Post authored by Jamie Murdock, Vice President, Sales
We applaud the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), as last week they stepped up event innovation in a big way with the launch of the Xperience Design Project (XDP) at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.
Billed as “an event built specifically for leaders who plan, design, execute and support association events,” XDP was designed to help advance the following event objectives:
- Attract the people you need to your meeting, trade show or conference
- Create relevant experiences for your audience – before, during and after your event
- Keep attendees engaged and coming back
There were three primary components for XDP:
A full-day immersive learning experience, where participants were invited to explore three of five zones, addressing Marketing, Technology, Location, Experience, and Learning. With author, strategist and leadership coach Lisa Kay Solomon serving as host, guests navigated through a mix of expert talks and peer-to-peer discussion about industry challenges.
This private concert at the MGM National Harbor featured The B-52s and served as a perfect ending for the first day of discovery and collaboration at XDP.
Day 2 kicked off with breakfast and a series of short, TED-style recaps of breakthrough ideas and overview from the five zones in The Lab. Then, it was time to talk business, as event organizers met with industry partners for one-on-one appointments to discuss future needs.
As a proud sponsor for XDP, Experient sent a multi-faceted team to attend, with representation from our sales, marketing and operations divisions. As with any professional development endeavor, we conducted a debrief soon after this event to capture, discuss and extend key takeaways.
Here are highlights from our team debrief, framed around three big questions:
What were your best moments at XDP?
- Realizing I was part of a FIRST for our industry.
- It’s hard to identify a single experience, as XDP—from start to finish—turned the standard meeting model upside down and took on many risks.
- The Lab – from the lighting, room set-up and stage design to the ear buds and education zones, it was awesome to be on the 50-yard line to watch it unfold.
- The realization that risk-taking was not only permitted, but encouraged. It was great to have a safe zone where we could explore the possibilities with industry peers.
- The dialogue, creative idea sharing and virtually every other component that supported disrupting the status quo.
- The Business Exchange was more on-point than Springtime (the event ASAE replaced with XDP) and allowed for much richer exchanges with event organizers and it attracted new attendees that normally do not come to events in DC.
What takeaways or ideas will you apply in the future?
- Great Design = Functional Utility + Emotional Engagement
- Emotion drives participation and engagement – and this doesn’t just apply to events. It applies to nearly any people-centered project or activity.
- The Lab main stage at the center of the ballroom was stunning. When you entered this room, you knew you were about to experience something different. It was also smart how the core element could be raised to unite all audience segments for a general session talk.
- The ear buds and channel-changing unit where you could dial in to one of several presentations was outstanding. Having it branded to XDP was smart, as it becomes an XDP keepsake and tees up opportunities for sponsorship, too.
- Packaging matters, but you need to stay true to your brand. For example, in retail, packaging for light bulbs might be difficult to open and in turn, a frustrating experience for the customer. On the other hand, Apple product packaging is functional, stylish, and innovative—things that the Apple customer appreciates. It was interesting to think of packaging in the context of events.
- During the lab, someone suggested we work with Homeland Security/TSA to create separate customs lines at the airport for international attendees. This would be especially helpful for guests coming to the same city year after year and would improve the welcome experience.
- I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with event organizers about the “why” behind their decisions. Sometimes we jump to the “how” too soon. Knowing the “why” first and the mission for a particular event is crucial to drive meaningful improvements.
- Understanding more about the customer journey – before, during and after the event. This insight will help us improve in our roles as consultants and trusted advisors.
If you were planning XDP for year two, what one thing would you do differently?
- While the business exchange overall was a homerun, next year, I’d expand the space, as it was a bit cramped.
- For the lab, I’d allow more time to peer-to-peer discussion and idea generation.
- The speaker presentations were great – next time, I’d scout out a few more speakers who are champions for innovation and change.
- While the business exchange portion was busy, for year two, I’d strive to include more activities that help nurture deeper relationships and connect people in even more meaningful ways.
That’s our debrief – how about you? If you attended XDP, what were your biggest takeaways?