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Event experience | 13 October 2021

The Rise of the Event Experience Leader

Kate Angelo

There’s a new breed of event professionals emerging as Event Experience Leaders. This is the story of how we got here.

We are in the age of event experience.

The roles and responsibilities of event professionals have long been in a near-constant state of evolution.

However, the past year and a half has required event professionals to evolve their skillsets at a break-neck pace — and this change is ushering in a new era for events and the leaders who orchestrate them.

To better understand the rise of the event experience leader, we first need to better understand the rise of the experience economy.

Note: This article has been adapted from a course in the Bizzabo Academy, which is accessible by registered Bizzabo users. When you join Bizzabo, you join thousands of other event experience leaders in the BizzaKnowledge community and gain access to exclusive resources in the Bizzabo Academy.

The Experience Economy

The Experience Economy, a term first coined in 1998 by Jim Gilmore and Joe Pine in their seminal book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage, identified a seismic shift in the business world: “To set yourself apart from your competition, you need to stage experiences — memorable events that engage people in inherently personal ways.”

This reframing identified how the consumer’s understanding of product value had evolved over time: the experience of an event was now the product itself.

The experience economy is defined as “an economy in which many goods or services are sold by emphasizing the effect they can have on people’s lives.” The model below shows how product value increases as a commodity, good, or service is customized into a differentiating experience.

Rise of Event Experience - Experience EconomyThe value progression of the experience economy where customization leads to increased value and commoditization leads to decreased value.

The realization that an experience was a distinct economic offering that people value (and will pay more for) ushered in the Experience Economy we know today. One where a premium is paid for the unique and personalized experience provided. Think Uber, Apple, Disney, Peloton.

Types of Experiences

Experiences must be intentionally designed, marketed, and delivered to command the increased price a customer is willing to pay. Like goods and services, experiences have their own distinct qualities and present their own design challenges.

To purposefully design an experience of value for your customer, it is helpful to understand the characteristics of experiences and how they will impact your audience.

One way to think about experiences is across two dimensions:

  • customer participation in the experience
  • customer engagement with the experience
Rise of Event Experience - Types of Experience

Above you can see that we can sort experiences into four broad categories, according to where they tend to fall along the two dimensions.

Participation: Passive participation, on the one end, is where the audience doesn’t affect the performance at all. The opposite of passive participation is active participation, in which the audience plays key roles in co-creating the experience.

Engagement: The engagement spectrum goes from absorption to immersion. Absorption is where the viewer is taking in the event from above, like from a balcony. Immersion is when they are standing center stage, ground floor, at a concert, immersed in all the sensations of the moment.

While the concept of the experience economy is over 20 years old, it continues to usher in a completely new way of thinking about our customers, their experiences, and what it means to operate as a customer-centric organization that provides the experiences that matter.

In his latest book, Infinite Possibility: Creating Customer Value on the Digital Frontier, Joseph Pine (and Kim Korn, co-author) … “provide a profound new tool geared to exploring and exploiting the digital frontier. They delineate eight different realms of experience encompassing various aspects of Reality and Virtuality and … show how innovative companies operate within and across each realm to create extraordinary customer value.”

It’s precisely this approach to innovative experiences that will help organizers overcome their greatest hurdle: The Event Impact Gap™.

Closing the Event Impact Gap with an Experience Mindset

Today, We are still trying to learn how we might create virtual experiences that consumers value — and want to share — as much as their real-world experiences.

While digital technology offers us limitless opportunities to create practically anything we can imagine, it simply can’t recreate the vibrancy and richness found in real-world experiences.

Event organizers struggle to bridge the gap between the experience they aspire to create, and the experience they’re able to achieve.

We call this gap the Event Impact Gap™.

Exceptional events, the ones that merge the divide and provide a seamless experience across the spectrum of digital and physical moments, continue to thrive, even in times when most events have come to a standstill.

These events are successful because they leverage the productive tension between the digital and physical elements to create the seamless experiences their audience desires and the outcomes they expect.

Event attendees, now more than ever, want a hefty return on their attention (ROA), a feeling that the time and attention they invest on an event feels worth it.

Fortunately, even before 2020, event professionals have been paving the way for the digital transformation of event experiences.

Consider these three examples: The Color Factory, TED, and Peloton.

Each of these brands has creatively integrated a high-tech and high-touch approach to their strategy, driving their continued business success. They’ve pinpointed that sweet spot on the hybrid experience-spectrum where both the physical and the digital experience is perceived by the customer to be valuable enough to share broadly with their networks, long after the initial experience is over.

The Color Factory

Launched in San Francisco in 2017 by a team of artists and creatives, Color Factory creates meaningful and immersive color experiences for all. While the company has since grown and expanded, the core elements remain the same: Color Factory embraces child-like imagination while expanding boundaries of perception and understanding.

TED

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Peloton

Launched in 2012, Peloton brought the community and excitement of boutique fitness into our personal space, the home. They’ve made it their mission to bring immersive and challenging workouts into people’s lives in a more accessible, affordable, and efficient way.

To sum it all up: What distinguishes today’s event organizers from traditional event organizers is the way that they are able to purposefully orchestrate experiences that blend the best of the digital and physical to inspire, educate, and bring communities together, at scale.

Moving Towards Orchestration

In the new experience economy, event professionals are moving from being event managers who merely plan and organize events to taking on the mantle of event orchestrators who design and facilitate experiences.

While the tools for event managers and event orchestrators may be similar, it is in the way that they use tools (and why) that sets them apart. Event orchestrators — event leaders — produce purposeful human experiences that orchestrate the dynamic spectrum of digital and physical moments to inspire, educate, and connect people.

Powered by purpose and enabled by the fluidity of the “both-and” hybrid era, the role of the event manager has given way to the rise of the event experience leaders of the future.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing more tips for building teams and skillsets for overcoming the Event Impact Gap™ — culminating in our Nov. 16 product launch event: The Future of Event Experience

For now, you can learn how Bizzabo’s Event Experience OS is built around serving the event leaders of the future.

You can also more about how to build a strategy around event experiences in our latest episode of the IN-PERSON Podcast:

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