2013: The Year of the Attendee

5 Tips for the Experience Economy


Shrink food portions. Cut coffee breaks. Reuse centerpieces. Eliminate dessert.

We’ve been reading about cost-saving tips for meeting and event planners, but we’d like to propose that it’s not all about the bottom line. It’s about the user experience.

It’s ok to serve smaller appetizers and use local entertainment talent, but you should always evaluate how these “minor” cost savings can negatively impact the user experience. Are attendees hungry between meals and tired from long walks? It may be cheaper to serve hors d’oeuvres instead of a meal, but a happy attendee is the key to a successful event.

The event industry is predicated on the value of interpersonal interactions. As meeting planners and event producers, we work in an experience economy where engagement is the currency. How can we refocus our attention to better improve the attendee experience?

The technology industry got this right a long time ago. Paying $400 for the new iPhone could be considered ludicrous, or it could be considered an investment in productivity, efficiency, and connectivity. In realigning our efforts to provide the best attendee experience, we should all take a few tips from Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.

1. Focus on the Primary Task

Determine the purpose of the meeting and refer back to it. Why are the attendees here? What does this meeting hope to achieve and does the event flow support the mission? It is easy to be distracted by giveaway items and karaoke machines, so make sure that all decisions support the primary task of the meeting.

 2. Elevate the Content that People Care About

People attend meetings for specific reasons. They expect to learn and strategize in ways that are not usually possible at the office. They have seen every template in PowerPoint and are well versed in reading pie charts. Instead, enhance content with beautiful theme graphics, a vividly illustrated case study, or responsive technology.

3. Always Be Prepared to Stop

Lectures aren’t fun for anyone. Encourage presenters to accept questions from the audience in real-time. Direct user response and research is the key to understanding the audience, and incorporating their input builds a two-way connection between the attendees and the presenter.

 4. Enable Collaboration and Connectedness

Make it easy for attendees to make new connections and interact with others. The crux of any meeting is interpersonal interactions. Foster these interactions by providing adequate time and space for mingling and impromptu meetings.

 5. Enhance Interactivity (Don’t Just Add Features)

Props and photo booths are fun, but how do they enhance the attendee experience? It’s important to make sure that tools and technology serve a larger purpose. Enhance interactivity through run and relevant tools.

The user experience revolves around streamlined interaction with content that people care about. For 2013, we propose the Year of the Attendee.


Do you agree or disagree? Leave comments to let us know what you think.

Cadence, Inc. is a full-service meeting planning and event production company in Chicago. For more unexpected perspectives from the event industry, follow us on Twitter, connect with us on Facebook, or visit our website.


Photo credit: The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore



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