By Beki Winchel, PCMA
As a communicator and a content creator, I’ve been living by the adage, “Content is king.”
Even as some of my industry peers have challenged that adage, I’ve settled differences by arguing that content is indeed still king, but “engagement,” “experience” or another key focus is content’s queen. In my mind, content was the great connector: It was the vehicle necessary to convey important insights and ideas and a relatively endless source of value breathing life into organizations’ vision, products and services.
As I transitioned from positions in social media strategy, journalism and editing to content production and event creation, this mindset was reinforced. Of course content was king. After all, people attend events to connect and learn—and that requires a savvy production eye to select the right speakers and subject matter experts to create a program that conveyed those key takeaways and lessons learned to the audience.
I glossed over the fact that people attend events to connect first, and learn second.
Don’t get me wrong: Engagement was always an important consideration when I created content and events. However, I implemented this after I had set the framework of the content—and sometimes, it came after the content was complete. I created opportunities for attendees to interact, ask questions, and brainstorm together once the foundational building blocks of content were laid. It wasn’t until I took part in the first day of Scaling Intimacy’s Experience Design intensive that I realized I had it backwards. By putting content first and designing for engagement and connection later, I missed out on opportunities for additional impromptu “a-ha!” moments. I realized that I wasn’t trusting my audience enough to make those connections and learn, not just from the experts I chose, but from one another those key takeaways, lessons learned, and trends that were crucial to convey.
When you design for experience and engagement first, something magical happens.
People start to let down their walls. It can be a little awkward at first—and sometimes, even nerve-wracking—but when you’re all in it together and putting yourself out there, it doesn’t take long for the awkwardness to fade. You soon find yourself excitedly exploring commonalities, brainstorming solutions for others’ obstacles, and asking for feedback and ideas. Some of the most profound metaphors and insights I learned from Scaling Intimacy’s course came from other attendees. Had we not had the space to learn and grow together, those ideas wouldn’t have flourished. I wouldn’t have felt moved to tears by the end of the two days, either. What experience and engagement design did was to allow me—and each one of the other active participants—to create something that was our own, led by a team of facilitators that encouraged, applauded, and laid bare their own visions, dreams, and concerns.
It looks like I’ll have to adopt a new adage—one that puts my audience in the driver’s seat and then hands them the keys.
Content is still incredibly important. However, it’s even more powerful when it’s created after a design for experience and engagement. That’s when you can create reciprocal relationships of trust between you, the speakers and the participants—regardless of how many are in attendance or tuning in virtually! That’s when you can offer up questions, insights and prompts that enable your audience to internalize and apply those key takeaways and lessons for long-term change and growth. It’s also when your attendees will have such an enriching experience that they must tell their friends and colleagues about it.
Isn’t that what we all want?
If you’re ready to start designing for connection and engagement first, join an upcoming Scaling Intimacy experience design training.
This post was contributed by Beki Winchel, Learning Content & Research
Developer, PCMA as part of our collaboration on the 7 Change Actions learning experience for events professionals. The 7 Change Actions is a seven-module learning experience that delivers mindsets, skillsets, and capabilities to confidently solve complex business challenges with innovation-driven strategic solutions.