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Have you ever been to an event, special session or even a conference that had great hype yet failed to come through? Sure you have,we all have. The question to be asked is why do they lose their impact?
The initial answer is the planning. The whole of the event is not considered only the main activity. All the emphasis is focused on the activities during and some focused on the pre-show, yet not much about the post-event. Failure to understand that an event, be it a conference, a single special event or even a meeting is a collection of three main phases. The “Before”, “During” and “After”. There is also the transitional space/time between these main phases.
Start with “Before”. In Dana Wrights book and on her site “Start A Meeting Like This” she identifies key aspects of the attendees experience beginning well before the arrive to the event. Marketing departs understand this concept very clearly since an event would never attended if not for the pre-show marketing, teasers, information and special campaigns. “Before” is everything leading up to stepping into the event space.
Stop, don’t go in there yet, you almost missed a great moment!
Before you step inside, be aware that you are in a unique place and time. As you might hear a Rod Serling voice-over say, “You have just entered the Liminal Zone”. The liminal zone can be much like the Twilight Zone, because it is the space in-between here and there and now and then. It is the space and time between “Before” and “During”. It is this environment that can make or break the energy you have created during the “Before” efforts.
The term liminal is a latin term that means “threshold.” It is the space/time between. This is a critical element that most providers sometimes ignore or may not acknowledge. This is the environment of transition which is critical to offer attendees a method to move from the world outside into the world of your event or experience. Providers should avoid having guests/visitors take the plunge into your event cold. This may cause untold shock, confusion, anxiety or even hesitation. Make their transition smooth and meaningful. Transport them through the Liminal Zone carefully.
Okay, now your guests have may the transition into your experience. Everything is going well and the guests are all happy and excited with your experience. They have interacted, shared and acquired trinkets for their scrapbooks and work shelves. Your job is done, congratulate yourself. Not quite.
Just as the liminal zone is critical to the immersion into your experience, so too is it to the exiting of your experience. If you want to keep that excitement going and have your guest become ambassadors of your experience, you need to gentle bring them back to the real world. Using the liminal zone to transition your guest back out is key to reinforcing a positive memory of the experience and helping to create ambassadors.
To put this into perspective, take a look at Disney’s Parks. The excitement builds as you approach the park. All the visual and audio signals are there to communicate you’re about to experience something different and wonderful. Lucky for you as the guest to this magical world, Disney does not just throw you into the park after taking your money. Where’s the magic in that. No, Disney creates portals or transition or liminal zones to bring you into this magical world of Disney. Passing through the gates, your view of the park expands wide, you hear the music, smell the foods and walk into the experience.
This is not the only liminal zone used, each micro experience such as the shows, shops, rides and even the interaction of the icons is introduced via transitional space/time portals via visual cues, audio and even physical framing. The experience shifts to a more personal experience. The same idea of the liminal zone that brought you in closer also is utilized to allow you to re-emerge back into the park and then again back into the real world.
These liminal zones help set up when and where the experience begins, lives and ends as well help in the transition of the experience into memory. By having a well planned and initiated transition, both in and out of the experience no matter what the experience maybe, is critical to establishing minimal transition shock that could generate negative feelings and undo some of the experience. So when you create and plan your next event or experience make sure you identify and use each of those liminal zones to your advantage to create a positive memory and ambassadors of the experience.
(Roll end credits here…) (Exiting Liminal Zone)