Event Planning Programs are Promoting Unplugged Events lounge on couches in nature

How to Throw an Unplugged Event

Some events require the use of the advanced technology, especially events geared towards tech companies. They’re always looking for the latest and greatest technology to engage attendees. But other events benefit from the absence of tech. Ever-present smartphones and cameras distract attendees in events where the point is to “live in the moment”. These technologies could even lead to disruptions in the guest experience for other attendees and the clients themselves.

Event planning programs are starting to promote tech-free, unplugged events. If you’ve been out of school for a while, you may not be aware of this fascinating trend. Don’t fret! We’re going to walk through what you need to know about unplugged events!

Why Event Planning Programs are Promoting Unplugged Events

What is an unplugged event?

An unplugged event is when the client advises guests not use any electronic devices at the event. Planners and their clients can choose to implement this in varying degrees of severity. Here are a few common ways clients choose to enact these rules:

  • Silencing and putting away devices for a specific part of the event program. An example of this is during a wedding ceremony. Couples allow guests to take venue photos beforehand and they’re also allowed to photograph the reception afterward. Not during the actual ceremony, though!
  • Designating technology-free zones. When guests enter a specified area of the event grounds, they must put away their phones for the duration of their stay in the area. An example would be meditation areas at a retreat.
  • Indiscriminate electronic devices ban. Many entertainers have taken to implementing all-out cell phone bans during their shows. The latest example being Jack White’s recent tour. Attendees locked up their phones in high-tech pouches during the event. If they wanted to use the phone, they’d have to leave the stage to find an unlocking base for the pouch.

unplugged wedding ceremony sign

Why have a tech-free zone?

The main reason why clients want to throw unplugged events is to increase face-to-face interaction. When people look down at their screen to attend to texts, social media, and work emails, they’re mentally far away from the event. Increasing guest participation and engagement is the primary reason, but there are many more…

  • Tech gadgets can impede other people’s enjoyment of the event. Movie theaters often play PSAs right before the previews reminding them to shut off their brightly-lit, noisy phones.
  • Overly-enthusiastic guests may jump into the viewfinder and block the view of the hired photographer or videographer.
  • Event attendees often get caught up in capturing the moment instead of living in it. For milestone events especially, clients may want their guests to live the moment with them. Not to mention, looking out into a sea of cellphones during the ceremony doesn’t warm the heart!
  • In the previous meditation example, the theme of having a tranquil space makes a tech-free zone the best choice. How can anyone properly meditate if they’re Tweeting?
  • For the happy couple and the entertainers, unplugged events mean having the exclusive rights to distribute the photos or recordings. Comedians like Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle have implemented no-phone bans at their shows. Jokes don’t have quite the same replay value as other types of performances!

relaxation lounge getaway from main event

What events benefit the most from being unplugged?

When guests are expected to be mentally present on top of being physically present, a no-cell-phone policy could work wonders. Guests need to listen if communication is a large part of the event. The best collaborators are those who listen to others before voicing their own ideas. How can anyone know what’s truly going on with their noses glued to their phones?

Events such as funerals, weddings, retreats, and team-building events are obvious examples that would benefit from phone bans. But remember, not all events should be tech-free. Enforcing a “no smartphones” rule at an event where sponsors rely on attendees to use social media could spell disaster for your client! Consider the goals of the event and the stakeholders when implementing tech-free zones.

How do you throw an unplugged event?

When throwing a completely unplugged event, ensure the guests know ahead of time. You don’t want to catch people by surprise. They won’t take kindly to being told they must surrender their tech to a valet after arriving at the event! Depending on the type of event, you may wish to send it out as part of the initial invitation. That way, they’re aware of what the rules are before purchasing a ticket.

If the event isn’t totally tech-free, you wouldn’t have to announce it in depth before the event. Use the Facebook event page, the follow-up emails, or the website to detail the policy in full. This way, it’s readily available for people who are keeping up with event updates.

On the day of, include the policy in the itinerary and have the host address it aloud at the start of the event. They may repeat the message as necessary. Ushers may remind guests of the rule, too. For weddings, a wedding app, such as WedTexts, allows planners to send guests reminder messages to silence their phones 15 minutes prior to the ceremony!

Why Event Planning Programs are Promoting Unplugged Events

Alternative activities

Once your client decides they want to go full-speed ahead with an unplugged event, you then need to put together a compelling program. When attendees don’t have the comfort of their phones to turn to during downtime, you risk losing their patience and attention altogether!

The trick is to incorporate competitive games, physical activity, or live performances. Team trivia games, full-body yoga, and comedy shows are great starting points. But they only serve a solid foundation to stand on. You won’t achieve the participation your clients are expecting when the trivia is too difficult or the roster of comedians isn’t funny. Having high-quality programming is what will keep their attention! Do your due diligence when researching entertainment and activities for your client. It reflects your client-service dedication, so you want to do a good job!

Have your own tips to share? Leave us a comment!

Besides unplugged events, check out these other wedding planning trends for 2019!

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