Creating Experiences Born of Humanity
Senior Director of Strategy
- Apr 20, 2023
In the shift to hybrid experiences, we’ve tried it all. We’ve looked for different ways of connecting, staying engaged, and creating experiences that people enjoy. We’ve had to reimagine teams, readjust expectations, and reevaluate systems while wading through tools that promised engagement and growth.
While leaders scrambled to react, many missed the point: Ultimately, what makes the difference in how we engage is not the tool, but the philosophy that shapes and drives the experience. At GMR, we articulate it as, “experiences born of humanity,” but in one word, it’s “empathy.”
Creating experiences that are born of humanity is all about mapping an experience from the perspective of the people attending, whether it’s for a meeting of 20 people or a conference of 2000. It’s about having an empathetic perspective to design with inclusion for the introverts and the extroverts, the linear learners and the abstract thinkers, the listeners and the readers, the younger and older.
Empathetic design flips the perspective and empowers leaders to deliver in the best way possible. It forces those responsible for the experience to think inclusively about all attendees, to anticipate their needs, and to craft a pleasing experience that lets your message cut through the static and live in people’s memory. Here’s how:
Stories are tools we’ve used since we could paint pictures on cave walls. Stories engage our brains. We hear stories and react to them emotionally. We process them through the lens of our own perspectives and experiences. We fill the blanks with our imaginations. We visualize, we remember, and we re-tell. So first ask, “what’s the point I’m trying to make? Can I articulate my point in the form of a story—one that doesn’t start and end with charts, graphs, and endless PowerPoint slides?”
- Attention spans are short. Research shows the human attention span is now only 8 seconds, that’s less than a goldfish. For meetings, it’s best to switch up the activity, presentation, speaker, etc. after 20 minutes to keep people engaged.
- If time is on your side, use it. Plan for the experience you want attendees to have, particularly if you plan to engage the senses and make it even more memorable.
- There isn’t one right answer. People experience and retain information differently. The key is to incorporate tactics that appeal to all of us, since they are core to being human, and use a variety of tactics that appeal to different ways of processing information (video cues, audio cues, imagery, etc.).
Use both analog and digital solutions to connect and immerse your audience in the experience.
Digital Solutions: Technology has come a long way in helping people connect regardless of location. Every day there are more and more refined solutions for immersion. Here are a few:
- The Metaverse: Create digital versions of your office, conference room, or event venue for an immersive experience agnostic of location. Virtual attendees can have controllers (and even vests, check out Woojer) equipped with haptic feedback. While tech is becoming more inclusive, there are still some accessibility issues for people who can’t, or prefer not to, wear VR headsets. There have also been some concerns about the limited diversity among avatars’ bodies shape and size.
- Roving iPads: Already frequently used in hospitals, roving iPads help bring virtual attendees out of a screen and more into the physical presence of in-person attendees.
- Camera technology: Cameras continue to evolve, ensuring a better experience for virtual participants. One example is the Coolpo AI Huddle Pana, a product that offers 360 video conferences, advanced microphone technology, and highlights each person in the room as they speak and move. Owl Labs offers another great option for the latest in camera tech.
- Hologram Technology: Technology like Proto Inc’s RealPresence or Holobox offers truly lifelike holographic displays, allowing people to see, hear, and interact with someone anywhere in the world. The hologram can be life-sized or can come in a smaller-scale view.
Analog Solutions: We all love the thrill of getting an unexpected present in the mail.
- Hologram Technology: Consider sending a package to virtual attendees in advance of the event. It builds anticipation for the event and it allows you enhance the sensory experience for those not there IRL.
- Use multiple facilitators; someone to run the show for those in the room, and a second facilitator dedicated to the virtual experience, helping remote participants feel fully supported.
- Flip the assumptions on their heads. There’s an assumption that joining a meeting or event remotely puts someone at a disadvantage. But what if we used the opportunity to join from anywhere as an advantage? We can get more personal by sharing a glimpse of our personal lives. This more intimate glimpse of who we are humanizes us and can be an icebreaker for connection. Are you a plant-collector? Do you love Marvel? These are all interesting tidbits about who you are, use them to your advantage!
Activities to Engage All
We can all agree that experiences are better when we’re active participants in them. We feel more like a part of the experience, more connected to it, and we’re more likely to remember it. There are myriad tools out there to engage both in-person and virtual attendees, and they span the spectrum of tools introverts and extroverts can tap into and feel comfortable using.
- Polling—helps introverts contribute their POV without being put on the spot.
- Group chat breakout room—allow participants to meet one another and share thoughts/opinions among smaller groups.
- Co-creation tools—something as simple as enabling shared documents for collaboration or as complex as companies like Play With A Purpose that offer participatory, hands-on games for events, add depth to an event.
Meeting Etiquette Checklist
Rules guide us through every step of our day, every day in our lives. Yet it’s rare to step into a meeting or conference and encounter a clear set of rules or guidelines for how to engage at the event to ensure everyone gets value from the experience. Making expectations clear from the start and having them visible to both in-person and virtual guests throughout the meeting can help everyone feel confident engaging because they know the rules of the game. Here are some guidelines you might find on a meeting etiquette checklist:
- No analog notetaking, if writing on a “white board”, it must be a virtual one
- Make conscious pauses after every speaker to allow remote participants to chime in with comments and questions
- For every in-room contributor, invite virtual participant to speak next
- Keep chat functions on so everyone can comment, regardless of location
- Remote participants keep video on
If the goal is to make our meetings, events, and experiences more engaging and memorable for all participants, we need to throw away our old meeting playbook and remind ourselves that it’s not about using technology to retrofit our meetings and make them “more virtual.”
It’s about changing engagements to align with how all people experience collaboration and learning, making events more engaging and memorable for everyone taking part.