“Pump them up,” they say.
“High-energy,” they say.
“Stack the agenda,” they say.
“They’ll sleep when they get home,” they say.
“They” say a lot of things. We’ve said them, too. And we’ve learned it’s a thin line between energizing an audience and wearing them out, which is counter-productive to the goal of motivating the audience to take action.
Yes, designing a total sensory experience for event attendees is still the norm and it’s why many of us do what we do. Seeing attendees respond to and interact with event experiences we’ve designed and enjoying them as envisioned can be very rewarding. We tend to gravitate towards turning on an audience rather than turning them off.
However, while events are fun and engaging, from a company or an organization’s perspective, it’s the attendee behavior in the days, weeks and even months following a conference or event that really matters. If they return from an over-stimulating conference too tired or stressed to function effectively, the event may have been a blast to attend, but won’t have its intended overall strategic impact.
As counter-intuitive as it may feel, designing opportunities for quiet contemplation and mindfulness add depth to the event experience. After all, without a quiet counterpoint, sensory overload just becomes distracting noise. Here are some ideas to design opportunities for mindfulness into future events:
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Know your audience and be realistic about what they are able to absorb and act upon in the time allotted. Build an agenda accordingly. Look for ways to give more time to your attendees. Start later, end earlier, more or longer breaks. Don’t be afraid to schedule down time or to be more deliberate with building thinking time into general sessions and break outs.
LEAVE SOME OPEN OPTIONS
Provide opportunities for activities such as yoga, walking, running or meditation.
SAVE SOME SPACE
Create quiet and/or tech-free zones, including exclusive lounges for top leaders, high performers or other important sub-groups. Sometimes people need recharging more than their devices.
Build thought-provoking activities into general session. After wowing an audience with a new product, program or direction, provide the audience with the opportunity to think, explore and discover the true impact to them and their role on micro and macro levels. Encourage attendees to develop and write out short- and long-term action plans. Short term being immediate actions to take upon returning home or even prior.
LEADING THROUGH LAYOUT
Infrastructure plays a role, too. Intuitive event design with good traffic flow free of bottlenecks, reduced time waiting in lines and keeping sessions running on time greatly decreases stress that can frustrate attendees and make their minds anything but quiet.
Finding that balance between generating excitement and overload is important to the success of any conference or event. In these days of being constantly connected and plugged in, opportunities to unplug offer a welcome respite. And while we still get excited about confetti, pyro, moving lights and other cool production elements that create energy, just as much design, creativity and production goes into orchestrating more contemplative moments and experiences that create a different type of energy. Let us put our expertise to work for you.