Attendees are looking for more meaningful experiences. Attendees are looking for experiences that help them to create personal emotional value. Value in a way that the experience should contribute to their 'quality of life'. But how can we measure this emotional value? How can we know if we’ve succeeded and if our event has indeed been valuable to our attendees? What’s the measuring unit of this emotional value creation?
This measurement doesn’t have to be quantitative. But if we can identify some qualitative criteria for emotional value creation that would enable us to get at least to an indication of the amount of this emotional value. And perhaps these criteria could also function as a tool to design your events for the best possible outcome as far as emotional value for your attendees is concerned.
In her book ‘For the Love of Experience - Changing the Experience Economy’ discourse (2011) author Anna Snel states that the meaning an experience has for an individual depends on the impact the experience has on the life of the individual (James, 1902; Saane, 1998). This relates to what is nowadays often named as Quality of Life. Within the shift towards meaningful experiences attendees want experiences that contribute to their Quality of Life.
For me Snel hits the nail on the head: impact should be the ‘measuring unit’ for emotional value creation. To determine if we’ve been successful in facilitating emotional value creation by our attendees we should ask them if and if so how much impact the event has had on them and the quality of their lives. This phenomenon of impact should be our guide towards criteria for emotional value.
There Are 4 Criteria to the Impact of Emotional Value:
Whether or not the created value has the potential to have an impact on the attendee’s life first of all depends on how important the (subject of the) created value is to the person. This basically corresponds to the value fit. In my previous article ‘Are You Fit to Plan? 5 Ways to Bring Value to Your Event’ you can read about how to improve on this value fit. The better value fit we can create in our events (the more important the subject is to the attendees), the better chances for an impactful event.
Range of Application
Snel makes a distinction between experiences that have an isolated impact on one specific context and experiences that show a ‘boiling over’ effect and cause a change in the individual’s interpretive framework or life-horizon: “The life context on which the experience has an impact, for which the experience has meaning, can vary from a very small part of life to life as a whole.” One of the important criteria for the impact of emotional value is the Range of Application. If we organise an event for our account managers and train their negotiation skills the event has potentially more value to them because they may be able to use these skills in their personal lives as well, rather than if we inform them about very specific internal procedures.
In his Value Proposition Canvas Alex Osterwalder describes another aspect of the value we want to create: is the ‘job-to-be-done’ that we want to address with the event crucial or trivial?
I’m convinced that a training event is perceived as more valuable by the attendees when it’s offered right before the upcoming exam than when it’s just another periodical training event (even if the content would be exactly the same). When attendees sense the urgency of the value that the event will create for them, the event will have a higher level of impact to them.
In their Experience Model (2005) Van Gool & Van Wijngaarden name three levels of experiences: basic experiences, memorable experiences and transformative experiences. This distinction clearly also has a temporary aspect in it. Events should try to create value with a more lasting character. Learning how to swim when you’re young is something you can use for the rest of your life and therefore has a great impact on your (quality of) life. Learning how to use certain computer-software that you know will be replaced in a couple of months with different software probably won’t be considered valuable.
Value Creation Formula
If we were to put these 4 criteria for the impact of emotional value in a formula this would be:
Impact = Value Importance x Value Range of Application x Value Urgency x Value Duration
As said before, this doesn’t mean we are or should be able to quantify the amount of impact, but what I like about formulas like this is that they make it very clear that if one of these criteria gets close to 0 (zero) the total (impact) also gets close to 0 (zero)… So that is why we should always consider to what extent we meet each of these criteria if we want to create valuable events.
Value Creation vs Sacrifice
There is one more thing we need to take into account when trying to design for valuable events. This has to do with the fact that eventually attendees will compare the amount of created emotional value to the sacrifice they had to put in to create this (amount of) value. Was it worth it? Was the created emotional value worth buying the ticket, travelling to the event, being away from home or office etc.?
You could consider this an attendee’s judgement of his personal Return On Investment. Where the return is formulated in terms of emotional value, using personal impact as a measuring unit.
Make no mistake that this comparison (ROI) is always as rational as the ROI calculated from an economic point of view. According to economical ‘rules’ one would try to get a maximum amount of return on a minimum amount of investment. It’s very interesting to notice that sometimes the balance between ‘emotional return’ can benefit from a higher level of investment. Think about initiating rituals within students’ corps. Or within the event industry adventure or teambuilding programs. Events like these may have a bigger impact on the lives of the attendees just because of the fact that they had to put in a great amount of effort (sacrifice)…
The ability to create meaningful experiences that create personal emotional value becomes more and more important to event organisers. But how can we measure this emotional value?
The answer to this question lies in the phenomenon of ‘impact’: the meaning or emotional value an experience has for an attendee depends on the impact the experience has on the life of the attendee. There are four aspects to impact: importance (value fit), range of application, urgency and duration. If we use these criteria as a guideline we will not only be able to measure (in a qualitative way) the impact of our events to the attendees. It will also help us to design impactful events, events that really matter to our attendees.
This article was written by Paul Schreuder, lecturer Events at Dutch Fontys University for Applied Sciences – Fontys Academy for Creative Industries.