Experience Method

FLOW! (finally – pillar #3)

Where we left off: “First off, an experience must have a very intentional flow to it; no dead moments, no awkward transitions, no obvious resets or pauses. The “flow experience” has the potential to make life more rich, intense and meaningful. You may be saying “WHOA really?!?” and/or “Yeah, right” – but a truly extraordinary experience has the ability to achieve magic. This process of flow is one of the most important elements in creating that magic.”

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Flow is the optimal human experience. It is in-the-zone. It is on-fire. It is contentment, peace and productivity all rolled into one. You know the saying that time flies when you are having fun, well that is flow. This optimal state can be created in any number of ways and in all aspects of our lives, except that most human beings are not exceptionally adept at creating it for themselves.

So now we are all just bummed cause we are probably not one of the few humans who can create this type of productive bliss whenever we want it. But we want it! The key to creating a world that is overflowing with flow is for our environments and experiences to contribute its creation. When you create an intentional, extraordinary experience of flow for other people in the world you exponentially increase your capacity for impact. An experience of flow clears out the mind noise and gives you the kind of intellectual, decision making access you cannot achieve otherwise.

When you eliminate distractions, questions and frustrations, you create mind space. Have you ever experienced one of those days when everything is kind of going wrong, the trains aren’t running, your car breaks down, you have a report due, a big presentation etc and someone asks you to make a simple decision or to listen to their pitch about something – even IF you say yes to trying, you’re not actually paying attention…you’re just waiting for it to end. On the reverse side when you are relaxing on a lazy Saturday, were able to clear your schedule, everything is just moving a little slower you’re decision making power increases exponentially and in FACT you’re desire to encounter interesting information, new opportunities or spontaneous adventures is on high alert!

Imagine applying this concept to your next fundraiser….brand campaign…board meeting….launch party…(mind drift off in flow)

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Impact Starts w/ Information (FLOW)

When we are talking about events, experiences or marketing, the pillar of FLOW begins with information. The media, order and density through which information is delivered to your guests is the absolute foundation for creating maximum impact. Your impact is dependent upon how a person experiences your event, which is directly correlated to the number of blocks or moments of mental checkout they experience throughout. This is your event, your product, your reputation – and you are responsible for the experience that people have when they encounter you. So make it intentional.  The goal should be to make every person feel taken care of, supported, safe and entertained – all at the same time and at every single moment (you cannot minimize the number of blocks if you fail to address all of them).

In this context, information refers to every type of communication associated with your event: From the very first invite to the “thank you for coming” and every tiny morsel in between.

The basics of INFORMATION FLOW:

Goldilocks Paradox

The amount of information delivered and at what time is KEY. If you provide too little – people are left confused or with annoying questions. You provide too much – cognitive overload – people either get overwhelmed and ignore 3/4 of what you say or just check out and decide not to even deal with you.

Don’t get stingy with the porridge and don’t give the house away!

The Matrix

In what order? This is all about sequencing. Decide what people need to know and when they need to know it. Different from above because this is not about how much information but the exact order of delivery. What information needs to be grouped together in order to make sense? When do people need to know what? How do you make people both feel comfortable and leave an air of mystery or excitement? How to you get people so excited they can’t hardly wait, without violating the Goldilocks Paradox and overloading them with facts? Make sure the most IMPORTANT information is always given first and always stands out. If people don’t know where to go….the rest is basically null and void.

Abandon the Curse of Knowledge and imagine you don’t know anything about your event, what would get you to RSVP?

Through the Looking Glass

Clarity is key. The way that you talk, the words you use, the syntax, the structure – are all sending subliminal signals and are up for interpretation. You may think you have a catchy tagline – and no one knows what it means. You may think your design and typography are brilliant and beautiful – except it’s so busy no one is going to read it. You may think you are delivering a call to action – but you are really asking people to do something without any connection to why they should.

FLOW is complex and requires EMPATHY

UPS or FedEX?

What is your mode of delivery? How many different platforms are you going to use? Note that there should be a legitimate reason for choosing one – not just because that is what most people do. Apply the pillars of Vision and Frame to inform your choices in a way that matches up with the experience of your entire event.

Email. Evite. Postcard. Eventbrite. Text Message. Poster. Facebook. Twitter. Website.

What’s FRAME got to do with it?

Where we left off: The space (frame) you set must create a sense of inevitable action. This is not just about what you see, but in what location and in what order you see it. Giving just enough information to keep people interested, while allowing for an unfolding moment to moment. Your audience is both engaged and excited about what might happen next. There is a very important difference between surprise/anticipation and worry/confusion – don’t be fooled!

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The context is decisive.

To be a visionary is not usually equated to a structured, organized and realistic point of view. This is why the second pillar of experience is called Frame. The vision is the driving force behind an experience, it defines the goals, the story and the style (among others). But what leads to the plethora of messy and/or boring experiences in the world is a lack of frame. You can show someone something freaking incredible, but if they do not know the what, the why or the how – they won’t really know what they are looking at it. It most certainly won’t have the impact you were hoping for.

It is kind of like those commercials that show you this cool story or awesome message that you get really into, but then wait until the last three seconds to mention the product they are trying to sell. Prime example of vision without frame. You had no context for what you were watching, so you watched it within the general context of “something on television” and not within the context of the brand you are supposed to connect this too.

Connecting things together after the fact is rather pointless. Why do you think Romeo & Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s greatest and most performed works? Could it be because the entire context and frame is laid out in advance? Of course it is! No, just kidding. But really, there may be a least a little something to the point.

Framing gives a viewer a context and a structure through which to experience what you create. Without a frame, you are just gonna confuse ‘em. Frame both makes an audience feel safe and taken care of, but it also keeps their attention. When you are within a complete frame, you don’t have anywhere else to look and if you have the content to support it – they won’t even want too.

Every experience is a creation of an alternate reality to whatever extent that is possible given the constraints. You can see frame in everything human beings use as an “escape.” The best framing = the best (movie/play/book/concert). I will bet if you go and watch/read/listen to what you consider to be the worst of those categories, you will unequivocally find a lack of frame. If you find a lack of vision…well they were just doomed to begin with.

Up Next: Order, Information, Engagement

VISION : The springboard of experience design

PILLAR #1  This is where we left off last time:

VISION : Pretty simple. What is your vision for this experience? What do you want it to feel like? Look like? Sound like? What should be the first thought that enters your audience/customer’s head in the very first moment? Getting to this type of vision is best achieved through the use of metaphor.
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An event without vision is like riding the subway from Tribeca to the Upper East Side; frustrating and lacking connections (<—New Yorker). The vision is the glue that holds the entire experience together. In conjunction with your vision it is also quite helpful to have a goal or a desired result. When you start with the goal, you can create a vision for how to accomplish that goal.

It should go without saying that the clearer your vision the better the results. But I said it anyway:) An experience should be crafted to guide people to exit/leave/depart having gotten what you wanted them to get or done what you wanted them to do. It is simply about creating the intentionality around every moment in a way that leads them through from point A to point Z without question.

Vision can be articulated as:
How do you want the space to feel?
How you want people to feel?
What action do you want to inspire?
What physical outcome do you want to occur?                                                                                                                                                                                             ETC

There are many different levels of vision and if you are going to be as clear as possible you ideally need to address them all:

Level 1: Mega-Vision
This is your overall vision and description of the experience as it exists from beginning to end. This includes both an overall desired result (or outcome) and a figurative description of what it feels like (i.e. a pep rally of dreams, a conference and a carnival, NASA rocket launch).

Level 2: Section Vision
This points to the different parts of an experience that may or may not be directly reflective of the whole. In a consumer store environment there is the entrance, greeting, shopping, deciding, check-out, exit. At an event you have a similar entrance and exit, but there can be any number of different sections to the event that should have their own specific vision and desired result.

Level 3: Moment Vision
A time span of 5 to 60 seconds of impact. The moment when a decision is made, something is revealed, a program is received, a special item is picked up, a person approaching the bar/buffet, a special guest enters, any and all transitions. Each of these should be considered moments and must be intentionally crafted to achieve the extraordinary. (All Moments both inform and are a part of one or more Sections)

You may need to answer only one of the questions above (“vision articulated as:”) or all of them for any given level. But process wise, you should walk yourself through all of the questions to make sure you have an answer if you need it.

One of the greatest tools when it comes to expressing a vision is metaphor. Metaphor helps you both define the undefinable and to be more specific than might be possible through literal speech. A metaphor creates a much clearer picture of what an event or experience will be and it allows you to be more clear about details (before you even know what they are!)

When you say that something IS (blank): It is extremely effective in creating a visual and experiential starting point for a vision versus describing it literally or as “like” something. When you describe a vision literally, you are skipping ahead to the details (i.e. curtains hung from windows, dark, bright or colorful). These are the things that you use to create your vision, but they are not where you should start from. Similes or “like” statements are far less powerful than metaphor, which can be magical in its ability to create something from simply stating that it IS that.

In experience design, vision is quite literally the foundation of everything. You are the director and all other players (space, program, design, colors) must follow that vision. Be careful however, because as the foundation an unclear vision can cause the whole thing to come crumbling down (I enjoy hyperbole, almost as much as metaphor). Be on the look-out for Vision Challenge #1 tomorrow. There are many skills to learn and master if you wish to become a visionary, experience making, wizard. But even if you don’t, I encourage you to stretch your imagination muscles and learn to see the world in a whole new way.

Zabardast!

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COMING UP NEXT
Vision Challenge #1
What Do You See, How Does It Make You Feel?

The FIVE PILLARS of EXPERIENCE

In my experience – all experiences (especially production-oriented ones) stand upon Five Pillars. These pillars are the foundation on which all events must be designed. If the foundation is partially constructed, left out or brushed over – it stands no chance of reaching the level of greatness to which we all strive. Creating an experience of any kind, is always a reflection of you/your company and is intended to produce a specific result. Even if you are lucky enough to be hiring an event planner to make an experience happen, it is still your job to make sure that each pillar is given the proper attention.

The Five Pillars are Vision, Frame, Flow, Planning and Control.

I give an overview below and will dive into more detail on each in individual entries to follow. Why? Firstly, because I want to give you all of the information that I can express in this medium and if I did that, right here and now – this entry would be the length of a short novel! In the entries that follow I will also give you exercises and challenges to test your skills and awareness of each pillar, so that you can begin putting them into practice. I have never found it useful to simply read a bunch of theory-ish mumbo jumbo: It usually ends up with an “Oh cool. I have no idea how to do that.” That is not the goal! So here we go. Your experience of experience is about to begin…

THE FIVE PILLARS OF EXPERIENCE:

VISION : Pretty simple. What is your vision for this experience? What do you want it to feel like? Look like? Sound like? What should be the first thought that enters your audience/customer’s head in the very first moment? Getting to this type of vision is best achieved through the use of metaphor (which we will cover in the very next blog!)

FRAME : The space (frame) you set for an experience, must create a sense of inevitable action. This is not just about what you see, but in what location and in what order you see it. Giving just enough information to keep people interested, while allowing for an unfolding moment to moment. Your audience is both engaged and excited about what might happen next. There is a very important difference between surprise/anticipation and worry/confusion – don’t be fooled!

FLOW : First off, an experience must have a very intentional flow to it; no dead moments, no awkward transitions, no obvious resets or pauses. The “flow experience” has the potential to make life more rich, intense and meaningful. You may be saying “WHOA really?!?” and/or “Yeah, right” – but a truly extraordinary experience has the ability to achieve magic. This process of flow is one of the most important elements in creating that magic.

PLANNING : So much more goes into the planning an extraordinary experience than what is commonly included in our general perception. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Logistics, details, supplies
  • Playing detective with your “run-of-show”
  • Anticipating every possible hiccup
  • Moving pieces – Solving the Puzzle
  • Big picture/Little Picture
  • Staff & Volunteer Tracks

CONTROL : Military Precision!

  • People – Crowds, Management & Tasks
  • Emotions – Flow, Frame, Attention “Grab their attention. Hold it. Direct it. Do not let them look away.”
  • Information – Organizing information and the way in which people receive it [both before and during the event – both staff and guests]         “People cannot read your mind. If you want them to do something, it needs to be clear, understandable, SPECIFIC and delivered at the right time.”

There you have it. All Five. It is fully anticipated that right now you have no idea how to weave these pillars together to create a cohesive action plan. Not to worry, the information forthcoming will help smooth out the rough edges and make you an experience master. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I will answer them!

Zabardast!

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ZA-BAR-DAST (Adj) – URDU

Superior, Awesome, Amazing, Extreme Happiness