Takeaways from Wordplay: Minnesota’s Largest Party for Books

As we approach another summer of events, we took time to reflect on our recent work helping promote a soon-to-be iconic Minnesota event, Wordplay. We partnered with The Loft Literary Center to help tell the story of the inaugural “party for books” that brought more than 10,000 people downtown Minneapolis throughout the weekend of May 10-12. Attendees heard from the likes of Stephen King, Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Nora McInerny, Jericho Brown, Ross Gay, Mary Karr and many more, both through discussions on eight stages Saturday and Sunday, as well as at the Rock Bottom Remainders concert Friday night at First Ave.

Heading into event season, here are a few good reminders, for both inaugural events and annual favorites:

Tips for an inaugural event

  • Create visuals. With a first-year event, there aren’t photos from previous years to share with media, but The Loft created fun videos with the participating authors’ book covers, plus had access to all of the author headshots. This came in handy for TV segments that needed visuals to show during interviews.
  • Put yourself in the attendees’ shoes. Walk through the space. How does the flow feel? What would make the experience even more enjoyable for attendees? At Wordplay, Target provided cozy reading nooks for attendees to rest and read from their new books purchased at the festival. Don’t forget to consider the needs of the whole array of your event guests, from baby-changing stations to phone charging hubs and everything in between.
  • Roll out the red carpet for your VIPs/volunteers. The author headquarters at Wordplay were amazing – the space itself, along with the food, beverages and complimentary massages, really showed the authors they were welcomed and appreciated. Even on a budget, small details can make a big difference when it comes to recruiting special guests and volunteers in subsequent years.

General event reminders

  • With almost all events, you can plan as much as possible, but know there will be changes and adjustments. Go with the flow. Not everything will work out exactly as planned, and you’ll have to bob and weave. By having a solid plan in place, when things inevitably need to change, other event aspects will be running smoothly and you can focus on the necessary adjustment. Take these things in stride, and enjoy the ride!
  • Another good reminder the Wordplay planning committee emphasized: keep things in perspective. Snafus with nametags or scheduling might seem like a big deal to you, but they aren’t an emergency and event attendees likely won’t even notice. And if there is an actual emergency, refer to your crisis plan and enlist the appropriate professionals to help.
  • Smile and have fun. While they can be stressful, events are supposed to bring people together. Remember your event’s purpose – and watch the people’s faces as they enjoy your months of hard work and preparation.

Also, if you get the chance to see Stephen King and the Rock Bottom Remainders perform – jump on the opportunity. King’s performance of “Surfin’ Bird” is something to behold!

If you weren’t able to make it to Wordplay this year, check out some of the coverage below:

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