When I introduce experience design to colleagues and clients, the first question I get is “But isn’t it expensive??”. And I tell them the same thing I will tell you now: It might cost you some time, but it does not have to cost you money. However, the time-investment is worth it, so try it out.
I understand the question, if you think that designing an experience is the same as having celebrity bands performing during halftime at Super Bowl or securing Bill Gates as the keynote for your annual general meeting. But designing experiences in the sense that I talk about is a whole other story.
What is an experience
If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that an experience consists of five different tools that you must use and/or incorporate into your event to make it an experience:
- The experience space
- All five senses
- Participant involvement
- A novelty or something unpredictable
In the following I will give you three ways you can incorporate experience design into your conference:
Ignite the senses
I often find that the hardest sense to engage in your event is the sense of smell, but there are ways.
It is quite cheap to buy a scent diffuser with a standard scent to distribute a nice smell to your lounge, networking area or the like. If you want a signature scent, it might be a little more expensive, but you don’t need to start with this. Buy the standard one at first.
Or how about having the chef bake cookies for the coffee break? You could ask them to bake right before the break so that they are carried into your break area warm and still smelling chocolatey and cozy. Most chefs will happily help out if you ask – and they often like to work with the client (you) on finding new ways to fit the meeting in question.
involve your Participants
Involving your participants does not have to cost a dime! You do not need special toolkits or facilitators to getting your participants to leave their seats and take part in the meeting. Look it up online and find methods suitable for your target group – there are a lot of methods that do not require much.
Of course, it depends on the size of the meeting and what you want your participants to learn, but it is possible to start with just a little bit of involvement if you have never involved your participants before.
You could also involve your attendees by creating an online community that you open up before the event and use to get important information about what the target group wants. Keep the community/discussion alive both during and after the event, and you might have the base for a follow-up meeting or next year’s event.
surprise your audience
When you think of adding something unpredictable to your conference, don’t just think of it as the celebrity band mentioned above. Think of how to make sure your participants don’t just sit in their chairs and get more and more tired.
How about making small disruptions during the event. You could change the whole room setup during a break which forces the attendees to choose a new seat after the break. Or how about constantly changing the way you deliver presentations: Pitch, one way communication, Ignite, speed geeking etc.
At first you might find it a little intimidating to start doing all of this to your event. But think of it as baby steps – you don’t have to change your entire conference at once. After all, experience design is behavioral change, since we want our attendees’ outcome of our event to increase.
Remember: Rome wasn’t built in one day, and neither is behavioral change!