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What Is ‘Experience Design’ And Why Does It Matter

We both know there is endless talk about the importance of ‘engaging experiences’, but I’ve found very little actionable guidance on how to understand, create and nurture them.

So, in the coming weeks, I will take you on our own journey of ‘intentional Experience Design’. With some ideas and examples for you to walk away and run with.

“Engaging Experiences”?

Simply put, events bring people together to engage in an experience. ‘Experiences’ being something that we do and feel, something that we engage in. ‘Engagement’  is being involved in an activity, being present and participating in that experience or event.

And so I do believe our role in events is to engage people, to influence them with experiences that change what they think, feel, and do. Taking them moment by moment through a journey.

As event providers, we are all trying to get people to experience something, and then to react in a certain way. To think, feel, and act. To sign up, show up and show up again.

Our opportunity in 2020

There seems to be a real shift emerging in our industry and I’m working with a lot of great organisations, creating (or re-creating) events with ‘Experience Design’, and I’d like to help you make this shift in your work.

But aren’t we just delivering ‘events’?

Yes, we are, but I also believe a slight shift in the way we think about our work, and the approach we take, will allow you to create better work, and do so in a better way.

The shift… from ‘Event Management & Marketing’ -> Experience Design

According to Wikipedia* ‘Event Management’ is the application of project management to the creation and development of large-scale events…’.  But from my experience ‘Event Management’ practices will get us close to what we need, but in our events in 2020, it only covers half the story. It’s not just about what we produce back of house, the project management, it’s also about what we create, the experience front of house.  And I do understand why we are often more focused on the planning and delivery, as we are often so consumed getting things in place, the production and execution involved in promoting and setting the stage, whether stadiums, spaces or streets, we don’t always have the capacity to focus on influencing those who get to play on our stage, those that experience our event.

But we have a Marketing, Digital, Customer Service and ‘CRM’ team’s!?

Yes our marketing and comms, the content we create engages with our audiences. And yes all of these functions are valuable and necessary, but there is a distinction that is relevant. Marketing and comms is a part of the interactions, a layer of the experience. And Customer Service is often about seamless, ‘in-service’ based relationships. But in providing events, sport, entertainment or otherwise, you design experiences, with intentional highs and lows. Events involve emotion, belonging, building connections and lifestyles. THAT is what attracts your ‘customers’ to you, not just one-way communications, or service-based relationships. In events, we have ‘experiential relationships’.

Does it really matter??

OK so I know you might be thinking, so what. If you think I’m trying to be a bit clever, or being pedantic, that’s cool. But I suspect you also realise that this little shift in mindset and approach will help you create and deliver even more powerful event experiences.

Either way, everyone needs to contribute!

‘Integrated’ and ‘collaboration’ are buzzwords we are all using, but there is a good reason why. We know that the more we get out of our ‘silos’ the better, and that all the parts of our organisations need to contribute to make any event a success. An also, they are often all reliant on an event to achieve their goals – whether they sit in sales, commercial, marketing & comms, operations or finance.

So Experience Design is the way to get us ‘out of the silos’, to bring us all together, and to bring things together.

And why should we do things differently to other industries?

This may seem subtle, but there is an important difference to what we sell. ‘Products’ are consumed, Services are provided, but Events are experienced.


Our customers are engaged, they interact. And we shouldn’t really call them attendees or audiences, as we want them to participate. To ‘engage in the experience’! Not just passively watch.


So what is ‘Experience Design’?

To give this all a definition, a tangible description, ‘Experience Design’ (to me) is:

“intentionally designing an experience at a time and place. Engaging people to actively anticipate, participate, and reflect on the interaction.  Ideally influencing what they think, feel, do, and say.”

It is all about having the influence you want to have. Getting out of our silo’s and working together to achieve more. To share the knowledge we have around us, using our industry experience and the evidence available to make better decisions. And it’s not just about design, it is also about delivering experiences. The productive application of our creativity. A new way of working in our new world. As they say ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes’, so if you want to get ahead, and have an impact, this is the way to work together.

In the coming weeks, I will take you on our own journey in Experience Design. Some ideas, methods and a playbook to design sport or other event experiences, from start, to finish. We will look at real-world examples, questions and answers for you to walk away with.

I hope it provides value to you, whether you are creating, or recreating your events.

And if you know someone else who might value this, I’m sure we would both appreciate you sharing it!



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