The Hive Network’s RetailFest turned out to be the event of the season with its barrier-breaking festival format. Here’s what we learned from its experience.
The Hive Network is a networking community separated into two halves, one of which is The Retail Hive for which RetailFest was planned. RetailFest was an outdoor, festival-inspired event which aimed to bring together retail professionals from all over the UK to engage in networking activities and to learn about its industry while having some fun. Katharine Rowney, Marketing Director at The Hive Network says: “We didn’t want to fall into the trap of large-scale events where you sit in a chair for most of the day, eat bland food, and then are forced into networking, usually in a hotel with no natural light. So, we thought there must be a good way to get value from an event without
Planning and logistics
The Hive Network aimed for RetailFest to be a fun-filled away day for the whole team, but at the same time it wanted to ensure that the number of delegates at the event was manageable, so each ticket was tracked and the tents’ capacity sizes were adjusted accordingly so there wasn’t any queuing and the value of the event programme wasn’t lost.
In honour of The Hive Network’s name, the event was separated into four ‘hives’ which each had a different agenda for the day, the categories were Sustainability, Ecommerce, Digital Marketing, and Customer Experience. This where inviting the whole team came in handy, each representative of an attending company could select a different hive and then report back at the end of the day, encouraging networking between your team and beyond in the event’s design.
On the day
At the site of the event there was a tent each for roundtables, workshops, and an innovation stage for speakers. The festival theme didn’t stop at the outdoor venue at Oakley Hall, but continued as delegates were welcomed by a flower wall and stilts walkers, got serenaded by a roaming walking band at lunch which took their requests, and got to eat at food trucks which served dim sum, pizza, and tacos.
Roundtables ran in rotation throughout the day depending on your selected hive while speakers and workshops, such as an online content management workshop hosted by TikTok, worked on a first come first served basis. Katharine says: “Everyone had coloured lanyards so you could determine who was supposed to be where. Then for example if digital marketing were at the innovation stage watching a digital marketing panel, then sustainability may have been in the Tea Tent doing roundtables. Everyone was free flowing.”
Though The Hive Network was nervous to see the reaction of RetailFest’s first few visitors, Katharine said: “People came in and we’re just like ‘Oh, this is lovely’ and relaxed into it pretty much immediately. The feedback for the event has been phenomenal. People really felt it was such a good atmosphere which was a great environment for learning.” The Hive Network is currently planning a RetailFest 2024 which will be bigger and better and are even thinking of extending the event format to its second hive, The Finance Hive, adapting the template where it sees fit for its more formal audience.