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How ‘XD’ Can Solve Your Problems

What I hear from event people I’m working with is that even on the popular events, a fundamental challenge we all have is getting enough people to our events. Even in our ‘golden age’ of events, the market is cluttered, everyone is busy and it can be a battle just getting people’s attention, let alone their attendance at our events.

However, we have been finding that by following some Experience Design principles and processes, we can get them to show up, show up again, and even bring more people with them.

Using the ‘Experience Design’ Guiding Principles

Principle # 1 – It’s all about ‘People first’

One of the core guiding principles of ‘XD’ is thinking about People first.  After all, events are ultimately all about bringing people together, and whether we call it Human Centred Design, Customer Centricity, ‘Fans First’ or whatever we like, our work basically revolves around people. And we know that if we really understand our audience, we are much more likely to give them what they want, and what they need.

Satisfaction is a primary driver of repeat attendance!

The fact that satisfaction is associated with increased event attendance should not surprise us, but repeated research has provided evidence that satisfaction is a dominant predictor of attendance, so, it is worth working on!

Principle # 2 – Insight based design

The XD principle of applying insight-led design is a combination of using the knowledge you have amassed in your team, the intellectual capital, and the data and evidence you have available, making sure we are making decisions based on facts, not just personal preferences (or others emotions!)

It’s the art and science – the magic and the metrics 

This guiding principle ensures we have both the art and the science of event design covered off. We want to bring the hard and soft measures, the facts, our intuition and our experiences into our decision-making. Event experiences have many intangibles and/but, we must marry this with evidence and data to productively apply our creativity.

Bringing this to life – Experience Design Processes

Empathy Mapping and the Persona Process 

When I’m working with my clients, we use tools such as Empathy Maps to allow us to understand people, not at a superficial external level, but to see things from their perspectives, allowing us to know where they are at and where they want to go.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood – Stephen Covey

A tangible output from Empathy Maps are Personas, segmenting your audience not just on demographics, but what they are doing, feeling and seeing. Understanding them, and what is going on around them that may be relevant to you. And importantly this helps you understand what will shift them to sign up for your event.

All the leading brands and orgs I work with are segmenting their audience on the relationship they have with them, what they think and feel about them, what they are doing (e.g. buying), and saying (e.g. sharing) not JUST their demographics. The value of this is in recognising that what may look like the same person on paper, actually has vastly different motivations in real life.

Same Demographc – different needs and wants!

Personas are a great way to bring your audience to life, make them real, rather than imagined, or just a demographic. They provide a constant reference to which you can make your decisions.

Principle # 3 – a Shared Purpose

A starting point with our Experience Design Playbook is to understand and agree the ‘why’ behind your event. Whether you are starting our, or evaluating your events, this is the necessary, but often skipped first step. Knowing what your event is for, the reason to exist for your organisation, is essential. At the same time knowing why your event exist for your audience is critical.

Experience Design Process – The Match

Knowing where you and your audience are at – do you have a shared interest? A shared purpose?

In our study of the worlds best events, a standout central element was the sense of purpose around the event.

What is your shared purpose?

Events should exist for a purpose, for a reason. Perhaps it is to create a connection, a catalyst, a celebration, or a call to action? From our research into the best performing events we have learned the greater the purpose, the greater the event.


In our study of the world’s iconic events, we found that the best events, large or small, share a strong purpose with their audience.

Connecting with people – 1 by 1 – moment by moment

It is easy in events to treat people as one, and a group, but as we know, we need to build a relationship with each and every one, to get them to sign up and show up.

In ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ Stephen Covey uses the metaphor of Emotional Bank Account as a concept to understand where our relationships are at. The idea is that we maintain a personal “emotional” bank account with someone, and as with any bank account, we can make deposits and withdrawals. However, instead of dealing with units of monetary value, we deal with emotional units.

How are your ‘Experiential Bank Accounts’?

Using this is an Experience Design sense, the experiences we provide, the interactions we have with our audience determines the state of our relationship with them. Their ‘experiential status’ with us will depend on the sum of the touchpoints they have with your event. The positive and the negative.

Experiential States

If we know the state of our relationships, where each of your audience is at, and then communicate with them accordingly, we are much better at managing that relationship bank account, deposit into the right stuff – and keeping the positive balance!

And so, we are much less likely to lose them on the journey, eliminating or navigating around any ‘deal-breakers’ – and amplifying the positive interactions, that will mean they do sign up and show up.

Taking them on a Journey

Once we understand our people, their purpose and ours, based on insight and evidence, we can create (or recreate) the best possible events.

Over the next few weeks, we look at how we can design journeys which will make people want to sign up to your event, share it, and sign up again.

It’s all in the ‘Experience Design’.

If I can help with that, please let me know!



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