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Experience Design vs. Event Planning—What’s the Difference?

Event planners have enough on their plates. From securing speakers to negotiating prices, event organizers have their hands full trying to create memorable and seamless experiences. With all these attendee expectations, the pressure is on to make sure our events are educational, meaningful, motivational, interesting, and above all, on budget.

Short attention spans and a crowded, competitive landscape make meeting consumers’ expectations and executing a memorable event more challenging than ever. Event planners now depend on experience designers who bring digital concepts like UX and UI out into the real world.

Designers work with event planners, marketing, sales, and more to put together a live experience. They use behavioral patterns, purchasing data, and research insights to build a narrative that speaks to both brand and buyer goals.

While there’s some overlap between experience design and event planning, each focuses on a different side of the event planning and execution process.

Read on and we’ll explain how they fit together.

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Event Planning—A Quick Breakdown

It’s an event planner’s job to make sure that everything involved with executing the event from the ideation phase to booking, programming, and on-site logistics come together to reflect the goal and vision for the big day.

Between negotiating with vendors, sourcing last-minute items, and coordinating shipments, schedules, and sessions, an event planner must be highly organized and possess the rare talent of multitasking.

What’s more, a skilled event planner understands how to bring a vision to life, operating under constraints like tight deadlines, electrical requirements, and budgetary restrictions that add a few more challenges to the mix.

This role is traditionally seen as more of a logistical function, though given the changing event landscape, planners are beginning to play a hand in facilitating engagement at the event using technology, art, and well-placed “passive spaces.”

Though duties vary, an event planner is typically responsible for the following:

  • Working with decision-makers to come up with an initial plan.
  • Developing an event timeline
  • Finding and booking a venue
  • Reviewing vendors and negotiating contracts
  • Securing transportation
  • Developing a timeline for the event
  • Ordering supplies and coordinating orders
  • Supervising event set-up
  • Monitoring the event for potential problems.
  • Troubleshooting any logistical problems that arise.

Experience Design

Experience design is an interesting concept, as you’ll often hear it in the context of digital experiences. In reality, the term is all about aligning the customer experience across several channels.

While the event planner is responsible for making sure the event goes according to plan, the experience designer takes care of the creative side of the equation, ensuring that the event has the right look and feel—it must match the brand’s aesthetic sense and business objectives, as well as impress the attendees and compel them to take action.

In a nutshell, the event designer’s job consists of the following:

  • Researching audience preferences, demographics, market trends
  • Meeting with key stakeholders to get ideas and discuss event goals
  • Designing the environment for the event—could be a specific booth/display or the event as a whole.
  • Choosing specific elements that reinforce branding and event goals from food and decorations, to technology, entertainment, décor, and themes.
  • Designing photoshoots and branded material to promote the event

Event Design is All About the Attendee’s Journey

Experience design is a holistic process that doesn’t only account for what happens at an event. Instead, it involves connecting experiences from all touchpoints back to the brand. Click To Tweet This article considers the experience design process in terms of “experience units,” which admittedly are pretty hard to quantify. The example looks at the entire experience of going to a movie; you buy the tickets at home, travel to the theater, watch the film, go home, and write a review.

In an event context, this means identifying interactions an attendee has with the brand from how they purchase tickets, check into the event, and attend sessions while there to post-event follow-ups.

Designing and Planning Must Join Forces to Drive Success

Beyond that buy-travel-attend-return journey, events are supposed to connect people to your brand in a way that helps companies generate leads, drive revenue, and meet sales quotas. In most cases, businesses host or attend events for the primary purpose of building stronger bonds with its audience.

In the B2C world, that might mean the focus is on increasing brand awareness, whereas in B2B the aim might be building relationships that turn into deals. In any case, regardless of industry, both teams need to assess the needs of their audience.

With that in mind, both the experience designer and the event planner must get together to figure out which items are required to meet the goals associated with the event and how all elements–from technology to the registration process–fit in with the narrative.

Wrapping Up

The main takeaway here is that experience design and event planning are two different but closely connected roles. Experience design is about building connections with the audience through event activations that get them excited about your brand. Event planning is all about systematically carrying out that vision, ensuring everything goes according to plan and clocks in under budget. It’s a real marriage between creative vision and logical, measured systems for putting ideas into action.

Echelon Design helps brands discover their voice, develop a message, and turn it into a compelling story that resonates with customers and aligns with objectives that measure success.

Contact us today to learn more about our design, planning, and custom builds that bring the wow factor to your next event.

Free Download: Where Design and Planning Meet

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