On the first Friday of each month, I’ll share five musings, one from each area of our XD focus (events, digital, space, culture, and people) that we’re toying around with. Topics may take on any number of formats from real-world observations of XD in action to ideas I’m grappling with such as a certain long-standing belief about how something has always worked still holds up. Some of my musings may evolve into long-form posts, some may not. Heck, I may discontinue the series entirely after a few months because I determine it, in and of itself, no longer holds up.
For now, though, I’m making my creative time a very public priority. Happy Reading!
Event XD: Would they use badges on Met Gala guests?
My, my, do we cling to badges in the event world. We need them for security. We need them so that exhibitors can collect prospect data. We need them because we have a registration system and what would be the point of collecting all that data if not to print badges with it? In the end, I wonder whether we’ve convinced ourselves we need badges simply because we’re accustomed to seeing conference and tradeshow attendees wearing them.
With that in mind, I contemplated the Met Gala recently. If you’re not familiar, it’s an annual fundraising gala to benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art\’s Costume Institute in New York City. It’s also a who’s who of international celebrities, none of whom ever wears a badge…EVER! Sure, you could argue that they don’t need badges because everyone knows whether someone’s actually Beyonce or not. And sure, you could argue that support staff and press do wear badges. At the core of my thinking, though, was this: Can we finally ditch conference + tradeshow badges?
Could we find other ways to design experiences while solution-solving for the operational realities of an event without relying on this 20th-century conference antique?
How might we ensure attendees’ security in new ways? What could we do to prepare attendees and exhibitors (all of whom are adults by the way) to introduce themselves without the aid of a 3×4” sheet of paper? Might we still be able to leverage registration data even if not a smidgen of it was printed to hang around someone’s neck? It makes you think, doesn’t it?
Digital XD: Start Somewhere + Deep Scrolling Your Favorite Social Media Mavens
Social media is a behemoth. Often, our clients become overwhelmed at the mere mention of launching a digital experience strategy inclusive of new or updated social media tactics. “We don’t know anything about it,” some exclaim. “It’s so much to manage,” others moan. The fear underpinning every variation of the self-limiting proclamations we hear is always the same. In their own ways, each client is saying, “It won’t look like the accounts I know and love; I have no idea how to get it there; I’m afraid (albeit completely unconsciously) of looking foolish or failing. I’d much prefer to stay safe here on the shores of the known than to sail out into the sea of change.”
Setting aside the much more expansive examination of those ideas superimposed on top of all areas of life, where social media is concerned, a simple solution to combat one’s fears lies just a single, good scroll away.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can view your idols’ earliest forays into social media glory and see that, though they may hold influencer status today, at one point they were likely taking poorly lit, badly framed selfies or cat pics just to get the ball rolling. Or, even more likely, that their entire esthetic changed drastically over time. As a bonus, when you dig deep into the depths of your favorite accounts, you’ll see they didn’t always have 10,000 likes per post. At some point, they too only had their friends, family, and a few early followers paying attention.
With that in mind, perhaps you would gain the courage to dip your toe into the waters of the social media sea, recognize that no terrible fate actually awaits you there, and ultimately give yourself permission to wade all the way on in. Armed with the knowledge that everyone started somewhere and that most of those somewheres weren’t especially snazzy, you may even begin to enjoy the idea that beginning anywhere today will almost certainly take you somewhere spectacular tomorrow!
Space XD: How Do You Want it To Feel… Your Desk that Is?
Whether you work at home, at an office, or in a tree, have you ever considered how you want your workspace to feel?
If you’re like most people, you probably work eight to ten hours a day five days a week (more on that below in culture XD), which means you’re spending conservatively 40 (but probably more like 50+) hours a week in your workspace. Are those manila folders and that nifty, beige cubicle wall really doing it for you? Unless your answer is a resounding, “YES!” (in which case you must be Milton from the 90s cult classic Office Space), consider these quick tricks to apply a little XD to your workspace.
In 30 seconds, write down five adjectives that describe the feeling of your dream workspace. Don’t limit yourself and don’t editorialize. If you want it to feel like a moody, afflicted, lush, verdant, dazzling space, great! If you’re aiming for a fluffy, warm, polka-dotted, magenta, gelatinous vibe, good for you. Once your words are on paper, walk away for five whole minutes so you don’t talk yourself out of them. (Maybe go peruse the manila folder stash in the supply closet?) Then come back, grab your word list and in another 30-second burst, note three changes you can make to start designing your dream space.
- Words: Moody, afflicted, lush, verdant, dazzling
Upgrades: Bring in two ferns in burnished gold pots;
Exchange your manilla folders for forest green ones; and
Display them in a sparkling, desktop folder holder.
- Words: Fluffy, warm, polka-dotted, magenta, gelatinous
Upgrades: Swap out those over-the-top Dixon Ticonderogas for a rust-colored pencil collection;
Change your screensaver to an image of billowy clouds; and
Hang (2) 8.5×11” print outs of magenta jello in polka-dotted frames to punch up that drab cubicle wall.
Over the course of the next month, use your word list to identify more ways to design your workspace experience, and you’ll be amazed at what you come up with in no time flat.
Culture XD: 9 – 5, or When, Where and How is Up to You as Long as You’re Doing Great Work?
It’s 2019 everyone. Almost 2020, in fact. The internet is our friend; the world is smaller than ever; and videoconferencing, chatting and the like are ubiquitous. Why, oh, why do we continue to cling to the traditional 9 – 5, Monday through Friday work schedule? Certainly, folks need to meet, teams need time to work together, and daylight seems like a natural indicator of when most humans are awake but have you ever paused to examine whether a much, MUCH more flexible model couldn’t work just as well?
In my last two roles with other organizations, I worked on entirely remote teams and traveled the world frequently. In fact, on one particularly zesty four-month stretch, I wasn’t in the same city for more than seven days at a time, and was, all the while, leading a team of ten and managing the production of five, yes FIVE events simultaneously.
Unless you lead a team of professionals whose work requires frequent hands-on interactions, e.g. you’re all massage therapists, surgeons, or massage surgeons* (who loosen up tension before operating on their patients), consider how a shift to an outcomes-oriented culture versus a geographically-oriented one might be just the change your team desperately needs. Think your A players wouldn’t keep kicking butt just because they were doing it from a hammock on their balcony? Would your team really mourn the loss of their daily Panera run for 10 am coffee? Maybe you don’t know, and maybe there are 100 other more salient what-ifs to consider before making such a shift, but if you’ve never even asked the question, how could you possibly begin to discover the answers?
People XD: The Magic of Making it Easy for People
We love our guests/customers/attendees/patrons. They’re the reason we exist, and we want to take great care of them! We hear this time and time again from the teams we work with, and it always warms our hearts, which is why we say, “Great! Tell us about your return/cancellation/refund/exchange policies and processes.”
Inevitably, we hear about admin fees, written notifications, pre-event cancellation cutoffs, requirements to provide detailed documentation of extenuating circumstances (airlines, I’m looking squarely at you on that one). And after listening to the litany of restrictions and very well articulated logic about each and every single one, I often continue to ask, “Do you really think that many of the guests/customers/attendees/patrons you supposedly love so much are trying to pull a fast one on you?\” Furthermore, is the fact that you’ve made getting an exchange or refund as difficult as climbing Mount Everest on your hands the foundation upon which you’ve built your strategy for attracting and retaining loyal buyers? If so, please let me know what kind of work you do. I’d like to set up a rival business, introduce a liberal return and exchange policy, and watch the money roll in.”
Consider instead that you could just make it easy. Period. Sure, you may see a mass exodus of guests/customers/attendees/patrons that will result in the shuttering of your organization and general destitution and despair for all of your employees. More likely than not, however, instead of the Armageddon, you’ll end up with less paperwork, more staff time available for other endeavors, and happier guests/customers/attendees/patrons. So go on, give making it easy for people a try. It is Friday after all, and aren’t Fridays supposed to feel easy?
Happy Weekend, Everyone,
*Massage surgeons are not, to the best of my knowledge, real, but they would be super cool if they existed!