This post has been updated from 70 to 83 event ideas, giving you an extra 13 event ideas and formats to inspire your next great event.
Do you ever struggle to think of new event ideas, or reinvent the attendee experience to keep it fresh and new?
Whether you mix a consumer experience into a business event or a more formal business format into a consumer event, mixing and matching could set you apart from competitors and give your next event the ‘wow’ factor.
To help you along, we’ve compiled 83 popular event ideas, themes and formats you can borrow from to help inspire your next great event; and as always, if we’ve missed any you think should be on there, let us know in the comments!
Items or services are sold in front of an audience to the person who is prepared to pay the highest amount. Audience members place ‘bids’ for each item or ‘lot’, with bids being managed by an auctioneer. Competitive bids are placed increasing in value, until each person has offered the maximum amount they want to for the lot, at which point the highest bidder has secured the item. Great for non-profit fundraisers.
Think Oscars, The Brits etc. Of course not all award ceremonies are quite as slick and glamorous, but they’re a wonderful way to recognise and reward the hard work of teams and individuals.
3. Bar Crawl
Not to be confused with bar brawl, the bar crawl is a tried and testing event format for 18-30s in the Balearic Islands. However it can also be a great way to encourage networking, explore a new city and show your attendees a good time.
4. Breakfast briefing
A morning event format often used when the host has an announcement or launch to present. Great for those who want to reach a business audience who would otherwise be unable to attend an event in office hours or after-work.
Cabaret is a stage performance, typically held in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It mixes music, song, dance and drama with an overarching theme that is normally more suited to adult audiences.
6. Car boot sale
One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. All you need is a car and things (usually old tat) to sell. For a fee to the organisers, sellers line up their cars, open the boot and sell items that they no longer want, from the back of their cars.
Less a format and more an excuse to host an event, celebrations bring people together to honour a person, place or time. Weddings and birthdays feature high up on the list of most common celebrations, but they really can be for anything.
8. Chattham House Rules
Straight from the official site: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” They’re normally a way to get important people to open up about topics they wouldn’t otherwise discuss in a public forum.
Pay attention at the back and sit up straight! It’s not like being back at school; these are typically interactive events with small groups, where learning is the desired outcome
Conference are made up of several sessions, often mixing up formats including keynotes, panels, breakouts and roundtables (to name just a few) and also blend learning with networking
A ConfEx is part conference, part exhibition. As you’d imagine, there’s a heavy emphasis on talks and learning, but with a large number of exhibitors too walk around too.
Congresses generally refer to formal meetings between politicians or government representatives. Many conferences also adopt the name of ‘congress’ to sound more formal and important too!
13. Consumer Show / Fair
These are usually big events full of vendors selling their products or services all linked by a specific theme like home wear, travel or weddings.
This is another broad term that can something been a conference, a trade show or, more commonly now, a gathering of fans (i.e. a fandom).
15. Dance / ball / disco
Not many events feature so strongly in our culture as those that revolve around the dance floor. Whether you go ballroom dancing or clubbing, just for fun or to compete, their variety is almost limitless and so is their enduring appeal.
The spectacle of ‘model UN’ debates may not be as popular in the UK as they are elsewhere, but witnessing talented, passionate debaters is an event that can make a huge impression. In fact great debates can influence elections, build credibility for causes and get spectators questioning their original assumptions.
Endurance events are normally individual feats of endurance where you race against yourself to complete the distance. Like races, the most common forms involve running, cycling and swimming (or all three), but they could involve dancing for 24 hours (like Dermot O’Leary did for Comic Relief).
18. Exhibition / Trade Show
Trade shows are similar to consumer fairs, but are normally restricted to professionals and not open to the public. They focus on selling high-value B2B goods or services.
19. Fancy Dress / Masquerade
Most common around Halloween, fancy dress parties are a great excuse to get dressed up (normally in line with a given theme) and revel with others in equally outrageous / amusing / esoteric clothing.
20. Fandom gathering
An event focused on fans of a particular part of popular culture – usually referring to geek subcultures such as science fiction, anime and gaming or cult TV series.
21. Fashion show
The buzz and theatre of a runway at one of the major fashion weeks are hard to replicate, but fashion shows can be run anywhere and anytime, and they can be a great, fun way to raise money for charity too.
Often music, but can be on any topic. An organised series of concerts, screenings or plays, usually at the same venue and often over several days.
These events may be organised months in advance, but they are promoted merely days before the event. These types of events are great if you have a large following or a high demand for your event. The sudden release of news of your event is sure to trigger impulse buying.
24. Flash mob
No, not a big gather of angry flashers (there’s a scary thought), flash mobs are large groups that all descent at a pre-arranged time and location to dance together. Orchestrated through social media, they look spontaneous (and pretty cool) to those who are there to witness them. A favourite for brands who want to look cool and youthful.
25. Food and Drink
Food and drink events can be as varied as food and drink itself, however there will often be a small admission fee, and then a large variety of stalls and vendors selling their goods (they normally have little tasters available too). They’re a great way to sample a lot of variety before making a decision on your favourites.
Historically ‘the Forum’ was a Roman centre of public life where citizens would gather. In the context of events, a forum is usually a great format for debate and airing of opinions and so associated with legal and political proceeding. Equally useful for families to hash out what you should have for dinner or housemates to debate who needs to do the washing up.
Whether it’s gathering social gamers or attracting gamers that play for cash prizes as a sport, gaming is a big industry to penetrate. These types of events can help you target a niche audience.
Wikipedia explains this one best: “Gig is slang for a musical engagement in which musicians are hired. Originally coined in the 1920s by jazz musicians, the term, short for the word “engagement”, now refers to any aspect of performing such as assisting with performance and attending musical performance.”
When you gather a room full of programmers, designers and other digital professionals and ask them to build a prototype within a set period of time, you’ve got yourself a hackathon. The stereotype is that they’re fuelled by pizza, caffeine and beer.
30. Historical / Role play / Reenactment
Frequently military or fantasy themed, groups of enthusiasts gather to immerse themselves in the period or theme, and enjoy role playing or re-enacting famous battles with their fellow fans.
Immersive events normally follow a tight narrative that leads the participant through the story, with the help of actors who always stay in character and setting like you might find on a movie-set. A favourite event for fans of zombies and apocalypse scenarios.
Improvisational comedy: a comedy gig where the performers have no set script, and instead develop ideas from the audience into jokes and sketches on the fly.
33. Interview / Fireside chat
This is a great format for those who want a keynote speaker but they can’t invest the time in creating a presentation. Instead you can hire a comfy chair, put them on stage and then ask all of the questions you and your audience want to know.
What adult wouldn’t like to regress to their younger selves and bounce on bouncing castles, jump on trampolines, or just play games. Growing up is a trap, so target people’s inner child.
Whether it’s attending an exhibition, a gallery, a book club or anything for that matter, it’s great to meet up with like-minded people and enjoy the company of those with a shared passion.
36. Networking evening
Often geared towards professionals, networking events are designed to bring like-minded people together to chat, share experiences and hopefully find common ground that will ultimately lead to a mutually beneficial business relationship. Something they’re just about eating free pizza and grabbing a beer.
37. Obstacle races
These are similar to endurance events but with lots of obstacles now in your way (and typically lots of mud too!) These can be tough and gruelling , or they can be fun, with bouncy obstacles. Both options are widely attended.
38. Open Mic
An event where you get the chance to be the star of the show. They usually focus on poetry, music and comedy and give aspiring artists the chance to showcase their skills and get comfortable performing in public.
39. Paint Jam
Find a great space, grab a handle for street artists and you’ve got yourself a paint jam. People love watching people create all kinds of amazing art pieces.
40. Panel session
A perennial favourite at conferences, they can also be stand-alone events. Gather a few (3-4) experts, throw in a moderator and a series of questions on their topic of expertise and you’ve got yourself a panel.
This is where you become a part of the event, helping shape and change the experience and the outcome as it goes. This dynamic makes them unpredictable and exciting, and always unique.
Do we have to define a party for you? Really! OK then…parties are simply a gathering of people (friends or strangers) who come together to have fun, relax and often celebrate something (whether that’s a birthday, wedding or just the arrival of Friday and another weekend).
43. Performance art
You never know what to expect from performance art. It’s as completely original and unique as the artist with very little common ground between one event and another, other than it being “a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary.” (Wikipedia)
The format is normally a rapid fire session of startups or speakers pitching to the audience, or a panel of experts, usually to win a prize.
Host your event in the same venue, at the same time? Why not change things up with a pop-up event somewhere totally different? Pop-ups are mainly known in the food and drink industry, but these could relate to any event.
Presentation isn’t another word for power point, contrary to the popular understanding of most conference speakers. From Wikipedia, it is “typically a demonstration, lecture, or speech meant to inform, persuade, or build good will.” While usually found as part of a conference or other larger event, there’s no reason you can’t have a single presentation as the star of your event.
47. Product launch
Product launch events are often held in a party format to showcase a company’s latest release, so they’ll generally involve a demo, lots of cool branding, important people and plenty of drinks and nibbles.
Another American staple and movie favourite, the prom has made it to the UK in a big way in the last few years. Now teenagers across the UK are having to find prom dates and pocket money for dresses/tuxedos and flash transportation.
49. Puzzle/ Escape Room
Solving puzzles in a group, within a certain amount of time, in a closed space, creates the right mix of excitement, curiosity and agitation to make this format a stand-out success recently.
Question and Answer sessions are very common after a talk or panel as a business event, but they’re not limited to that situation. Artists will often launch their latest film or book with a Q&A session so their fans get a chance to dig behind the scenes and ask their burning questions.
A fun event usually consisting of groups or teams competing against each other, and a ‘quizmaster’ who poses questions to the competing teams. Teams then write down answers to each question with the winning team having the most correct answers.
A competitive endurance event, over a specified distance or time. Often running, cycling or swimming. Occasionally involves an egg and spoon or sack when at a school sports day.
A rally is pretty synonymous with politics and social issues, which take the form of a whole lot of people taking to the streets in support (or against) a specific shared cause.
Big in the 90s, less so now, but what about getting your attendees to party likes it’s 1999? People love a bit of nostalgia!
Whatever your religion, events will likely play a crucial role in bringing together believers, spreading a common message or raising funds.
Class reunions are great fodder for Hollywood, and a much bigger deal in the US than in the UK, but if you believe we eventually adopt most of their events (think Halloween and Proms) then this is one to watch in the near future.
57. Ribbon cutting
The classic ‘ribbon cutting’ event has the town mayor, dignitary or famous guest come to open up a new public space, like a school or library. It’s a great way to gather the community and acknowledge the new amenities.
Roasts, in the opposite tradition of toasts, are events where the main subject is honoured but with some gentle mocking and ribbing as the main contribution. A great way to keep their ego in check. Think the best mans speech minus the wince-inducing crude bits.
An event usually on a specific theme where all in attendance are posed the same question, and then debate the answer. Think city planning, business innovation or fighting obesity as the kind of topics often discussed at roundtables.
60. Scavenger hunt / treasure hunt
Classic team building event and firm family favourite at Easter, scavenger hunts can be great fun and an enjoyable way to get people working together (assuming they don’t fall out in the process!).
61. Screening (e.g. Cinema)
From a traditional Saturday night at the movies, to the full-blown extravaganza of Secret Cinema; rooftop film clubs to exclusive documentary screenings to raise money for charity – screening events can be surprisingly diverse and flexible.
Keeping the programme of your event a mystery really engages people’s curiosity. Sometimes telling them nothing at all makes them buy a ticket just to find out what it’s all about.
A session focussed on a single theme where attendees are invited to participate by following along with specially designed academic exercises.
64. Signing (e.g. Book)
Signings are generally associated with books, so fans and readers can meet their favourite author and get their latest release signed by them. They’re also a common component to fandoms and comicons too.
65. Silent auction
Like an auction but bids are placed in a closed box, with no one knowing how much anyone has bid. The box is then unlocked and the highest bid wins.
66. Silent disco
If you want to hold a house party with no complaints about the music volume, this could be the solution! Instead of blaring out dope beats from speakers, each attendee of a silent disco is given headphones and dances to the tunes only they hear. Looks hilarious to the uninitiated onlooker too.
67. Speed dating / networking
If you’d like your awkward silences to have a short time limit on them, this is the event format for you! On a more serious note, they can be a very efficient way of helping attendees work a room, meet a lot of interesting people and not get stuck in one boring conversation all night with no means of escape.
68. Standup / Comedy
Everyone loves to laugh, and stand-up has been around as an event format since Ancient Greek times to service this basic human need.
69. Street party
These are great community events, very often organised to celebrate huge milestones or anniversaries, such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, or the end of the World War. A great way to bond with your neighbours and build community spirit, why wait for an excuse to host one?
Traditionally, a symposium was a Greek social affair that was heavy on drinking and revelry. These days it’s more commonly associated with medical, scientific or highbrow gatherings of experts who debate and exchange key industry developments. There’s probably still a drink or two though!
71. Talent show
A competition where entrants compete to demonstrate their unique talent in front of an audience and judging panel.
72. Taster session
A bit like free samples you get in the post or little morsels of tasty treats you get handed as you pass by restaurants, taster sessions give you a tantalising flavour of what’s to come. So if you have a workshop or series of classes, they could be a great way to get people interested in your more expensive offering.
73. Team competition / sports day
Anyone heard of football? Great, you’ve got the idea. Whether it’s the FA Cup or an office summer outing of rounders, team sports events are a brilliant way to engender team spirit and competition in equal measure.
74. The arts (Ballet/Musical/Opera/Theatre)
Yes, we’ve lumped 4 major types of events into one, because they share one common factor – a centre stage occupied by very talented artists at the top of their game, appreciated by an attentive audience.
Tournaments are knock out events where the players compete, often in front of an audience which grows larger as the stages get further, and the stakes get higher. One of the most famous is the world series of poker, but there are lots of tournaments for board games, online games and competitive sports games too.
76. Training Session
Training sessions usually focus on a specific outcome with lots of practical, vocational learning along the way.
Unlike conferences, they focus on a specific theme but with no pre-formed agenda. Attendees usually decide the topics for discussion at the start of the day and then self-regulate as the event progresses.
78. Village fete / fair
A gathering at a village hall or green, consisting of stalls, games, rides, refreshments, music, demonstrations – usually in aid of bringing a community together and raising funds for a community cause like a village hall.
“Do you know who I am”? Is a common refrain at VIP events. These are exclusive, invitation-only gatherings of important people that everyone else wants to attend. If you’d like to up the FoMO factor to 11, think about hosting a VIP event.
80. Virtual Reality
A new type of event that will continue to grow will be in virtual reality. This could mean attending a live event virtually, or even a whole event created in the virtual world. The possibilities are endless!
81. Walking tour
Walking by name, walking by nature – these are group events led by an expert on the location or focus of the tour – who takes the group between venues on foot.
An online seminar where attendees dial in either by phone or web and follow the slides onscreen. It’s a great event if lead capture or education are your primary objectives, and there’s also the option for live Q&A too.
Workshops are often used interchangeably with training sessions, but their traditional meaning was a room where people could build stuff. So in event terms, your event should probably focus on helping people create something tangible – like a painting or a teapot warmer.