Interrupt the ordinary | Conference Matters

Interrupt the ordinary

A good meeting designer goes through the entire process of an event, just as its target groups also do, contends Experience Architect, Greg Bogue. Essential for the success of the meeting is that, occasionally, you interrupt the ordinary.

An experience unravels itself over a specified time period. It has to be a journey. Aspects are things like laughter and learning, but also the creation of a sense of being there and achieving something.
The speaker is Greg Bogue, Experience Architect at Maritz. As part of the knowledge programme at the international meeting exhibition, EIBTM, he will give a presentation about the design of meetings in which the guest is the central focus.

When designing an event, the whole process should be taken into consideration, he continues. Organisers themselves, for example, rarely go through the registration process. If they were to do that, they would experience what a participant experiences who wishes to register.
A participant is not a ‘pax’, not part of a herd, Bogue contends. Approach him or her as a person. Keeping it practical in the design phase requires some generalisation, but it is important to consider several different personae as a starting point.

Differentiate between attitude, behaviour and motivation. Describe some types of participants based on these three points and then take these personae as a starting point for the design of the meeting. It is important to repeatedly determine what expectations each person has and how you can surprise him or her in a positive manner.

Really grab the attention

Surprising the participants – really grabbing their attention – is essential for a successful event so that people will have lasting memories. This is difficult, because if you count the experiences and expectations one has, the result is ‘autopilot.’ Our brain always thinks, namely, ‘what’s next’, so that what is prevailing (although, perhaps very interesting) largely eludes us. A good meeting designer therefore makes sure that, in the design, he or she regularly interrupts the ordinary.

One way to address this in a structured manner is ‘journey mapping,’ a method that is being applied by leading brands, such as Lego and Starbucks. Here, you go through the whole journey that a persona experiences, before, during and after the event. Put the different moments on a time-line and draw up, for any point in time, what someone expects and how to surpass those expectations.
An important addition to this is ’empathy mapping.’ What feelings and emotions does a participant go through and which ones would you want to generate. Thus, we want to be treated as individuals, but we are also searching for a common identity. Both of these play an important role in meetings.

Intense emotions

We people want to acquire, commit, create and defend. These are four handles for making and assessing the design for a meeting.
Also, make sure that the emotions generated have intensity. This will not only create a richer experience, but it also ensures that the participants remember the message

All loose elements that emerged from the previous analyses are — distributed over the time-line — the pulse of the event. Bogue would like to have an instrument that can determine this pulse. At this point, we will still have to feel that ourselves.

Distilling identity

It is then important to mould this into a whole. We have to give the meeting an identity, if only to recruit participants, but also — in the further development — to be able to test if it fits into the whole.

Our brain is constantly in search of the best value: how can I get as much return as possible for my money (and time). And our brain likes simplicity.

Therefore, keep it simple, is Bogue’s advice. Distil one central theme from the event. Watch out! The theme is, thus, the end result of the design process, not the beginning.
As examples, he cites director Francis Ford Coppola, who had one single theme for each of his movies that was the basis for the whole story, and Cirque du Soleil, that knows how to distil its performances into one theme, a fantasy word, that stimulates enthusiasts, again and again, to buy a ticket.

Peak end rule

Bogue’s final advice is also about the closing. We are, in our industry, very good at welcoming, but poor at saying goodbye, he says. The ‘peak end rule” says that people remember the onto the whole event.
As an example, he talks about a study involving men who had been given a colonoscopy by two different doctors. With one doctor, there was a very painful examination of fifteen minutes and, with the other doctor, the same examination, but supplemented with of ten minutes less painful inspection. When the men were allowed to choose who was going to do the third examination on them, they overwhelmingly chose the second doctor.
Maybe not the most pleasant example to close with, but one which certainly sticks.