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Are you an event organiser… or a designer of time?

Are you an event organiser… or a designer of time?

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You know step 1 in your job as an event professional is to understand your public, their motivations, their limitations… and how they make decisions about attending your event. And in today’s context, understanding their obsession to optimise time and dedicate it to activities they find really worthwhile is essential. If you cram them into an auditorium and force-feed them content they can view online, you will lose them. If your content is “one size fits all”, likewise. When people come to their event, more than anything, they give you their most valued resource: their time. So maybe you should evolve from being a meeting planner to a designer of time? Here are conclusions of a great conversation betwern Skift’s Miguel Neves and Maritz Chief Experience Officer Greg Bogue, as part of Skift’s Event Trend Summit. By Eric Mottard

Skift Meetings is an online publication of content dedicated to meetings & events, based in the US and which publish really interesting stuff. One example came recently when they organised the online event “Event Trends Summit” in which they explored 9 different trends affecting our industry. Here comes one which is discussed between Greg Bogue (Chief Experience Officer of Maritz).

Time is the scarce commodity

“Time is the currency of experience”, says Greg, and someone who comes to your event give you their time, which is a very prized resource. As a consequence of this value of time, any potential attendee will question your event, asking: “is it worth my time?”. So, you have to answer this question for every attendee. And this has gotten worse: as Greg says, with the pandemic we have started to value our time differently, don’t want to commute.

Your event has many, many competitors

Stop thinking that your event competes with an event of your competitor, it competes with everything in their professional, and event private life. Asked who were their biggest competitor, a group of event planners answered to Greg: “the attendees’ families” (but we could add Netflix, a tennis game, an online course, or just the rest of our work). The value of time is even greater than the value of the ticket.

Stop putting into your event things which can happen elsewhere

An impact for meeting planners is according to Greg that “we have to stop wasting our time together doing things we could do separately”. Event agendas are super full, days are exhausting… we should lighten them up and focus on doing what we only can do together. And listening to a speaker is something we could do in many other ways than in an event (Youtube, podcast, article, zoom meeting…).

Networking is the killer app

Greg reminds us that we know people want to connect in events, and that has been proven by thousands of surveys. But we don’t facilitate that enough. Think frankly: how much time, attention, talent, do you dedicate to designing experiences oriented to networking? Do you innovate in that field? What percentage of your event time is oriented to networking? Probably not much.

Virtual and physical

This could be a simple yet critical observation of what we have learned in the last few years: “Virtual events are about content, face-to-face events are about networking”. So, we should stop thinking of one as an alternative to the other. They have different functions and should be combined.

What formats, exactly?

We should try formats like open space, offer shorter sessions, maybe even take out the general session… and maximise pre-event communicate, sending the content in short videos… so we can focus the time spend in the event on discussions, debates, problem-solving. As they say, we should even get outside the meeting room much more! And asked about the will of attendees to watch videos pre-event (which is obviously a challenge when people are so stressed and overworked), Greg said it works well in his experience, although data are missing.

The attendee is in control

The individual will want more control about their event experience, and the job of the event designer (designer of time) is to create an environment where the human spirit can flourish and conversations can flow.

Go beyond linear design

If you think of it, you probably design your event as a timeline, rather than as a set of experiences that people can combine as they like. As Greg says, “our designs are linear but people want to design their experience more personalised”. So, move beyond the programme as a timeline and make it a toolkit of experiences with much freedom to combine them as and when every attendee wishes.

A nice conclusion by Greg would be the summary of the evolution of meetings: “We do an event to you” became “we do it for you”, when “we do it with you”, and now, “you conceive your experience”.

This is just one session amongst many, hear the full debate and discover more topics here.

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