Implementing Experience Design in Small, Yet Powerful Ways

experience design

Post authored by Jennifer George Lion, CMP, PMP

The term “experience design” is thrown around a lot in the meetings and events industry. But does everyone who uses it truly understand how to apply the concept to their events?

I want to demystify this term for many of you.

Yes, it can—and should be—approached thoughtfully and intentionally. But that doesn’t mean overhauling your entire event.   

In fact, the smallest changes, fueled by empathy and intentionality, can make all the difference to your guests.

experience design

Experience Design and the Power of Empathetic Perspective Taking

The longest and shortest journeys all start out the same way: taking the first step.

With experience design, it’s important that you take that first step in your attendees’ shoes.

It’s all about perspective taking and empathy: what are your guests currently experiencing?

Empathetic design means you are constantly looking at things through their eyes; shifting from operational focus to empathetic focus, putting them at the forefront.

For many event strategists, it feels as if there’s no wiggle room to stop and think like this. Our checklists seem to get longer by the second and the event countdown is always speeding up.

Even so, this is an important step.

We must take the time to understand what attendees are thinking, feeling and seeing in every step of the journey they take.

Doing so helps you create an event that meets their needs, sparks an emotional connection and motivates them to return year after year.

experience design

Common Misconceptions

Many people think adopting experience design means massive changes to a program or event.

In some cases, that may be necessary. But for many, it can be very simple tweaks.

It could be as simple as adding small, yet thoughtful gestures for guests while they wait in registration lines: offering them a refreshment or a snack or having your leadership team greet everyone in line.

Some organizations are averse to instituting experience design due to budget constraints; they think it equates to a large investment in more entertainment, program décor or technology to boost the event, but this may not be necessary. 

The critical piece is that as event organizers, we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Who am I designing for?” Click To Tweet

Another common misconception centers around the thought that changes need to be made right now.

But the implementation of experience design should be purposeful and intentional.  It’s important that event organizers understand the current state of the guest experience at your event.   

Take the time to observe what is happening from the guest perspective before rushing into change. What are the attendee program highs and lows that you can focus on?

Designing a quality event experience isn’t flipping a switch. You won’t make any changes overnight.

At the end of the day, experience design is as simple as this: take the time to keep the attendee at the core of what you do.

experience design

Experience Design: Small But Mighty

So how does this look for your events? Experience design isn’t a one-size-fits-all methodology, however, here are examples of what you might consider using Maritz Global Events’ 8 Phases of a Successful Event.

Announcing:  use video content from the previous year’s meeting to help announce/tell the story of this year’s event.

Attracting:  craft personalized marketing messages for segmented attendee groups.

Anticipating:  send flag or pin to attendees pre-event to bring to the program to decorate a map upon arrival.

Arriving:  text welcome message to attendees via the mobile app

Entering:  create a “pleasant wait” – refreshments while standing in line at registration

Engaging:  idea wall in common area

Exiting:  have association leadership positioned in hotel lobbies or convention center pre-function space to “thank guests for coming to the event and see you next year!”

Extending:  transcribe notes from onsite idea wall and send it post-event to attendees

These are just a few ideas to spark your imagination. You can generate 500 ideas and only start with five. Just dip your toe in.  See what works and what may not work well, pivot and try again!

The critical piece is that as event organizers, we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Who am I designing for?”

Heading to IMEX Frankfurt? Be sure to catch Jennifer’s presentation:

experience design


About the Author

Jennifer George-Lion, PMP, CMP, is Director of Project Management for Experient. More than 15 years ago, she fell by chance into the world of Event Management. While her roles have changed over time, each and every day she continues to be enthused, motivated and challenged in this industry.

When not at work, you’ll find Jenn and her family racking up new stamps in their passports, exploring and enjoying all that Europe has to offer. 

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