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Bringing “Meaning Making” to Events and Brand Experiences

Bringing “Meaning Making” to Events and Brand Experiences

Four ways to take event attendees on an emotional journey

Events, conferences, and trade shows exist for brands and associations to connect face-to-face with their most important audiences.

These brand experiences offer the enormous power to engage, inspire, and connect people around a common purpose. As we head into the second half of 2016, I’d like to challenge event marketers and experience designers to create more meaningful and joyful experiences for your audiences.

Take your attendees on an emotional journey that creates lasting memories forever associated with your brand.

Meaning making through mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being completely present, in the moment, with no distractions. Considering the sensory-overload nature of events, this is a powerful way to engage attendees and help them focus.

So powerful, in fact, that Dreamforce devoted an entire day to mindfulness. The speakers included Jack Kornfield, founder of Spirit Rock, and Tara Brach, who led guided meditations. Other speakers included Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s Jolly Good Fellow; Donna Karen, fashion designer and founder of Urban Zen; and Goldie Hawn, who spoke about how her foundation, MindUP, is teaching young kids about brain chemistry and how it impacts emotions and behaviors. Many attendees probably didn’t know Kornfield or Brach or why someone like Goldie Hawn would be speaking at a tech conference. This experience allowed participants to clear their minds, breathe deeply, and relax into the moment so they could truly listen and absorb the rest of the content that was shared that week. It also let them tap into a greater awareness and connection to themselves and others, beyond the event.

Tapping into attendees’ intuition and curiosity

At C2 Montreal, event organizers showcased a giant, human-sized bird nest that created a mysterious ritual of choice and chance.

Attendees paired off with a stranger to climb up and see what was in the mysterious nest. Once in the nest, you were asked to collect two ink stamps with symbols on them and put one on each arm. Then you had to crawl through the secret exit and slide down into the next room. At the end, the deeper meaning of the symbols was revealed, and you learned how the visuals you selected were very aligned with your own personal values.

My colleague and her partner had selected warrior, free spirit, passion, and creativity. This experience tapped into their intuition by allowing them to select images through instinct that turned out to be strongly associated with their core values. It provided another inner map into themselves.

Engage attendees through multisensory activations

“Green Spaces” and “Breathing Spaces” are a growing trend at large conferences and expo halls as a space for attendees to relax, recharge, and catch their breath.

At the recent Dwell on Design conference in Los Angeles, event organizers created “green” spaces throughout the expo floor, as did many of the exhibitors. Adding lush trees, fresh greenery, and “living” walls not only transformed the expo hall visually, but also engaged the senses through touch and smell, creating a calming effect that enticed attendees to stay longer and experience nature while indoors. Colorful, comfortable, fun seating areas provided space for attendees to mingle, have impromptu meetings, and let social serendipity take the lead. Add a soft soundtrack of nature sounds in the background, and the attendees completely forgot they were in a concrete expo hall. This simple use of experience design transports participants right into a memory making experience that triggers emotions.

Create a way for attendees to become part of the story

Everyone has a story to share – especially about their experiences. Why not have a way for attendees to create and share their stories at your next event?

In 2003, StoryCorps set up a sound booth in New York’s Grand Central Station with the intention of creating a place for families, friends, and strangers to share stories. Fast forward to 2015, there are now dozens of apps that allow users to create stories by capturing interviews, videos, images, and audio. StoryCorps is one of the apps that can be used by setting up an intimate sound studio within the venue where attendees can interview each other about their event experience. Steller is another app that allows users to upload videos, photos, and text to create more of a storybook about their experience. 1 Second Everyday is an app that only captures one second of content at a time. By having hundreds of attendees capture one second of the day throughout the event, event producers can edit these clips together into a single reel as a way to share the collective experience. This content serves as a historical archive and is also a sweet way to say thank you to the attendees by sharing it after the event – extending the life of the event many times over.

Creating memories is the key to meaning making…and memories can only be made when multiple senses and emotions are engaged. It all comes down to brain chemistry – the hippocampus, the neurons, the synapses, and the amygdala – that’s what Goldie Hawn’s organization is teaching the kids that are soon to be your audience. So, as you are planning for 2016, remember what it takes to remember.

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Shannon Gilcrease

Strategy Director

She enjoys learning about new and groundbreaking ideas and she strongly believes there is always uncharted territory to explore. Shannon’s goal is to create unique and memorable experiences for her clients that stand out in a crowded space.

Because Shannon has sat in the client’s seat, she...

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