Creating connections: Strategies for planning human-centric events.

Budgets, corporate goals, sponsorships—event planning can get pretty technical. However, the key to crafting memorable, meaningful experiences for attendees is to take a human-centric approach to planning. 

This approach is inspired by a popular design philosophy (human-centric design, or HCD), which can be applied to architecture, user interfaces, technology, and even event planning. It combines form and function within a human context. Or—in English—it asks you to consider how your event organization impacts attendees.

With human-centric event planning, every element of the event experience caters to attendees’ needs, interests, and engagement styles. Another way of thinking about human-centric planning is empathy-driven event planning. Start by empathizing with attendees’ possible needs and organize your event planning around these insights. 

This approach makes navigating the event more accessible, improves learning retention, deepens connections, and elevates your brand image. Event budgets and corporate goals are important, but event experiences are, at their core, a human experience. 

Follow our human-centric event planning guide to learn how to design a memorable, meaningful event for all attendees!

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Human-centric organization.

Your event layout has a bigger impact on the event experience than you might think. Using attendee data, create a space that naturally guides attendees toward what they value most while minimizing decision fatigue. This strategy is based on a concept called Hick’s Law: the more options available, the harder it is to make a choice. 

Simplify your attendees’ experience by organizing the exhibitor floor thematically, such as by most prestigious, most expensive, or based on industry goals such as communications or digital marketing. This organization makes event navigation intuitive for attendees. 

Another helpful HCD principle is Priming, or designing a space to trigger the desired mood. Attendees may not always be in the right headspace for networking or learning, especially if they didn’t get enough sleep or their morning coffee was cold. Design an inspiring space using lighting, decor, music, and a coffee bar to uplift attendees when they arrive. Use priming to help transition between sessions or to bring the day’s festivities to a close. 

If your event has a core theme, such as sustainable event planning or AI technology, use repetition to help attendees retain information. Strategically place cues through the venue using decor, Q&As, and themed talks to keep core ideas in mind. 

We often think of human-centric event planning as related to the event content. While this is true, if you organize your event experience with HCD in mind, you can deepen the attendees’ engagement with that content, making it more impactful. 

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Interactive content.

Your event content is more than just information. Industry insights are valuable to attendees, but utilizing more creative content strategies will provide a more emotional, exciting, and human experience of ideas. Interactive content is the key to improving attendee engagement. 

Traditional content can be cold and un-engaging. It’s easy for attendees to drift off or forget keynote points while sitting idly in their seats. It’s been shown that emotions help memories to be so…well, memorable! By prioritizing interactive content, you’ll connect ideas to your attendees’ emotional centers, maximizing their impact and memorability. 

Interactive content ideas: 

  • Interactive demonstrations 
  • Role play experiences 
  • Workshops 
  • Gamified challenges 
  • Industry/keynote trivia 

Collaborate with event vendors to design unique booth games that attract attendees and engage them in casual fun. This is a creative way to add interactivity to exhibitor booths, spicing up your trade show and making brands more memorable. 

Take the above concept further by strategically placing giant games throughout the venue. We aren’t machines, after all. Taking a pause from contemplating marketing trends to play an oversized chess game will help new information settle. It’ll also encourage attendees to work together and forge connections.

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Incorporate wellness.

In human-centric event planning, you must consider your attendee’s emotional state throughout the event experience. Consider when they might become overwhelmed by information and cater to these needs. Wellness breaks offer attendees a chance to rest and restore their energy. 

Meditation breaks are the perfect wellness activity for an event. Meditation reduces stress and improves creativity, focus, empathy and communication abilities. Meditating at the start or end of a session helps attendees focus their minds on the current topic or transition to the next, preventing outside thoughts from disrupting engagement. 

After all that time spent sitting or standing, attendees are bound to feel a bit achy. Schedule yoga breaks to keep attendees physically and emotionally energized throughout the day’s activities, especially if your event experience is multi-day. An outdoor yoga session has the added benefit of fresh air and sunshine! 

Designate quiet spaces where attendees can break between the hustle and bustle of networking and activities. These spaces can include comfortable seating, coloring books, modeling clay, puzzles, knitting, or other activities that calm the mind. 

Human-centric event planning addresses the attendees’ emotional journeys with wellness activities that calm the mind, protect the body and energize the spirit. 

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Human-centric networking.

“Networking” is a dirty word to some people. We get it! It’s too easy for human connection to become a cold, practical experience, especially when you have a thousand things happening around you. Event design for connections means putting humanity back into networking. It’s about creating spaces and activities that make “networking” all it can be! 

Creating connections at events requires a calm space to listen and exchange personal details. Offer attendees comfortable spaces away from the chaos of the exhibition floor and keynote auditoriums where they can talk. These serene environments encourage thoughtful conversations (remember priming?). 

A more formal strategy for encouraging conversations is hosting periodic roundtable discussions. These conversations can be led by moderators or left to each group to manage. This dedicated time allows attendees to share their thoughts on recent ideas, connect over shared challenges, and help each other better understand the material.

Just because “networking” is a business term doesn’t mean it has to feel like work. Consider hosting a networking casino night where attendees can converse over popular casino games like blackjack, poker, or craps. This inviting setup will break down barriers between attendees, setting the stage for unexpected connections. 

Use digital tools like event planning apps that give attendees personalized networking recommendations. These suggestions can be based on industry, role, or interests. They save attendees time by introducing them to the people they’re most likely to form a connection with. 

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Event planning: a human experience.

It’s easy to lose the heart and soul of an event experience while fussing about all those technical details. Take a human-centric approach to event planning to ensure the personal element is factored into every step. This approach enriches attendee connections, deepens their engagement, and creates an all-around memorable experience. 

When approaching your next event, consider how each element’s function addresses attendee needs. After each event, review attendee feedback to find new ways to improve your human-centric event planning. Over time, you’ll become a master event planner! 

Event planning may be a business, but it’s all about the human experience!


Tired of events that feel impersonal? Join us for our FREE webinar, Rethinking Events: The Human-Centric Approach on June 12th at 2 PM CT and discover how to create meaningful experiences for your attendees. Register here!

May 21, 2024

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May 21, 2024

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