3 Ways to Use Event Design to Create Engaging Experiences


Creating an engaging experience is more than just what happens during an event — it begins with the overall event design and includes everything from the event communications, room setup, the food and décor, and much more.

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At Convening Leaders 2019 in Pittsburgh, the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) initiated a research project to learn insights about attendees’ reactions and feedback to the overall event design – not only to provide direction for future PCMA events but also to expand industry knowledge and thinking about event design best practices.


The result is the “5,000 People, 5,000 Personal Journeys” report — a joint effort between the PCMA Foundation and Steelcase Event Experiences.


The report chronicles several key insights. Here is our take on three ways to use event design to create engaging experiences.

1) Accommodating Attendees’ Needs

The Convening Leaders program took a very different approach to agenda scheduling. Rather than standard 30- and 60-minute chunks of content, Convening Leaders used a staggered schedule, with different session start times.


This idea might seem radical to event planners who already juggle way too many details and event venues who need minimum room turn times. However, it serves as an important reminder about event design: not every attendee operates on an identical schedule.


Of course, there are additional considerations that come into play with a non-traditional agenda format – like keeping noise and disruption during breaks to a minimum or developing the communication plan to keep attendees informed and make wayfinding easy. But event design that veers off the “always done that” path can be beneficial to support attendees’ different needs and learning styles.

2) Planning for Learning and Networking

PCMA Convening Leader keynote speaker Seth Godin, author, and marketing guru, reminded attendees about the real reason why people register for an event. “We don’t sell breakout sessions…we sell the way it makes us feel to be in the room, to be part of something, to be seen.”


That sentiment is echoed in the “5,000 People, 5,000 Personal Journeys” report too. Attendees come to events for a variety of reasons – sometimes that’s to learn from speakers, but just as often, it’s to connect and learn with peers.

PCMA Convening Leaders took a different approach to the design of networking opportunities and spaces, with some unplanned and organic (like luncheon discussion tabletop cards) and some planned and strategic (like a Braindates space).


The takeaway for both planners and venues is to design events and meetings not only for learning, but networking too, which may require re-shaping or expanding traditional networking events and spaces.

3) Visualizing the Event Design

No matter whether changes are minor or major like those at PCMA Convening Leaders, visualization of the overall event design is critical – for fellow internal stakeholders, exhibitors, sponsors and event attendees.


Seeing a vision of the designed prototype space, like those provided by an immersive VR walkthrough or 3D floorplan, makes it easier to get buy-in for novel concepts or close the deal with sponsors.

Plus, as the PCMA Convening Leaders and Steelcase Event Experiences report found, “boundaries, paths, views, and adjacencies shape and support the participant’s journey”  – which ultimately creates a more engaging event experience for all. 


For more information about using AllSeated to visualize event design, contact us for a demo.