The challenge to keep attendees engaged at your events has never been greater. Decreasing attention spans, intensified vendor competition, and heightened attendee demands to be wowed are putting the pressure on event planners. In order to make sure your events are educational, meaningful, motivational, interesting, and above all, on budget. Which leads us to event experience design – the event planner’s new best friend.
To create a transformative event experience, the key to success is using a solid experience design framework as your basis. We’ve created a 6-Step Event Experience Framework that every event planner can use to elevate their event to an experience.
Step 1: Identify the Key Stakeholders of Your Event Experience
Determine the people who benefit from the success of your event. Create a thorough list of all the groups who have a stake in whether or not your event achieves its goals. This includes:
- Board or executive teams
Then identify the most critical stakeholders and prioritize them in terms of needs. This will determine whose experience expectations you address first.
Develop personas for your primary stakeholders so that you can design your event experience and message in a way that will resonate with them.
Step 2: Determine the Primary Event Objectives for Different Stakeholders
Experience design requires a clear understanding of objectives, but the event objectives are going to be different for each stakeholder. Here are some tips on how to determine which objectives you should be designing your event experience around:
- Identify your stakeholders and the business challenge(s) they each want to overcome. Rank the top three to five results that would satisfy each of these challenges and make the event a success from the perspective of each stakeholder group.
- Quantify what success looks like for each stakeholder. For instance, exhibitors might be targeting 20 new leads but the board might be looking to make a $50K profit from the event.
- Create realistic milestones to track progress towards your event goals that ultimately address your stakeholder’s objectives. For example, if you’re planning on using gamification to encourage attendees to network with sponsors, create a milestone of purchasing or building an event app that can help you execute this strategy.
Step 3: Evaluate Your Event Budget and Allocate Spend Where it Matters
There’s never enough budget when running an event. That’s just the reality we all need to accept and work within. So that’s why it’s so critical to prioritize your stakeholder event objectives and be realistic in what you can commit to achieving. To stay on track and make sure you allocate your financial resources in the best way, here are some tips:
- Create an event budget with estimated figures to help you calculate the required budget, income targets, and break-even point of your event.
- Update your estimates with the actual figures as soon as budget items have been confirmed and committed to so that you can rework your budget allocation if needed.
- Have a contingency figure as a percentage of the overall budget that you’ll be able to dip into to deal with any shortfalls for essential or wishlist items.
Step 4: Map the Experience Mix
An experience is created through a mix of different factors and elements known as the Experience Mix. How these all flow and interconnect with one another, and ultimately impact event attendees, can be complex so careful analysis and planning is critical. Here are some tips on how to design your Experience Mix:
- List the major touchpoints throughout your event lifecycle where each of your key stakeholder groups will be impacted. The journey for an attendee will be different from a speaker or sponsor. Therefore, the flow needs to be considered from each of their viewpoints. This includes before, during, and after your event.
- Under each major touchpoint, list the opportunities and ideas for creating a memorable experience. This can be in the form of little touches all the way through to big elements that surprise and delight. Be sure to take into account the venue space and event floor plan. There might be interesting ways to use the space.
- Keep in mind how your event brand and messaging are being used at each touchpoint. It could be in the form of a logo presence, or there could be more tangible ways to communicate the brand and bring to life your organization’s culture and ethos.
- Consider how to use technology to enhance the attendee journey at the different touchpoints. Event tech can be leveraged at any point within the event lifecycle to create a more impactful experience for the stakeholder.
Step 5: Use Visuals to Communicate What Your Event Concept Will Look Like
So at this point, you’ve identified your major stakeholders, established your event objectives, and created an Experience Mix that best suits the major touchpoints that you will use throughout your event lifecycle.
The next step is to communicate to your stakeholders what the event experience is going to look like. Visual tools can be used to show the physical design, layout, and production. This will help the stakeholder visualize what needs to be done in order to achieve the desired results.
To visualize your event experience concept, considering using 3D imaging and physical mock-ups of your event spaces. These can include your floor plans, decor, furniture, and AV production. This is particularly useful for staff, vendors, and management to understand the vision and plan their own priorities leading up to the event.
Step 6: Determine How You’re Going to Measure ROI and the Success of the Event
The final step in the experience design framework is to figure out what type of reporting you need in order to measure the event ROI and other success metrics that address your event objectives from Step 2. Event design is often focused on long-term behavioral change and continuous improvement, so it must be data-driven in order to make the appropriate adjustments.
Being able to measure event ROI is critical. You need to prove the value of participating in your event to each group of stakeholders. Here are some ideas on how to prove the success of your event:
- Take each stakeholder objective you identified in Step 2 and define how it will be measured and tracked. Think about the data that can be accessed through different tools and how to combine this information to prove that the objective has been achieved. For example, you could offer lead retrieval software to exhibitors so that they can track the leads they collect at the event. At the same time, you could have a universal view of all activity recorded by exhibitors.
- Use a mix of quantitative and qualitative data to give a well-rounded picture of the event results. Statistics and figures are important but survey data and feedback from stakeholders are also valuable.
To learn more about how to elevate your event into an unforgettable experience, read the ebook Experience Design: A Complete Guide to Creating Memorable Events, with an introduction by Julius Solaris, editor of Event Manager Blog and ranked as one of the 25 most influential people in the Meetings industry