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July 10, 2018

American Express M&E Research: How Branding Principles Can Guide Your Event Design

Photo by Martin Barraud/OJO Images/Getty Images

Focusing on the “why” of an event is one of the most important – and often overlooked – principles of event design, according to a new report from American Express Meetings & Events: “Focus on the Why: How Branding Principles Can Guide Your Event Design.” International Meetings Review spoke with Stephanie Harris, director of global marketing and event strategy, to learn more. 

“We’re finding that it’s more and more critical that event owners are stopping and really giving thought to why they are holding an event – taking the time to get alignment around the desired outcome of a meeting and having a very purposeful discussion about that,” Harris says. “That can guide a lot of actions and decisions around how the actual meeting executes and what that attendee experience is.”

The first, and most important step, to incorporating a “why” into an event is to have one in the first place. 

“You would be surprised how many meetings happen because those are meetings that we always have and they’re always on the calendar, and they become a habit for the organization,” Harris says. 

Examples of “why”s can include building customer loyalty, improving new product knowledge, increasing sales or inspiring engagement among the event’s participants. Once event planners decide on a “why,” there are a variety of ways to incorporate it into an event. One approach is by tailoring the content of the event, while another area to pay attention to is the event design. 

“If you’re trying to inspire your attendees you’re going to want to get out of a very traditional meeting setting and think, is there an outdoor space you can use? Is there an interesting way you can set the room?” Harris says. “When you design a meeting, if you know what you want to accomplish it really informs the choices that you make.”

Other options: attendee personas can put a planner in an attendee’s shoes and help to understand why they will want to come to the event, while tools like mood boards and word sheets help to gather and organize inspiration. A pre-event survey can also yield valuable insights. 

Finally, a why can help to drive the post-event conversation within an organization. 

“I think all of us in the meeting industry can be clearly articulating the why of a meeting as a tool for driving growth for all of our organizations,” says Harris. “It’s the ability to talk about why we have meetings and what they have accomplished that I think makes this a really important step.”

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