I figured out the way almond packagers make blanched almonds. It must be that they jam a fistful of almonds into a six-year-old’s blue jean pocket along with a few stones, half of a blade of grass and a yellow feather. Then they put those jeans through the washer and then the dryer. They pick out the withered grass but recycle the stones and feather. Voilà what is left are blanched almonds!
Except that’s not the way it’s done at all. Sometimes we see an outcome and we think we reverse engineer what we see. Unfortunately this can fall flat.
If you have ever had the experience of attending a meeting, conference or session where you saw the other participants respond enthusiastically, only to try that very same thing back on your home turf and get a lukewarm response you’ll know what I mean.
It is one thing to perceive the outcome and try to replicate it. It’s another to feel the response and then design an experience to elicit that same feeling. A great place to find inspiration for ideas is to attend other association’s conferences, even for-profit conferences, and note how the attendees are feeling. What is going on that is super special and how can you provide experiences that generate those same types of feelings with your very special member audience?
Here’s the thing about experiences. Experiences are not a moment in time. We don’t go from feeling a low level of anxiousness to feeling embraced in the community in just 10 minutes. It has to build slowly. A lot of little good experiences pave the way for great experiences. The best sessions happen at the best conferences. The best keynotes do their best work at the best conferences. The best connections are made at the best conferences.
Orchestrating an amazing new experience designed for deep connection works far better when all those other previous experiences have been thoughtfully orchestrated. Everything from the pre-conference updates, to how attendees are greeted at registration, to what they do next after registration, these are all key to how members will respond in a innovative, new, highly participatory exercise you are testing out.
We have to start building that feeling we are trying to create. Trust builds. Camaraderie builds. Generosity builds and it all starts with how we appear to them in that very first interaction.