What Can Experiential Design Do For Events?

Concierge Desk at Le Meridien Panama City, Panama

There’s one underlying aspect of event production that many, many event planners overlook. From marketing to preorders and registration to presentation layout, one aspect above all needs to be taken seriously in order to craft the optimal attendee experience.

Is it giveaways? Nope.

How about reduced ticket pricing? No again.

Better marketing? Higher quality speakers? More content? Nada times three.

It’s experiential design. From the initial attendee contact at the venue to the location of the restrooms, how we arrange and present all that our events have to offer is integral for the overall experience.

High-end hotels do this very well. From the valet or concierge greeting guests at the door by name to the front desk clerk arranging for particular rooms without having to be asked, customers understand that it’s unlikely every employee greeting them doesn’t remember exactly who they are, but rather use systems geared to remind them (pictures, past room fees, etc.) what type of spender you really are.

While it’s certainly not possible to greet every single attendee by full name and occupation, we have a few tricks designed to make the experience more personal.

Checked-In Names On Screen
As part of our check-in process, we can use digital signage to display attendee names on screen when badges are picked up. We’ve seen a smile or two from spotlighted guests, as well as conversations started between people previously strangers. What’s better than that?

Staff That Know
When’s the last time you were at an event and had a simple question the staff couldn’t answer? Or, even worse, received an answer similar to: “Oh, I dunno, I’m just a contract employee”? We pride our registration staff’s ability to not only know how to get correct answers, but that they also have the authority to make something happen. Regardless whether they’re a full-time employee, temporary fill-in, contract worker or part of the marketing team, it’s essential they know how to problem solve attendee issues without a blank stare.

(Props to John Jantsch for inspiring this post.)

Why We Still Love QR Codes

Manor, TX, USA

Nary a day goes by where I don’t read another article about a QR code on a billboard or campaign sign that’s only visible when driving by in a car. We’ve all seen QR codes on real estate agent handouts that direct users straight to a URL — nary a proper landing page in site — which makes us wonder why the QR code was used at all.

Fear not, QR codes are here to stay. When used correctly, they are a huge time saver. When used incorrectly, they’re great fodder for learning about what not to do. So how do we use them?

Check In
Our typical event check-in process works like this: attendee prints out or saves ticket with QR code on their smartphone. We use our smartphone’s QR code reader (our own app) to scan. The attendee is checked in the database, their badge/sticker prints out, and the attendee is on their way in. This is huge improvement over analog processes and allows us to check people in as fast as the printer puts ink on paper.

Attendee Info Sharing
Remember those pricey, awkward, hand-held scanners available for rent at most big trade shows? You know, the ones that scanned proprietary badges using proprietary technology into a proprietary format only accessible after waiting in a long line at the ‘customer service’ table? Our custom apps do away with that, allowing attendees to share their contact info with vendors while still controlling their own privacy. We’ve implemented multiple privacy checks in past versions of our apps that allow vendors to request and attendees to approve data exchanges after the initial scan, all via downloadable smartphone apps and QR codes on our badges. Cool, huh?

QR codes work best when they trigger an immediate, usually local, action that saves time and hassle for whomever is using it. While we’ll continue to chuckle at reports of people using QR codes incorrectly, there’s no doubt we’ll be using them for the foreseeable future.

Long live QR codes!

More Lessons From Presidential Debates For Event Planners

StormTrooper McCain Tries To Exit The Stage On The Wrong Side

Brian Slawin over at the BusyEventBlog recently penned an article on what event planners, speakers and anyone involved in stage happenings during events can learn from our presidential debates. His points include no smirking, telling the truth and that no matter how hard you try, people will believe what they want.

We love his points, and would like to add a few of our own to help speakers be a little more memorable after they walk off stage.

Have Tweetable Comments Ready
Before social media, we called rehearsed one-liners sound bites, as they were perfect for news coverage, talking points and advertising support. While we still have sound bites, Twitter or Facebook will help short, memorable phrases go a long way.

Connect Your Comments
While tweetable comments are great for people to retweet, they’re not that great for explaining complex subjects. By outlining your points under a larger idea, you can share perfectly sized phrases without compromising the level of thinking required to understand the topic your speaker may be explaining.

Think Problem-Solution
Great speakers know that speeches are like sales pitches: introduce the problem, then solve it. Your audience isn’t all that concerned about the what, when and where of whatever you’re sharing, rather the how and why. Stick with it.

Treat The Competition With Respect
Most attendees don’t care why you dislike the other guys, they care what makes you the best at what you do. While presidential debates certainly include verbal jabs — subtle or otherwise — it’s not a good idea to treat others in your industry like lesser people. A rising tide lifts ALL ships, so as along as you communicate how great you are AND how well your competition is doing, you’ll look great.

Be Careful Online
KitchenAid’s snafu during the first debate is a great example of how important it is to keep your personal and business accounts separate. Use different browsers or apps to be completely sure that whatever you’re posting is appropriate for the account it’s being sent from.

Now go vote!