As a chamber pro, you know that events are a crucial part of fostering business relationships and community engagement. But if the average networking event is be losing its novelty again, it’s time for some innovative event ideas to help you re-engage businesses and your community.
Immediately after COVID people longed for in-person events that helped them connect. While that desire hasn’t faded, your networking mixers may not be as popular as they once were.
If that’s the case, you should be auditioning something different.
With the ever-evolving landscape of business and community needs, it’s important to try new innovative event ideas to refresh your offerings periodically. You want ideas to keep your chamber events relevant and effective, but also fun. Your members must be selective with their time and how they spend it. It’s one of the most precious resources. Your events must help them meet their goals so understanding what those goals are is the first step in creating dynamic, well-attended events.
Plus, an interesting fun event will draw sponsors (and vendors) as well. You want your chamber events to garner a reputation as the “cool kids’ party” that everyone wants to be invited to and be seen there.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some innovative event ideas for chambers that feel more like experiences than obligations. They provide excellent opportunities to connect your current and future members as well as build buzz and excitement around these events.
Innovative Event Ideas That Work for Chambers
The following event ideas keep several things in mind:
- the attendee experience,
- the business outcome for your participants,
- and the “excitement” potential that leads to important things like media coverage and word-of-mouth marketing:
Hackathons and Innovation Challenges
Hackathons and innovation challenges are innovative events ideas that bring together businesses, entrepreneurs, and community members to collaborate on solving real-world problems. These events can be focused on specific industries, such as healthcare, technology, or sustainability, and can involve brainstorming, prototyping, and pitching ideas.
They not only foster innovation but also provide networking opportunities and promote collaboration among businesses and community members.
The Dallas Regional Chamber held a hackathon entitled HackDFW powered by Say Yes to Dallas. The event was described as “… a fast-paced innovation marathon…” and a “… connection to some of the brightest tech talent where companies and aspiring technologists come together to use their skills to problem solve, develop software, and create new products over 48 hours. More than 500 college students and recent graduates from some of the best computer science and engineering programs in the country will attend HackDFW.”
Not only was the event an exciting time for innovators but it served as a recruiting tool for Dallas companies and an excellent sponsorship opportunity to tie their name to innovation in DFW.
Pop-up Markets and Expos
Pop-up markets and expos are exciting ways to showcase local businesses and products, while also creating a festive and interactive experience for the community. You can organize pop-up markets in partnership with local vendors, artisans, and food trucks, providing a unique shopping experience for the community.
You can also organize expos that focus on specific industries or themes, such as a home and garden expo or a health and wellness fair, to highlight businesses in those areas.
The Safety Harbor (Florida) Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its 8th annual Health & Wealth Expo this month. The event offers sponsorship and vendor opportunities for businesses in a variety of industries including “medical, aging, fitness, wellness, nutrition, spiritual health, animal health, financial planning, banking, mortgage, real estate, insurance, estate planning, retirement, and family activities.”
The free community event provides valuable giveaways and “free health screenings for cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, BMI, vein care, and more.”
Business Pitch Competitions
Business pitch competitions are engaging and innovative event ideas that allow local entrepreneurs to showcase their business ideas to a panel of judges and a live audience (think Sharktank). You can organize business pitch competitions in partnership with local business incubators, mentors, angel investors, or venture capitalists, providing an opportunity for businesses to gain exposure, receive feedback, and potentially secure funding. These events also provide valuable networking opportunities for businesses and community members.
The St. Pete Chamber hosted a St. Pete Pitch Night powered by a bank sponsor and held at a local brewery. “St. Pete Pitch Night focuses on showcasing, elevating, and seeding community-based businesses through a friendly pitch competition for a chance to win $5,000 toward a local startup.”
Community Clean-up and Beautification Events
Community clean-up and beautification events not only positively impact the environment but also foster community engagement and civic pride. Chambers can organize events such as neighborhood clean-ups, park beautification projects, beach clean-ups, or community garden planting days, bringing together businesses, community members, and local officials to work towards a common goal. These events provide an opportunity to create meaningful connections among businesses, the community, and local government, while also making a positive impact on the environment and the community’s aesthetics.
The Skamania County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a Carson Clean-up Day. In addition to getting a cleaner community, some lucky participants will win a local gift certificate.
Social Media Challenges and Contests
Social media challenges and contests are fun and interactive events that can generate buzz and engagement on social media platforms. You can create challenges or contests that encourage businesses and the community to participate, such as a “Shop Local” challenge where businesses showcase their products or services, a “Community Pride” or “Best of” contest where community members share their favorite local spots and businesses, or a “Photo” contest featuring winners in several categories.
These events not only create excitement and competition but also promote local businesses and the community on social media, helping to raise awareness and support for the local economy. Voting through social media also drives shares and interaction on your chamber’s social media profiles.
Another bonus behind these types of contests is that they provide content for a very long time in addition to building community and pride. Check out how the Orangevale Chamber of Commerce showcased their winners after the event.
Educational Workshops and Seminars
Educational workshops and seminars are valuable events that provide businesses and community members with opportunities to learn new skills, gain knowledge, and stay updated on industry trends in an affordable way. You can organize workshops and seminars on various topics, such as AI, business development, marketing strategies, financial literacy, or leadership skills. You can invite local experts or partner with other organizations to provide valuable insights and resources to help businesses thrive and contribute to the community’s economic growth.
Take a look at this huge list of seminar/lunch & learn topics to help you get started.
When to Consider New Event Ideas
In conclusion, chamber events play a crucial role in engaging businesses and the community but if you’ve noticed a drop off in interest or attendance, it might be time to change things up and start hosting events that provide a rich experience for attendees.
By organizing events such as hackathons, pop-up markets, business pitch competitions, community clean-ups, educational programming, and social media challenges, you can create memorable events that build business relationships, community engagement, and economic growth. Use your creativity to build an event that draws attendees and sponsors alike.