Hans Etman, Kjell Lutz, Samme Allen and Jan-Jaap In der Maur) very little room to play their part. Yet, they managed to keep the energy up all day, by playing little games, doing short interactions, by introducing quick energizers and by simply acknowlodging the fact that this long day is hard for everyone involved.
Just to give you a few examples: in ‘my room’ I had the jurymembers do a high-five run (having to do as many high-fives with participants as they could within one minute), asked the particpants to shout at the jury ‘we love you’ (and the jury in return: ‘thank you. We love you too’) and I told all jurymembers to walk out in the street, stand in the sun, close their eyes and take three deep breathts. If you think these 1-3 minute interactions are futile, you should have been there: it made people refresh, showed them that somebody cared for them and make this whole day of hard work feel like a little party.

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The educational conference

The next day, there was the educational conference, hosted by Jan-Jaap (internationally knows as JayJay). In the design, we set out to do a few things differently, using some guiding principles:
1. Half of the time will be interactive
2. No two sessions will be the same
3. Every session will lead to practical learnings that can be put into practise right away
4. Participants will feel loved, seen and involved
5. The theme will be ‘the nature of events’, the red line will be ‘co-creation’.

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We opened with a spectacular best practise: Rockin100 is the biggest rockband in the world, showing the real power of true co-creation. We practiced what we preached by really involving the participants in the opening song ‘We will rock you': weeks before the conference, we asked for volunteers. Some of them were selected to actually sing in the band. And that was no free ride: they had to practise already at home ánd spend the evening before the conference rehearsing with the band.
Putting in this effort and being on stage changed their experience, because they were a real part of the show, rather than only consuming it. It also changed the experience of the other participants ‘by proxy': seeing you fellow-participants on stage makes you feel different too.
This performance even changed the opening statement by the organizer. Salvatore Sagone had the guts to also play a guitar solo, thus connecting to the participants on a different, deeper level.

The first keynote – Walter Faaij – showed how tribal structures can change a meeting and how looking at your events through the eye of an anthropologist can teach you new values. Again, the approach was largely interactive. And we – the moderators – had silently introduced some rituals already on day 1, making the participants feel part of  tribe; if only for these two days.
What made this presentation special was that we cut it in two. At the end of part one, Walter gave the participants an assignment to do some field-research. Later that morning, he returned to stage to analyze the findings.

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After the participants co-created in changing the seating of the room together, keynote 2 took the shape of a team-challenge. Just imagine hundreds of participants walking around with furniture: apart from energizing them with some physical activity, it made them feel being an integral part of the event again; their event. After a short introduction by Michela Russo of Kantar Media, eight groups worked on a series of challenges, discussing how to engage the ‘participants of the future’. A jury of Kantar-millenials chose the winning team, that will be invited to a special webinar by the Kantar Millenial Lab.

The final keynote of the morning, Cyriel Kortleven, took the participants on a journey through creative thinking. It was exactly the light, entertaining, yet educational session that participants need at the end of a well-spent morning. Cyriel made a special effort in including small parts of the previous presentations into his talk, thus tying all elements of the morning together.

The Workshops

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After lunch, the particpants had the choice from an array of workshops. Our moderators (Hans, Kjell and JayJay again, plus Desiree Hoving) put extra effort in to making these true WORKshops, instead of just long presentations for smaller groups. The extra challenge was to prepare for any kind of numbers, since participants were completely free to choose; so a session could have 8 or 80 people in the room.
The moderators prepared the workshops in close cooperation with the speakers, expecting them to also go the extra mile to make the sessions really engaging and educational. Once the session started, we were there to help the speaker scale the format to the amount of speakers and to assist them in tuning into the needs of the attendees.

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Overall, we feel that the educational conference had the Masters in Moderation signature: choosing making true connections over a ‘glossy showcase’.

The Award Show

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In the evening, JayJay and Sandy Nijhuis hosted the final part of this festival: the award show. Again, we made some clear choices:
1. This should be the fastest BEA award show ever
2. We would hand out awards at high speed; no lenghty ceremonies. In this way we created room for:
3. The audience should feel an integral part of the celebration at all times. Normally people just sit around, being bored and waiting for their own category. We wanted them to feel seen and ‘loved’ through the entire show.

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So what did we do? The awards were taken care of in a very structured, high speed format. JayJay and Sandy alternated turns from two sides of a catwalk, making sure that a category could begin as soon as the one before finished (even while pics of the winners were still taken). By having strict ‘rules’ for this approach, it made sure that the audience got into a steady rhytm, that allowed us to do one category every 90 seconds (including introducing three nominees, announcing gold/silver/bronze and taking pictures).
After a few categories, participants would get tired by this high speed format. Exactly at that point, we planned for some audience-engagement (assisted by Hans, who would walk around the room, while Sandy and JayJay were on stage). We had participants wave at each other, take pictures, cheer each other on, celebrate the jury, do the wave, rehearse the standing ovation for the winner of the Grand Prix etc. Overall, it made people feel part of the show, rather then being spectators. It showed them that instead of doing a fully scripted, ‘dramatized’ ceremony, we made it into a ‘group-party where everybody felt welcome and involved.
A special ‘thanks a million’ goes out to the event-teams from ADC, The Next Group and Clonework, for trusting us, for going along with our ‘crazy ideas’ and for providing the best staging and graphic design ever, allowing us to put up the show we had in mind.

The best compliment we received, was during the afterparty (and no, that person was not completely drunk). Someone told us: ‘Maybe the BEA World Festival should win the BEA World Festival next year’.

JJ

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