How ‘experience design’ can grab your audience on an emotional level

By Brad Friesen

Today’s event professionals are constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation and creativity to create memorable event experiences. While talent and intuition go far, utilizing an experience design (XD) methodology is a valuable way to take something we have always cared about and apply tools and processes to make it happen.
How ‘experience design’ can grab your audience on an emotional level
XD as a principle is more about design thinking then it is about pure event design. Like all good design, XD starts with establishing a deep understanding of those we are designing for. First, there is an understanding of the event objectives followed by an essential step of audience profiling. It means understanding the audience as real people with real interests, not just seeing them as targets for brand impressions or a set of demographic statistics.

The following XD method follows the basic stages shown below to create events that grab the audience at an emotional level.

Event briefing

The root of every great event can be found in the original brief. A thorough brief will explore the current reality and envision the new future. It outlines the business requirement and the constraints while also providing the meeting and event planner an opportunity to challenge and question.

Audience snapshot

We need to pay closer attention to the audience beyond simply accepting generic profiles at face value. Taking the time to research the audience is essential, and event professionals must consider the full range of  influences and motivators, barriers and opportunities, as well as identifying potentially effective and non-effective event concepts.

Journey map

This is where we deconstruct an event and highlight the potential moments of truth of the the audience experience. It evaluates event lead-up, registration, confirmations, social media linkages, the entire onsite event experience, and all planned post-event activities.

Concept development

Coming up with new ideas often depends as much on discipline as it does on creative serendipity. A disciplined process will cultivate the most innovative brainstormed concepts, combines them with the vision outlined in the event brief, and builds out  concepts that measure well against practical business logic.

Client co-creation

This critical stage of XD solicits stakeholder participation to review assumptions, personalize the event, and establish creative and budget constraints. The goal here is to establish a sense of joint-purpose on your events, where feedback and the final vision are shared between event planner and client.

During the co-creation stage, the following steps are essential:

  • Review event and audience assumptions with client stakeholders
  • Offer choices and options to personalize the event
  • Build resource requirements based on event and budget constraints
  • Set timelines for event milestones
  • XD event blueprint

The very last step is the delivery of an XD blueprint that details the creative vision of the event and also factors in the practical constraints necessary to turn concept into reality and sets the benchmarks for measurement and analytics.

About the author

Brad Friesen, is Managing Partner of Starshot, an event marketing agency based in Toronto and Chicago that embraces design thinking process to help clients build market advantage. For more information, visit

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