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Designing Events with Empathy

13 March 2024

In the world of event planning, there's a growing awareness of the importance of empathy in crafting unforgettable experiences for attendees. Destination Management Companies are at the forefront of this movement, recognizing the diverse needs and preferences of attendees and incorporating thoughtful touches to ensure inclusivity and enjoyment for all. 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, empathy is “the ability to share someone else's feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation.” This is a valuable skill, and it’s well worth developing for event planners. 

Why Does Empathy Matter in Event Planning?

By imagining what it would be like to attend an event as a guest, event planners can design events that connect well with the intended audience. Designing with empathy allows event planners to move beyond a professional and seamless event to truly connect with their intended audience. While it can be tempting to design events around the latest trends or even personal preferences, the most effective events find different ways to speak directly to what their audience loves, showcasing how much the hosts and planners notice their needs and desires — and are willing to cater to them.

“No matter how dazzling an event is, attendees want to feel like it matters to the hosts that they, specifically, showed up” — and this can be accomplished through personalized touches. But how do event planners select the right personal touches that will speak to their guests? Empathy mapping is a great place to start. 

What is Empathy Mapping?

Every attendee has specific motivations for attending any event. And even if they can’t articulate it, they probably have some specific outcomes they’d like to see, too — from connecting with a brand to learning a specific skill to being entertained! Creating an empathy map helps event planners design events that speak to the desires, pain points, and motivations of their audience. The more planners learn about their attendees, the more specifically they can speak to them!

To create an empathy map, everyone hosting or designing the event should get in the same room (or at least on the same video call). From there, answer two questions: who is the intended audience, and what is the main goal for them during the event? Once the big picture has been established, dig deeper into what the attendee says, does, thinks, and feels. These four quadrants will help hosts plan an event that caters to the attendee experience. 

To effectively fill out an empathy map, consider potential sticking points in the event flow, along with potential highlights for guests. For example: is the registration or check-in line too long and slow-moving? Is there a special experience or keynote that everyone will be most excited about? Are there moments when attendees are confused about where to go or what to do next? Will guests feel cared for by the food and beverage choices or attendee gifts? 

What Does Empathy Look Like at Events?

When your event arrives, the empathy mapping exercise is put to the test in the real world. There are countless ways to demonstrate empathy and care throughout the course of any event! For example, consider offering mocktails for those who may not drink or cannot consume alcohol. While alcoholic beverages are often a staple at events, there are many reasons why individuals may choose not to partake, ranging from personal preferences to health or religious considerations. By offering mocktails as an alternative, both the DMC and the host company demonstrate a commitment to accommodating various lifestyles and needs, fostering a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. 

If alcohol is not a part of the event, care can still be shown through food and beverage selections, like offering diverse dietary options to accommodate various preferences and restrictions. Guests with mobility challenges will be encouraged by ensuring accessibility of venues and transportation. DMCs and hosts can implement inclusive language and signage to foster a welcoming environment, incorporating cultural sensitivity into event themes and activities. These are just a few examples — the beauty of empathy is that it can always be tailored to its recipients, so the options are endless! 

Experienced DMCs Can Help You Incorporate Empathy into Events

There are so many details that go into event planning, and it can feel overwhelming at the outset! DMCs provide valuable assistance in every area, from local expertise to cost-effective vendor and venue bookings. DMCs really do think of everything, from designing events with empathy to navigating the unexpected. Working with an experienced DMC partner can reduce your stress and your to-do list, helping you create an even better event for your guests! Visit our member and  accredited DMC directories to find a qualified partner in your area.

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