Today I saw Disney release drone footage of its enormous 14-acre upcoming attraction, Star Wars Land, which is set to open in 2019. No matter if you are a lover, hater or apathetic about the Star Wars franchise, I believe the message here is that we need to pay attention to the rise of interactive and immersive experiences.

With the big guns pouring billions of dollars into making attractions more immersive, more interactive and more personal, this is a trend that brands, venue owners and those in the entertainment industry need to continue to unpack and understand if they are going to keep up with consumer expectations.

And what does this means for workplaces, conferences and brands, given that the consumers in these spaces are often the same demographic that are engaging with the Disney’s and Universal Studios of the world.

What is an interactive or immersive experience?

The key differentiator that makes an event or attraction experiential is that the interaction invites customers to actively participate in the experience or brand.

In our work we talk about how we can move participants from passive observers to active contributors by repositioning their role in the experience, giving them clear pathways to active participation and making their choices produce meaningful outcomes. No longer is just having big visual wow factors enough (although they still play a part). People are desperate to be contributors which can make their experience incredibly personal, and therefore memorable and note worth/share worthy.

Looking beyond Disney, the long standing Burning Man Festival is another iconic event to draw a few lessons from. This is a festival that continues to grow in popularity and be replicated throughout the world. Those who attend Burning Man are required to bring their own contribution to add their mark to a barter economy based on anything other than money. Again, a clear example of giving participants the opportunity to actively contribute to the creation of an experience.

The experiences that brands, venues and entertainment providers create don’t need to be at the scale of Burning Man, but they do need to consider how to put the customer at the centre of the experience, taking every opportunity to customise elements of that experience to their choices and preferences.

Experiences for employees and teams

Workplaces are wanting more from their employees and employees are wanting more from their workplaces. At the same time, excitement, meaning, ownership and connection are increasingly important to the growing millennial workforce. A very easy way to ensure that employees are engaged is by providing them with unique experiences that encapsulate some of these emerging trends and therefore says: ‘yep, we’re in the know, or ahead of the curve, and you guys are worth this’. The incredible benefit to business is that when employees feel seen, appreciated and connected to their workmates, their productivity sky rockets, as does their retention.

But like Disney and Burning Man, you need to think outside of the box to bring more excitement, more technology and more personalisation to keep up with the shifting expectations. No longer can employers afford to present the standard solution. P.S. this is something we can help you with – it’s our passion!

For Conferences and Festivals

Oh man, how many times have you almost fallen asleep during a conference, despite the content being incredibly relevant and interesting. Tangible, hands on, meaningful participant contribution is what will now stick with delegates.

The challenge here is how do you present something surprising and unique enough to meet their expectations?

Consider the SxSW or annual Sales Force conference in the USA. The activations that are happening throughout and alongside these conferences are insanely cool. As one of many examples, the Westworld brand have built their own interactive experience within SxSW that is a full replica of the town that is the centre piece of the TV franchise. Perhaps overkill for what is needed in your industry, but maybe this is the cut through that is now needed to really stand out.

Three years ago brands were looking to smaller activations to get cut through. This year it is this full immersive, participant driven, Westworld experience that is the main attraction, to the point that delegates are waiting up to 9 hours in line to get a slice of the action.

Perhaps an example that is a little easier to grasp is the work that Jean-Francois Bourchard is doing to reinvent his conferences with a Cirque du Soleil style flair.

Be bold enough to take a risk to be unique and creative! It is the growing trend and you might just be seen as the next forward thinker.

Not sure where to start? If you want to shoot the breeze and get the creative juices flowing, we are just a phone call or email away!

Giovanna Shakhovskoy

Author Giovanna Shakhovskoy

The ‘all-rounder’, Giovanna has fingers in many pies, but thrives in managing people, working in experience design and supporting production. Giovanna is the person to talk to about partnerships and big ideas!

More posts by Giovanna Shakhovskoy