From “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” to Pokemon Go and Beyonce, event planners almost need a cheat sheet to keep up with what’s trending in pop culture right now. Incorporating pop culture into events can be an effective way to engage with millennials and Gen Z, but it’s not as easy as it looks.
“You need to understand the fandom,” says Will Curran, founder of Endless Entertainment, an event production company that has worked with the likes of Amazon, Target and Zappos, as well as Phoenix Comicon and Emerald City Comicon. “If it’s not authentic, it’s not going to match up and the fans might be mad.” Take note of these five tips for incorporating pop culture into your meetings and events.
1. If you don’t understand a pop culture niche, find people who love it.
Scour microsites to do research on various pop culture trends. Instead of only focusing on social media, Curran recommends checking out blogs to find experts in pop culture subcommunities. “Most people are able to tell if something is just tacked on,” notes Joe Boudrie, director of programming for Phoenix Comicon.
2. Use pop culture references onstage.
Find keynote speakers who understand a cross-section of pop culture and can incorporate it into your event. The goal is to keep the references funny and lighthearted. Curran points to Grant Imahara of “MythBusters.” Imahara is not only has a science background, but is in the know about what movies are coming out. Because of this, “he can make jokes about it and have fun with it,” Curran says.
3. Poll your event attendees on social beforehand.
Even if you aren’t bringing in a celebrity, you want to find out who resonates with your audience. Maybe there’s a huge group of Beyonce fans in your audience, or maybe your crowd goes wild for “Duck Dynasty.” You can use that information to plan entertainment accordingly. When Boudrie wasn’t sure if Bob Morley, an actor from TV show “The 100,” would be a good fit for an event, he polled a couple hundred people on Facebook. Once he had enough data to justify hiring Morley, they marketed his appearance in Facebook posts targeted at women who were fans.