Six ways to make a splash at next year’s SuomiAreena

While SuomiAreena is still fresh in our minds, it’s a great time to reflect on how the event could be even more interesting, thought-provoking and effective for you and your organization, be that a political party, an NGO or a company.

1. CONTENT. New insights should be a priority for anyone organising an event at SuomiAreena. To followers of politics, most SuomiAreena discussions had a very familiar ring to them. The participants were the usual suspects: MPs from the major parties, economists from the main banks and talk-show hosts with mainstream TV shows. And their messages were often the same they have repeatedly expressed in so many panels before. To make it fresh, one should dig up new research or, for example, launch a new study. For established think tanks, one easy way would be to publish a major survey on July 17.

2. FORMAT. Interaction and presentations could involve so much more than a panel discussion. It could be a HARDtalk-styled interview. It could be a debate between two competitors. It could be a speed date where the public can pick and choose which specialist they want to interview or challenge for a few minutes. Or it could be an event where your organization listens instead of talking and puts the spotlight on the audience.

3. AMBITIOUS PANEL DISCUSSION.  If you decide that a panel discussion is your thing, make it an utterly fascinating one. There should be a clear theme, a focused approach and a diverse or interesting mix of panellists. Finally, before stepping on the podium, one more sanity check: nowadays, an all-male panel talking about politics, society or the economy lacks credibility. It implies that the organisers have not made the effort to gather specialists and insights representing the other half of the population. Also, a panel is usually more interesting if you have participants from different age groups and backgrounds, whether educational, cultural or ideological.

4. RHETORIC AND STYLE.  Whatever your format and content, make sure your presentation is in good shape. Finns cherish a myth that some people are natural-born orators and have the special gift of charisma. The truth is that the world’s most charismatic speakers probably practice most. Also, Finns are too often content with just “doing ok”. In today’s world, you have to be able to convey your message in a memorable and interesting way to get it through.

It might be good to get some professional polish for your presentation skills, especially if you lack confidence. And if you are already confident – then aim higher – to be the best, the most touching and the wittiest speaker at SuomiAreena.

5. CREATIVITY. Arts and performances can be powerful media too. If you can visualise your message, you’re halfway to a win already. If you can make people laugh in the beginning, they will listen alertly to the serious messages that might follow. Why not form a partnership with a theatre group or other performing artist to do something different? Why not invite an artist to use the space you have rented and give them free hands to cover a topic of your choice? Next year’s general theme is work, by the way, and Finnish work life in particular.

6. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. There are many practical needs in Pori, which is after all a relatively small city hosting a major event lasting several days. This offers a great chance for fun PR stunts. Women walking in high heels from 9 am until midnight? The perfect opportunity for shoe designers and pedicurists. The chronic demand for hotel rooms: why not create a pop-up boutique hotel made of containers? When it comes to technical innovations, Martin Borgs from Miltton Labs envisioned a mobile app replacing physical business cards. This kind of creative concept, tested or launched during SuomiAreena, certainly wouldn’t fail to grab attention.


Heli Suominen is a consultant and a communications professional with over 15 years of experience as a journalist. She is especially interested in politics, urban culture and interaction of people from different backgrounds. SuomiAreena is Heli’s favourite festival – although she has yet to experience Almadalsveckan.

Twitter: @helisuominen