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The 7 features of the Greatest Shows on Earth


As event people, we are in a powerful position. We can inspire people, create powerful moments and memorable stories. We influence people. Sometimes we even change lives.

We can (and should) use events as a means to achieve our desired goal. To create attention, action, and celebration. To engage with our audience, sell tickets, raise awareness or funds. Whatever the influence you seek to have, events can change what we think, feel, and do.

So, how do we create successful events?

We’ve looked at why some events are more influential, how they stand out from other events.

What we found are some keys to open the gates to success in today’s event world. And whilst we can’t all create iconic events overnight, we can use them as a reference point, as a compass for our decisions.

You can now use these learnings to create your own successful event.


The best events are where people come together to share a passion. These aspirational events are like ‘zeitgeist experiences’. These events capture hearts and minds and create a spirit or feeling for a moment in time. A place where a shared purpose and belief embraces us, influencing our thoughts and actions. Having impact, creating change in their worlds.

The Greatest Shows on Earth

From The Olympics to Superbowl and World Cup Finals, Grand Slams, big city Marathons, and Le Tour. From Tomorrowland to Glastonbury and Coachella, Fringe Fests and Burning Man. From Rio Canivale, La Tomatina and Mardi Gras around the world. From the Grammy’s to the Academy Awards, SXSW to TED Talks, ComicCon, Fashion Weeks and World Expo’s. These are all iconic events. Creating influence, and change in their worlds.

These events create attention, action, and celebration. They connect us, engage us, and influence at scale. These events change our opinions and beliefs. They create communities and ecosystems around them. They impact in that moment, and for the future. These events can change what we think, feel, and do. They sell tickets, raise funds, the events and their partners engage with their tribes. They have the influence they seek to make.

And whilst we can’t all create mega events all the time, we can create some great events at any time. We can learn from the best, we can use the elements that make our own own influential event. These might be mega, major or every day events. Sport, arts or entertainment, cultural, business or trade events. All events can, and should be influential.


In our study inside the most successful influential events, we found some common characteristics, that allowed them to achieve what they have.

These are SEVEN common elements of ICONIC events.

1. Purpose, a reason to exist

2. Play, activities engaged in for joy

3. Awe, a sense of something immense

4. Flow, where the capability meets the aspiration

5. Shareable together, and after

6. Communitas, the lure of collective joy

7. Impact with legacies, at scale.

The 7 elements of iconic events you could say they are like colours. You can use some or all of them, you can mix these elements to create our own masterpiece.

By using these elements you can create the experience you want to. By adopting these 7 elements you can create the attention, action, engagement, you desire… an uprising, a celebration, and occasion.

When over a million people turn up each year around the world to run a marathon. That is Purpose. When millions run in ‘the happiest 5k on the planet’. That is Play.

When Usain Bolt appeared at the Olympics. That was Awe. When you feel one of those ‘can’t buy it’ experiences, that is Flow. When 3.4 million gathered in Rio for a rock concert, that was the draw of Shareable experiences. When people sing together at Wembley, that is Communitas. When 6 million people attend the Olympics, when the New York City Marathon generates over $400 million each year, that is Impact.

We share these insights so you can apply these at your own startup event, your mega, major or everyday events. Sport & Leisure events, Arts & Entertainment Festivals, Cultural, Business & Trade events. The elements are not a technical roadmap to success. Our Experience Design Playbook* provides that.

These learnings are ideas about elements you can use to bring your ideas to life. To invent (or reinvent) your event.

*Subscribe here to read the ‘Iconic Events’ case studies on each of the 7 elements in action. And please contact us to do some ‘Experience Design’ thinking.

And have a play with the free ‘Iconic Events Canvas’. Helping you to create your own iconic event.

Iconic Events Canvas Andrew O’Loughlin


Don’t forget these elements of influence need to be supported by an achievable, manageable, viable event model.

Influential events must be achievable to be successful. They must be sustainable to maximise their influence.

Influential + Achievable = Successful

Front of house success must be mirrored by back of house success. Work through our 4 step EXPERIENCE DESIGN PLAYBOOK to create an achievable, profitable and sustainable MODEL for your event.

I know how to create influential, manageable, and successful events. So I’m connecting people to the knowledge that has meaning. Research & evidence to make better decisions. And an Experience Design Playbook to bring it all to life.

This is for inventing or reinventing events. The art, and the science.

The productive application of our creativity.

The strategy, design, and the evaluation.

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