Are you ready to enter the age of experience? A new study from global agency George P. Johnson Experience Marketing singled out effective emerging practices used by smart planners to produce transformational messaging. David Rich, senior vice president of client services for the company, drilled down on the trends that are motivating employees and consumers.

Delivering Depersonalized Personalization

People expect events to mirror the ease of picking up breakfast at the local coffee shop. “What happens in a meeting can’t pale compared to what they see in daily life; it has to exceed expectations to achieve the level of engagement companies demand,” Rich said.

Attendees want the registration experience to be just as simple as ordering Starbucks coffee on the phone, walking in and picking it up without talking to anyone. “It needs to be exactly the way you want it, when you want it, without waiting in line,” Rich said. Meetings professionals are learning how to deliver efficient and meaningful experiences that are not interrupted by a transactional delay.

Today, many registration processes are exactly the opposite of that paradigm. Attendees are required to stand in line, and the result is the same as what everyone else gets. The good news is that because attendees are already registered and staff knows they are coming, staff are armed with the information they need to make showing up easy and bespoke.

In the next three to five years, leveraging facial recognition, data analytics and AI technology could make delivering frictionless customized services ubiquitous at expo halls around the world, Rich predicted.

Cisco is already tapping into the power of data with its GSX Portal experience. When attendees scan their badges, Bluetooth beacons track them around campus, recommending activities based on their individual learning objectives. It even points them in the right direction, by using dynamic floor projections through the Cisco Event app.

“This provides a more personalized, more exciting experience that brings it to life in the space—people line up to do it,” Rich said.

Inviting Story-Living

The evolution of storytelling invites participants to co-create their interaction with a brand. “This leverages the innate human desire to create and be seen,” Rich said.

Instead of sharing ideas through videos or talking from the stage, meeting planners are now putting people inside the experience of doing something—so they walk away smiling and saying they want more of it. “Participating is the shortest distance between not knowing and believing,” Rich said.

Examples include Westworld, built at South by Southwest, which invited attendees to create and experience their own show plot, and Salesforce’s Dreamforce, which transformed San Francisco’s Moscone Center into a camp for exploring.

Leveraging The Senses

When story-living is boosted by sensorial immersion—appealing to all the senses—as part of the food and beverage, staging and lighting experiences, the message is even more memorable.

“Experiences that wow audiences by appealing to and pleasing the senses hold the power to deepen engagement, fuel advocacy and amplify the brand socially,” the study concluded.

Rich says companies don’t need to have a massive budget to tap into these powerful trends. Involve people, especially in social causes. Simply giving them a chance to express themselves by welcoming feedback and letting them discover branded moments will lead to more sharing and voluntary participation.

See more of the pivotal trends shaping events at