Ever wonder why you remember certain things — people, places, events, and moments — in your life? It all boils down to the trope I’m sure you’ve heard: Others may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Making us feel a certain way is what defines an experience. It’s what turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, the mundane into the magical. Much has been written about the idea that we’re living in the Experience Economy — coffee as an experience, retail as an experience, and experiential restaurants. Even O’Hare International Airport’s Terminal 1 tunnel offers more than a means of getting from concourse B to C: It’s a 466-neon-tube light-and-sound-show experience.
For most of us, the material consumption of things is not enough. Meaning, value, and even happiness are derived from some blend of being in the moment and, at the same time, feeling optimistic about the future. Experiences can be the delivery system we seek to add meaning and relevance to the products and services we buy and the events we attend.
Events are in desperate need of becoming experiences — experiences that allow the audience to savor the moment, while looking ahead to something that will inspire, connect, or surprise them. C2 Montréal is one of the best-known examples in the industry of transforming an event into an experience. How do you get attendees who need to move from one session to another? C2 has had attendees share an umbrella while they walked under a canopy of fake rain. Want to create one-on-one meeting space? C2 enabled attendees to use exercise bikes on a catwalk. How do they elevate an excellent speaker? C2 creates masterclasses for deeper dives, to fully leverage a speaker’s expertise. As a result of these experiences, attendees feel like they’ve stepped out of their day-to-day boxes, and they have been transformed by the event.
Designing experiences is different from planning an event, organizing a meeting, or executing a trade show. Experiences must originate from a new center — an organizing vision and core purpose. Experiences must be curated to serve the individual, as well as the masses. They must provoke, stimulate, elevate, and engage.
A key definition of an experience is something personally encountered, undergone, or lived through. Do your events allow your audience to explore, discover, encounter, and undergo a series of moments that transform them and help them learn, connect with others, and lose themselves in an experience that leaves them feeling, thinking, and behaving differently? If so, they will return next year, and they will be your most powerful marketing channel.
Begin to think about what you can do to transform your event into an experience. Move from an aging mindset to a youthful personality, and kick complacency and the status quo to the curb. Because, in the end, it’s unlikely that your audience will remember everything you said — i.e., your program content — but they won’t forget the way you made them feel.