The Mobius Method: Experience Event Design

First, what is Möbius? Möbius is a surface with only one side and only one boundary. A good example of this is M.C. Escher’s “Ants on a Möbius Strip” seen below.

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How does this relate to Experience Event Design? The concept must be an endless and continuous movement.

Having had the pleasure to aid in many event planning sessions over the course of my lifetime which many were repeating, I realized early on that most plans only focus on a moment in time combined with a single characterized theming principle. Most events lacked any real purpose other than to host of notoriety, make money or to celebrate an occasion. But what if the event could be much more and possibly without any more effort or possibly even less?

There had to be some method that increased the impact and experience of any given event. An event had to be planned far beyond the constraints of the event moment itself. It had to flow with consistency, purpose, theme and direction. It was more than a single event disconnected from any other. It could be like a Möbius strip, seemingly without beginning or end.

Before I explain any further, let me share that this post will cover four key issues around an experience event; Theatre, Experiences, Stages of Experience, and Ownership.

Theatre

Theatre is defined so well by Peter Brook’s quote: “I can take any empty space and call it a stage. A man walks across that empty stage whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.”

Every event you create, host or involved with is a production of theatre. You have your performers and your audience. You follow a script and each person has their role. Never treat it any less if you strive to make it a great experience, anything less is merely a service valued on price.

To be in the mindset of theatre one must focus on the Why and How and not the What. Service mindsets focuses solely on what work is performed; an experience mindset focuses on how the what is performed. Before you can even think of focusing on how the whats will be performed you must understand why you even doing it and for who, because the event is never for the performers, rather for the audience. So take the advice of Simon Sineck and “Start with Why”, then focus on the Who before you focus on the How and What.

When it comes to event experiences its important the theme or motif of the event should not be the focus of the planner, rather how the theme is expressed through the event experience.

Experiences

Experiences exist in four realms and are anchored across two axises by the level of involvement being passive or active and the axis of engagement from absorption to immersion. These axises create four experience realms of Entertainment (passive/absorb), Educational (active/absorb), Escapist (active/immerse) and Esthetic (passive/immerse). Knowing which of the four your event should be structure upon is important. More important is developing with all four in mind creating a sweet spot of all four realms.

Is not to say that over the span of the event experience the type of experience can shift more in favor of one or more realms. A tool for this is to divide the span of the event into five distinct stages and use the experience grid with percentage of a 100 points per stage. This will help focus on the type of content and performances needed to stage the experience.

Stages of Experience

With all curated experiences, there are identifiable stages along the course of the experience. Typically there are five unique stages; Attracting, Entering, During, Exiting and Extending. My view, at each stage a planner should use the theme grid percentage tool to keep the overall flow on track to stage the complete experience theme.

Attracting

Attracting happens before your audience ever arrives to the event or walks on to the premises hosting the event. Attracting is the time when you are creating interest in the vent. Invitations to a wedding, advertising for shows or even things shared on social media of previous experiences. Guaranteed, you may not be able to control social media and I never believe anyone can, yet you can add content based upon the four realms of experience to this stream to help in attracting and beginning telling the story of the event experience. It is the stage where expectations are established.

Entering

The Entering stage is the transitional stage or liminal zone to the event experience. At this stage, the audience is moving from the outside world into the space hosting the event. Cues need to support the expectations created during the attracting stage. Which of the realms of experience should be the focus during this transition? Which support and enhance the transition best?

A simple example of using the Esthetic Experience (passive/immerse) in the Entering stage could be as your audience or attendees arrive the registration/ticket area is staged as an extension of the overall event. If the event is focused on music, than maybe the space is walled with blank oversized music sheets used as messaging boards, agendas or event highlights. Maybe there are sitting areas with instruments so visitors can huddle and play music while waiting.

During

During is the event itself. It is the action and performances occurring as the main activities. This stage of the experience holds the most weight of the experience. When using the Experience Realm focus on staging on the sweet spot of the grid, the center where all four realms come into play. That is to say, you can not focus on one or more types of experiences at various times or overall, just be aware that “During” is the stage to create the greatest impression and experience of the event.

Exiting

Exiting is another transitional or liminal zone. The stage is useful in building memories of the event experience. the audience is transitioning from the experience(s) you have created back into the everyday world. You do not want them to transition abruptly or without reinforcing their experience. Look to the four realms once more, what type of exiting experience will enhance their overall experience as well as create a positive memory as the exit? Could the exiting space be gift bags arranged on a display that highlights the events activities or some area for reflection before departing? Whatever it maybe, it needs to be less that main experience, but still extend from the experiences already engaged in.

Extending

Okay, everyone is gone, the space is cleared of the previous event it’s over right? No! Extending the experience is the critical piece of the memory around the experience. Having something to extend beyond the experience to help remind your audience of their time spent, since time spent with you or your experience is what is at stake.

Take a ballpark ticket stub. This is a natural extending element of the experience. Each time you see that ticket it brings up the memory of the experience. It is a piece of memorabilia or token of your time spent. Crete a unique piece of memorabilia that your audience can take with them or receive later to remind them of their time with you or your event.

Ownership

So I shared a lot on experiences, staging of experience, stages of experiences and even the realms of types of experiences, but the real challenge to planning is knowing who owns these experiences? Do you the stager/planner, the performers who interacted with the audience or the audience members who the event was created for? In reality everyone involved, because experiences are unique to each person and are held internally. Each person experiences differently. All a planner can do is plan with a purpose, stage with direction and reinforce with strong performers, a good script and the right props.

Back to the Möbius Method

So why is it called the Möbius Method? Because all experiences flow into the next and each staged experience moves from internally curated by the planner,stager to externally experienced by those in the audience or getting involved. Like the Möbius strip which rotates and twist so it becomes endless and transitions from being internally to externally facing and back again, so to is the role of the event experience planner.

Before you close out this post, take a moment to reflect, not on the events you stage, rather on how you stage your interaction with clients. These too are events and follow the same rules of theatre that your offering does. How are you leading your clients through the stages of experiences and which types of experiences are you using at the various stages.

Interacting with each client and moving from one client to the next is your Möbius Strip of Business, stage it well because you are creating memories on the time your clients spend with you.

mobius strip 1

Here is a Visual Strategy tool to help when planning.

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Welcome to the Experience Economy

When I hear how some people talk about customer experience (CustExp) or user experience (UX) I get a bit frustrated. Why, because most are speaking about good customer service or a good interface design and not really about an experience that provides an economic value worth paying more for the experience. No what they are really saying is we offer an expected customer service like everyone else. A service that is not measured how well a customer is involved with your offering, rather how efficient you provided it on a consistent basis.

Customer experience has become a replacement buzzword for good customer service without too much sacrifice for the customer or the provider while still keep within budgeted limits. Even some of the books written by so-called customer experience experts are usually no more than satisfaction program authors or worse yet, neglect the point-of-view from the eyes of the customer, rather what they believe to be good for the customer.

Okay, so I am a bit touchy on the subject, so much so that I put the whole book thing to the test by asking myself, of all these authors which ones have had the longest run in print and in person about their unique perspective on experiences. And when I mean unique, I mean that they were the originators and not the adaptors of a given concept. After a few dozen book purchases from the half-price and used book stores I found many were alterations of each other and finding which author came first is like answering the age-old question; chicken or the egg. Only genetics can tell.

There were a few books out there that I didn’t find on the used book shelves, mostly because of limited run or out of print. One however stood out, a book written by two gentlemen with various backgrounds ranging from Logic, Physics and Economics. Both having a strong background in multiple fields of science. Science! not marketing or sales, but science. What’s most impressive is the reason its hard to find their book on the used bookshelves is because it’s still in print and has recently been updated after 10 years. No other author or authors I could find have done this. Maybe you can find a few.

B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore wrote their original book, not white-paper publication, on the subject of the Experience Economy (note: not just the customer experience) in 1999 and then translated in 18 languages that I can find. Then in 2010, it was updated to show changes and the widening growth of the Experience Economy. Through their research and writing identify the economic impact and value and not merely state customer interfaces or service programs.

I was so impressed by their books I began attending their special conferences around their books. Not your typical conferences I grant you, these were “Experiences” all to themselves. the best way to prove your findings and ideas. Good customer experience is expected by customers, staging a true experience delivers on the unexpected and creates memories. Many reports have proven that customers value memories more than goods and those companies boasting good or great customer experiences are all goods or service providers and not truly experience stagers. That is the difference.

To put an exclamation mark on my post, I attended the “Experience Economy Certification” course. A five-day deep dive into the Experience Economy as an economic era and to learn and understand the techniques that companies can use to create experiences worth paying for and not just selling goods or services.

As of this post, I am proud to be of a part of a selected few now honored to be an Experience Economy Experts and not a Customer Experience Specialist.

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Ask The Right Question(s)

Summertime seems to always be a busy one for recording, Strategy Ideation sessions and conferences to attend. My time is always busy with clients and outside activities that I must be selective with which events to attend. I choose to attend events which bolster more of the creative development on idea generation and or strategy in lieu of general tactical or “How-to-Do” conferences. Many tactical or skills based events eventually are highlighted through social media, so one must pick their best use of time and funds.

It was one of these selective events that reignited some old concepts that we allow to get buried as we continuously update our knowledge base. At the event, like most, there were many speakers, workshops and keynote presenters, but all took a back seat to one individual that sparked my fascination and enforced why I do what I do.

Sitting in the back of one of the concurrent sessions was a small boy coloring with some markers. I don’t know why I was fascinated by what he was doing, maybe it was the fact that during all the information and the banter between presenter and audience I was intrigued that he ignored everyone and just focused on what he was interested in.

As the session wound down, I looked over the boy’s shoulder to see what was so captivating. It was nothing but a coloring book that he had colored with some artistic expression. He then looked up at me and smiled. It was the next few words that he spoke that brought my mind to a laser focus.

With an innocent smile he spoke, “Why are you here?” he asked. His question echoed in my head.

Why was I here I thought. I smiled back and replied, “Because I want to learn more and improve myself.”

“Why?” he replied.

“So I can be better at my job.”

“Why?” he repeated.

Playing along with this popular children’s line of questioning I replied, “To help people.”

Once more he uttered the question, “Why?”

By now most adults would simply smile and move along politely, but this simple line of questioning was making me reflect on my purpose, why I choose to do the things I do and to learn what I choose to learn. His innocent question was not so innocent for me. Did he really want to know? probably not, but it made me want to understand myself better. I finally replied, “because people sometimes need help getting what they want.”

“What do they want?” he asked.

Interested in how he would respond, I fired back a single answer. “Change.”

I expected the response of the repeating question, what I didn’t anticipate was the added response. “Why do they need change? Don’t they have enough?”

I realize he may have misunderstood my term, but somehow his reply was right on the money. “Why do they need change?” This simple question touches at the very core for a company’s growth strategy. In addition, asking about how much change do they need is as important as well.  If a child can ask these types of questions then why don’t more executives ask them of themselves. I realize that it is part of why I am asked to help them, but it should also be part of how they help themselves.

If you wish to understand change and gather new ideas, starting using simple questions like ‘why’ repeatedly as your bait to uncover the core reasons. “Why not!”

Fishing 4 Ideas

 

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Making Intangible Ideas Tangible

There is an epidemic facing our business world. The symptoms may go undetected and has spread like wildfire in a drought. This type of epidemic can be so destructive that it actually destroys businesses from at the very core and no one sees it coming, especially when its company-wide.

This condition spreads through daily activities, mutual conversation and even electronically communications undetected. There is no way to spot once its too late to protect yourself or others.

No, I am not talking about a air-borne disease or some contagious virus. No, I’m talking about the loss of information and key ideas created and then lost forever. I am talking about the inability of groups to capture and share ideas and goals effectively. There is a method of inoculation and eventual cure to this epidemic…

Graphic recording.

Okay, so it sounds like a commercial right. True, but in reality, it is a statement of support. When an organization creates ideas from interaction of co-workers, capturing these ideas so that they are documented as well as shared aids in the propagation of these ideas. One of the most powerful tools is graphic recording, capturing ideas in both written and graphical documentation so that the information can be reflected upon and shared.

Different descriptions and scale of graphic recording

Different descriptions and scale of graphic recording

Graphic recording does not always have to be done larger than life on huge sheets of paper on the walls, no, you can scale down to sketchbooks or even small notebooks. Whatever the size you choose to use, make sure you share. When you share ideas captured, you inoculate against the epidemic of forgetfulness, the killer of great ideas.

So to all those who meet, share, present, communicate, doodle on napkins, capture these ideas and document them to share. You never know who may see them and build on the idea to make them real.

Always remember, make intangible ideas tangible so others may SEE!

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Spring has Sprung

Hello friends,

I regret that I have not added much to the blog recently. Ever since the first part of Spring, I have worked at a heavy pace because Spring always brings a rush of work and slowing my postings. Don’t worry, I do have a few in the works, so keep tuned in and stay thINKing in Ink.

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Bridging The Gap: Purpose + Process

Gap 01

I have written about the gap before and illustrated it in many graphicnotes, sketchnote as well as in client ideation sessions as a Graphic Recorder. It is an image that has a recurring theme with me and with many others in business, education and in life general. The gap is about change and the challenges of change

Why is the image of a gap important? Because it easily represents an approaching challenge of shifting from one state or place to the next. Before I get too deep in this post, let’s step back a bit a look at the source of this recurring image. Why this image and where does it come from?

First lesson; in mathematics the Delta symbol (Δ), represents a change of state between two before and after state schemas; a variation in state. The origins of the delta go as far back as the Ancient Greeks.

Gap 02Today I graphically depict this delta as an inverted triangle. It has become the two sides of a chasm or gap. On one side is the current condition of state and on the other side of the inverted triangle is the targeted changed state. What lies between is the chasm which represents the challenge to overcome.

Another thing I like to add to the image when it is about change is an increase in elevation on the “B” side of the chasm. There is very important element to the message with the visual and the idea I am trying to convey. The first impression of course, is that of the great challenge crossing the gap. The second note with the change in elevation is the idea of improvement over the existing state. I do not shift elevations all the time. In anything that may deal with a partnership I usually keep both sides at the same height since the idea is usually about connections and not intentional change or improvement.

The desire to cross over is not the only task, there is also the purpose behind making the change. For me, anytime such an effort is exerted there must to be intent for improvement, an increase in knowledge or the enhancement of self or business. There needs to be gain of some kind or the action is wasted and becomes nothing but a performance in frustration.

Take the example of a company that make changes, adds new products or alters direction due to pressure from the outside, but they are not really improving the core business. When a company is not improving or enhancing the current state, then it is nothing more than an expensive activity that yields no gain. In many cases, the outcome is unchanged, thus money and time are wasted, and eventually I see them falling off into the chasm.

The inverted delta as the gap and the elevation as the evolution are partly what this image is about. The greater piece is the method of crossing. How we change and the tools we use to make that change are just as important as what we want to change or become after achieving that change. What method is the best to bridge this gap from point A to point B?

Here are some of my favorite depictions of crossing the gap that have appeared in various client thINKing Canvases or in Graphicnotes as well as sketchnotes from meetings.

Many bridges c

These are a few examples of the metaphors of the methods people describe their plan to get from one side to the other. Did you identify one that you feel is your method? If so, what does it mean to you?

Some methods of getting across rely on mechanical bridging techniques while others are very creative or whimsical that could be both affective and an experience worthy of the crossing.

One in particular that always makes me laugh is that of the human cannon. Imagine this method of crossing the gap by being stuffed down a barrel of an oversized cannon. Dressed up all in a colorful fancy suit and wearing a helmet for some slight protection. Then, as you’re waiting in anticipation in the dark for that moment, there comes an explosive noise, your body surges forward into the day light and you find yourself hurdling through the sky like a ballistic. Everything around you is a blur passing by so quickly that you can’t even recognize what your passing by. Then reality hits or soon will, because the other side has no catch net. Guarantee, you will make it across, but at what cost?

The truth is that the crossing of the gap is about processes. Which method you feel you are using or works for you? The conversation leads to which methods is actually better for you? Worse yet, maybe, you turn back and don’t cross as one group discussed. I guess it all depends on the gap you need to cross and the level of the improvement you seek.

For me, it’s about narrower gaps with greater heights and having those already on the other side help me build bridges across so others can follow.

Until next time. use the image below and draw out how you would cross and what that really means.

Gap 03

Customized Gap Maps are available.

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