Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hygge for events

I read about hygge (pronounced 'hoo-ga') in December's issue of The Meeting Professional and was immediately intrigued. From what I've read since, I describe it as cuddling by the fireplace while drinking wine or hot cocoa. What in the world does this have to do with events? Well, that is exactly what I thought I'd try to figure out.

In my role as the Attendee Experience Manager for an association with a large conference, I'm always looking for ways to make my attendees more comfortable. Hence, why I made the connection to hygge. Events can be overstimulating and lonely (and cold!) - the exact opposite of hygge.

Challenge accepted!

Let's think about creating a cozy feeling for four of your attendees' five senses throughout your event.

The first sense your attendee uses when engaging with you is probably sight because they are most likely reading about your event online. Does your website give them a calming, comforting feeling that they belong at your event or are you too focused on making it sound super exciting?

Sight is also one of the first senses to be engaged upon arrival. Event professionals have very little control over our attendees' travel experience to our events. However, when I read about CES and PCMA Convening Leaders setting up badge pickup in an event-specific airport lounge, I was very excited by the opportunity for attendees to relax a bit while they were waiting for their luggage. I heard that PCMA had music (engaging their sense of hearing) and drinks (engaging their sense of taste). I wasn't there, but I would describe what I heard about as cozy!

Another way to engage with your attendees' sense of hearing is to have human greeters. Again, I wonder if our inclination would be to make sure the people welcoming our attendees are over-the-top excited when we say "friendly", when in fact, our attendees need a more calming welcoming into an environment that is overstimulating with excessive signage.

They may have had comfy couches for resting in this airport arrival lounge as well. Have you thought about extra comfy furniture for your arrival experience at the venue? I think our inclination often times is to look clean and modern and we lose the sense of coziness. This may also be a result of efficiency. A hard chair, stool, ottoman, etc will take up less space than something more plush. I will have two very different experiences using my sense of touch (even if I'm not using my hands to touch something!).

I attended an event in a small venue that used couches where you would normally have classroom or theater style seating. I felt very comfortable! It was also a little too dark at times so clearly we have to create the perfect balance of making our attendees cozy but not so comfortable that they fall asleep. Go back to what the purpose of the space is. Hopefully, your session rooms are designed for engagement.

Okay, so we want some stimulation, especially the learning/contributing variety and that isn't exactly hygge. I can think of a way to make audience participation a little more comfortable for some. Use technology like social media, event apps, crowd mics and other audience engagement apps to give a voice to those who aren't as comfortable using their actual voice.


I could probably keep rambling, but I'd love to hear your ideas as well!