Burning Man is arguably one of the most experiential events put on in the world—and the amount of interactivity and hype that it gets is something of which planners should very much take note.
Every August, about 70,000 people take a trip to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to build an anti-consumerist society for one week. The outcome: a place where people are forced to escape technology, get their hands dirty and explore art that comes to life, creating an emotional connection between the artist and the audience. These art installations create curiosity and engagement, most obviously in the temple, where burners go to write notes to loved ones they lost, before the entire structure is burned on the last day of the event.
Nora Atkinson, a craft curator who put on an exhibition of art from Burning Man at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., speaks about the event and its relationship to the art world in her TED Talk, “Why Art Thrives at Burning Man.” She discusses how, on average, a visitor to an art museum spends about 30 seconds with a work of art, while at Burning Man, they can spend hours touching, feeling, writing on, jumping on or walking through the art.
It’s because, at Burning Man, art’s value is defined by the emotional connection it creates more than, say, the fact that it was created by a famous artist. Atkinson calls it “an experiment in collective dreaming” where “artists can dream as big as they can build.” Even more, it’s a place where cross disciplines join forces to, say, create a tree that responds to the voices and biorhythms around it.
So, what if meetings could harness just a fraction of that experience? What if attendees could interact with one another across several disciplines to reach a common goal? What if they were given installations to interact with and learn from and be inspired by? What if they were encouraged to dream bigger and imagine beyond the big names and price tags?
Listen to this TED Talk to glean insight into why imagination and creativity are alive at Burning Man, and it just might give you some inspiration on how to craft engaging events of your own.