We always think about the customer journey in planning our events. We map the paths of egress from a session or a dinner. We chart the way we anticipate attendees will wander through a Sandbox or an Expo floor. We make sure the bathrooms and food – and bars – are easily accessible. We want to make it easy for attendees to get to where they need to go, and to spend time seeing what they (and we) want them to see.
That’s the logistical customer journey.
Let’s talk about the experiential customer journey – the journey that leaves attendees with their story from the event. What they saw, what they learned, what they took away – and what is going to make them want to come back.
In planning this experiential journey, we can take example from select hospitality brands that are taking the user journey to a whole new level – a physical journey with stories to tell. Homestay brands such as Airbnb are now offering locally curated “Experiences” to give users a “day in the life” of actual folks living and working in their neighborhoods. Currently you can chose to spend your day with a photographer, a florist, a surfer, a truffle hunter, and a documentarian, among others. Users gain entry to a new skill while making a real connection to their host – and to their home away from home.
How can we apply this type of community-focused experiential journey to our events? We’re already focused on highlighting our cause, our brand, our content – how do we layer in that connection that will inspire the stories?
Highlight what’s already around you.
Focus on your event space; you decided on that venue for a reason – showcase it. Can you get attendees into the kitchen for a cooking class with your caterer’s head chef? If you are in a less urban environment, can you take attendees on a guided moonlight walk around grounds, to stargaze and check out the nocturnal nightlife? When we held a tech conference in an historical – and highly gilded – hotel, we integrated art deco elements into our decor, and brought in a jazz trio to play our evening event. Play up the historical significance of your venue; find out what makes it unique and bring that to the forefront for your audience.
Bring the experiences in.
Bring the story of the local region into your event. Can you get your florals from the flower shop down the road? Can you get your cheese from that farm you saw on your way in from the airport? For an urban developer conference, we partnered with local street artists to commission works that we used in graphics, event swag and large scenic pieces. Support and highlight the local community; after all, they’re welcoming you and your guests into their neighborhood for the event.
Take attendees out.
Give attendees an experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have time to enjoy. Build time into your schedule for guests to sample the local culture. Think of this as less touristy on-shore excursions, or better yet: a chance to choose [their] own adventure. Will you choose glass blowing at that locally renowned glass studio? Harvesting at the urban garden? An historical tour of the neighborhood from a longtime resident? For a small thought leadership conference in the desert, we host a sunrise hike up a nearby mountain. Give users a moment to connect to the region and its residents, and a chance to share that connection with fellow attendees.
What makes Airbnb’s Experiences unique – and lasting – is that, through witnessing your hosts’ day to day interactions and contributions, you gain a concise sense of how they fit into the greater community. Your attendees are already a part of a community simply by coming together under a shared interest for your event. Enhancing the experiential customer journey will strengthen that community through a shared story to tell.