Last month I had the opportunity to collaborate with association professionals from across the nation at the first ever Xperience Design Project, or XDP. This event was not really a conference or a tradeshow, but instead it was designed as a working lab for collaboration. Attendees were teamed together based on similar learning objectives and then rotated through several learning zones. When you think about your next event design, consider incorporating functional utility with emotional engagement for success. Here are some ideas on how you might do this.
Redesign your sessions from presentations to working labs. Your speakers will work more as facilitators presenting ideas to promote critical and creative ideas surrounding the topic. Then allow ample time for small group collaboration. This concept was a huge success at XDP. I witnessed many attendees claim that this was one of the most productive events they have been to. They took away many ways to solve their real issues. The goal here is to provoke rather than to inform.
In what ways can you customize your event? Encourage personalization where ever possible. For example: allow attendees to design their unique name badges by uploading their own background picture and headshot. The conference experience should not be generic – make a point of getting to know your audience and deliver what they want. This starts by gathering information during the registration process and implementing the best from past events. Healthy food and beverage options are still a major hospitality trend, so take this a step further by offering a wide variety of smaller plates. Take the food stations you often plan for receptions and incorporate this into your breakfast and lunch menu instead. People move throughout the space and have more options. Instead of standing in a buffet line, they are welcomed by multiple food experiences.
Creative Design of Space and Schedule
Create distinct zones in the large general session room. At XDP, each person was given a radio and earbuds with the ability to receive the specific radio frequency for their specific speaker. (Yep, think about five breakouts happening simultaneously to a group of over 1,200!) This concept keeps the group together in the same space, however it also provides an intimate connection with each speaker and their zone. Each zone offered a variety of seating options, so as people rotated, each experience was totally different. I am not just talking theater/classroom/high boys – I am talking bucket chairs, couches and board tables!
Speakers often have attendees get up and move around a bit - you know the ones. They are attempting to engage the whole person. Incorporate this concept into your event design by creating an experience that connects to all senses. One of the things planners like about bringing their events to Wisconsin Dells is that our venues naturally have the infrastructure in place to easily design creative experiences. Brainstorming sessions become more productive after a game of laser tag or completing a ropes course - activities that are both creative and collective! By re-thinking the order of your agenda, you will find increased engagement and success.
In what ways can you incorporate similar ideas into your event? I would love to discuss ways you can redesign and implement these ideas – let’s get creative together!