IDEA09: Does Designing a Social Experience Affect How We Party?

by Luke Wroblewski September 16, 2009

Maya Kalman's Does Designing a Social Experience Affect How We Party? Of Course It Does! talk at IDEA09 in Toronto illustrated the parallels between designing memorable real-world events and designing online social experiences.

  • Social Experience Design needs to create a reaction & stimulate the senses.
  • Event planning is among the oldest form of social design in the world.
  • The key to a successful event is how all the elements come together to create a desired effect.
  • No matter, the economic conditions people feel the need to connect, communicate, and share. You don't have to believe in feng shui to understand that your surroundings contribute to your experience.
  • Events need to embody the host’s style & personality in every way.
  • A social experience is far more than a collection of elements. During planning you need to think through the experience from start to finish.
  • An event planner matches the client’s wants, goals, and needs to the target audience. A planner plays a host of roles from producer to engineer. Event planners need to control uncontrollable circumstances. It is a balancing act to adjust to the life of the event. Think through what could go wrong and plan ahead for issues.
  • How does design affect your social experience? Your surroundings affect how you feel. Good design awakens the senses and takes people out of ordinary experiences. It helps to loosen people up by connecting through a common theme. Good design helps to eliminate social barriers and enables conversation. Good design removes barriers and allows people to be more social and open.
  • Lounge areas (couches, chairs) allow people to casually converse. Leaving guests in one area often tires and bores them. More movement equals a more dynamic event. It makes people feel like more happened. More movement means multi-dimensional elements to interact with.
  • Always looking for wow factor to get people talking during or after the event. “Moments of luxury" when you transport your guests to another place & time like they're truly the VIPs in the room.
  • Make the entrance a conversation that people will have.
  • Presentation is key and people eat with their eyes. Presentation details create moments of luxury. When people feel pampered, they are more inclined to socialize. A beautiful presentation gives everything a higher sense of value and makes you feel special.
  • Entertainment breaks up time and gets people to focus on a common experience.
  • Set the tone with initial touch points. The more interesting the invite, the more interested your guests will be. Use clever ideas but be sure to focus on the clarity of the event first. Be sure the invitation echoes the event design is some shape or form. Run it by some people (usability testing). An invitation can connect guests to the social experience by having to act.
  • Nametags break the ice and make getting to know people easier.
  • Ending on a high note. Leave people with something compelling –don’t just put your name and date on something. Make it food, to go bags with mil and cookies. Don't force your brand onto the parting gift -- make the memory personal for each guest. Little touches create a high for guests as they are leaving. Presentation matters.
  • Do fewer more focused elements rather than having a lot that are mediocre. Keep to what you can execute amazingly and make the focus around it.
  • Anticipate your guest’s needs: location, time, seating, temperature, etc.
  • Nothing can bring down an event like an accident. Need to think through safety, rules, and regulations. Flames and fire ordinances require design adjustments. We need to design with an engineering mind. We need to anticipate how a guest can come along and make things go wrong.
  • The more effort you put into every detail of your event, the more people will be engaged with your experience.
  • Being able to react discreetly is what keep events integrated without disturbing guests.