Sunday, December 18, 2011

Anticipate, Experience, Remember

These three words can be applied to anything good in life, anything that brings us joy and makes us smile. The question of the day is how can this apply to our events? What are we doing to create each step?  How does it vary by type of event?

1. Developing anticipation. To do this you must have great plans in place for your event, plans you are excited about your guests experiencing and can play off of.

2. Creating the Experience. This must consider the objectives of the host and the needs and desires of the guests. It will often include tried and true elements, and then ideally special touches that will surprise, delight and enhance, touching a variety of senses to better engage, this is what part that creates memories.

3. Remember. For us on the planning side, creating the environment and experiences that will cause guests to remember their event positively.

Well that all sounds lovely, but how do we apply this to specific events?

Incentive Reward Trips
With an incentive program often the cycle to win a reward trip is up to one year in advance and from an organizational perspective, these trips are based on superior sales or service that contribute to a healthier bottom line. Building anticipation by choosing an attractive destination, creating anticipation through the launch of the next year's destination often at this year's meeting, and then using a great teaser campaign are all important steps in building anticipation.

The experience must then deliver the feeling of reward. This begins with the travel and arrival experience, and then with each piece of the puzzle, including activities, unique events, access to important colleagues, gifts and once in a lifetime opportunities that cannot be bought, the experiences are built. To truly create the feeling of reward it means that every touchpoint must feel special, and it must be easy - this is a week without having to worry as you have for the balance of earning this time away. It is most often shared with spouse or significant other and occasionally with families as they too have contributed to this success.

To create lasting memories that build loyalty requires a balance of time with colleagues on shared social experiences, activities that let you build on or learn a new skill, sometimes inspiring speakers who add depth to the experience and knowledge you can apply on your return, fun that engages multiple senses and time to reflect on the experience and the people you are sharing it with. Tangible items such as thoughtful gifts, photo or video memories and new skills will add to the remembering.

Association Educational Conference

The anticipation can come from the programming planned, from knowing you will see colleagues and friends you may only see at these meetings - the education and networking that are the crux of association membership are indeed critical to the anticipation. For new members it is about creating a sense of excitement tied to the sense of belonging and shared positive experience to come.

The experience should be built around these two tenets - great education which in its most ideal form combines formal, interactive and informal learning with tools to apply the enhanced learning on return to work. The networking should be throughout, not just at the traditional evening events, some of which may be buy in and some hosted (ie a welcome or closing). This is perhaps one of the most challenging areas to create experiences as you are dealing often with people from around the world with different expectations, languages and bases to draw from and a larger gamut of age and experience. This is about asking questions of those who know the demographics and psychographics of the attendees and building in variety to create a comfortable experience for the majority.

The memories will come from sharing knowledge with peers so you must allow time for this. The education must have relevance and be applicable on return for the value to be justified.  Memories that make you want to return again are based on connections, and will come from the opportunities to "break bread" with old friends and new enriched with conversation. For us, we have to provide food and beverages that are familiar and tasty enough in environments that may showcase a destination or a theme, with music that enhances the space without overwhelming conversation as this all becomes part of what is layered into the memory.

What will you do to build anticipation, create enriching experiences and ultimately create memories for your guests, the kind that make them want to achieve, and to return?

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