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  • Writer's pictureAdam Malik

Creating Magnetic Digital Experiences: The Magic of Human-Centred Event Design

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Ever wondered why the latest and greatest tech sometimes isn't enough to capture people's attention? What folks are after is more than a good bang for their buck. They're craving an engaging, dynamic experience. They want to be part of the journey, not just the destination. Sounds interesting, doesn't it?

To explore why we struggle with Digitising Events, we must understand that the vast event organising experience is from the in-person format where audience acquisition is viewed as a wholly transactive exercise because we know the emotional connection will happen when people attend the event.

For the success of new online-centric formats, we need a different approach. To Digitise Events well, we must own and invest in the digital experience, and now, more than ever, we need to own our digital experience platforms (DxP).

Understanding the Mind: The Psychology Behind Digital Experiences

Digital experience is complementary to customer experience and user experience. The latter is the first touchpoint of a client with your brand; the user experience design affects the customer experience. So, taking control of the experience matters now. And the digital experience is about something other than jumping on the latest technologies.

Where should we begin? It's all about understanding the psychological impact of digital experiences to design interfaces that are useful, enjoyable, and mentally rewarding. When we step into our audience's shoes and visualise their interactions, we're talking about empathising with them cognitively.

Digital platforms should be more than user-friendly; they must resonate deeply, touching both mind and heart.

Cognitive load is a term that refers to the total amount of mental effort used in working memory. Reducing this load in digital experiences can be achieved through simple and intuitive interfaces, removing unnecessary steps and decisions. However, the concept extends beyond this. Ensuring that our platform is easily navigable and information is digestible, i.e., it shouldn't take users more than 10 seconds to figure out, is one part of reducing cognitive load. The other is creating a logical and coherent structure that aligns with our participants' mental models, i.e., how they expect things to work.

Moreover, we can introduce the concept of psychological safety here. Dark patterns can cause mistrust and anxiety, making users feel psychologically unsafe. Understand that they know more than we usually assume (of course, they know we are selling them something!). So, eliminating such patterns and building transparent and predictable experiences enhances participants' psychological safety, making them more likely to engage, explore, and contribute.

Connecting Hearts: Emotional Engagement in Experience Design

Digital experiences also have a profound effect on participants' emotional well-being. Here the principle of designing for emotions comes into play.

We are not just selling a product or service. We are sharing a story. Storytelling is a powerful emotional driver; it's how humans have connected and communicated for millennia. To build a digital experience that tells a compelling story, we need to understand the emotional journey we want our participants to undertake. As stories have highs and lows, so should our participant journey have moments of delight and discovery. The excellent book by Chip and Dan Heath, The Power of Moments, is well worth a read to inspire ideas and explore how to design for moments that matter.

But it doesn't stop there. When we give our audience the autonomy to become active participants, we enable them to partake in our story. It allows them to shape their own emotional journey and fosters a sense of belonging, empowerment, and validation.

We are not just selling a product or service. We are sharing a story. Storytelling is a powerful emotional driver; it's how humans have connected and communicated for millennia.

User-generated content is one outcome of this approach, but the formed emotional bonds are equally valuable. Emotionally engaged users are more likely to become loyal clients and passionate advocates for our brand. This emotional connection can lead to higher satisfaction levels, fuel engagements, stimulate conversations and, ultimately, a more vibrant and committed community.

By recognising and designing for these psychological and emotional factors, Digitising Events will translate into digital experiences that truly resonate with our participants on a human level.

A group of people congregating in public.
Human-centred event design is about empowering our audiences through compelling stories.

Digitising Events With Human-Centred Event Design: How Can We Start?

So you've got the psychology and the emotion down, but how do we tie all this together? How do we start, especially when, as an organisation, we may need to improve our digital skills?

It is where the CVI + CVO Framework™ can help by forcing you to define the real CVO of any part of your event. Take a webinar: the real CVO is not how many registrations it has but how many of the right audience engage and consume the content. With this as an anchor, you can map out the experiences to enable it.

We must now transcend the notion that digital experience is just a matter of the latest and greatest tech -- website, apps, platforms, features and functions. Instead, we should consider it as a defined collection of 'digital products' with corresponding CVIs and CVOs. Each with clear meaning and purpose - expressed in plain language understood by all.

The experience of these products is linked and delivered across various contexts and platforms, responding to your audience's expressed needs. This way, the conversations begin with the root of it all and not vice versa. We ask: which measurable Customer Value Outcomes and Interactions matter for this or that product?

The challenge here is something other than building virtual representations of real-world experiences. Instead, we should be able to construct fully-functional digital experiences that are unique and meaningful, not mere clickbait and user data blackholes, to maintain genuine engagement.

Using the CVI+CVO Framework as a shared language quickly activates specialists and subject-matter experts that align with these objectives. For example, in working with an SEO specialist, we had assurances that they could triple the website traffic. We noted that we don't get paid for tripling website traffic. Instead, we want to triple the CVO of commercial downloads and asked them how they can enable that. It created a discussion around using their experience to optimise journeys and landing pages. This is how we can progressively build and own our DxPs using the Framework by productising and focusing on what matters.

But ensuring simplicity in our DxPs is easier said than done. And often, the difficulties stem from clashing views by different practitioners on how to measure and optimise value using digital technologies.

Consider another scenario: say you have, on the one hand, management teams who may be inclined to overload your platform with all the latest features and functions based on the notion that more is better. On the other hand, you have web designers enamoured with current minimalist trends, believing that less is more. Add to this process the other specialists -- like audience acquisition, commercial teams, developers, and the like -- and the problem morphs into a case of clashing egos and that old HiPPO.

Crafting a compelling digital experience is more than just assembling the latest technologies. It's about telling a story that resonates, inspires engagement, and builds community.

What the CVI+CVO Framework does is to provide a shared language that commercial, technical, and subject-matter specialists can easily understand and deploy to identify and measure those values that matter as you shift to digital. This framework allows you to funnel your teams and specialists towards a common approach: instead of debating which feature or function gets included, you ask which outcomes are critical for your digital experience.

Creating Human-Centred Digital Narratives with CVIs & CVOs

Ultimately, crafting a compelling digital experience is more than just assembling the latest technologies. It's about understanding the human element, tapping into the psychology and emotions of our participants. It's about telling a story that resonates, inspires engagement, and builds community.

We need a simple roadmap to transform these principles into tangible, measurable outcomes. This shared language empowers us to unite diverse teams and align their efforts towards a common goal: a digital experience that delivers value to our users and brand.

Let us challenge ourselves to apply human-centred event design and cultivate genuine human connections. What if practitioners had the opportunity to connect before an event, instead of just interacting with sponsors? Would a group of well-networked practitioners increase overall attendance?

So as we move forward into the digital age, let's ask ourselves not what technologies we should use but what stories we want to tell, what experiences we want to create, and what value we want to deliver.


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