24 Unconventional Event Formats for Maximum Engagement

  • Last Updated : October 17, 2023
  • 4 Min Read

The era of TikTok, Reels, and rapid-fire social media has transformed us into connoisseurs of micro-content. We're living in the age of fleeting moments, where time is a precious commodity, and attention is the ultimate currency.

The days of traditional lectures and run-of-the-mill presentations are fading into obscurity, replaced by a demand for something more captivating, more interactive, and more immersive. Capturing and holding someone's attention has become the modern-day alchemy.

We're conditioned to expect information in bite-sized portions, and we demand entertainment, education, and inspiration in the span of a swipe. So how do you compete with the siren call of short-form content and create an event that not only grabs but grips your audience?

To breathe fresh life into your events and create unforgettable experiences, we've curated a collection of 24 unconventional event formats.


  1. Live Podcast

Record podcasts in front of a live audience, giving attendees the chance to be part of the episode in real time.

  1. Panel Battles

Spark engaging debates by pitting two sides against each other, such as Founders vs. Investors or Planners vs. Suppliers

  1. Human Voting

Engage attendees by having them physically express their opinions on various subjects through activities like standing up or raising props.

  1. Live Demonstrations

Showcase product or service demos on stage, allowing attendees to see features in action. Live demos are interactive and can help answer real-time questions.

  1. Mystery Speakers

Keep the identity of a keynote speaker a secret until the last moment. This element of surprise can generate buzz and anticipation among attendees.

  1. Game Show

Add a competitive twist to your event by organizing a game show format where speakers or attendees answer questions on hot topics to win prizes.

  1. Open Mic

Host a speaker's corner where attendees can drop in and discuss their favorite topic.

  1. Storytelling Sessions

Encourage attendees to share their personal or professional stories related to the event's theme. This format fosters empathy, connection, and a sense of community.

  1. Marketplace

Connect attendees offering and wanting knowledge/training on specific skills or tasks. Match them in 1:1 sessions.

  1. Escape Room Challenge

Set up an escape room-style challenge related to your event's content. Teams must work together to solve puzzles and complete the task within a time limit.

  1. Ask Me Anything

Allow attendees to directly engage with a prominent speaker who answers their questions using a user-friendly app for seamless interaction.

  1. Walking Sessions

Combine physical activity and learning by providing attendees with headphones and conducting breakouts while walking around the venue.

  1. Roundtable Discussions

Arrange small-group discussions with a moderator to delve into specific topics. This format allows for in-depth exploration and peer-to-peer learning.

  1. Pitch Battle

Have two companies compete for a prize, all presented in the style of a rap battle.

  1. Unconference

Leave the agenda behind and let attendees spontaneously present on a topic of their choice. It's a dynamic and flexible format where they can share their insights and engage in impromptu discussions. Think of it as a brainstorming opportunity where you can bring your ideas to the forefront without prior planning.

  1. Pechakucha

Speakers deliver 20 slides, each displayed for 20 seconds, resulting in dynamic talks that last exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds. This format challenges presenters to be concise and impactful, making it ideal for sharing ideas and stories in a fast-paced and visually appealing manner.

  1. Speed Networking

Organize timed, structured networking sessions where attendees rotate to meet new people quickly. It's an efficient way to facilitate connections and conversations.

  1. Hackathon

Get problem solvers in a room to develop a product or strategize a way to solve common issues.

  1. Empty Chair Panel

Give a voice to the audience by inviting a member to join a panel discussion and represent their perspectives.

  1. Fish Bowl

Create an open and inclusive space in a circular room with empty chairs in the middle where audience members can sit to discuss openly.

  1. Interactive Workshops

Offer hands-on workshops where attendees actively participate in activities or experiments related to the event's topic. Learning by doing can be highly engaging.

  1. Lightning Talks

Invite multiple speakers to deliver short, high-impact presentations on various topics. This format keeps the audience engaged and exposed to diverse ideas.


  1. Virtual Reality (VR) Experiences

Incorporate VR technology for immersive experiences. Attendees can explore virtual environments or interact with content relevant to the event.

  1. Living Library

Create a living library at your event, allowing attendees to have real-time conversations with "human books"–volunteers who share their expertise and experiences on various topics. This is an interactive way to foster knowledge exchange and meaningful connections among participants.



If your attention span made it to the end of this article, good job! In a world where our focus is sliced into ever-smaller fragments, this is no small feat.

Remember that the success of your event format will depend on your audience's preferences and the event's objectives. Mixing and matching these formats or customizing them to suit your specific event can help you create a memorable and engaging experience for your attendees.

But most importantly, the format is the canvas; your imagination is the paint. Your events will truly come alive when infused with your unique flair, your narrative, and your passion.


So, as you step into the realm of event planning, embrace the challenge, experiment fearlessly, and trust in your ability to create something truly extraordinary. After all, Your event isn't just an assembly of people—it's a curation of experiences. Each event is an opportunity to captivate, educate, and connect. With these innovative formats in your arsenal, you have the tools to create events that will be remembered long after the final curtain falls.

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  • lavanya

    Marketer by day, geek extraordinaire by night—You can often find me at gig nights or the philosophy sections of bookstores. In my free time, I usually got headphones on, lost in an audiobook or podcast while indulging in my latest hobby, aka hyperfixation du jour. I like to travel to make feline friends everywhere I go. Sometimes I write. Join me as I navigate through the event industry!

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