There's nothing more impactful on people and brands than shared experiences. These experiences are what evoke emotional responses, build deeper connections, and create unforgettable memories. Because of these experiences, people form relationships, and brands have the opportunity to connect with consumers on a more humanized and personal level.
According to Main Line Today, experts say that "shared experiences—even with a complete stranger—are more intense than doing something alone [and] having positive shared experiences increases feelings of self-esteem and decreases feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation."
The challenge today is breaking through the barrier the digital realm presents and finding a solution to improve engagement and create meaningful experiences that end up driving revenue in the long term.
Fortunately, there's a correlation between experience design and digital shared experiences that can make all the difference for your events. Here's what you need to know.
The Evolution of Shared Experiences
In the past, shared experiences were a massive success with in-person events because they allowed participants to engage with each other in meaningful activities. When guests showed up to an event and got involved in activities and conversations with other people, they immediately enjoyed the experience more. Experts say this is because people are meant to be around other people.
Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center at The University of California, Berkeley, told NBC News BETTER, "Human beings are an ultra-social species — and our nervous systems expect to have others around us."
The news outlet also reported that "psychology says that part of human nature's default mode is to be social. One theory: people have an innate (and very powerful) need to belong."
For this reason, in-person shared experiences were almost always a hit because they made everyone feel like they 'belonged' there. With that being said, things have changed recently, and shared experiences have evolved during the pandemic, ultimately putting more stress on event teams.
The COVID Effect
The pandemic rocked a lot of industries, but not many were more impacted than event content and experiential marketing. It reshaped events in innumerable ways, but the divide it made for shared experiences is arguably the most important.
Rather than interacting in person, events tried to unnaturally force participants to share experiences digitally. This has become much more challenging to execute successfully than the natural setting of guests being entertained together and in person.
Are You Prioritizing Experience Design?
If you're not prioritizing experience design yet, there's no better time than now to start. While we will never be able to replicate the shared experiences that happen in person, we can at least improve the experience/engagement of our attendees by focusing on experience design (XD).
This concept uses the target persona's experience — their feelings, needs, and overall mindset — to design an event and the highlights of your products, events, and environment.
It's important to get as personalized and specific to your attendees as possible when appealing to their digital shared experiences, which is why XD is so important. If you're appealing to a group of women in their 20s, then you're not going to want to use tactics that will resonate better with a group of men in any age category.
Experience design takes in-depth data on your ideal attendee's demographics, interests, behaviors, etc., and uses that knowledge to ensure your experience speaks to them in a way they can relate to and enjoy. These positive memories and emotions are then associated with your product or brand (whichever is the central focus for the event).
For inspiration, a few sure-fire ways to enhance digital experiences are through these digital elements:
- Digital Keynotes
- Thought Leadership Sessions
XD and Shared Experiences
Whether you like it or not, most events are going virtual. You will have to also if you want to keep up. The sooner you get on board and start learning and executing best practices, the sooner you benefit from its results.
According to Hoppier, although virtual events were once considered a novel idea, today they are "steadily growing — with the number of organizations planning virtual events doubling in 2020. A survey by Bizzabo found that over 90% of event marketers want to include virtual events in their strategy."
Together, experience design enhances your attendee's digital shared experience — getting it as close to the experience of being in-person as possible. This is because you can use what you know about your audience to create a digital environment that encourages interactions and engagement.
Three areas, in particular, include:
Gamification — unique to digital in that attendees can compete with each other, ramification offers attendees a great place to explore their competitive nature while connecting with other competitors.Workshops — attendees want to learn from industry leaders, and they can through virtual workshops. This adds more value to online collaboration because they can get the full benefit of expert education and learning without the risk of meeting in person. It will also allow you to better curate the educational experience you want to provide.
Entertainment — People enjoy being entertained, and digital events have made celebrity appearances more feasible for many events. Although many attendees may be disappointed they're not in the same room as their favorite celebrities, there's a good chance these celebrities wouldn't be able to make it outside of the digital environment.
Create Meaningful Experiences With Impact Point Group
There's arguably nothing more challenging than adapting to change, especially when it hits unexpectedly and most businesses aren't equipped to accommodate those changes. For brands in the business of creating meaningful and shared experiences, the pandemic has shaken up events and forced them into the digital realm.
Fortunately, you can work with experts like Impact Point Group to ensure your digital shared experiences are just as meaningful as in-person events. Contact us for insight into what IPG can do for you, and follow our blog for more tips and tricks on experience design and digital shared experiences.