Guest experience is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days. That means planners are trying desperately to find new and exciting ways to appeal to their audience. This kind of on-demand creativity can be draining. Don’t you wish there was someone who could help with ideas to dazzle your guests?
You don’t need an event genie (although that would be cool). There are several important components/areas that, when activated, create amazing attendee experiences. In this article, we’ll cover those areas and give you ideas to help create spectacular moments attendees will remember long after your event is over. Best of all, they’re budget friendly.
We’ll present areas that yield incredible impressions. However, the optimal attendee experience requires a personal approach by creating moments that matter to your group. So take these ideas and make them even better by adding your special flair.
Let’s be co-creators in amazing moments for your event. Ready?
The Importance of the Attendee Experience
The focus of events has shifted. Organizations orient their event goals around what they want attendees to learn, who they want them to meet, and what they think would be valuable to the attendee. Now, there’s a new concern: how to package those things in interesting and engaging experiences.
Attendees now, at least partially, own the event brand. If they feel, see, or do something new, they’ll talk about it. Word-of-mouth marketing and referrals are some of the strongest, most dependable ways to grow your event. As such, it’s essential you give them something to talk about.
Do that by astounding them with new or preferred experiences in these areas:
Extraordinary Visuals: Branding, Projection Mapping, Lighting, and More
Good visuals make all the difference because people must see brands to buy and identify with them.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the adage “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” While it’s quite poetic, it also has a practical application for events. According to research from 3M, visuals are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than words. So, if you want to connect with your attendees and create a strong experience for them, images help...a lot.
Extraordinary visuals come in a variety of types. You can use several or just one extremely effectively:
1. Presentation images
2. Stage design and backdrops
3. Event branding
Since branding visually represents your brand, you want to use quality visuals. Carry the brand/theme throughout all collateral and the entire guest experience. Just as you can hear a riff of a guitar and know it’s your favorite musician, your branding should be recognizable, even if the attendee can’t see the complete collateral.
Attendees recognizing your event’s brand makes you more relatable. To create effective visual branding, consider the following:
7. Is the event branding consistent throughout event marketing pieces, social media posts, signage, and other on-site spaces?
8. Is your event mission conveyed in your brand visuals? Can people go to your event site and know exactly what type of attendee would enjoy your event?
9. Have you designed a logo and visual designs that resonate with your audience and conveys emotion without saying a word?
Small budget? If you’re worried about how you can incorporate strong visual impressions on a small budget, read this article about AV solutions for all budget ranges.
Kick it up a notch – elevate your event visuals using dramatic lighting or projection mapping.
Emotional Appeal & Personalization
What do you do when you want someone’s attention? You call them by name, right? Personalization at events works much the same way.
But businesses and events have moved past just adding the first name to a mail merge. Now, attendees receive content based on their activity history. For instance, someone in your content marketing track may be interested in very different content than someone in your multi-level marketing track. Technology now allows you to make both people happy by delivering more of what they want and less of what they don’t.
Personalization is not a nice-to-have these days. In fact, Gartner predicts ecommerce businesses could see profits increase by 15% by 2020 through personalization. Personalization can also mean increased revenue. Gallup found that customers who were deeply engaged (through activities like personalization) spent 25% more than those who weren’t.
Using personalization well allows the planner to create moments that make attendees feel valued and delighted. When you provide more of the information they want and less of the filler content, you’ll have them saying “It’s like you read my mind.”
Here are the first steps to strong emotional appeal and effective personalization:
10. Use ideas to evoke emotion; connect on things your audience cares about
11. Think of them as guests, not prospects
12. Use data to understand preferences (past event data shows what guests enjoyed and participated in).
Tools of the Trade
Personalizing everything manually isn’t cost effective and doesn’t scale well. Luckily, there are a lot of available tools for event planners:
13. Marketing automation software allows the assigning of attendee types so that content and the way it’s delivered can be personalized. It can also incorporate “if, then” activity scenarios. For example, if someone registers as a “bronze” attendee, they will receive the bronze communication piece along with bronze options.
14. Check-in apps and facial recognition allow instant recognition of the guest, so they may be greeted by name and given their personalized agenda and other collaterals.
15. QR code badges or wearables work the same way as facial recognition in that it allows immediate personal recognition. Wearables could even ensure the guest receives valuable and timely information based on their track, like being alerted on the next session’s location.
16. Push notifications can deliver personalized content so your attendees are not overwhelmed with info they don’t want.
Using these tools, provides your guests personalized attention, content, and value.
Where Personalization Creates the Greatest Effect
While you ideally want your attendees personally delighted at every turn, this isn’t always scalable. Here are some ways you can make big impressions with personalization:
17. Attendee activities personalized to interests
18. Event paths customized to interests
19. Emails with personalized content
20. Check-in with personal greetings
21. Tailored agendas for each attendee
22. Food and beverage: have their favorites waiting for them when they approach
Competitive Fun: Gamification
Gamification uses game mechanics to inspire desired outcomes or actions. While that’s a very scientific explanation, all your attendees need to know is it’s fun. You’ll enhance your guest’s event experience by placing your event goals and objectives into fun activities.
How to effectively use gamification:
23. Know your desired outcomes. What do you want attendees to do? Spend more time on the exhibit floor? Attend more sessions? Use your hashtag more frequently? Start with the activities you want them to do more.
24. Establish motivation. What will they get for doing what you want? Publicly recognize your winners for increased effectiveness. Try leaderboards, callouts, badges, etc. with chances to win a prize or accomplish something at the end. Start by giving out awards early on for completing simple tasks, and then increase the level of difficulty and time between leveling up. For instance, an attendee might get points for downloading the event app and then by performing a specific action within it. That might be all it takes to level up. They feel an instant sense of accomplishment and are rewarded for their efforts. Now they’re hooked, so challenges can become harder to achieve and should align with your more complex business goals. As leveling up becomes more difficult, the event levels have more significance. Tie levels to prizes, access to special event features, or recognition on a leaderboard.
25. Establish the activities for gaining points and decide their worth. Have attendees upload an event picture on social media using the event’s hashtag, complete their attendee profile, or check in on the show floor.
Gamification is also something your attendees are used to (even airlines use them in their frequent flyer miles programs). Most everyday apps, like fitness monitors and productivity apps, contain some form of gamification to increase participation and adoption. Programs like these with clear expectations, “rewards” (early and often) for doing what is expected, and public challenges are cropping up everywhere, including your attendees’ workplaces.
Bathing the Five Senses: Creative Comforts
The hard truth is that you can’t dazzle your attendees if they’re uncomfortable. So first cover the basics, making sure room temperatures are managed, hot and cold beverages are plentiful, seating is comfortable, restrooms are clearly marked and lighting is appropriate for the event.
With these basics covered, consider adding lounges and other spaces where you can take the sensory experience from comfortable to delightful.
Ideas for Creative Lounges
With each of these ideas, think about how you could incorporate the senses to make the experience even more memorable. If they seem too extravagant for your budget, consider bringing sponsors on board to cover these event oases.
26. Bloggers’ lounge - No, you don’t need to see press credentials. Offer some quiet time with plenty of charging space and comfortable seating.
27. Spa lounge - Give attendees a boost to their senses. Think spa music, aromatherapy, and chair massage.
28. Theme lounges - Create uniquely-themed rooms or alternate themes each day of the event. Themes might include Turkish baths, luau, country, under the sea, or any other creative atmosphere.
29. Outdoor spaces - Whether you actually host the lounge outside or bring the outdoors in, consider including water features, plants, and sand, recharging your attendees through natural decor.
While there are several basic areas of experiential design that you might employ to dazzle guests, remember to utilize what is specific to your audience to capture their attention. If you can appeal to their five senses, their need for fun, and their emotions, you will create long-lasting memories, taking your event from a ‘we’ll see’ to a ‘must see’ next time.
Want to know more about creating an unforgettable visual and auditory experience? Check out the Complete Guide to AV.