Event Navigation

by Jeannie Walters

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event navigationSometimes things just present themselves. As we announced our theme for the month of June was findability – a critical component to the customer experience – a few of us attended various conferences and noticed something. Event navigation – the way attendees, presenters, exhibitors and others find their way around a typically new experience – has a long way to go.

Event planners are amazing and I really do respect they work they do. That’s my disclaimer here. I do plan some events like kids’ birthday parties and local networking events for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and every time I’m reminded how many details are involved. Details, details, and more details!

But helping attendees navigate the myriad simultaneous events, crazy big and loud exhibit halls and oh! those restrooms should rank high as a priority for planners. Event navigation is often the last detail tackled since the other details need to fall in place first.

Event NavigationOne example: a recent event touted their mobile event site, but the site itself didn’t load to the current day. Once opened, the user had to navigate to each day, then the time, then open up the agenda from there. It also didn’t provide details needed, like speakers. And while it was mobile optimized, it was organized by “track” which really is more about organizing the speakers and presentations in ways that make sense to the planners, not necessarily attendees. Considering when and how a user might need this mobile information, when walking through crowded, unfamiliar hallways while deciding on-the-go which session to attend next, it seems a shame not to make it more simple.

Then there was the signage. Instead of having unique signs for each presentation, there were only signs identifying the track. This meant dozens of attendees were scrambling to find either the mobile schedule or pull out the huge conference book to see if this was indeed where they should be.

I spotted several event organizers throughout the event, but they were busy taking pictures of the crowds in the hallways. The “badge checkers” at the ballroom doors were tasked with that one job. They were not there to inform attendees which specific session was happening.

There was also no time – not one iota of a second – between sessions, also indicating the organizers expected attendees to sit in one ballroom, absorbing nothing but the information from one track, instead of needing a minute or two to find a seat in another room. Because of this, it was easy to miss the introductions, leading to more confusion as attendees sat down and leaned over to one another, asking “Who is that speaking?”

Again, the details of event planning are overwhelming. But I bring this up because it’s a perfect example of how an outside-in perspective and objective evaluation can highlight issues with the experience that will most likely be missed on post-event surveys or the like. Asking “Please rate this speaker” is a very different question than “Was it easy to find?”

What do you think? Should attendees be responsible for planning their entire experience in advance? How can we improve event navigation?

Photo credit: Bearfaced via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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