At the 2023 Community Rebellion Conference, Valentina Ruffoni, events and experience creator extraordinaire, spoke about how to turn events into experiences that leave a lasting effect with attendees.
Events are a great way to bring your community together, whether you’re doing them in-person or online. As someone who’s been in the events industry for about ten years, she wanted people to leave with three key skills:
- Creating a strategy to help craft a story
- Create an immersive experience
- Incorporate the sensory elements into the event
First, it’s important to define the distinction between an event and an experience. An event is a planned gathering that occurs at a specific time and place, aimed at bringing people together for a shared purpose. An experience, on the other hand, is much more. It includes the overall journey, emotions, and perceptions individuals have before, during, and after participating in an event or activity, creating a lasting impression and evoking positive emotions.
Using the Community Rebellion Conference as an example, Valentina brought up the excitement of social media posts from the speaker lineup, including from people who weren’t able to be at the event.
The 3 E’s of Experience Planning
Valentina created this framework to for anyone to plan a memorable experience.
Establish (a Strategy)
A strategy should be your North Star document that shows everyone what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. What is the purpose of the event, and what is the experience that you’re looking to create? Your strategy is an outline that guides you and your team, ensuring everyone is aligned on what they will accomplish during the event and how they will make those things happen.
Going back to the emotions, how do you want your attendees to feel when they come into the space, after they’ve seen a few people speak, and once they leave the event?
Again, going back to the Community Rebellion Conference as an example, Valentina mentioned the emoji stickers that were provided to attendees in the morning to choose what kind of mood they were in. These stickers were a great way of connecting each other together - whether people were feeling happy, tired, or inquisitive.
When addressing the third and final E, Enable, Valentina asked the audience to consider what they would do to unlock enjoyment and leave a lasting impression.
Crafting a great story
Valentina likened event and experience planning to crafting a great story. She explained that similarly to a typical story, which has a beginning, middle, and end with various plot points throughout and a hook, an experience holds true throughout the event.
Creating an Immersive Experience
An immersive experience allows attendees to become more engaged, have a more cohesive experience, and connect at a deeper level. Valentina mentions four critical elements that contribute to an immersive experience that leaves a lasting impression.
- Venue: Whether it’s in-person or online, the venue is incredibly important. If it’s in person, is it accessible? Is it in a familiar city? Is it easy to get to? If the event is online, is it a tool that people are familiar using?
- Schedule: This is about having a diverse schedule - workshops, talks, birds of a feather discussions, panels, etc. This allows attendees to learn in different ways.
- Personalization: There is a lot that you can do with personalization at an experience. For example, the Community Rebellion Conference had personalized name tags, or another conference provided a decorating station to further personalize your name tag. If it’s a virtual event, you could do a virtual photo booth with fun backgrounds for people to take photos and share with others.
- Team and volunteers: Having a reliable team who can help you welcome guests, stay organized, stick to the schedule, answer questions, and provide a positive experience from start to finish, is a great way to have help for the various things that can happen while the event is taking place.
Activating the Senses
Finally, Valentina discussed the importance of activating all five senses during the event, providing examples for each one:
- Touch: Tangible items like name tags, stickers, and swag
- Vision: Presentation screens, banners, and a visible schedule for people to reference
- Hearing: Good audio equipment so people can listen to speakers, music, and announcements
- Smell: Enticing food and drinks that get people excited
- Taste: Tasty food and beverages that people will look forward to enjoying
From events to experiences
We loved hearing from Valentina at this year’s Community Rebellion Conference. She is a wealth of knowledge and a must-follow for anyone interested in planning more engaging events. If you are thinking about or planning an event that you hope to evolve into a memorable experience, be sure to connect with her on LinkedIn.
Additionally, if you’re looking for a tool to help with the various aspects of planning your experience, try your free trial of Talkbase today.
November 14, 2023
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