5 Fresh Ideas to Run a Successful Event Contest

Skift Take

It’s sometimes hard to be creative and unique when attempting to promote and execute an event contest. Here are 5 ideas to try at your next event.

Contests can be exciting, encouraging and creative ways to get event attendees to interact together. However, if not properly planned out, contests can end pretty quickly, and worst of all – make your event look like a dud.

A great idea for all event planners is to brainstorm with your team every month to come up with new and fresh contest ideas. Everyone gets tired of the same old contests – entering in for a chance to win an iPhone, iPad, and now Apple watch – these contests come across as mediocre and not well thought out. Below are a few fresh ideas for not only contest ideas, but the thought process that goes into each one.

Map it Back

As you begin to brainstorm ideas for fun contests, one thing to keep in mind is making sure the contest theme maps back to your overall event theme. The last thing you want as an event planner is for attendees to walk around questioning what in the world this contest is for or about! Map every piece of an event into one overarching theme.

For example, if your event theme is “Rock and Roll”, you could use a creative rock music theme for your contest. One cool idea you could do is have the event speakers call on attendees randomly and have them all play air guitar for a grand prize. By spontaneously engaging with attendees, you catch their attention and involve them into the event experience. Besides, what’s more fun than playing air guitar with your peers?!?!

The Element of Surprise


A creative contest idea you could incorporate into your event plan for 2016, is the element of surprise! Here you would launch a pre-show marketing campaign announcing a secret password to attendees via social media, email, banner ads, etc. Be sure to go above and beyond to get the word out about the password. Let attendees know when the password will be dropped, and what they need to do to share the password to the correct person. The idea here is to create a buzz around the event in an exciting, yet secretive way!

Once you announce the password for the day, provide details on where they need to go to share the secret code. Once this is done, drop another clue to let them know what the next steps are. This can be as simple as everyone will win a prize, or hand them another clue to continue the excitement! Don’t string your attendees along all day though – you want to keep this fun, engaging and short. If you provide additional clues, make the third clue your last stop. It’s always fun when attending events to do unique forms of a scavenger hunt while walking an expo floor.

Press Play

Another cool contest idea is having event attendees video themselves sharing a quote or idea on camera. You can set up a fun area where attendees can be drawn in to caption the moments they love at the event on camera. At the end of each day, have an editing team slice together the best ideas and have the crowd select the top three ideas or moments they loved the best!

This is a super creative way to get the attendees engaged and become a part of the overall event experience. It also provides the event management team with a cool recap video, and they can review it to see what ideas people loved best before planning future events! Be sure to socially share the video so everyone can enjoy it!

Snap Into Action


Going off of the video contest idea, you can also experiment with photos as a contest. Have the attendees take photos throughout the day and socially share them with an option to caption each photo, or select the best photos at the end of each day that recognize the overall event theme in a creative way. You can have iPads set up in various areas on the event floor, and use a Polaroid event app to create cool event photos that attendees will want to share and keep forever – because let’s face it, photos last a lifetime, and with so many social platforms out there today, everybody loves to capture fun memories and create unique photo experiences online.

So Long, Farewell…

As great as event contest seem, some old gems should be tucked away into the archive cloud forever. These include the old school “drop your business card into a fishbowl” contest for a chance to win a lousy pen or stress ball. Or, the interactive games in booths such as bean bag toss or spin the wheel to win a chance to go home with an iPad or even better, a $5 Starbucks gift card! Yawn!

However, there are creative ways to take some of these old school ideas and turn them into fresh ones. Tweak the spin the wheel contest into a trivia wheel. Provide a mix of educational and funny questions to ask attendees as they land on a certain part of the wheel. Also, be sure your prizes make sense with your booth theme, and are fun. A few ideas here can be mini old school games, cool t-shirts people are buzzing about, and even a grand prize for a trip for two! A lot of older contests still have potential – think through how and why they used to work, and find the new and fresh potential they can have for your event!

In Conclusion

Event contests should be an exciting way to engage with all event attendees. Review the idea of the contest you want to do, and make sure it not only makes sense to you, but to a broader team before you promote it. If it goes well, you can successfully continue to test it out at other events! You never know, you may start a new contest craze for all events in the near future!