7 Experiential Event Design Tactics That Boost Attendee Experience

Jill Anonson

Experiential event design in a ballroom

Experiential events are growing in a big way—even as non-event marketing efforts continue to rise in popularity and efficacy, marketers across the US continue to cite live events and experiences as one of their most effective marketing tactics.

According to a 2015 EventTrack survey, 98% of people who see a product or service marketed through an experiential marketing campaign would make them more inclined to purchase it.

But how can you design an inspiring experiential event? Follow these best practices to get the most from your people and make the most of your event design.

1. Design an Engaging Theme and Carry It Throughout the Event

Your theme is what ties everything together and creates cohesion from the first touchpoint to the last.

It doesn’t have to be anything complex or showy, it could even just be an extension of your brand. Regardless of the route you choose, the underlying theme and brand of your event should be infused into everything—think destination, invites, signage, décor, activities and more.

2. Craft an Event Agenda to Entertain

Agendas are pretty cut and dried, right? Wrong.

You can—and should—shape the schedule to fit your needs and maximize touch points with participants. Bring in a moderator to facilitate discussions in between meetings, events or breakouts. Plan activities such as giant Jenga, an informal skill-building session or a coffee/food station for socializing. These small touchpoints sprinkled throughout will foster continual engagement and help ensure participants stick around.

And, when you gather content ideas from your attendees, you ensure your event has the content they want to hear and talk about. More than that, a powerful agenda really builds FOMO before the event doors ever open.

3. Infuse Interactive Elements

Event attendees now expect a hands-on experience with your product or service.

By designing your event with an element of interactivity, you’re not only satisfying that need but you have the power to control how they walk away feeling about your brand—what do you want them excited about? What do you want them to share? What do you want them to know?

When thinking about how to utilize interactive elements at your event, think outside of the box. For example, if you want to showcase your new state-of-the-art building or meeting space, skip the photos and building plans and instead provide virtual reality glasses that allow them to “walk” through the space. Or maybe you’re looking to promote your focus on corporate responsibility. Provide an activity that has a give-back component to it, such as a station for building bikes for kids or creating care packages.

Just remember to keep that “feeling” in mind that you want them to connect your brand with. Interactive elements aren’t just about the entertainment factor. It’s about forming a bond with your brand—and your control over what that bond is.

4. Take Advantage of Mobile Technology and Social Media

Mobile apps are a strong way to engage, inform and interact with participants.

Their versatility allows you to tailor the app towards your event. Whether a conference or an incentive trip, the app can be tailored to engage pre-, during and post-trip, as well as providing updates, push notifications, surveys and polling. A powerful event app also allows you to connect with your participants wherever they are, in real time.

Now, let’s talk social media. Hashtags. Facebook ads. Polls. It’s all been done before—but it’s also very effective. And you don’t have to stop there. Think about how you can make your social media component stand out from what everyone else is doing.

For example, live video streaming through Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, Facebook Live or Periscope opens up the possibility of engaging people who aren’t present at the event and still allows them to be a part of it.

While the app and social media are important for engagement, a cross-media approach is the best way to get and keep your audience’s attention.

5. Design Intriguing Event Spaces

You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who is totally engaged by rows of chairs set in front of a stage. So, switch up the format! Set your chairs in a circle around the presentation stage, or use lounge chairs and furniture throughout the space to create a more informal feel.

Also, think about how you can create more intimate spaces within a larger area. Maybe you have faux walls that create a networking lounge with couches and arm chairs. Or set up a small café or bar to serve refreshments. Adding these interesting spaces sets your event area apart from what attendees are used to making them feel more refreshed. 

6. Utilize Environmentals in Interesting Ways

Environmentals go hand-in-hand with infusing your brand or theme throughout your event venue. Environmentals can transform a generic area into a space that is bursting with energy and focus. Now, you could go with the typical banners, signs, etc.—or you could really immerse your attendees by utilizing what’s around you. Look at your space and think of interesting places you could place branding elements.

Wall clings on ceilings, escalators or elevator floors can make your branding noticeable, but feel as if it’s a part of the space. That type of non-intrusive, but eye-catching branding is the key to successful environmentals. Also, think about 3-D elements. Your signage doesn’t have to be a cling or a board—maybe you create a 3-D rendering of your logo or create a branded space that participants walk through to get to the actual event.

7. Don’t Forget About Wayfinding Materials

Wayfinding signage is a crucial part of designing a seamless experiential event.

You could create an event infused with all the creative elements listed above, but if they can’t navigate your event or feel they lack info, it can throw everything off. Remember, your event is all about the journey you want the participant to take with your brand.

The path they take to get from point A to point B is important, and frustration over wayfinding can interrupt that journey. Signage doesn’t have to be showy or over the top. It simply needs to be effective.

Maximizing engagement is a huge part of your experiential event, and thinking about the attendee experience at all stages of planning is instrumental to its success.

Get the seamless strategy and flawless execution for your events, so your audience remembers your brand and your message long after they’ve gone home through a motivating, inspiring strategic event.

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson

Jill Anonson has over 20 years of diverse experience in event management, incentive travel and sales strategy, and serves as the Events Strategy Advisor at ITA Group. Focused on continuous improvement and challenging standards, she consults clients and team members with impactful strategies and innovative ideas that deliver successful business outcomes. She is a Certified Engagement Practioner, and certified through Pragmatic Marketing.