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PUSHING BEYOND FOUR WALLS

March 13, 2010

If one reads my credentials or listens to me talk about my business, you may hear me reference experiential events with some frequency.

To some event designers, this term reflects another way of saying “interactive”. We often witness a “make-your-own” food station or an included game or entertaining option in events we attend. And there is nothing wrong with that – it certainly is a step away from the passive events long past- it just does not represent what is meant by experiential events.

The experiential movement began, some believe, as long ago as the early 1980s, but for me, I first felt a need to go beyond the emphasis on desired outcomes, communicating the message, and reinforcing that message through social interaction in my events sometime in the mid- 1990s. That quest for a better way and more impactful results led me towards the concept of Experiential Events.

As “brand” emerged as an action step in our business, I followed it from its visual applications, through the emotional branding, sonic branding and “be your own brand” phases, and learned how and when I could effectively bring a client’s brand to life within an event. I watched mobile marketing emerge and thrive. I followed Gilmore and Pine on their journey through “the Experience Economy” and “Authenticity”. I watched early pioneers like Jack Morton, George P. Johnson, Shaz Smilansky , and Eric Hauser; was inspired by Shiffman’s “The Age to Engage” and eventually joined Eric’s Experiential Marketing Forum. Although I still consider myself a novice, learning more each day, I also am learning that within the Experiential Event Marketing realms, there is still a ways to go to reach consensus about what it is and how to do it.

So, I attended a session called “Experiential Events…Pushing Beyond Four Walls” at Event Solutions last week. And I had an“EUREKA!” experience.

Branden Chapman, Vice President, Production and Process Management for The Recording Academy and Annual Grammy Awards provided me with an essential key to understanding. He defined an experiential event as:
• Creating a one-on-one connection between consumers and brands via an event
• Translating a “brand” into a results-focused and results-driven event experience
• Providing guests and consumers with an “interactive experience that requires active (not passive) participation
• Creating an open-ended connection with guests to reinforce event/brand strategy

From those four basic points, he went on to provide examples of how to break out of the four walls of our event, how that benefits our clients, and how breaking through the walls will work to the advantage of each of us. And then he laid out a challenge that we each need to change our approach and thinking because this is the future of all events.

Note I did not say that he then showed us pretty pictures of the Grammys as evidence that he is a wise and celebrity event producer! Instead, he thoughtfully showed us how to incorporate this shift into our own events, and how our clients and we will benefit from doing that.

If you have an opportunity to hear him speak – take advantage of it. You will be motivated to go forth as a committed proponent of experiential events and both you and your clients will be better off for doing so.

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