11 februari 2020 Marketing

Help your event grow with side programming

Andy Greenwood

Nowadays events and festivals are popping up all over the place, some more alike than others. On the one hand, it’s amazing because there’s so much for visitors to choose from, whereas on the other hand, this puts a lot of pressure on organisers to come up with new and interesting concepts in order to distinguish themselves from the rest.

Experiences at your event

One such factor is the overall experience of an event. More and more, people are interested in having immersive (offline) experiences. Just look at the popularity of Escape Rooms and other Real Life Gaming experiences and you’ll get a bit of an idea of a developing trend.

That’s not to say that in order to stay relevant as an event you need to provide a full-blown real-life gaming experience, but rather that people are less interested in simply being herded between their favourite artists after each performance. Instead, event-goers are looking for a more immersive side programme at an event, which can range from pop-up theatre productions on the event’s site to unique catering choices and other live experiences.

The more unique an event is the more likely people are to share memorable moments about it on social media which can gain you quite a bit of attention. This is known as user-generated content. We’ll give you some examples of how to achieve this below.

Side Programme

When it comes to festivals trying to distinguish themselves, there are a number of large festivals with a dedicated area for their side programmes, such as the ‘Petit Bazar’ at Pukkelpop or the ‘Theaterweide’ at the Zwarte Cross. There are also loads of other large festivals that put forward a carefully selected side programme of both performing and immersive arts. An example of this is 'Join Us' at Paaspop, which is a part of the festival grounds that is filled by creative concept developers.

Of course, these are all really large events with the budgets to match, but you can do similar things at smaller events. There are all sorts of groups and companies that have interesting, fun, and interactive concepts which you could use to blow some new life into a dull corner of your event.

One such group is ‘Het Gras van de Buren’ (translates to ‘the neighbour’s grass’). The first project they came up with was the ‘Turbo Touw Tornado’ (Turbo Rope Tornado) which was basically a motorised skipping rope. The two inventors, Peter and Vince, jump around like madmen encouraging people to join in, while at the same time someone in the machine room controls the music and shouts out ridiculous oneliners, either improvised or from a pre-recorded soundboard. The whole thing is run with the energy of street theatre; it’s whacky and is well-received at events of all sizes all across the Netherlands and Belgium.

The same guys have since come up with a new concept called 'Bubbouillon' in which they ‘cook’ participants in a hot tub. It starts off as a wellness treatment that slowly turns into something more ‘sinister’. The actors run around with all sorts of ingredients such as carrots and courgettes, chopping them up and lobbing them into the hot tub. Participants are then offered a bowl of their own ‘broth’; their names are spelt out using alphabet pasta and then chucked into their bowls. Again, the silly enthusiasm they throw into the acting is really what ties the whole thing together.

"Small acts create a pleasant vibe and make sure people loosen up. They’re sort of like microclimates of little atmospheres which make sure that every visitor has a unique experience. It means there is simply more to discover." - Vince Linders

Het Gras van de Buren aren’t the only ones, other theatre groups that do similar interactive performances include Chonk, Man in Pak Producties and HH-producties. There are so many more, so make sure you dig around to find something that you think suits your event.


As far as catering goes there are a number of large Dutch festivals that take the cake. According to Festileaks, the big winners in 2019 were Best Kept Secret and Down the Rabbit Hole, with Pohoda, Electric Castle and Zwarte Cross in close pursuit.

Again, these are rather large and well-established events, but that shouldn’t discourage anyone from trying to pick a nice selection of caterers at their own event. The sheer number of speciality food trucks and caterers that are available makes it possible for you to make specific choices that best suit your event. Whether you want tortillas, pancakes, Thai, or vegan hotdogs, you’ll probably be able to find someone willing to sell it.

catering food truck decor side programmes theater

One important thing is that your catering should reflect the crowd that you’re looking to attract: If you’re looking to appeal to people with lavish tastes and little regard for costs then go wild! However, if your target group is younger then you might want to have some cheaper options too. Your choice of catering should also reflect the size of the crowd; there’s no point booking five food trucks for a crowd of 100 people.


Another way to stand out from the pack is by adopting a particular art style for your event’s decor. Having a unique style is precisely what lifted events such as Tomorrowland and Parookaville to prominence. The more your decor stands out, the more likely people will be to engage with it by taking pictures and posting them on social media.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this only applies to festivals, though. Even when you are hosting a conference, it can be worthwhile to invest some money into decorating in a unique style to stand out from other similar conferences.

Have fun coming up with fun ways to make your event stand out!

Want to find other ways to make your event stand out?

Go to the Eventix Marketplace
Author image

Andy Greenwood

Content Marketeer

Once took a peek behind the scenes at events and never wanted to leave again. Has a serious passion for music and plays guitar in his band.