Improve your Conference with Design Thinking
September 30, 2019 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

With conference attendance on the rise, the conference market is getting more competitive. As an increasing number of companies launch their own events, planners are striving to attract new participants. “With more event choices than ever, the attendee experience has become a differentiator and a key driver in achieving the meeting or event objectives,” says Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events. “The level of attendee engagement is directly correlated with the experience.”

The demand for more engaging conference experiences is leading planners and speakers to take a design-thinking approach to their events. Conventional conference formats won’t win the competitive advantage. Creative problem-solving can inspire exciting new experiences that will keep attendees coming back year after year.

Rethink your Events with Users in Mind

Design thinking can help you build better conferences in two ways:

  1. Troubleshoot your current conference format. Instead of focusing on what you want to achieve with the conference (e.g. more attendees or increased revenue), put yourself in your attendees’ shoes. “What would make the experience better for those attending?”

  2. Add design thinking to your line-up. Whether you are bringing together UX developers with sales professionals or C-suite executives with STEM inventors, everyone can benefit from a design thinking workshop. Design thinking facilitators can create interactive workshops that are specifically tailored to audience size, expertise and industry needs. These events can be focused on a common problem, such as how to turn innovative ideas into tangible products or ways to inspire sales growth, or they can be designed more broadly to introduce your audience to the concepts of human-centered design.

To effectively answer this question, you’ll need to survey both past attendees and invitees who’ve previously declined your invitations. This way, you’ll know where your conferences have fallen short and hear specific feedback about what was enjoyed, disliked and desired. Use these insights to develop empathy for attendees’ needs, then brainstorm ways to make the conference more valuable to your audience. Whether the solution is adding immersive workshops, having kittens in the lobby to lower anxiety or simply providing a better seating chart, taking the time to rethink old models will breathe new life into your event.

Design thinking workshops aren’t just appropriate for IT developers or product designers. Any group that faces complex problems on the job—problems that defy easy solutions—will benefit from learning the art of design thinking. If you want to create collaborative events where participants are inspired to share ideas and problem-solve together, consider infusing your conference with a little design thinking.

For more ideas on how to incorporate design thinking into your conferences and events, check out our ExperienceInnovation™ workshops.