Theme Events... Does it Add Anything?

Using a theme as a thread for your event is fun, but how far do you take it? You can literally catapult your participants back to the Middle Ages with an eye for the smallest detail. But does it actually add anything? That's what Kevin discusses with Joël Dumont.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Using a theme as a thread for your event is fun, but how far do you take it? You can literally catapult your participants back to the Middle Ages with an eye for the smallest detail. But does it actually add anything? That's what I discuss with Joël Dumont.


Hi Joel, welcome in our studio.  


Hi Kevin. 


A theme for an event is really fun, but how far do you take it?  


First of all: there are two kinds of theme events actually. There are events where people actually say, like: "we need a name. We need a red wire for the event". And they don't take it any further. The second kind of real theme-events, the ones which we are actually involved in, are the theme-events where we are looking for an unique experience. To entice the people, to take them into their own fantasy, as far as we are concerned. 


Yeah, I see a lot of attributes over here, it's obvious.  


These days people are looking for that unique experience. To take it a bit further. If you, let's say, go back in time, like 5 to 10 years. Events in that era were more about: "okay, we need to organize something for a client or staff. Let's book a location, a band, some food and yep, that's it. But these days, it's no longer enough. We have to take it to the next level. And we decided a few years ago to go for that medieval experience, but in a historically correct way; as correct as possible. And yeah, we can do it with almost any kind of event; whether it's a team-building or a staff event or a product launch or even a congress. We did like... Recently we did a congress for surgeons, where we actually took them to fire cannons the old-fashioned way, where we had a medieval surgeon explaining how they actually were doing the blood-taking and all that in the Middle Ages. So we can do practically anything or cover any kind of event with a medieval sauce. 


That seems really fun, but does it also add some value to the event? 


I think so. Mainly there are some advantages in organizing a medieval theme event, or a theme event whatsoever. These days it's hard, if you are talking about let's say commercial events, it's hard to get the people out the door. There are so many events these days, so little quality time with family, etcetera, etcetera. And why should people come to your event? If we are sitting down with a client, that's always the main issue. How do we get them from their seat at home to our event? What we all have in common as people is: we are curious. So with a team event, you can actually pop a question without actually giving them answer. If they want the answer; come and visit the event. So from the side of commercial events, where you actually want to get new customers in: that works. As far as your, let's say communication, like family days, staff events, yearly sales meetings, stuff like that... It always comes down to: you have to respect your people. You have to make them notice like: we invest in you, we set up this event for you, as an incentive or just as a fun day or whatever. With a medieval theme like this, with an interactive school we have... We've got an interactive school where you can actually go back into the old different kinds of making arches where they can actually go to the tin man, or the coin maker, where they can actually do that for themselves. Tapping a coin, stuff like that. They can go to the squire school, where they can actually do sword fighting, archery... All kinds of medieval activities can be, let's say, re-experienced in a historically correct way. And we often see especially with the iron-tapping and all that, it´s mainly the dads and the grandfathers who like doing that. They do say: "it's for the grandchild or for the kids". But I see that actually it's fun for them, because we've lost all that kind of experiences. In a way it's new and in a way it's old, because it's about our ancestors' daily lives. 


You mentioned that it is important to have it historically correct. Even the plates, the knives in your events are from the Middle Ages. How important is it to get all those details right? 


I always refer to the Law of Weber, which says that the strength of the experience is all in the intensity of the sensations. What I want to say is that it's important to get all the details right. If it's a theme-event and there are some small details missing or anachronisms like some of the re-enactors are wearing a watch... 


Or someone's phone goes off? 


Or someone's phone is going off or whatever. Those are the things people start talking about. Instead of being swept away in that experience that you are deliberately creating for them. Which is unfortunate, because in the end: where is your return on the investment as a company, as an organizer? It's in like... You want to be talked about, in a positive way if possible. So that's why it's so important to have everything from cutlery to the armours, the swords, the furniture... All the furniture we use are 15th century replica's. It's based on a lot of research... And also because, the thing is it doesn't match pop-up or pop-out. But it's also because on every event especially if you put the target high and say: this is historically correct, there are always people who are actually deliberately going to look for the missing parts or the things that are not correct. 


But I suppose that comes at a cost, that level of detail?  


Yeah well, unfortunately budget rules, as ever of course. You can solve part of it with a lot of creativity. One of the reasons why we a few years ago completely went into that niche market of medieval events is that for an event agency it's impossible if you just for once of twice that you get that question for a medieval event, it's impossible to invest in it. The only way of making it budget-friendly, so to speak, is by investing in the materials but they are going out of the door on a weekly basis, so it's okay. But in the end it all comes down to the fact that it does cost more.