Expert in meetings, conferences and events
The intangibles of experience design

The intangibles of experience design

When you design an experience, you have to  meet four prerequisites  (among a lot of other elements):

  1. You have to put all five senses into play
  2. It is not just a question of entertainment (not just communication to a passive recipient)
  3. The participant has to be able to recount the event
  4. The event has to include a novelty or something unpredictable

While these four elements are important, an experience is sculpted out of many details – but I believe it is worth the time and the effort to sculpt – so this blog post is about the ‘softer side’ of experiences … the more intangible elements you need to create an experience.

But remember that ‘experience’ is not an element you add to the program between 10.00 and 10.30. In order to form an experience, you have to integrate the experience elements to the entire event – and both before, during, and after it!

Tailor your event to each delegate

The experience has to be tailored to each event and delegate, which means that we cannot reuse a nice concept over and over again (unfortunately) as this will not keep being unique and an experience.

But can you tailor an event to each delegate? Yes, you can. In experience management we talk about the delegate being a ‘co-producer’, which you can support at your event in a number of ways:

  • By making a program that gives the delegates the possibility to choose which presentations, networking activities, etc. they want to attend
  • By involving the delegate during the event, which makes them part of the program
  • By creating communities around the conference – places where delegates can share their insights, ask questions to the event planners or speakers, etc. If you do this before the event, you automatically have your ‘before the experience’ element.
Enhancing learning, motivation, or loyalty

When you add experience to your conferences/events, you create a platform for enhanced learning. For example, research has shown that if you stimulate the senses, you sharpen the delegates’ memory. Specific smells stimulate the memory: Lavender calms while rosemary stimulates the memory.

If the purpose of your event is to keep your employees motivated or your customers loyal, you can enhance this by giving them a little something to take home – a memorabilia, i.e. an object or experience to remind him/her of the conference or event. Today, as we talk a lot about sustainability, this memorabilia could very well be part of the overall experience (an add-on, if you like) as many people don’t need yet another bag of brochures or thingymajig to decorate their office.

Do it, but do it with your heart

The work with experience in your event has to be authentic – otherwise it has the opposite effect. You can easily sense it if a story and atmosphere is not genuine: We want the story, but it has to be real, not fake.

So, when you start working on the experience for your next event, remember that it is not about finding as many stories about your company, product, etc. etc. It is about finding THE story that underlines the experience in your event.

I know that this is kind of fluffy and might take a little practice to make perfect, but we all live and learn.

And if at first you don’t succeed, don’t hesitate to keep trying. All of this is also new to your delegates and there might be one or two who thinks it is crazy. In this case, you have to remember that we can only create the POSSIBILITY for an experience for the delegate! If they have a bad day, we cannot necessarily change that, even if we have met all criteria for creating an experience. And each experience is different for each person.

After all that is what makes an experience an experience.