How to Apply Design Thinking When Planning Your In-Person or Virtual Events

May 10, 2022

Learning, innovation, and improvement are crucial elements of creating better and better events. These vital concepts are addressed by design thinking, a technique that helps you exceed expectations consistently. In this article, we explain what design thinking is and how you can apply it to creating stellar events. 

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a set of strategic and practical processes for developing design concepts. Furthermore, as WeWork.com emphasizes, it is a process of creating human-centered solutions and processes using creativity and empathy. Rather than simply designing rigid products, design thinking encourages the designer or creative to understand how the customer would engage with the product. The designer then takes these observations into the design. 

Additionally, unlike traditional design processes, design thinking is iterative. This means that designers constantly improve by modifying the solution in response to customer needs. Design thinking is not rigid. It evolves with consumer needs, ensuring that designers can better satisfy customers every time. 

The Focus of Design Thinking in Event Planning

As an event planner, when applying design thinking to event planning, you should have the following in mind: 

  • People-centric events

The audience is the focus of any event. After all, the goal of your event is to attract as many members of your target audience as possible and give them a memorable experience. Therefore, you should always keep your audience in mind when setting goals. 

  • Creative event planning 

Innovation is constantly happening in every sector. Customers have gotten used to fast and efficient services. So, to stay ahead in event planning, you'll need to continually refine your processes to keep attendees and sponsors coming back. 

  • Achievable targets 

Yes, innovation is critical to successful design thinking. But what matters more than ideas is their execution. Therefore, it's always good to set realistic targets for your team to avoid doing a poor job. Better to hit modest targets than to fail at grand ones! With more experience, capacity, and technical skills, you can add more complex elements to your events. 

A guide to design thinking

Here's our multi-step approach to employing design thinking as an event planner: 

  1. Empathize with your audience 

The key purpose of design thinking is to create great experiences for the end-user. For events, this is the audience. To do this effectively, you need to actively engage with them to understand their needs. Observe them and find out their likes, dislikes, expectations, and pain points. This way, you get a clear picture of how you can improve their experience. 

  1. Carry out your research 

Suppose you intend to introduce a new idea or product to your event. In that case, you would need to know how the audience would react to it. Never jump to uninformed conclusions about a new idea. Do the research and gather data to understand how best to apply this new idea to your audience's benefit. This will save you creative energy and time. 

  1. Define challenges and problems 

To improve, you'll need to understand existing challenges. It is when you have defined the challenges that you can solve them. 

Some of the challenges may not be obvious initially. Still, you can improve your chances of identifying them by putting yourself in the shoes of a customer. Ask yourself questions like: if I were an attendee at this event, what would I need? You and your team should then consider any answer that is not yet addressed by your event plan. 

  1. Brainstorm creative ideas 

Creativity is the bedrock of design thinking. Once you have identified the challenges, brainstorm creative ways to address them. Allow your mind to roam unrestrained, and explore every possible idea. This will enable you to come up with innovative solutions. 

Ensure to include all relevant stakeholders in the ideation process – they will bring critical perspectives to the table. After you've listed all possible ideas, you can then begin to select the best ones for your event. 

  1. Design iterative solutions 

In this step, you turn your ideas into full-fledged solutions. For example, suppose you want to use an integrated platform for your hybrid event. In that case, you can begin to work with app developers to design and test the software. Alternatively, you may scour the market for existing integrated apps that offer the features you need and reach out to administrators to make a deal. 

  1. Implement your solution

At this stage, all that's left is to implement and see how well it does. Ensure to track the implementation of the solution and the outcomes. 

  1. Learn and improve 

After the event, go through the outcomes and look for the areas where you underperformed. Share these outcomes with your team members, and brainstorm ideas for improvement. 

Tips for applying design thinking to event planning

Here are a few tips to help you apply design thinking to your events: 

  1. Know your audience 

Design thinking aims to design a great experience for the end-user. To do this properly, you'd need to understand them. Ask what, why, and how questions; use analogies; try brainstorming – the goal is to understand your audience. 

  1. Focus on the end user's experience 

Every new idea pitched at the ideation table should have one primary goal – to satisfy the end-user. Not every new or innovative idea will translate into positive outcomes for the customer. Therefore, before implementing any new idea, ask: will this improve the customer's experience? You should only proceed when you have a positive answer. 

  1. Be open to new ideas

Innovation comes from new, daring ideas. Encourage every member to contribute their opinions, no matter how insignificant. This way, you will discover excellent ideas that you may not have thought up. 

  1. Don't ignore logistics 

While executing new ideas, it is essential not to forget the basics. For example, suppose you intend to have a physical VR session at your hybrid event. In that case, there should also be an entertaining activity for the virtual audience to engage in. This could be an animated product narration session or some other form of entertainment to keep them engaged. 

  1. Have a sense of purpose 

While implementing new solutions, ensure your sense of purpose remains a part of the process. For example, if your goal is to ensure that your audience feels like a part of your community, focus the design process on that. Constantly communicate this purpose to your team members so that they do not lose sight of it.

Our Final Remarks

Design thinking is essential for creating improved experiences for your audience. Here at Performedia, we're committed to helping you create solutions iteratively, so that you can step up your game as an event planner. Not only do we help you create customizable, bespoke event features, we help you gather valuable data, so you can continually improve the user experience.