It's all about the experience

October 19, 2016 Matt Coyne


Or is it?

We so often talk about how we work together (our wonderful industry of creatives, suppliers, organisers etc.) to create the best experiences for the people we serve, mainly the visitors, exhibitors etc.

It's often thought that there is a massive difference between b2b, b2c, corporate events, live events and so on, but ultimately, it's all an experience. Everyone is a consumer at the end of the day. Just because I wear a shirt to work (yes, it happens sometimes), it doesn't mean I expect a different experience just because I'm in a t-shirt on the weekend. With this experience below, I think we can learn a thing or two about perception and working together to create the ultimate experience……

Recently, I learned first hand what these sorts of experiences can feel like to the unsuspecting punter.

I took my boy and a few of his mates to an “experience”. It was a live show. The show itself was fantastic, but the experience from the moment we walked in the venue (from my perspective, not that of the kids) was not.

First off we were met with the programme sellers. I knew the kids wanted one, so we queued up. £30 later (£15 each… I couldn’t let one family have one and not the other!), we walked away feeling utterly fleeced. I felt ripped off before I’d barely set foot in the venue. Most parents I know, tend not to even pay that for a really good book that will last them a lifetime. We did buy them because it's a great keepsake for them, so there is value in that of course!

Walking on, you come cross the merchandise stands. I totally get this, event t-shirts / hoodies / toys etc. It’s been the same since I was a kid, however overpriced it is, there’s some fun stuff to be had. You’ve just got to be a bit clever about what you get.

So after being sold to for the third time (there was another merch stand outside), we finally get to the gates to access the venue. Great, we’re going in.

Although, before we actually go into the arena itself, all food & drink had to be binned with no explanation. Now this wasn’t some dance gig, or sell out band tour where you can imagine said food was going to be flung all over the place. Even if that was the reason, you could still buy food inside to (eat) throw if you so desired. To us, this was purely a commercial decision to make you buy the food inside.

This was an event for kids. It was 10am. Most people there had more than one kid, so the volume of food & drink being thrown away was incredible, such a waste.

Parents all around us were complaining about how ridiculous it was and no one could tell us why. All the staff were doing was pointing at signs pointing to throw your food / drink in the bin. That, or you can’t come in. I felt like I was 17 again trying to sneak into a night club as, realising what was going on, I stashed all our consumables into my pockets (thank the lord for cargo shorts) to avoid having to throw it all away.

Back to the experience. Imagine that for some people, they’ve saved up for their annual big day out with their family, packed their kids lunches to save a few $$ (have you taken kids out for lunch recently? It’s not cheap…) and when they arrive and must throw it all away. For those parents, their experience isn’t all that great. I have to point out that on reflection, this wasn’t made clear in any of the prevent comms either.

Foodgate past us, we move towards our seating area, past a few food sellers and needed to replenish our water having had to drain it on the way in. £10 later we were handed back 3 small bottles of water – all with their lids removed, as you’re not allowed to take them into the seats. So now, you’ve got to balance three kids, three bottles with no lids, get your tickets out for inspection, manoeuvre down steps, balance over people, legs, bags and get to your seat without spilling these open top bottles. And then make sure the little ones don’t kick them over within a minute of sitting down. One bottle down within 3 minutes.

I don’t expect many 4 year olds were ready to throw their bottle caps at the stage? The reason? “you’re just not allowed” as we’d been told.

Sat ready and waiting for the show to begin… out came the food sellers again. This comes down to your willpower as a parent to not spend more money, but £9 for a bag of popcorn? Seriously? I did buy one, because I wanted our kids to have the full “experience” and I watched their e-numbers go up as they chowed down on stale popcorn.

From the kids’ perspective they loved the whole thing. It was an awesome day for them and one they’re still talking about today a few weeks on. What a result, they had a great experience!

From mine? On top of the tickets and the train travel to get there, we’d bought a couple of programmes, three bottles of water & a bag of popcorn. There was a serious dent appearing in my wallet. My pocket felt nearly on fire! You can’t put a price on kid’s happiness, but at this event you could…

Maybe I’m being hyper critical, as I often am when I go to events because of the very nature of what I do, but this time, I was going as a nobody. As just another punter and I experienced the very experience our industry constantly talks about improving. And it was rubbish.

So what can we learn from this?

Always look at every event from the end user experience. We talk about "journey's" probably too much, but we try to sit in the shoes of any type of customer to see how they would interact with us and what their experience would be like. So some tips?

  • Plot your journey. Make sure you really understand what is driving your customers to the event. You can't plot every journey from home, but with simple ticket sales data, you can get a picture of where people are coming from, how long it's going to take etc. Keep it in mind.
  • Keep your comms in line with your journey's. Do customers know what they can or cannot do at your event? You don't want to shout about negatives, but if you don't tell them everything or don't make it easy to find, they may be misled.
  • Brief ALL staff. Your front of house staff are as important, if not more so, than your behind the scenes team as they are often the first contact your customer will have with their event. Make sure they're on message and make sure someone is there to reassure them if needed.
  • Brief your partners on how to collaborate best together, to offer the ultimate experience for your customers.

I love our industry. I love the very nature of face to face events & experiences, so make sure you have a think next time you're putting together your experience of what you really want your customers to feel. If you want them to love / live / breathe your brand following the event - make it so!


About the Author

Matt  Coyne

Matt has been working in events & exhibitions for over 10 years. From organising, to design, to website, and onto registration and intelligent data services, Matt has extensive experience at every level. With a background in organisation, marketing and design Matt is able to cut through the technology and approach data and registration solutions with the end users in mind. As Technology Engagement Architect for GES and an active participant in the industry, Matt has been involved in a variety of industrywide research projects and is an expert in how to prove ROI and manage data effectively.

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