Design thinking is a catchphrase that's broken into diverse industries - from business, to education and healthcare. The term has now made its way into the event planning space, with event planners increasingly adopting design thinking methodologies as they strive towards creating audience-centric events.
There are many ways to define this buzzword. But simply put, it refers to focusing on the person and experience, and not the process. Keeping this definition in mind, here are three ways in which applying design thinking to event planning is transforming the way events are planned:
Design thinking is a way of creating desired outcomes and handling disruptions through applying design methodologies to change our environment. When applied to the event planning sector, the methodologies enable us to leverage on disruptions, transforming them into opportunities to better connect with our audiences.
Let's take smartphone usage as an example. The bombardment of app notifications, incoming WhatsApp messages and social media alerts are distractions that will draw the attention of your audience. But rather than fight for their attention through ineffective ways, you can turn this situation into your advantage. By utilising second screen technology, you'll be transforming smartphones as a source of distraction into a platform that lets you engage your audience in a whole new manner.
The beauty of design thinking lies in its flexible approach - it can be applied progressively to improve existing products and services, or applied fundamentally to produce innovative solutions that affect people in new ways.
Adopt this flexibility, and you'll start to view your industry in a broader perspective. You'll discover larger areas of opportunities that you didn't think existed before, and spot ways in which you can engage your audience that go beyond the actual event. This point has been highlighted by Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO in his article, "Design Thinking" - that thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes - and even strategy.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Tapping on design thinking processes enables you to move from a traditional, tried-and-tested approach of event planning, towards a more structured and strategic way of creating events.
This may sound complicated, but the process is anything but. Adopt the five-part model developed by global design firm IDEO, following through the phases of discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution.
As an event planner, your concerns are largely centered around how you can apply design thinking to improve the way you organise your events. We rounded out five design thinking principles you can practice every day in your event planning process:
In design thinking, the focus is on the people and experience. And by adopting this approach when framing your questions, you'll find that your event planning process will be infused with a newfound sense of optimism.
Instead of asking "How can we reduce our costs by 10 percent for our next event?", re-frame your queries in people-centric terms to form questions such as: "How does an excellent event experience look like from start to end? How can we create such an experience for our audience?"
Source: The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur
In raising the right questions, The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur realised the importance of keeping up with rapid technological developments in order to meet the needs of increasingly tech-savvy audiences. Its event spaces, like the Grand Ballroom comes equipped with an LED video wall projection system to offer a one-of-a-kind virtual reality simulation experience.
Increasingly, your audiences are expecting the events they attend to be tailored to their needs in various ways. So instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, shift your focus to zoom in on each and every audience so as to identify their individual needs.
Much attention to detail is required, and that's when companies like Maritz stand out from the crowd. In an event for over 5,000 attendees, the company set up more than 20 check-in stations so that event participants could receive their name badges promptly. Each badge was equipped with handy features and essential information, like the full agenda and personal information of each guest, as well as a QR code and an RFID tag - both of which provided session access to the attendees and individual guest movement data for the event organisers.
While creating ample opportunities for networking and providing your audience with the information they seek are essential goals for any event planner, it's just as important to consider their needs in a holistic manner - such as making their wellbeing a key factor in your event planning process.
Source: Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort
In the same vein, Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort has introduced the SHINE Spa massage session (attendees will enjoy a three-minute back massage during break time) and Sheraton Meeting Energizer (let your event participants work up their energy levels in a 15-minute fun-filled fitness activity after lunch) to ensure a consistently good experience.
Got a large-scale event in the pipeline? Create a "prototype event" for a small percentage of your actual target audience. After the event, work through the following steps: identify what worked and what didn't, implement adjustments and put out another "prototype". When it's time for your actual event, most of the kinks would have been ironed out so you'll have a much better "product" than you did before.
Here's a tip: source for venues that offer flexible spaces. If the venue comes equipped with meeting spaces big and small - from compact rooms for less than 50 guests, to capacious halls that can accommodate thousands - you'll have found the perfect testing ground for your "event prototypes".
Multidisciplinary teams are embraced in design thinking, as the process is dependent on radical collaboration, iteration and ideation. It may seem unordinary to bring in individuals with HR, engineering or finance backgrounds into event planning, but you'll be surprised at the value and ideas that they add to your team.