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Intentional Design – engineering new rituals

“Awe-inspiring” “THE place to be” “A memorable moment!” 

How our events are perceived is critical, and there are some important variables we need to get right to be successful. These can go either way, so ideally we want to sit on the right side of the spectrum.

To create this, or design a platform for this to emerge, we need to make some deliberate decisions in the design of the experiences you provide. So here are 5 variables you can consider when conducting your ‘Experience Design’.

The compelling nature of the genuine and the unknown.


The unique proposition of live events over other forms of entertainment (or regular products and services) is that they are unpredictable experiences, with unknown outcomes, and what occurs is somewhat serendipitous. So ideally, the live experiences we provide need moments that are not staged, or forced.

Serendipity – the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.


To connect with our audiences it is important we provide experiences that fit with the values of our organisation, and, in line with the expectations of our audience. In a way that will connect with our audience, that is true to our brand, and to our fans. Authentic and real.

There are many events and sports which are trying to create (or recreate) new experiences and products, and are struggling not to replicate each other, bastardise their brands, or just steal something that doesn’t fit. So your events need their own identity, that is true to you.


As I’ve said before, the world doesn’t need any more events which have no meaning or purpose. All events can, and should, influence their audience in some way. Influencing what we think, feel, do and say. Events are too much hard work not to be meaningful!


We need for these meaningful, organic moments to occur, and we also want our audience to know that these moments will be repeated, so that there is value for them to come back again. And there are some excellent efficiencies in developing repeated rituals for the event organisers, as we don’t need to recreate or invest in new initiatives.

There is value in developing moments which are repeatable, both for your audience, and for you.

When these rituals become ‘must see’ moments, and are amplified by word of mouth, our work is pretty much done for us!

The 80:20 rule

We know that 80% of the impact of any event, comes from 20% of the experience, the majority from a handful of influential moments. So it is worth mapping out your moments, to identify which ones are having the most impact, and which ones need to be repeated! 


We also know that experiences are more powerful when they are shared with others. As we know that communal experiences offer deeper meaning. I’ve written before about the power of being shared, and share-able. All our great event are.

I always go back to the joy of Rockin1000. It’s great to play an instrument, it is cooler to be in a band. When it is shared by 1000 others, it is amazing.Making the magic happen

Essentially, I think what we ideally want to engineer is new, shared rituals.

Something that is real, created by the fans, participants, that they can own and share, again and again.

Rituals are … ‘a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone, especially as part of an event’.


The Mexican wave is a brilliant example of the ‘go to’ (if somewhat tired) ritual for sports fans.

How the Mexican Wave started is more contentious than you might have thought, and it didn’t start in Mexico. However was the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where the wave came to global attention, and became a repeatable ritual for sports fans across the world.

The story of how the wave originally occurred that I like best tells of when the On Field Host at an American college game was pointing to the crowd, with a ‘call and response’ to the crown to stand up on his command. As he did this seating block by seating block, he noticed that in that sequence the effect of the crowd looked pretty cool. So he pointed at one section after the other, around the stadium to choreograph a ‘wave’ effect, and the rest is history.

So how do we engineer scalable, repeatable rituals?

It’s not easy, and there is no proven playbook as yet (as far as I am aware!?). But I do have a few ideas… which I will share with you next week.

Fan rituals, are basically habits, shared en masse, and in sync.

Next week we will look at how the science behind building habits in individuals, which may help us create rituals en masse in our audiences.

We know that habits are “a particular activity or way of acting that you do automatically and regularly” and rituals are “a series of actions regularly and invariably followed by someone – especially as part of an event” so… we can mash these forces together and apply this to good effect!Its all part of intentional Experience Design 

Taking an insight and evidence based approach to designing experiences allows us to merge the art and the science of events, engineering and amplifying the influence of experiences.

Events after all are about bringing people together for something different. To share a common passion. And we must provide the platform for these shared experiences, transformation and memorable moments to occur.

We can’t always engineer the magic, but we can provide the platform, the stage for wonderful things to emerge.

Let’s talk more next week!

… … and DON’T FORGET – the other 80:20 rule

As I wrote in my book, I also believe it is important to change up a vast majority of an experience each time. So once you have identified the 20% of interactions that have an impact, you can (and should) go about modifying the other 80%.

That may be a new venue, theme, or format. As experience providers, we must provide a contrastable experience. We must make sure it is never the same again!

NIKE are the masters of innovation, and I always enjoyed the challenge laid down to us to start again, even when we knew we had provided an amazing experience. That discipline of not just replicating what worked for efficiencies sake is a challenging mindset, but ultimately proved to be a successful strategy.

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