If you want to still be an event company in the future you should start thinking about yourself as a company that facilitates value creation. But how do you do this? How can you survive as a value facilitator? Is it a whole new ballgame or just the next level of our event industry?
It can be helpful to remember that there are still basically two elements in every event (or potential value creation situation); the content (or message) and the way this is presented. Event companies who are able to fit both elements to our future attendees will survive.
And the key element of this will be the ‘fitting’ part. Facilitating value creation for our future attendees will be a Survival of the Fits. Survival of the Fits? Survival of the Fittest you mean? No, I mean survival of the Fits: the value-fit and the format-fit!
As we all know there's a shift going on where our attendees are looking for more meaningful experiences. What's important to them is that experiences contribute to their 'quality of life'. The experience should help them to create (realise) personal emotional value. Which makes it a necessity to have the experience relate to whatever it is that's important to them. Relate to what they consider valuable. And since people have different values we have to make experiences as personal as possible. To maximise this value-fit we've started working with empathy-maps, value propositions etc.
Besides this shift from experiences to value creation (meaningful experiences) there's another development going on; consumers want more control over the experiences. No longer do they 'surrender' themselves to the staged experiental environments where everything is already decided for them, where they find themselves stuck within a given framework. They want to play an active role and create their own experience. In this generation of experiences 'self-direction' is a key element. So consumers are not only looking for content that is of personal value to them, they also want this content to be presented according to their personal preferences. For our current attendees this format-fit is of great importance. This is why we've seen the rise of Meeting Design including formats like 'unconferencing', 'corporate festivals' etc. More and more room for attendees to create their own experience...
So we need tools that help us to create meaningful experiences, related to the personal values of our attendees. And we need tools that help us to create formats that allow for a higher level of control by the attendees. Both type of tools will facilitate our attendees to create value. We need value facilitators!
Some value facilitators can optimize the value-fit, others relate to the format-fit. Or, some tools help attendees to understand what it is, other tools help attendees to get the most out of it.
There Are 5 Value Facilitators:
The more openly you communicate the better chance attendees have to know what values you are (really) about. A better recognition and understanding of each other’s values opens up the opportunity for a true value fit and therefore transparency facilitates value creation. So for instance a short introduction before the event on the subject of the keynote speaker can help your attendees to prepare themselves and therefore get more out of the presentation?
The difference between transparency and authenticity is that “transparency is how much you share and authenticity is the truth of your words and actions.” (Pam Moore, 2013) Authenticity is the quality or condition of being genuine, trustworthy. Being authentic as an organisation will also help your attendees to truly know what (value) it is that you stand for. This improves chances of a true value fit and therefore authenticity can be used as a value facilitator. So for instance make sure your attendees understand the reasons and goals of your event before they have to sign up. This prevents from mutual disappointments (wrong attendees at the wrong event).
Participation is about the level of taking part in something. If you really want to understand the content, you should work with it, apply it (to your personal situation). This requires an active level of participation by your attendees. Improving the format-fit by using a format that allows for active participation by each attendee facilitates to create more value.
Interaction in the context of events means people communicating with or reacting to each other. Interaction has an active aspect to it and therefore it works in the same way as participation. However the difference between interaction and participation is that interaction is about an active mode of behaviour in regards to other people. Events have one specific element: they bring people together (whether it’s face-to-face or virtual). Event formats should fully facilitate this extraordinary characteristic!
Self-direction is a special value facilitator because it relates to both the value-fit and the format-fit. Self-direction is about personal independence: freedom from control or influence of another or others. In the context of events this means that your attendees should be allowed to behave in the way that serves them best to create value. In other words the event (organizer) should try to maximise the say of each attendee about the content as well as about the format. This will improve their value-fit and the format-fit with the event and therefore facilitate each attendee in creating more (impactful) value.
So value facilitators can focus on improving either the value-fit and/or the format-fit. I guess a lack of value-fit can be partially compensated by an excellent format-fit and vice versa. Obviously we should try to maximise both fits!
It is important to realise that maximising these fits is a very personal matter. Some attendees want lots of interaction, others don’t. Some attendees want all the information, others want you to filter. Every attendee has an optimal level for each value facilitator.
Perhaps this is the most difficult part of facilitating value creation as the most crucial characteristic of events is that it brings people together. This characteristic is the beauty and power of events, but at the same time makes it very hard to optimize the level of value facilitators according to each attendee’s preferences. Having to make concessions to these personal preferences implies an automatic fall back in the value-fit and/or the format-fit. And therefore in a loss of potential value creation…
Attendees are looking for meaningful experiences. And they want a more active role in these experiences. Therefore, events should maximise the value-fit and format-fit for each attendee. The value-fit can be described as the level of importance of the content to the attendee. The format-fit is about the level of suitability of the way this content is presented to each attendee.
Value facilitators that can help improve these fits are transparency, authenticity, participation, interaction and self-direction. Being able to implement these value facilitators in your event will lead to a higher impact in terms of value creation for your attendees.
This article was written by Paul Schreuder, lecturer Events at Dutch Fontys University for Applied Sciences - Fontys Academy for Creative Industries.