These days, pop-up events are more than just spontaneous happenings that vanish into thin air. They are much bigger. Pop-up events go on for longer and are being staged by all types of businesses.
There’s a reason that pop-up events reach us differently from other events. They are rooted in the old routine of the “marketplace” where shops would be set up in the morning and then neatly packed away in the evening. This is how sharing and trading began. Successful pop-ups take this ancient concept of the nomadic experience and add their own brand-relevant ingredients to stand out.
Pop-up events essentially work with the element of surprise and spontaneity. You don’t want it to feel too staged. Instead, you want your audience to feel like they are witnessing a unique, spur-of-the-moment experience that cannot be reproduced, hence the term “pop-up.” It’s this casual feel of pop-up events and their spontaneity that appeals to audiences. However, you need rigorous planning and coordination to execute that “spur of the moment” feeling and deliver an “effortless” pop-up event.
What Makes Pop-Up Events So Cool
These are the distinguishing features of pop-up events and how they can be used to create unique experiences:
Due to the spontaneous nature of pop-up events, the size of the audience generally stays on the smaller side. And the few attendees get an exclusive experience. This exclusivity also commands a high price tag giving businesses and event planners a chance to make higher returns.
The exclusivity of pop-up events also allows businesses to use novelty to their advantage. Instead of doing giveaways to encourage customers to try new products, pop-up events use a different story. The attendees are getting the privilege of experiencing the product before anyone else, so attendance must come at a high price.
However, there is also the opportunity to gain more customers in the case of a big turnout. Pop-up events can have different tiers of attendees, with the center designated for VIPs. For example, in a pop-up restaurant, you can take in a limited number of people and serve hors d’oeuvres to the rest outside.
When planning your pop-up event, you can send out invites or sell tickets that reveal the date and time of the pop-up, but the rest must be kept under wraps, i.e., the theme and the programming. If the event is a new product launch or just a surprise celebration, withhold details such as the menu, the host, or the performers. To increase the demand, you can also sell a limited number of tickets. For example, selling to the first 50 buyers. This is likely to result in tickets selling faster than usual because you’ve introduced a restriction.
An undisclosed location
The location of a pop-up event is everything. If you can keep that bit of information hidden, you’ve definitely got the set-up for a thrilling pop-up event. And since it is meant to be an unusual experience, you can use an unconventional location like an old historical building or a trendy, non-traditional space. This will entail getting permits from your municipality or other forms of licensing. And you want to secure all those details before any event planning so that you can change locations if needed.
A shortcut is using a peer-to-peer marketplace for events (like PeerSpace). Still, you should always double-check any permit requirements.
Your choice of venue is determined by the concept
Most venues can be made to accommodate any concept; however, with pop-up events, you can choose a location that your idea will be “at home” in. Your options are virtually endless.
You can have a store-concept using a storefront. Or an out-door concept using public parks and open plots or an exhibition concept using town halls, museums, or other public buildings. You just need to make sure that your event branding clearly states who is behind the event so that casual walk-ins realize the brand behind the pop-up.
Pop-up events can fit any context
Pop-up events can be used in numerous contexts and accommodate varying crowds. Your pop-up can be directed to your customers and situated in places they frequent. For example, having a pop-up store in a mall to attract teenagers and young adults can be entirely out of context to reach a different crowd. Pop-up events have been staged at street corners, railway stations, and even underneath bridges. They are essentially a chance to do something your business does not normally do and surprise your attendees.
Pop-Up Event Trends
These are some of the trends that have emerged in the last few years to stage memorable pop-up events:
Collaborating with other brands
Collaborative pop-up events give all brands involved a chance to increase their reach and customers. They also allow them to give their customers a different experience. The essential thing about pop-ups is that they are finite, so the experience of any pop-up event is a one-time thing. There is no expectation for it to happen precisely the same way again. With this minimal level of commitment, you can afford to get creative.
You will also be giving your attendees combinations of products or services they could not otherwise have. Collaborative pop-up event examples include bars teaming up with alcohol brands, fashion brands with clothing stores or beauty salons, and famous chefs teaming up with restaurants. It’s an efficient strategy to diversify each brand’s customer pool.
Repeating the process
Pop-ups are finite, but the method can be repeated. Consider a series of pop-up events with different concepts culminating in one big, traditional event. This model can also be great as an outlet for all those wild-card event ideas that are not necessarily related to your brand. Your last event can then use the concept received best by your audience.
Your series of pop-ups can be across multiple locations. If your budget allows, you can take your pop-ups further and further from where your store or business is based, ultimately expanding your audience. Each pop-up can have a concept tailored to that particular venue and region. You can partner with brands and companies in those different regions to save costs and gain more customers.
If your business is based online, pop-up events are also an excellent opportunity to gather your audience in person. You may, for example, have a YouTube cooking channel or give yoga classes online. These can translate into a pop-up event at a local restaurant or a local workout studio. This mutually beneficial partnership would bring you and the venue more customers. At the same time, you save on the cost of formally hiring a venue for your event.
You can also support a local charity by having your pop-up at their location. This way, you could bring that organization more traffic and help them raise funds and awareness while you also build a stronger connection with your customers.
Giving an immersive experience
Experientiality is part of the core of pop-up events. It encompasses things like giving your attendees samples, teasers or trial runs of your products so that they have a physical experience of your event rather than just seeing it. You can also let your attendees get their hands dirty. For example, have them cook alongside you in your pop-up restaurant. Or facilitate a workshop where you teach them to mix their own spices, perfumes, or outfit combinations.
Building a strong social media presence
Social media is indisposable to a successful pop-up event because of its ability to mobilize a crowd in a short time. You can start by creating an event hashtag to build up anticipation before you give more details about your pop-up.
You can then follow on with teaser posts. For example, obscure location images so that your audience starts to guess. You can also create a virtual location for the pop-up, such as creating a Facebook event and using other social media platforms to give your pop-up a strong social media presence.
The Most Important Questions About Pop-up Events
The most important thing with any pop-up event is that you pay close attention to the space and the logistics surrounding that space. If it is outside, consider where your power supply will be, what specific décor you will need, and who to outsource it to.
You also want to pay attention to how your entertainment will work in that particular location. Where will your sound come from and what other noises will there be in the area that will interfere with it? Also, are there any noise restrictions in that particular area?
Lastly, you also need to consider how your attendees will reach your event; is there enough parking nearby? Is the venue accessible for people using public transport? These are all crucial questions to ask at the very onset of planning your pop-up event, and if they are answered, your pop-up event is likely to be a success.
Photo by Nick Amoscato