By Rob Davidson, speaker, researcher, and events consultant
I think of them as the conference sideshows. You know, those quirky activities on offer in the coffee service area, to keep participants amused – and get them talking to each other – during the breaks in the main event. In recent years, I’ve made, and eaten, my own ice-cream, using dry ice; I’ve printed my name on a 3-D printer; I’ve played a life-size version of Angry Birds; and I’ve navigated a model car through a maze, using a remote control – all during breaks during conferences around the world.
At the MICE Arabia conference in Dubai last month, I had a new experience. A company called Wax Hands UAE set up their stand in the networking area, encouraging participants to dip their hands into a vat of warm wax, to produce a life-size wax model of their hands to take away. When I did it, the whole procedure took around four minutes, but it attracted a small crowd of the bored and the curious, keen to see how it worked, and maybe to see if I would lose my hand in the process.
I didn’t lose my hand, you’ll be relieved to hear, but I can testify that the Wax Hands activity made an excellent ice-breaker, as the onlookers got chatting and joking. It wasn’t long before the business cards came out and started changing hands.
We shouldn’t underestimate the value of these sideshow activities. They help with boosting engagement with the event and provide an memorable element of fun.
I am now the proud owner of a wax model of my right hand as a souvenir of MICE Arabia. Maybe I could now get more parts of my body cast in wax, bit by bit, until the complete version, in all its glory, is ready for Madame Tussauds?