Too often, when designing experiences, we focus on what people will be doing. In-game design, lots of effort goes into balancing and core loop design. UX designers want to make sure that experiences are smooth and uninterrupted. We consider the technology, the interfaces, the rules, and the outcomes. We ponder pricing strategies, operational models, and how our employees might deliver the experience. But how often do we stop to consider how we want our customers to FEEL?

Maya Angelou Creative Commons

American poet Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The best experience designers start with how they want the customers to feel.  Then they work from there to design the experience. Once you agree with how you want people to feel, you can continually check in on that during the design process. You also have metrics you can use as you conduct user testing.

Design Experience like Steven Spielberg does.

Experiences are all about emotions. Setting the intention of the desired emotional state of the viewer is a tool that filmmakers use in the earliest stages of story creation. They consider:

  • What state will the viewer be in before the movie?
  • Do I want them to think or do something?
  • What emotional state do I want them in after the movie?

Filmmakers have always known that emotions are what anchor memories.  Recent research backs this up.  Emotions stimulate our amygdala and trigger our body to secrete adrenaline. These two processes somehow amp up the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain.

Emotions Anchored by Memories

We all want our customers to talk about the experiences we design. Anchoring those emotional experiences as more vibrant memories increases people sharing those experiences with friends. This word of mouth advertising is gold for an entertainment business. Word of mouth, or virality as it’s now called, is the key to a blockbuster movie, or any successful entertainment experience.

Eating our own dog food:

Eating our own dog food

I’ve been using our event design project for examples of how I am using each tip in our own work. We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we want people to feel when they attend our event.

In our research, we asked attendees of trade shows why they travel to events. As we got deeper into the five whys, we uncovered the more profound need. Sure they tell their accountants, partners, and employees they are going to learn from their peers and to research and buy the latest products. But there’s a more compelling reason.

People go to events is because it’s unpredictable. They want to be surprised. We call it serendipity. And it’s one of the brand principals for our event.

Serendipity Doo-Dah Experience Design

Trade shows are full of serendipitous opportunities. Who knows who you might run into at a trade show? What dinner might you find yourself at with a new contact that creates an unplannable opportunity? Maybe you’ll make a friend for life after a deep conversation over a bottle or two of wine. Or you might stumble upon a fantastic restaurant in New Orleans, like Commanders Palace, where I hosted a dinner with a dozen people I (and hopefully the others) will never forget.

Bob and friends at Commanders Palace at Amusement Expo

In my Deep Dive interview with game designer Joe Mares, he told me that fun is the combination of discovery and surprise. In designing our event, we are curating as many opportunities for serendipity as we can. Because we know that if people feel surprised, they’re more likely to remember what they learn. And trades shows are where the best ideas are shared.

What do you want your customers to feel when they come to your attraction, or ride your ride, or play your game? Being crystal clear about the emotions you want to create will ensure that you create an experience that people will remember and talk about.