Turn Meetings into Movements by Designing Transitions, Traditions, and Thrills

Turn Meetings into Movements by Designing Transitions, Traditions, and Thrills

By capturing inspiration from the movement maker playbook, let’s uplevel experiences—online, in-person, and everywhere in between.

From languishing to renewal to recoiling to, soon, reemerging, the realities for bringing people together continue to evolve quickly. Event professionals are on the hunt for new insights, inspiration, and ideas to break through digital fatigue and reimagine their upcoming programs. While we continue to look forward to the future of experiences, what’s next for virtual events, and the new interfaces for in-person experiences, we are also returning to our playbooks that have enabled decades of successful meetings and events, including a renewed focus on the movement makers.

The most successful events catalyze brand communities and turn their meetings into movements that set the narrative for an industry and culture-at-large. While these movement makers bring together an alchemy of factors, they are built on three core attributes that will inspire all experiential marketers and event professionals.

Here are our Three T’s from movement-making meetings and events.

Transitions: Moving Through the Edges

In their seminal book The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, Chip and Dan Heath explore why people tend to remember or recall moments based upon “peaks, pits, and transitions.” As they have shared, we must: “pay special attention to transitions: beginnings and endings. If you think about some of the most well-known cultural rituals—birthday parties, weddings, graduations, rite of passage ceremonies—these are all experiences that demarcate transitions.” Transitions also go beyond life’s moments and into the experiences we attend. We often have lasting memories of our arrivals at amusement parks, our departures from team offsites, and our movement between experiences at conferences.

As event professionals, it is our nature to design the destinations — the check-in, the keynotes, the expo floors, the evening gatherings, the live broadcasts, and on. The transitions are often engineering exercises to handle major crowd movements and queues. For virtual events, where attendees effortlessly click-in and click-out of sessions, the transitions are minimized. In turn, this is an excellent opportunity for future event designs.

Within many events—online and in-person—the moments of transition are a greenfield for what-if questions that explore opportunities to make lasting memories.

Traditions: Establishing Icons and Rituals

As an industry, our continued quest for Ephemeral Trendy Newness pushes many events into broad overhauls each year as an industry. Yet, with the rep

eatability of events and, now, with the scale of their virtual audiences, there are great opportunities to stand out with recognizable icons and beloved rituals.

The Salesforce events’ Trailblazer aesthetic, TED’s red circle, and the World Economic Forum’s white chairs have merged purposeful design with repeatability and broad reach to become recognizable icons. Without their logos, their target audiences immediately associate these visuals with their experiences.

iconic event brand elements - TED and World Economic Forum


Within events, some activities have come to define the experience for their attendees. At AWS re:Invent, the world’s largest chicken wings eating contest continues to grow in popularity. At many events, the annual edition of the swag is a right of passage, like the backpacks at 3D Experience World. While, at many internal leadership meetings and annual sales kickoffs, keynote segments include challenges and competitions that are talked about all year long.

Augmented by virtual events and amplified by attendees’ desire to reignite connections, it is a golden time for introducing—and reintroducing—the icons and rituals that define expectations.

Rituals at Events - AWS re:Invent examples shown

Thrills: Upleveling Moments

A cornerstone for events is to put “fun” on the agenda. From formal entertainment to quirky keynotes to group activations to “surprise and delight” moments, there are now common structures and an ecosystem of providers that make it easy to put the offbeat onto an event’s agenda.

Yet, for movement-making events, these moments bring more than the off-the-menu experiences to their attendees. When designing a thrill-centered moment, we consider how we will evoke emotions, engage multiple senses, and reinforce memories. Then, we evaluate ideas across a spectrum of movement-making characteristics, including:

  1. Magnetic: Will it naturally pull even the most introverted of people into the experience?
  2. Imprintable: How will the attendees’ participation transform the experience?
  3. Badgeable: What symbol of participation will attendees carry forward with them?

These questions push event designers past expected fun and into the catalyzing power of joy. For the up-leveled event, joy is found through creating irreverent spectacles and unchartered explorations that provide souvenirs and an aura of exclusivity. When done well, these moments capture an emerging cultural trend or resurfaced nostalgia (and sometimes both).

On their own or integrated throughout, these Three T’s will unlock the power of moments and the potential of movement making.

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