Let me ask you to try something for a few seconds. Take a quick look at your planning checklist and mark the points you think will enable you to deliver unique event experiences.
Tasty food doesn’t count. Neither does ambient music.
Now take another look at your checklist.
How many of the things on your list are experience-related? How many of your planned activities will truly interest your attendees? Will your event be a memorable one for the right reasons?
You see, event industry is a hard game to play.
If you want to survive, you have to design events people will remember and talk about. And the only way to stand out from the crowd is to deliver unique event experiences that will thrill your attendees.
As Graham Berridge, Senior Teaching Fellow in Events at the University of Surrey, notes in his book Events Design and Experience,
“Delighting audiences, participants, and guests, all at the same time can be a huge challenge, to say the least, but at this point, the reputation of the organiser is at stake.”
So if you want to deliver unique event experiences, focus on three main elements.
Emotions. Make your event memorable by tapping into your attendees’ emotions. As the biologist John Medina highlights in his book Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving at Work, Home, and School,
“Emotionally charged events persist much longer in our memories and are recalled with greater accuracy than neutral memories.”
Design. As Graham Berridge specifies, you can’t deliver unique event experiences without designing and deciding the images and the feelings you want to awaken in your attendees’ minds.
Value. You can’t create the experience only for the sake of creation. It has to add value and enrich the lives of your guests. As Joe Goldblatt, professor at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, notes in his book Special Events: Creating and Sustaining a New World for Celebration,
“Guests must sense that the Event Manager or host is genuinely concerned with their welfare and will work diligently to attempt to anticipate, identify, and satisfy their needs to provide them with a total high-quality event experience.”
So how can you take your attendees’ experience to the next level?
By following these three steps:
Step 1. Introduce the surprise element
Who wouldn’t welcome a nice surprise, intentionally omitted from the event activities schedule?
Let’s say you have a surprise guest who, apart from exciting the guests, will also add more value by providing new and useful information. Or maybe you planned a special art performance during the coffee break. The surest way to access your attendees’ emotions is to give them a pleasant surprise.
Step 2. Actively engage your guests
Forget about the attendees who used to sit patiently in their seats and attentively take notes while the speaker would talk for hours. Audiences have changed.
According to a study provided by Dan Schawbel, 73% of millennials prefer to interact more during events and contribute to presentations in any way they can.
Explore this phenomenon and design situations that will engage the audience. Deliver unique event experiences by empowering your attendees to interact more and co-create the meeting.
Step 3. Reduce the digital immersion
During your next event, look around and count the number of people who are obsessively checking their smartphones.
No doubt, the most difficult thing is to grab and keep your attendees’ attention.
The logical solution would be to increase the digital immersion and ask your guests to like, post, repost, share, and react to the event content. However, if you want to deliver unique event experiences, you may want to try the opposite.
Encourage your attendees to focus on the analogue by engaging them in different sort of activities.
For example, you can set up a Lego Serious Play session, where attendees could think or search for hands-on solutions. Apart from building a positive group environment, you’ll make them forget about their phones (as playing with Legos is truly engaging!) and be present while enjoying the experience.
Call to action
Go through your checklist again and add one thing that could improve your attendees’ overall event experience: a surprise element, attendees’ engagement, or analogue immersion. Then write down the logistic steps you should take to make it happen.
Usually, this task takes the same amount of effort and mental energy as the basic ones. Plus, you’ll definitely enjoy it—it’s as if you are designing a surprise party for a friend. Deliver unique event experiences, thrill your attendees, and make your event memorable.