Dialing Up Experiences at Your Events
This past week we were invited to speak on stage at the Candian Meetings + Events Expo – the largest running tradeshow and conference for meeting and event professionals in Canada.
Our topic: Dialing up experiences at your events!
Here is a recap:
Before diving into best practices for elevating experiences at events we need to establish why they matter. Let’s start with the facts – A positive experience creates an emotional connection. And emotion is one of the strongest drivers of behavior. 90% of decisions people make are from the heart. (Source: Daniel Kahneman: Prospect Theory of Decision Making).
Emotionally loyal customers shop their favourite brands & businesses 32% more often and spend 46% more money with them (source: Gallop Customer Thermometer 2019). Emotionally engaged employees are 21% more effective, have 59% less turnover, and experience a 41% reduction in absenteeism (source: Gallop 2021).
Therefore, we as marketers / event planners / guest experience designers need to think not only about units sold, number of attendees or leads generated but also about what emotions we can elicit from our audience.
Let’s look at five best practices for dialing up experiences at events.
Bring the Technology
Technology helps us bring experiences that seem out of reach into the event space. You can integrate technology through your event app, on the trade show floor, at registration, through wearables or on the stage.
From creating immersive theaters at your event to wrap your attendees into the story of your brand or product, to designing interactive/ gamified experiences to help attendees learn about a complex topic. The possibilities are almost endless.
Invest in leading edge technology to better reach your desired target audience on their terms and to enhance the event experience in a modern, memorable, and innovative way.
Make it Personal
We all aim to create events that attendees will not forget. The most memorable are those that feel customized. For example, as consumers each of us experiences targeted ads, curated playlists, and recommendations on what to watch next. We are surrounded by personalization every day and attendees now expect this from their events.
Some ideas to “make it personal” at your event include:
- Leveraging your event app for personalized communication, personalized agenda, and personalized event experience
- Collect data in advance about your audience. Can you segment them into attendee “types” to create a personalized experience rather than a one-size-fits-all approach?
- Customize your swag – consider a swag shop or a design station for attendees to choose what resonates with them
It’s key to focus on the importance of connection when you bring people together. Gone are the days where you have people meet in the foyer and hope they network with one another. Whether you are planning an all-employee holiday celebration or a large sales conference for automotive dealers – ask yourself how you can engineer interesting and unique ways for attendees to interact and remember the event. Do not leave the interaction of people to chance.
Some ways to engineer serendipity:
- Design your space to enable connection. Consider room set up, furniture placement and traffic flow. Is there a natural and effortless way for people to strike up a conversation or sit down for a one-on-one connection?
- Leverage technology – we love tools like Braindate, a platform that fosters knowledge-sharing conversations among people at events. Check it out!
- Find creative ways for people to connect. At C2 they created “net-walking”. You can book a dog and take it for a walk at the conference. A great way to connect with someone over a shared experience.
- Create your own shared experience. If you are at a tradeshow don’t settle for just standing behind a table. Create a space for people to share an experience and give them something to talk about.
Stimulate the Senses
Activating human senses is one of the best ways to create a memorable experience. Studies show that when your senses are stimulated, engagement increases and information retention improves.
Create larger than life graphics and animations. Develop a hands-on experience for your guests to get the endorphins flowing. Consider an opportunity for them to contribute to a large art piece or fabricate something of their own to take home. Up your F&B experience with stimulating new flavours, smells and textures.
Activate Your Purpose
64% of us choose a brand based on social stands and 66% are willing to pay extra for products & services that come from companies committed to positive social and/or environmental impact (source: Edelman Earned Brand Study 2018). People will vote with their wallets and hearts if they feel your brand is purposefully aligned with their own values.
To activate sustainably at your event, do an audit of every touch point and consider where you can reduce waste and lower emissions. Carbon offset all travel, choose venues that are LEED certified or have a sustainability program, select F&B that is local. Reduce waste by up-cycling and donating unused items like gifts, food, and décor. To take it a step further, work with a sustainability expert to measure your event footprint based on GHG protocol and produce a baseline number to reduce and accurately calculate emissions for offsetting.
Ensure your DE&I initiatives are intentional with the design of your event – does it reflect the diversity of your audience. Is it inclusive and accessible to those you want to engage?
Consider these touchpoints when activating DE&I:
- Speakers and talent – are they diverse in background and thought?
- Venue – is it accessible?
- Guest list – have you engaged a diverse audience? Is there an audience that you may be overlooking who would benefit from the event?
- Experiences – have you designed the experiences to be inclusive?
If you would like to learn more about how to dial up experiences at your event or dive into more great case studies, please reach out!
SVP, Client Experience
Senior Director, Conference & Events
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