If you’re running an event, your users – the participants (including sponsors, speakers and press) – and their needs should be at the forefront of your mind. Seeing your event through their eyes – when you’re planning it, when you’re running it and afterwards when you’re measuring how successful it was – is important. That’s why you have to think about UX (the user experience).
We’ve already blogged about using proto-personas to define and work out how to meet user needs for events.
You are not your user – think about things from the perspective of your participants. Walk through your venue before the event starts and look at things from the user’s point of view. Is the signage clear? Does the registration desk layout make sense? Can you go the extra mile and help with things like arranging taxis, special diets or accommodation emergencies? Are your staff welcoming (and are the venue’s, too)?
Map out user needs for great UX
You should also think about the hierarchy of event needs. This idea is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a pyramid with people’s most basic needs at the bottom. When one need is fulfilled, people move on to the next, and then the next, until they reach the top of the pyramid.
Try this for yourself: draw a pyramid and at the bottom, list basic needs – like catering, toilets and so on. Higher up, you might put things like signage, easily being able to find the sessions you’re interested in, good wifi and so on. Different people will order things differently.
We try to make our events memorable – going the extra mile to fulfil those needs right at the top of the pyramid. Some of our conferences have included:
- a mini beer festival with a specially-brewed beer
- ‘dinner with a stranger’ – people sign up to one of a selection of restaurants and pay for their dinner, but we pay for drinks (this has proved to be a great way for participants to get to know each other and adds depth to the event experience)
- participant-generated Spotify playlists
- free massages – we’ve offered 15-minute massages (head, neck and back) in ergonomic chairs at several of our events
- a bake-off contest – we booked some teaching kitchens, put people in random pairs and they decided what to bake, with everyone getting the chance to taste and vote on their favourites (as well as having a bread-making lesson whilst everything was baking!)
You might find it helpful to think about the anti-problem, too. This is a game that helps people think creatively by getting them to come up with ideas to solve a problem or situation opposite to their own. So think about what would make your event the worst it could possibly be. This can help generate ideas that you can then turn around to make it great instead – and prepare you for when things really do go wrong so that you can respond quickly.
Planning and running events is complicated, but thinking about UX will help make sure you give participants the best possible experience you can. If they’ve enjoyed your event they’ll tell others about it – and hopefully come back.