ASAE held its third annual Xperience Design Project (XDP) event this month, and once again challenged association executives and meeting planners to rethink the way they create memorable experiences for attendees of their conferences, trade shows, and annual meetings.
Here are the highlights from this year’s Playbook to help get your creative juices flowing:
- Use “Don’t Make Me Think” design: Remove as much friction as possible. Read, learn and apply the 4 Ds to your event. Think about the steps your attendee will take and give them the details: where to park, what level the event space is on, if there will be coffee in the morning. Clear signs and clear instructions eliminate confusion and frustration that obstruct attendees from absorbing the lessons of your event.
- Use your hallways: Run out of event space? (Or have extra space?) Not an issue! If your venue has large hallways or foyer space, consider setting up small group sessions. Or set a stage in a corner and you have a pop-up space. At XDP, there was a relaxing massage tent for those seeking a getaway moment.
- Crowdsource: In order to make sure XDP delivered the value the audience wanted, we asked them what they wanted to learn about. This directly influenced the agenda. Use a simple survey tool to collect ideas and then add a few suggested sessions to your main program.
- Celebrate active engagement: Encourage your audience to participate by providing incentives. During the planning of XDP, we offered a drawing for Away luggage in exchange for crowdsourced ideas and got a huge response. Take it one step further and celebrate these people. Give them a special sticker for their badge, ring a bell when they show up at registration. Don’t miss a chance to make your engaged attendees feel special.
- Keep talking to your attendees after they register: Instead of the typical radio silence that comes once your registration confirmation is sent, we designed an intentional engagement plan with weekly emails and Intranet (ASAE’s Collaborate) postings, to keep the community interested and engaged leading up to the event.
- Make it easy for partners to participate: With turnkey packages already designed, partners really just had to sign up and show up. Eligible partners could choose from a list of activations provided by ASAE, which meant they didn’t have to do the work of sourcing an experience to share in the Business Exchange (and ensured a consistent look and feel from the event planner perspective).
- Position the event as a place to collect ideas: Everyone loves the swag, but the Business Exchange at XDP was intentionally designed for active networking and solution-finding.
- Plan for surprises: Don’t announce everything in advance. Keeping some info out of the program allows you to create excitement. ASAE added XDPrizes to create surprise and delight throughout the event. (The winner of an all-expense-paid trip to Las Vegas with a limo pickup, tickets to a show, and a 5-star dinner was aghast, and the entire audience was excited!)
- Use your program guide to extend the conversation beyond the event: The program (called the Playbook at XDP) was meant to be something attendees kept and refer back to. It’s not a program guide to go into the recycling bin or sit on a shelf–there are exercises, places for notes, and inspirational posters to keep attendees talking and thinking about XDP.
- Plan for different types of people: Events are generally designed for extroverts. XDP had intentional downtime, allowing for appointment scheduling in the Business Exchange, and offering both large and small group discussions to try to give everyone a comfortable way to experience the event.