Is your corporate event like Disney? It should be!

The Disney Corporation’s sole focus is customer experience and boy are they good at it. Now think about your corporate meetings/events – see any resemblance? Actually, it isn’t that hard if you know where to look. Let’s start at the very beginning.

Where the Magic Begins.

Take a moment and think about what Disney is doing, they are creating an experience that will drive behaviors. Isn’t that your goal too? So how do they do it? Well, Disney starts with an initial touch point that invites potential attendees to explore. For example, they will send an email that is visually appealing and will prompt you to virtually explore their theme parks, resorts, dining options, available dates and ultimately wet your appetite for the Disney experience. If you break down the sequence of events to even get to this initial engagement point, you’ll see there is a lot of development and preplanning. It seems like a lot of work, and it is, but the payoff is huge. This scenario can be translated to your very first attendee touch-point by having the following completed before you engage:

  • Develop a creative brief to drive all creative and strategy (get input from all stakeholders)
  • Develop overall concept and creative direction
  • Secure event location / date(s)
  • Secure a full service media production company (not an event company)
  • eMail creative complete
  • Registration site complete with breakout classes / times
  • Develop welcome messages for registration confirmations
  • Finalize the details and content of the mobile app
  • Send follow up emails to registrants containing a link to the mobile app

I want the Disney Experience!

Ok, so you decide on the Magic Kingdom, let’s go for it and push the purchase button. You not only get a confirmation email welcoming you to the Disney Family but also more detailed information about the park and rides you selected. So far so good right? Well, within the email is also a link to the Disney Mobile app where you can input all of your profile information access your selected rides, see the park layout and much more. This is easily replicated in the corporate environment. You now need to be thinking ahead to the next touch point by:

  • Creating and mailing personalized badges, lanyards and a welcome letter to each attendee
  • Creating secondary emails to attendees about speakers / content

We’re off to Disney!

Like any other trip, you looked at the hotels (as they were on the site and mobile app) booked a room and are ready to go. But before you leave you receive a box from Disney containing your Disney park bracelets. These allow you to go on the selected rides, have your credit card and ticket information pre-loaded so all you have to do is show up happy! This stage is really clever as it hands the attendee something ‘tangible’ for the experience. You know the park is going to be great but to physically hold a key to the entrance is brilliant marketing. This also eases up the actual on-site registration process for your event as they have all of their materials in-hand.

At this point we need to pause and take stock in all of the development, creative and content that went into this meeting even before one attendee has shown up. They have received a branded email to the event, they have been able to select their breakout sessions, download a mobile app, set up their profile, start to exchange communications with other attendees and received their badge and lanyard with a personalized letter. It seems daunting, but the more you do these types of events I assure you the easier they get. Just think, most people just get an Outlook invite at their calendar at this point. Whereas your employees have been thinking and interacting with the key initiative (tag line) for months now – they are ready!

Welcome to the Magic Kingdom

The gates swing open upon your arrival and it is magical. Everything you expected and more, because you have been slowly prepped for what you are about to see. There is no ‘magic wand’ for the corporate meeting. This is where content is king and delivery has to be spot on. If you decide on guest speakers for a keynote, are they matched to the content and have they been vetted? Otherwise, they sidetrack your ultimate goal, which is to drive a desired behavior to achieve the desired results. This is where strategy and the communicator collide, the event is the pinnacle of the experience and should mirror the expectations at a minimum. Most event production companies omit strategy and solely focus on the event, it’s just what they know. As a communicator you need to focus on the entire experience marrying creative, messaging and expectations to the event and post event follow-up.

Time to leave the park.

This is where Disney shines and you don’t even notice it. The entrance to their park is an optical illusion. By positioning the park and castle at the end of Main St. it gives the appearance that there are a lot of shops and it is a ‘hike’ to the castle – making it a grand entrance. When you leave you are looking the other way down Main St. and it looks 1/2 as far, so you think, “sweet, the exit isn’t far at all.” The same attention should be paid to egress from your event, but how?

  • Clear egress signage
  • Convenient luggage pickup (do not use bell service)
  • Dedicated staff to help with egress, flight information and airport transportation

Welcome home.

When you get home, Disney has made sure to send you pictures of your trip and follow up purchase opportunities via discounts etc. The experience isn’t over. They remind you of all of the fun you had and the total Disney Family experience. Now if you are relying on a hotel event company to produce your event you’ve just omitted the entire pre/post meeting strategy for the experience. Instead you have turned the meeting into a ‘one and done‘ type event. Follow up is key, not only to help drive your initiative but also to reinforce the key initiative messaging with the attendee.

  • Branded follow up emails
  • Video snippets / course recaps
  • Surveys
  • Set the stage for next years’ event

Your company is spending a lot of money on an event, you should reframe the thinking to: “We need to create a key initiative experience.”