3 December 2018

WOW – is one of the most common and clichéd words used to try and explain or brief live event requirements. It’s also one of the most problematic. If you’re a brand or organisation asking your team or external agencies to create live events or exhibitions that will ‘wow’ audiences or deliver a ‘wow factor’, with little additional context; ‘wow’ is going to be difficult to achieve. If you really want to achieve that illusive ‘wow’ moment, factor or experience, it’s going to require a little effort. Asking for ‘wow’ alone isn’t the answer. 4 minutes of video to increase your chances of achieving something that might actually wow you… and your audience…


Hi, I’m Will Glendinning. I’m a live event producer, director and designer.

I want to talk about one of the most problematic words when it comes to live events. And that word is ‘wow’.

If you’re an organisation or brand who wants any type of live event or exhibition and you’re asking your team or external agencies for the wow factor, yes everyone knows what you mean, but in turn, I don’t want to be a killjoy, but it doesn’t really mean very much at all.

The word wow, can sometimes masquerade as other phrases like ‘mind blowing’ and ‘never been seen before’. Or sneakily and more subtly as words such as ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’. Wow and all these other words and phrases are incredibly subjective. They mean very little in any useful sense.

The amount of time, money and effort I have seen wasted by both internal teams and agencies trying to decipher, imagine or, frankly, invent what people mean when they use such words without much, or any, additional context is scandalous. This is all time, money and effort that can be better focused and directed.

Some people will argue that it’s up to your team or any external organisation you’re inviting to come up with ideas, concepts or proposals to work out exactly what it is you mean or what it is you want. Now, there is some validity to that statement. However, firstly, no one is clairvoyant.

Secondly if you’re asking people who have to interpret such requests frequently with little more information or context, they’re not going to be very informed or enthused to come up with genuinely different thinking; so you should expect their results to match.

Yes, creating a live event with your wow factor or developing that wow moment is a creative, possibly iterative process, and you may not know what it is you want until you see it, but, you do know more than you think. Like many things in life, you get out what you put in. The more help, advice, direction and insight you can give the more likely it is that you’ll get a live event that’s fit for purpose, that you like, that you can afford and, if those the stars align, can actually deliver you that wow factor.

If you were asking an architect to design you a house with the wow factor, you know full well that you’re going to need to provide a little more context to make sure it’s fit for your needs, that you can afford it and that it wows you. The same applies with live events.

If you want this illusive wow factor, how do you actually go about increasing your chances of getting it? Well, it starts with you. So, if you’re briefing your team or any external organisations or agency, four things to consider.

Firstly, rather than just say you want wow, explain what this means to you. What do you want people to see, do, feel, believe, understand or experience? Avoid only using superlatives and hyperbole. If you can’t articulate what it is you need, or what it is you want, then ask for help. Because until you can, the very purpose of your live event is questionable.

Secondly, if you are looking for genuine innovation and creative genius, be realistic about how much time this is going to take. If you ask someone or an organisation for breath taking ideas, never been seen before technology or innovative creativity that’s more than skin deep, or similar, this almost always takes time. How much time? Well that depends what you’re looking for but you need only ask a few qualified opinions to get a sense of what is reasonable and realistic.

Thirdly, an artist will often tell you great art shouldn’t be bound by financial shackles. I would agree. However, most people need live events delivered to a budget and on a certain date. Money does therefore play a part in any creative. You may not want to limit thinking by declaring a budget but by not declaring a budget, or a least a range, or a guide or comparables, you are limiting thinking if you don’t get any ideas that are affordable, it’s completely wasted, pointless and limited thinking. Alternatively, keep things conceptual if you just want ideas and concepts that can be scaled to any level at any budget. Say that, be explicit.

Fourth, and finally, be open to discussion. Yes this takes time. Yes this takes effort. But like I say, you get out what you put in. If you want people to do incredible things for you, you can’t delegate it completely. Like any relationship, you are part of the equation.

The more those trying to help you can delve into and explore your expectations and desires, the more likely it is they’ll produce a live event you will think is worthy of the word wow.