Designing with Compassion & Vulnerability

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been heavily involved in our event trend project, researching and sharing trends from all industries, all over the world as they relate to event planning.

Given that we’ve been so focused on looking forward, I was extremely excited to attend ‘The Future of the Event Industry’, hosted by EventMB. It was an educational gathering of people from all corners of the event industry sharing knowledgeable and valuable insight into what the future might hold for our industry and going back to business safely in 2021.

Throughout this event, I found a common thread. I latched on to the idea because it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about and I’ve heard it be touched on in other event-related webinars I’ve been attending lately:

Connection on a deeper level than ever before.

Face-to-face interaction has become super limited and our physical connection with others outside of our immediate circle has basically vanished. But what’s cool about that is it allows for a different kind of connection to become the norm – emotional connection! Emotional connection will be an integral part in the way we interact with each other in a tech-dominated world. It’s what will leave people feeling like they had an amazing experience and wanting more.

Creating emotional experiences for event attendees isn’t a new idea, but what I’m talking about here is designing events with humanness in mind first (over ticket sales or ROI) and establishing a place for deep connection to occur. We can achieve this by focusing on two core values throughout the event design: compassion and vulnerability.

Designing an event with compassion means we’re going out of our way to fully understand and relate to the mental and emotional pains of event attendees (luckily, this is an easier task when it comes to COVID because we’re all dealing with similar issues on this one) and there is a desire to take care of attendees with a genuine concern for their mental and emotional well-being.

If attendees emotionally feel like they’re understood and being taken care of, they will open up to the experience, and each other, more. So, it’s important to create a safe, anxiety-free space that appeases varying comfort levels.

One way to do this is to OVER-communicate. When you think you’ve communicated enough, communicate some more! Make things REALLY simple and super clear for people pre-event and during the event. You have to let people know what is required of them and be clear about your expectations. There’s nothing worse than walking into a place that has poor signage and you’re left wandering around aimlessly, silently panicking to yourself. Have lots of clear and communicative signage; go a step further with staff acting as guides that help lead people through the event.

Creating a sterile environment doesn’t mean it has to feel cold and distant. Show people you care by improving access to your event, reducing barriers, and being more inclusive. Embrace the opportunity to cultivate relationships with your audience. Get to know them, listen to them, ask them what they want.

Designing an event with vulnerability means that you as the host, emcee, speakers, exhibitors, and anyone else involved in connecting with your attendees are prepared to expose their true, authentic, emotional selves. This, in turn, will encourage attendees to also be vulnerable and authentic.

Consider being more open and truthful with attendees if an issue occurs, for example, or laugh at yourself if you make a mistake. Take off the metaphorical MASK of who you think you SHOULD be during an event, and be yourself (while keeping it professional, of course). Show your attendees how you really feel!

Have the courage to try something new even when you’re not certain of the outcome, and if it doesn’t work out the way you planned or hoped, be real with your attendees.

If attendees see the people putting on the event as real, authentic humans, it gives them permission (and comfort) to be the same. It gives them a solid foundation to go out of their comfort zone as well.

We can sense when others are walled up, closed off, or distant. When those walls come down, connection occurs and THAT’S what attendees will remember.

Resiliency and the Future of the Event Industry
You don’t overcome obstacles without growing and getting stronger from them. So, what does the future hold for our industry? I think it’s the STRENGTH that it takes to connect with others on a deeper level, through compassion and vulnerability.

The connection to these core values is what will ultimately lead to shifting behaviours in event attendees in thinking about how they’re showing up, interacting with each other, and becoming a more resilient society long-term… pushing through failure, sharing courage, and trusting each other, because nobody can do it alone.

– Your Tycoon, Kirsten XO