Trade show organizers and meeting planners strive to create experiences for both attendees and exhibitors that will provide value and be memorable. Historically, events have been designed based on what organizers felt attendees needed but in recent years, some organizers have flipped that notion on its head.
Greg Bogue, vice president of experience design at Maritz Global Events, believes it’s important to think about events differently and approach planning from the attendees’ perspective.
” Walk in the shoes of your guests,” Bogue said. “Seriously consider going through the process of exactly what your attendees go through and identify areas of improvement and elevate the experience.”
Leigh Long, head of marketing at The XD Agency, echoed Bogue’s thoughts.
” Designing an experience with the attendee in mind is really an exercise in empathy,” Long explained. “Trade show organizers need to consider at every touchpoint– what does the audience absolutely need here? What might be frustrating to them?”
She continued, “After solving those you can move onto what the audience wants. What will make an experience especially impactful for them? What will make it resonate emotionally? That’s where you start finding the proverbial ‘wow’ moments.”
Bogue defined experience design as creating events with intention and applying design methodologies to achieve inherent personal and memorable events that unfold over time. He said he works by the saying, “time is the currency of experience.”
” People generally won’t give their time freely,” he said. “If they like something they stay; if they don’t they leave.”
At the moment, the use of experience design throughout the industry is mixed, with some trade shows approaching it with more intention than others.
” Those who are looking to intentionally design are probably creating greater impact,” Bogue added.
In fact, the benefits to trade show organizers who undertake an experience design process are numerous and include creating greater impact, creating a greater journey pre- and post-event, broadening the event’s footprint and enhancing the overall attendee journey.
For trade show organizers ready to start an intentional experience design process, Brogue recommends dissecting the process into four stages and answering four key questions created by Author and Design Thinker Jeanne Liedtka: What is? What if? What wows? What works?
According to Bogue, exploration of the current state (what is) is critical in order to uncover what attendees are looking for, with keen insight into the voice of the attendee an important part of trade show experience design.
” After you conduct a current state review– what’s good, bad, need to fix, improve– you can now identify opportunities for new design (the what if),” Bogue explained.
He outlined three best practices when undertaking experiential design to establish a valuable set of design criteria:
Gain keen insight
Establish a clear set of business outcomes
Establish a clear set of attendee impressions: what do you want people leaving with, what do you want them to take away from trade show experience and how will they describe it?