Incorporating pop culture into events can be an effective way to engage millennials and Gen Z, but it’s not as easy as it looks. From “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead” to Pokemon Go and Beyonce and the latest Superman movie, event planners almost need a cheat sheet to keep up with what’s trending right now.
“You really need to understand the fandom,” says Will Curran, founder of Endless Entertainment, an event production company that has worked with the likes of Amazon, Target and Zappos, as well as Phoenix Comicon and Emerald City Comicon. “If it’s not authentic, it’s not going to match up and the fans might be mad.”
As March Madness tips off—a cultural event itself—take note of these five tips for incorporating pop culture into your events.
If you don’t understand a pop culture niche, find people who love it.
Scour microsites to do research on various pop culture trends. Instead of only focusing on social media, Curran recommends checking out blogs to find experts in pop culture subcommunities. “Most people are able to tell if something is just tacked on,” notes Joe Boudrie, director of programming for Phoenix Comicon.
Use pop culture references onstage.
Find keynote speakers or a master of ceremonies who understands a cross-section of pop culture and can incorporate it into your event. The goal is to keep the references funny and lighthearted. Curran points to Grant Imahara of “MythBusters,” who is not only famous and has a science background, but also is in the know about what movies are coming out, “so he can make jokes about it and have fun with it,” Curran says.