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The Experience Economy:  
Engage, Don't Just Entertain!

by Karla Brandau, CSP

My tennis coach told me I could transform my tennis experience if I would hit the ball on the "sweet spot." If I did, my return would be strong, straight, and true. It would take my play to the next level.

Hitting the "sweet spot" is a true principle for meeting planners as well.

Explore how to offer increased, in-depth, timely and fresh education that is meshed with entertainment. If you do this, guests will find learning fun and enjoyable. You can take your meetings to the next level by designing your activities at the "sweet spot" where the realms of experience -- entertainment, education, escapism, and esthetic - intersect. If you do, you will find your attendees, or guests, become mentally and emotionally engaged. They become transformed, not just entertained.

1. Entertainment. To be entertained is to be passively absorbed (absorption means the experience goes into the mind) in the experience through your senses. You are entertained when viewing a performance, listening to music or laughing with a humorist. Your attention is grabbed and your mind "absorbs" the experience.

2. Education. To be educated is to be actively absorbed in an experience. Education requires participation by the learner. The mind and body are vigorously engaged in assessing information, making mental connections, and taking notes. The learner experiences an increase in knowledge or skills.

3. Esthetic. In an esthetic experience, you are passively immersed (immersion is becoming physically or virtually a part of the experience itself) in the experience. You "go into the event" but have little or no effect on it. Esthetic experiences include standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon, viewing art or visiting a museum. You are content to just be there.

4. Escapist. In an escapist experience you are actively immersed in the experience as a participant. Theme parks, casinos, virtual reality headsets, and chat rooms all qualify as escapist activities. You in some way affect the actual performance.

Engaging Your Guests

The richest meeting experiences encompass aspects of all four realms. Entertainment and education are very familiar. Both have been essential for meetings since meetings began. To produce an exceptional meeting, blur the lines of the realms. Explore how to offer increased, in-depth, timely and fresh education that is meshed with entertainment. If you do this, guests will find learning (the primary reason corporations pay for conference registrations) fun and enjoyable.

To take your meetings to the next level, the experience economy level, engage your guests with an esthetic atmosphere that causes awe and anticipation the minute they enter the meeting space. Do this with a strong theme carried out in decorations, color, motion and sound.

For instance, have you had a Forest Gump party with gourmet shrimp dishes? Or tried a nostalgia theme? Baby boomers have a good laugh at an environment decorated like the homes of the 50's and 60's with Formica dinettes, harvest gold appliances, TV centerpieces with rabbit-ear antennas, tubs of margarine and Ed Sullivan look-alike entertainers.

Once your theme is set, think interactive! Help guests experience the escapist realm. Panels and small discussions still work but are boring compared to the same information presented as a game show. Get yourself a look-alike Regis Philbin and test guest's knowledge of corporate history, products or services with sweeping lights, dramatic drum rolls, and of course, the question, "Is that your final answer?"

However, the ultimate "sweet spot" might be a Survivor Party. Hold it in a scenic spot. Check off esthetic. Pack the contests with content the guests need to learn. Check off education. Make them all participate. Check off escapist. And entertainment? If they are not entertained with all of the commotion, just send them back to the hotel.

If you can combine the four realms of experience in the right way and find a "sweet spot," guests will be engaged, not just entertained. They will be transformed and better equipped to meet the every day challenges they face. Their lives will be taken to the next level of performance.

The pay-off? Your guests will want T-shirts, mugs and other memorabilia to remember such an exceptional experience...so get the product ready!

The concepts of the experience economy have been adapted to many industries.  To learn more about these concepts read "The Experience Economy" by Joseph B. Pine

Karla works with organizations that want to benefit from confident workers, synergistic dialogue and innovation.  She is the president of People Skills International, Inc and can be reached at 1 770 923 0883  E-mail [email protected] or visit

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