Change in the event industry is nothing new. It’s something event planners deal with in every aspect of their job – and it’s only intensified in the last 18 months.
In the move to virtual, not only do planners now have to deal with building audiences, securing speakers, and negotiating contracts, they are also facing the challenge of creating an engaging experience.
But shorter attention spans, new ways to consume content, and a noisy landscape of virtual and hybrid events make meeting attendees’ expectations and executing a memorable event more challenging.
With people longing for connection, event planners now face a new role: user experience (UX) designer.
What is UX Design?
UX design has many components – including design, usability, function, and even branding and marketing. However, it generally refers to the experience a user has when interacting with a product. A UX designer is someone focused on creating conditions that provide the best and most efficient way to experience the product.
If you look at user experience definitions from an event perspective, it sounds a lot like what is required from planners today.
Planners no longer only handle logistics. They are now responsible for mapping an end-to-end virtual or hybrid experience to deliver on attendees’ needs. In addition, planners are tasked with finding more creative ways to engage – especially when interaction is limited to video or chat. Plus, they are more involved in marketing and promoting the event and even evaluating the success of an event directly to the organization’s bottom line.
In a nutshell, when it comes to virtual and hybrid events today, planners more often than not are asked to design memorable and valuable experiences along all points of the attendee journey, from the moment they learn about it, to what happens during and the conversations with peers after it.
Tips for Better Event Experience Design
As planners take on this expanded role of UX designer, consider these following tips when planning virtual and hybrid event experiences:
Identify your audience
Before you can get started with your event planning checklist, clearly define your target audience. Who are you designing this experience for, and what is it that event attendees need the most? Too often, the design process starts by focusing on the activities happening during the event. Instead, make the switch: begin with what your audience needs from you and figure out “the how” later.
Review data insights
As you get started planning, review all past event programs or other research you have access to. Find those critical pieces of information to understand better the content, speakers, or event experiences needed to deliver on audience needs.
For example, if you’ve previously used audience engagement platforms, review dashboard analytics and reports to understand the activities or sessions that drew the most participation, engagement, and interaction.
Ask the why
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the same rinse-and-repeat model to events no longer applies. Instead, use this as an opportunity to eliminate what wasn’t working previously and what should be done differently, and identify areas for improvement and the components that worked well.
But don’t stop there. As new ideas are discussed, keep asking questions throughout the process to ensure the overall design fulfills event goals and objectives.
Remember, it’s all about the customer
Often, it’s easy to let personal preferences or directives from senior stakeholders shape event design. But the bottom line is it is about the customer, and they need to be at the center of any planning decisions. Think carefully about what is needed by the customer to improve the overall user experience – which may vary as events have both internal (speakers) and external (attendee) audiences.
For example, it may be important for speakers to have easy-to-use interactive tools like Q&A, polls, or quizzes to gather feedback from attendees. On the other hand, attendees may prioritize the ability to network with other attendees by viewing their profiles or simple ways to exchange business card information.
Open the door for other ideas
Because event design encompasses many areas, invite other team members to share their suggestions throughout the event design planning process. Build on their knowledge, insights, and ideas by collaborating on approaches that will take your event to the next level.
And don’t forget to leverage your vendor partners, like Evenium, who can offer unique perspective and out-of-the-box ideas from a wealth of varied event experiences.
Engage the audience
Keeping your audience engaged is the best way to get them invested in your event. This can take many forms: collaborative brainstorms, challenging them with new ideas, encouraging active participation, or connecting via social media are great ways to move them from passive viewers to invested attendees.
An audience engagement platform like ConnexMe makes it easy to integrate interactivity within your event design, from polls/quizzes, Q&A, word clouds, heatmaps, and more to live chat, conversation threads, and a live comments wall.
Here are 7 interaction tips for your next virtual or hybrid event.
Think short, digestible content
Not very many event attendees would be excited about 8 hours straight of talking-head style PowerPoint presentations.
Think about breaking your event content into chunks. A good rule of thumb is no more than 20 minutes without changing something – offering Q&A, switching presenters, or taking a break.
Adopt a growth mindset
One reason surveys are so valuable during and after the event isn’t just because they provide insight on what worked.
The information can also shed light on new issues or challenges to be solved and opportunities to iterate for future event design.
Today, event attendees want engaging virtual and hybrid experiences. These kinds of events require a holistic event design approach that encompasses:
- Audience preferences, demographics, and market trends
- Key stakeholder input and goals
- Maximizing interaction, engagement, and learning retention
- Fostering connection and collaboration among attendees
- Delivering value for attendees’ time
As the role of event planner changes rapidly to experience designer, Evenium offers the perfect suite of solutions to free yourself from logistics to embrace your new strategic role. These tools help you design memorable and engaging events that achieve business results.
Find out more about ConnexMe and how to use it to design impactful virtual and hybrid events, book an appointment with our customer success team