Which Low-Tech Activity Should Make a Comeback at Events?

As new and emerging technology becomes a normal part of live experiences, planners share their favorite retro activities.

By Ian Zelaya February 8, 2018, 7:01 AM EST

From left: Stewart Hall, Laurea de Ocampo, Guerdy Abraira 

Photos: Mason Foster (Stewart Hall), Courtesy of Laurea de Ocampo, Freire Photography (Guerdy Abraira)

“I’d like to see assigned seating at lunch and dinner based on attendee interests make a comeback because it creates a structured space for people to connect under a theme, making it less intimidating to navigate a room of people. This also allows event organizers to learn more about their attendees because it enables them to gather info about their interests.”
Laurea de Ocampo, freelance event producer, New York

“For our past corporate Christmas parties, we’ve hired caricature artists, photo booths, and musicians. In order to save costs, this year I’m going with life-size cardboard stand-up Christmas characters: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Abominable Snowman, Hermie the Dentist Elf, and Yukon Cornelius. A few funny Santa hats, kooky glasses, and feather boas for people to wear—and we’ll have a fun photo opportunity.”
Melinda Orlowski, executive assistant and corporate secretary, Victoria Airport Authority, Sidney, British Columbia, Canada

“When I was the marketing manager at House of Blues New Orleans, we planned and hosted many events. One of our radio partners suggested a very low-tech way to encourage mixing, and it was to copy onto labels a bunch of popular cartoons from Garfield, The Far Side, and The New Yorker, cut the image from the caption, and distribute the image to one guest and the caption to another guest. The guests were instructed to walk around and find the matching image or matching caption for their cartoon. Since you had to read captions and look at the cartoon images below a name tag, the room would buzz with guests mingling around the room. The art of mixing and mingling does not come easy to everyone, so disarming folks with a little humor creates a safe environment to meet new people.”  
Laura B. Tennyson, president, Lura Belle Productions, New Orleans

“Definitely interactive icebreakers that encourage connections, but also create an experience to learn from. When I was in social work, I wanted to replicate what it would be like to jump from home to home. Each table had a ‘foster child.’ No one was aware of this. This was a covert icebreaker, if you will. The main icebreaker was a familiar one. Once everyone was engaged in talking, I’d give a prompt for the ‘foster child’ to move to another table. Every time they re-acquainted, I moved the ‘foster child’ again. By the end of this everyone was flustered, and I revealed the true exercise that was happening. Experience is the greatest teacher and it doesn’t have to only occur in a professional or educational setting.”
Paula Creed-Smith, owner/curator, Ceh Floral Gift Co., Palm Bay, Florida

“Live music at receptions and parties. DJs are the new norm for music at corporate and social events, and in many cases are the right choice, creating the atmosphere event planners are looking for. Live music provides a number of other options for planners and can instantly bring excitement to a room, a touch of class, or more visually appealing entertainment.”
Stewart Hall, president, Rock the Stars, Team Building With Music, San Francisco

“The art of conversation, rather than hiding behind social media. As someone who’s been in the trade show business of face-to-face exhibitor/attendee contact for 20 years, I’ve witnessed the demise of human interaction—why buyers still attend trade shows—over the technology available to do pre-purchase research online.”
Candy Adams, freelance trade show exhibit project and exhibit management trainer, San Diego

“I want to see Polaroids make a comeback. Polaroids are essentially the original selfie tool, when you think about it. As much as I love a great techy photo booth, there will always be something nostalgic about taking a photo on film, which reflects a raw, genuine, and unedited capture of an event.” 
Guerdy Abraira, founder, Ocean Flowers and Events, New York

This story appeared in the Winter 2017 digital edition of BizBash.

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