As part of our work with family-friendly brands, along with our history of producing immersive child-focused experiences, we have cultivated several beliefs and principles that we bring to bear when developing new experiences.
Most importantly, for consumers, memories need to be made. As to event content, this means including photo opportunities, ways for adults and children to play and learn together, activities that can’t be done at home and are unique to the event, and “wow factors.” In addition to post-event consumer surveying, one of the best gauges of an event’s success is the amount of social photo sharing and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Nothing is more important to the consumer than value. They are happy to pay for a better experience, and resent over-paying for a poor one. It is vital to achieve a balance between a good experience and a fair price.
Some experiences need to be “high-touch” with regard to event staff. For educational experiences, sometimes parents are uncomfortable answering questions that children may ask, therefore content-knowledgeable staff is helpful. Staff can also facilitate learning and activity engagement, along with keeping the assets running and the show floor clean and presentable.
Visitor amenities are a must and should include a staffed information area, first aid, mommy’s and daddy’s rooms (for nursing, diaper changing, etc), ample seating for adults, and plenty of concessions (including kids’ meals). Additionally, pre- and post-event consumer hotlines need to be adequately staffed, social media questions immediately answered, and on-site security and lost child policies in place.
Cleanliness of the event space is key, especially with children’s events. Lots of hand sanitizer is necessary. Additionally, “out of order” signs and broken or frayed assets significantly reduces the polish of the event.
Planning an Experience
Budgets reign, are flexible and ever-evolving. Expenses rise and fall with the size and scope of the specific venue, over the course of a year, and certainly in the development of capital assets. Pricing must also be variable to meet the consumer’s value proposition. We believe in strong financial management, continually tweaking budgets and finding the sweet spot of profitability, quality and a fair price.
Experience design is an iterative vs. linear process, and continually needs improvement and the addition of new experiences even after deployment. Consumer feedback will help to identify areas for improvement. An ongoing capital expense budget needs to be used for the development and production of new experiences as well as asset refurbishment and replacement.
Marketing of the event needs to be considered in the early stages of concept ideation. Identifying five splashy “wow factor” experiences to include in event promotions will help sell tickets and build consumer excitement.
Throughput is a vital concern. Children waiting in long lines makes for cranky kids, which makes for unhappy parents and significantly reduces the value proposition. Crowd control needs to be carefully curated, and wait times over 20 minutes should be avoided. When possible, incorporate queuetainment to reduce the strain of a wait.
No one reads signs. Although necessary, the event needs to be designed as if signage is secondary for wayfinding purposes.
Customer feedback is of utmost importance. BuzzEngine believes in surveying consumers using quantitative and qualitative data, with NPS scores used as a key metric.
Look vs. do/learn vs. play. Child-friendly events must be “do” experiences. A text-heavy experience that involves a good deal of reading feels like school to children. Kids also read and interpret at different levels. That said, parents want to feel that their child is learning, which is possible without lots of text. Activities should be multi-sensory and incorporate physical activity where possible.
Everyone is a kid, including the parents. Family-friendly events need to offer activities that appeal to all members of the visiting group. Activities where kids AND parents are participating together are often the best.
Technology is nice and splashy, but should not be included at the expense of throughput and the overall consumer experience. Parents, in fact, want opportunities for kids to get away from technology/“the screen."