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Experience Design, Not Staging

Recalibrating your services for a new landscape

2014 was a year of transition. We started the year with an air of cautious hope that the worst of the financial crisis was past us. The nation as a whole seemed to seek out signs of good news–instead of plugging into the clamoring headlines about foreclosures and dismal consumer index reports. As one good month stacked on another, we finally paused to breathe and take inventory of the business environment and our strategies to thrive. If anything has become apparent, it is that we have to take some time to reboot and upgrade our internal operating systems in order to adjust to the new climate. For a rental and staging company, no longer is success about chasing the hottest trend to stay afloat (green, millennials, CRM, etc), but about accommodating and mastering the fundamental shift in the event experience, our internal operations/talent, and relationship management with our clients.
When evaluating the landscape of servicing events, the core theme driving change and expectations relates to experience design–whether large-scale consumer events or business meetings. In an industry with roots in rock concerts and corporate theater, success really was built on the ability to build a heart-stopping production with sound and visuals. But as we enter 2015, what we know is that the digital culture of those attending our events are left with less of an impression by a large scale blanket wow factor, and seek personalized experiences with true meaning. Here are two changes for the stager to think about:

Corporate Theater to Experience Immersion
Think less about a grandiose display, and more of a 360 degree experience. This may mean smaller gadgets, mobile engagement, and full sensory engagement. Perhaps we should take a lesson from the home stagers, who know that they are producing a total environment. Scents, sounds, touch–all play into how an individual experiences a space. It is highly likely that in order to stay relevant to the attendees at our events, we will need to investigate new technologies so that we can stage the entire event experience. Or think about how we use our existing technologies, such as finding ways to use small audio at the individual level.

From Interactive to Proactive
Blended learning and the flipped classroom environment are hot topics in the higher education market, which is always a strong indicator of what to expect at business conferences, since the characteristics are largely similar (educating large groups of transient learners). If you’re attuned to our cousins on the integrated AV systems side you know that affordable appliances to service this model for educational institutions are flooding the market. Moving away from the buzzword interactive allows the student the opportunity to craft their own learning experience. We should follow suit on the events side. Purchasing the technology to capture and manage content puts a stager in position to stay ahead of this trend and capitalize on the new face of education for adults at business meetings.
Besides events, how else do we grow and change in 2015? First, if you do not have a process that gives you an unfiltered understanding of your client’s experience with your company, you will fail. The Marketing2020 project is hailed as the most comprehensive marketing leadership study ever undertaken, with over 10,000 marketing professionals having been surveyed in 92 different countries. What has clearly been identified is that the high performers focus on the basic need to deliver a rich customer experience.
Consider for a moment the power that your client holds in other aspects of their consumer activity. Their luggage is damaged and they feel slighted? Well, spreading that word to 6000 of their closest friends will possibly score them an apology from the CEO of the airline. Do you think it’s reasonable that they will feel dissatisfied and less-than-loyal to your operational sales approach of one exploratory phone call and a follow up email with a long list of equipment (which is essentially gibberish) and huge price tag at the bottom? It is entirely possible that they will feel so frustrated they google the equipment listed on that estimate and deduce that their organization should buy their own 3k projector to be used at their quarterly sales meetings. Shifting from the mindset of “you need us because you don’t know how to do this yourself” to “let’s learn your pain points so that we may work together to fix them” is the only way to succeed in the coming years. Be sure to put some process in place so that you may know the experience you are creating for your clients.
Finally, we must internally recalibrate to forge ahead in the next five years. A significant change that is underway has to do with talent. This isn’t just about how we find and secure the next generation of employees, but also how we train and manage our existing troops of engineers, technicians, project managers, technical directors, etc. For example, a graphics operator who knows PowerPoint and Keynote is no longer truly a graphics specialist. A sister publication at NewBay Media just recently released an outstanding piece called “40 Sites and Apps for Presentations”. Yes, that’s right…FORTY presentation platforms. There are also constant changes to Digital Rights management, video connection technology, Radio Frequency, WiFi connectivity and more that all impact the business activity of an event stager! Diverse knowledge on all of the technology and infrastructure that can impede our systems will prove to be an invaluable skill set.

Midori Connolly was chosen at InfoComm 2012 in Las Vegas to serve as the Chair of the InfoComm Rental & Staging Council. She is the “chief” in new staging/live event technology company Chief AVGirl. She is best known for producing the first set of best practices for Sustainable AV Staging. Since her start in hi-tech at the age of nineteen, she has been training and teaching groups in places as far-reaching as South Korea.

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