“The secret to a good experience isn’t the multiplicity of features on offer. A successful brand shapes customers’ experiences by embedding the fundamental value proposition in offerings’ every feature” Harvard Business Review.
Having the opportunity to take part in the transformation of a production company into a full-fledged creative events agency has led me to gain strong interest in the digital transformation of this industry.
I have therefore discovered that digital disruption is undoubtedly offering a bright future to the events industry by focusing on the client experience.
From the facilitation of the organisational aspect (eg: cloud-based planning software) to the delivery of information and process, a wide range of tools are optimizing the attendees’ experience, saving both time and money while creating a lasting impression.
1/ Audience focused: UX principles
Based on a design-thinking approach, the attendee’s experience is at the core of event design and taken into consideration at every step of the participant’s journey. This is from the initial stage of conceptualizing through the finalisation of the event, as customer experience encompasses every aspect of an event.
From the simplification of information to the content strategy, quality delivery and constant communication and feedback, it is an holistic approach based upon the UX principles.
In order to meet an optimal and intuitive experience, we must consider the needs and expectations of specific audiences and anticipate the potential pain point they might encounter throughout.
2/ Setting Event Objectives: Know Your Customer
Events can be a product or a key component of an integrated communication campaign. Yet, in both cases, it has to have a purpose as well as specific and tangible objectives based upon defined metrics. Those metrics range from the attendance to the number of interactions, sales, social media shares and customer satisfaction.
The segmentation of the audience, the budget, the format & content, the call to action as well as the communication strategy and support tools of a project would all be defined according to these objectives & expectations. However, missing the point and objectives of an event could not only affect the client experience, but also fail to meet its ROI, the two being closely connected.
3/ Storytelling: Triggering Emotions
Live events have the advantage to engage an audience’s rational and emotional thinking by creating meaningful experiences that deliver a message.
Triggering attention requires creating the balance between the information that needs to be delivered and the imagination that can arise from it, generating shared understanding.
A story builds up throughout the journey, with a beginning, climax and an end, with the aim to inform, entertain, incite or inspire the audience.
It is a powerful and valuable tool to carry the message of an event and contribute to the overall creativity of the project.
4/ Content Strategy & Experiential Design: Creating the Right Platform
Since testing remains limited within the short time frame of an event organisation, designing the right experience requires thinking ahead about the broader picture, with the content and its strategy in mind. Indeed, content is what is driving the decision to choose the most efficient, coherent and consistent way to deploy the right message with the participants’ perspective always at the center of its conceptualisation.
Therefore, the process of content strategy should be integrated into the overall experiential design, predicting how the audience will use, feel, learn and interact with the various touch points.
The experiential dimension is delivered in multiple ways, connecting the storytelling and the environment within a meaningful and immersive experience.
This approach manipulates the perception of the participant by captivating their attention and bringing all their senses to life, influencing the way people behave.
According to the Gestalt theory, perception of content is influenced by the way it is presented or delivered. The brain synthesizes quickly what is perceived, using the vision to the cognitive mechanisms of the brain to process the information.
“The mission of Experience Design is to persuade, stimulate, inform, envision, entertain, and forecast events, influencing meaning and modifying human behavior” Ronald Jones
Experiential design is a combination of various elements that would contribute to creating an immersive & interactive storytelling for a purposeful experience, such as:
- The scenography or exhibition design, which takes into consideration the architecture of information (content support such as video installations & mapping, branding, signage), the design aspect (incorporating the values & identity of the brand), as well as the functional use (how the audience will interact & behave within the environment), creating an ergonomic journey & atmosphere to serve the cause.
- The entertainment & interactive opportunities: Undoubtedly, interactive technology such as VR and AR can enhance the experience by connecting the dots between the virtual and the physical place. This combination of all these things delivers a high impact on and efficiently engages the participants.
- Sound & music are as important as the rest of the components, directed audio technology for example; the dimension given by the sound effect alter our perception, as hearing is a powerful sense that people use instinctively to orient themselves.
Although technology has the means to enhance the attendee’s experience, it should only be a trigger to emphasise the message and remain unobtrusive.
5/ Reach & Engage : Lifting Conversation to Another level
Truly, the audience is no longer just attending an event, but constantly engaging and participating through various interactions, even when simply taking and sharing pictures on social media. The attendees are now empowered to play an active role, such as sharing comments live, obtaining information through technology or rating the engagement points.
Events are also a great way to connect with people, and more than 75% use this occasion for the specific purpose of networking. Tech is clearly facilitating networking by reinforcing this aspect through apps that would improve connections between participants, enabling them to have relevant and meaningful conversations.
Most importantly, all of these interactions are capturing crucial data based on the attendee’s content engagement and behavior that can then be utilised for further optimisation (e.g. a behavioral heat map based on participant’s social interactions or application that gathers more contextual data about the participant’s preferences, leading way to a customized experience).
Events have the advantage that they give the opportunity to interact and engage directly with a targeted audience and take the immediate pulse of its audience’s inputs/feedback.
With the support of social media and new technology, live events are riding the momentum for a lasting impact and a stronger reach, leading to a greater emphasis on ROI.
6/ Personalise & Improve:
Gaining insights and learning from experience is boosted by the new technologies available such as AI & Machine learning.
Thanks to this new technology, though slowly arising, we can make sense of the data generated and emphasise on improving the segmentation, therefore creating added value in attention to detail and personalisation, such as a tailored schedule. For instance, where the « do it yourself » allows the participant to have a proactive approach to the rest of its journey.
But it also offers the opportunities to boost the creativity of event organisers by predicting participants’ behavior and possibly curate content according to the audience.
We are slowly moving towards a more customised experience that increases the audience’s satisfaction and improves its engagement.
7/ A Culture of Constant Change:
As we can see, the audience experience in events is multilayered and therefore complex by nature. However, it can be a great case study and basis for many other elaborations of client experience in other sectors.
If the events industry has been ahead of most sectors when it comes to digital transformation, it is because it already encompasses many of these concepts in its core business, such as leading innovation.
Indeed, according to the project, teams grow drastically with the support of freelancers or other suppliers from various professions, creating a scalable and agile multidisciplinary organisation that collaborates closely within short deadlines and a limited time frame. It is thanks to this hybrid collaboration, where strong innovation and know-how are shared, that together we are growing in unique competences. I have already mentioned this specific trait in one of my previous articles (click here).
The test & learn methodology is a real motto to events professionals to constantly push the boundaries of creativity and bring forward new ways to deliver projects, while adapting to the many challenging situations related to their projects’ organisation. Learning from mistakes, rethinking and adapting is the recipe to evolve within this industry.