Experiential Events: Peak Emotional Moments

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Experiential Events: Peak Emotional Moments

By Blair Potter | May 27, 2020

We recently discussed risk perception, restarting live events in the COVID-19 era and what sets experiential events apart with members of the MPI Experiential Marketers & Designers community, including co-chairs Arianna McLauglin (manager, events for BLG) and Susan Prophet (director of business development, Quebec City Business Destination).

How have you benefitted from belonging to this community, and what can those who join expect?

Arianna McLauglin: I’ve loved being a part of this community. It has expanded my understanding of what experiential events and marketing is, broadened my network and let me make friends with our MPI community internationally. Members can expect to learn new skills, knowledge share with a network of experts across the globe, have a community to brainstorm ideas with and make some new friends and have some laughs along the way.

Susan Prophet: Learning how the emotional sensory elements are important to include in experiential events and also learning there is a tremendous science around the experiential designing of events, now both virtually and face to face.

What challenges to experiential events will COVID-19 present in the short or long term?

Anonymous: The recent situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to significant changes in event management. About 87 percent of planners canceled their events in 2020, which resulted in multimillion-dollar losses for the industry. The only option for event planners to save businesses and maintain attendee loyalty during the outbreak is to switch to organizing online events and providing online experiences. At the same time, an online meeting experience is different from traditional face-to-face events because of the lack of interaction with other people and the physical environment, lower levels of attendee involvement and less opportunity to provide memorable experiences. It is possible that sometimes an online meeting experience negatively influences event outcomes related to attendee satisfaction, loyalty and behavioral intentions. Therefore, it becomes important for online event planners to measure the multifaceted dynamics of an online event experience and evaluate attendee outcomes.

“Emotional arousal is the main component of any experiential activity.”

Tell us about a skillset someone who plans experiential events needs to possess that many people overlook.

Anonymous: By taking into account the current situation, attendees’ risk perceptions may become the main determinants of their post-COVID behavior and intentions to attend face-to-face meetings. People can decide to cancel or postpone their visit, as well as reduce risk by wearing masks or avoiding people based on subjective judgments about the negative outcomes from attending events. However, risk perceptions are not the same as a real risk, and the perceived risk will influence attendees’ behavior even if the risk does not exist in reality. In contrast, unperceived risk will not affect visitors’ intentions to attend the event even if the risk is real, significant and tangible. Based on that, we can see a flaw in the current actions of event planners, venues and destinations that make every effort to eliminate the real risk by maintaining social distancing, sanitizing and checking temperatures, but do not take into account subjective risk perceptions that depend on personality traits, optimism bias, risk aversion, trust in officials, perceived control and many other factors. While the external factors of risk perceptions can be influenced by event planners, we do not have any power over internal factors, personality, previous experience, etc. Therefore, the most important skill and the main competitive advantage in the near future will be the ability to measure attendees’ risk perceptions, segment them based on these perceptions (e.g., risk-takers, white gloves, rejectionists, etc.) and differentiate event propositions based on these categories.   

What sets a truly experiential activity apart?

Anonymous: Emotional arousal is the main component of any experiential activity. It significantly influences memories about the event and impacts levels of engagement, satisfaction and intention. According to the peak-end rule, the total experience from the event can be explained as an average between the peak experience—or the most vivid part of activities—and the final point. Therefore, any experiential activity can be defined by its peak emotional moment and the final accord.       

Experiential Marketers & Designers Community: Creating truly transformational experiences.

What do you love most about your job?

Arianna McLauglin: I love being an event planner. It allows me to combine my strategic- and business-focused personality with my creative side to deliver programs that make an impact. It has also given me an amazing network of peers across the globe that have truly become my friends.

Susan Prophet: My volunteer job as co-chair has enhanced my real-time position. What I love most is learning from my colleagues from around the world and fellow MPI members who have the expertise in experiential marketing and designing. I feel that this education can benefit my destination and how we move to work with the virtual experience and reality. Ultimately, when our face-to-face meetings return, we’ll know what will make our destination stand out so that conference attendees will come and experience our beautiful city. 

About MPI Communities

At MPI, we understand that certain segments of our industry require specific education, essential resources and unique forms of support. We’ve developed programs and opportunities for some of these groups. Join the more than 500 MPI members who are agency-based, corporate and independent marketing professionals, with hundreds more actively subscribing to the event designer creed: “Stop planning meetings. Start designing experiences.” Learn more.

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Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).