Experience Design: Choose Your Own Adventure


If you grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s like me, you too may have spent hours curled up with the Choose Your Own Adventure® series, reading the books over and over again, choosing different paths to see where the twists and turns would take me. Forging your own path at events and on the trade show floor has become a hot experience design trend. Here’s how to capitalize on this trend for your own events:

Provide Choices to Customize

Part of the appeal of the Choose Your Own Adventure series was that you, the reader, were in control. Each time you read a book, the story became a custom experience based on your choices. You had the autonomy to decide what experience you wanted to have.

This same principle carries over to experience design. When you allow attendees to customize their experience to reflect their personal affinities or likes, they’ll have more fun. Even better, they’ll remember more about their event experience – and retain more brand and product knowledge.

For example, our Sparks team helped LEGO Systems create The Quest2NINJAGO™ Wu-Cru Team Challenge, a traveling, interactive touring competition. Kids ages 7-12 joined to compete on a basketball court-sized competition course. They used their “ninja” skills to conquer challenges and earn a chance to be named a Quest2NINJAGO Champion. Winning teams from each of the seven event cities earned a trip to LEGOLAND® California to compete in the finals.

Customization was an integral part of the experience. Teams of two participants chose their own team name and created a team glyph from a special set of symbols. The experience continued as the teams used the glyph art and team name to design custom T-shirts. Other opportunities to customize the experience included photo opps and the ability to share custom content—such as pictures of personal LEGO sculptures they’d created. The kids were inspired by this one-of-the-kind experience and left pumped up about LEGO.

The “Netflix Effect” on Content

Choose Your Own Adventure
was captivating because the books didn’t unfold in a traditional linear pattern. Instead of starting at page one and ending on page 150, you could choose to skip ahead and then return back to the book’s beginning. There wasn’t a single way to experience the content.

This non-linear storytelling was a precursor to how Netflix and other on-demand services have changed content consumption. Want to binge watch an entire season of shows in one sitting? Go for it. Missed your favorite show? No worries—catch it on demand.

Because of the “Netflix effect,” we no longer have the patience to wait for content. And we don’t tolerate having others select content for us.

This effect has changed how event attendees like to experience content too, especially trade show theater presentations. Most likely you’ll bore attendees if you expect them to sit and listen while you talk at them for 15-20 minutes. If you want to hold people’s attention, you’ll need to swap the old format of pre-packaged, linear content with interactive experiences that provide guests with opportunities to be active participants. Better yet, let them pick and choose the information most relevant to their interests.

Ways to Design a Choose Your Own Adventure Experience

Here are a few ideas for experience design that models a Choose Your Own Adventure mentality:

  • Facilitate “birds of a feather” gatherings. Connect attendees with like-minded colleagues by grouping people into discussion topics that apply directly to their interests. For instance, arrange different groups and activities for doctors versus nurses.
  • Develop an agenda builder application to guide attendees to sessions or events relevant to their needs.
  • Create a variety of content or activity zones. Allow attendees to self-select where they go and what content they receive. For example, arrange the evening reception into multiple zones, each with a different theme and aesthetic. One zone may have a DJ and a GIF booth for extrovert attendees, while another zone could be a quieter, casual lounge for small group conversations.
  • Invite conversations and connections made at the event to continue through digital forums or private Slack groups.

Don’t forget: Not every attendee wants to create their own experience to the same degree. A strong experience design accommodates multiple learning preferences and styles. For example, offer a tablet for those who want to self-explore demos or content, and have staff available for those who want guidance and personal interaction.

Take a page from the Choose Your Own Adventure series: Let event attendees and guests decide what kind of experience they have at your event. Engaged and enthusiastic attendees will eagerly await your next adventure.

Posted by Geoff Albro | Request as a Speaker

A man with the plan who loves everything creative, always drawing inspiration from the everyday. My better half keeps my ideas in check with her event production chops and my two kiddos in diapers keep me on my toes!