What Burning Man Can Teach Special Events Professionals

"The Catacombs burning at sunrise was the largest burn at Black Rock City to date," - Account Executive, Morgan.

“The Catacombs burning at sunrise was the largest burn at Black Rock City to date,” Morgan.

For many creatives, late summer delivers the process and experience of Burning Man. When Entire team members Carina and Morgan returned from their trip to Black Rock City, they shared their reflections on how inspiring and impactful the annual arts festival could be for all special events professionals. Whether you had a chance to attend the weeklong festivities or not (more than 70,000 people attended this year’s), Burning Man offers the special events community insight on how our industry is transforming from a service-based economy to an experience-based economy. Here are three takeaways from the festival that we hope to bring into the new year:

Unique experiences involve sensory participation.
For “Burners”, a great part of the experience involves being in the desert of Black Rock City and taking on the physical effects of situating one’s self in an extremely different environment.

Our very own Director of Experience Design, Carina, in her "office in the desert”.

Our very own Director of Experience Design, Carina, in her “office in the desert”.

 

Playa bikes are THE main form of transportation. Innovation takes shape with this wind sail duo bike. (Photo taken by Morgan Smith)

Playa bikes are the main form of transportation. Innovation takes shape with this windsail duo bike. (Photo by Morgan Smith)

Long gone are the days of the dinner-show. Your event attendees are more likely to remember moments of your event when they are encouraged to touch, listen, smell, and taste.

Great events encourage vulnerability amongst attendees.
In its 30th cycle, Burning Man has created a distinct culture and community with many members returning year after year. With ten guiding principles, including gifting, civic responsibility, radical self-expression, and communal effort (via Burning Man.org) participants are involved in personal and intimate ways. 

Participants revel in the nostalgia of past times as they bounce through one of the largest installations, The Black Rock Lighthouse Service. (Photo by Jim Urquhart / Reuters in The Atlantic)

Participants revel in the nostalgia of past times as they bounce through one of the largest installations at Burning Man 2016, The Black Rock Lighthouse Service. (Photo by Jim Urquhart / Reuters in The Atlantic)

Participants dance and climb on art installation, Lord Snort. (Photo by Andrew Jorgensen in Fest 300)

Participants dance and climb on the art installation, Lord Snort. (Photo by Andrew Jorgensen in Fest 300)

Chin up with sand-ridden hair, our very own Morgan holding the spirit of Burning Man.

Chin up with dust-ridden hair, our very own Morgan holding the spirit of Burning Man.

For event professionals focused on attendees’ experiential journeys, tools can be provided so that guests are inspired to share and tell their stories. This may be through a zany photo booth, intimate fortune readings, or DIY workshops throughout an event. Not only are attendees creating memories, they are building relationships outside of the standard network-and-drink setting.

Performative art tied with technology will be the trending wow-factor. 

Burning Man has exhibited wild and amazing creations, all in its support of the arts. Emphasizing impactful and interactive work, with a mission revolving around participatory and shared experiences (via BurningMan.org), Burning Man informs our event industry of what trends to look out for.

Upon their visit, Morgan and Carina were inspired by several installations on the Playa. Here, we share a couple of their own favorites:

 

Sonic Runway radiates music as bicycles pass through. Music at one end transmits light signals that then radiate down the runway at the speed of light. (Photo by Scott R Kline)

Sonic Runway radiates music as bicycles pass through. Music at one end transmits light signals that then radiate down the runway at the speed of light. (Photo by Scott R Kline)

“The Sonic Runway was one of the most fascinating installations on the Playa in 2016,” Morgan says, “The runway is made up of 32 arches of colored lights forming a 1,000-foot long corridor, all driven by a sound system. Its engineers are award-winning technologists in the Bay Area, and the Playa offers them a playground to do more of what they would like.”

For Carina, it was digital painter Android Jones‘ live performance that would later inspire her to bring the experience of large-scale virtual reality painting, and invite the artist himself, to a dashing soiree in the City View at Metreon.

Whether you ever plan on taking part of the festival or not, Burning Man shows us the capacity of a well-designed event to continuously impact attendees. The team at Entire takes this wisdom to heart, encouraging our clients to participate in this next level of imagining. We encourage you to do so as well—together, we look forward to the creation of more meaningful and intentional experiences.

– Tesha