Your palms sweat. Your heart races. Adrenalin pulses through your veins.
The closer you get to the main entrance, the more your body is on high alert. Part of you wants to run away as fast as possible. Part of you wants to stay and conquer.
Finally, it’s your turn.
You sit in the small car. Put on the seat belt and pull the overhead safety harness down around you.
The bell rings and the cars jerk forward. Slowly, the cars are pulled up a large hill with the clack of the track and the rhythm of the gears.
Your excitement builds as you reach the top of the hill. Your senses are at full throttle as you suddenly scream like a child. You are barreling down the track at 60 mph. Death-defying loops, hairpin turns, corkscrews, surprise tunnels, banks and turns send your heart in your throat and your stomach in your shoes. Your body is flung up, down, upside down and sideways. It all seems to defy gravity.
It comes to a halt and you exit while talking rapidly to your friends about your experience. Everyone is sharing something. You’re ready to do it again.
You are enjoying the highs and lows, the peaks and valleys, the unexpected elements of the Scream Machine Roller Coaster.
Your Event Emotional Roller Coaster
Much like the amusement park roller coaster, most annual meetings and events produce emotional peaks and valleys. Attendees experience the ups and downs, sideway jerks, occasional upside down loops or sudden stops of the event.
Some of the emotions were incidental. Some were intentionally orchestrated by the meeting professional. Most of the attendees’ feelings are happenstance, secondary to the conference plans.
Conference and event organizers are ultimately responsible for setting the emotional highs and lows of their event. Although rarely do event professionals intentionally consider the emotional flow.
The Event Ho-Hum Train Ride
Imagine a roller coaster built exclusively on logistics without any thought given to riders’ experience. All of the pieces are organized well. It’s safe and risk free. The experience makes it around the track without any hiccups.
Yet the event feels all too familiar. It’s like uneventful obligatory amusement park train ride. Cautious, common, predictable with changing landscapes only.
The clackety-clack of the track’s lectures lull attendees to sleep. Riders are like spectators watching an event and wishing it had some emotional ecstasy. They are craving an event organism and faking it so they are not rude to the conference organizers who sweated for days planning the event. Yet they will talk about the uneventful experience with their friends, families and even enemies. And not in a positive way. It’s a ticketed-event experience without a payout.
The ho-hum train ride is not something thrill-seeking attendees would scream with excitement and want to ride again. It’s more like a ride people want to experience when they are nauseous and tired. It’s a flat-line experience.
If we compared the emotional experience of most annual meetings and events to an amusement park ride, what would it be? What type of amusement park experience do you want for the events or conferences you attend? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
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kare anderson says
What an apt metaphor for creating a meaningful, memorable meeting experience. It is akin to my storyboarding process, taken from the approach of movie directors and creators of TV advertising – mapping the moment-by-moment experience to pull people into the “story”/experience, build up to one or more climatic moments yet one obvious, transformative highlight, and the satisfying ending.
Jeff Hurt says
Thanks for reminding us of another great approach to consider when planning events. Use your storyboard process and think about the event like a movie director to connect people with a story and experience. Anyone ever try this approach in your event planning? If yes, please share your experience.
Jim Kelley says
Jeff…I could not agree with you more. I recently spend a day at an amusement park with the family and wanted to share what I experienced in regards to roller coasters and how I evaluated the experiences and some analogy to learning environments. My first experience with rollers coasters as a child were with classic wooden coaster with the clackety-clack and experience of being jostled from side to side…compare that to todays smoother metal coaster which can do things such as inverted drops and loops that could never be done with wood and in many cases are mechanically absent of noise and generally smooth in regards to the ride. Both were exciting, but the wooden roller coaster was more comfortable, as it appealed to my past experiences, particular in my ability to process the experience. Many of the newer metal coasters caused me some anxiety, in large part because they were different then my past experience, but then I realized the lack of my ability to process them visually caused me a great deal of anxiety. The way these coasters were laid through the park, I could not see the path they were going to take me on and with no visual reference came a high level of anxiety; probably not much different then people that go into a session and don’t know what is going to happen during the session. One coaster metal coaster positioned in a newer open area of the park eased some of that anxiety by piping in traditional coaster clackety clack along the ride and pneumatically controlled the seats to move side to side to create that jostling experience and due to its location I could see (visualize) what I was in for. In essence they created an experience (learning environment) that appealed to me by allowing me to experience it both visually and auditory, not much different then the way many of us learn.
Jeff Hurt says
Thanks for taking the analogy further and applying it to learning and events. Your description of a metal coaster that appealed to the wooden coaster lovers articulates how important our senses our to learning and experiences. Thanks for bringing that point to the forefront.