Being in school for social work was interesting because while there are definitely things that you need to learn in order to do the job well, the main skill it requires is empathy, which is nearly impossible to teach in a classroom. Fortunately, social work programs require field work where you get to build your empathy skills. Largely, though, I think empathy is something that just has to develop with time and conscious thought.
Empathy is an incredibly important life skill because it is useful in almost any situation, but in particular I love the way it intersects with my job at Map Dynamics. In software, “Empathic Design” is a new buzzword that really just means putting yourself in the user’s shoes and imagining what the user is thinking and feeling, and building your design based on that. It seems like an extremely simple concept, but if you’ve ever used a frustrating piece of software, you know it’s not always present!
To me though, the concepts of empathic design applies to so much more than software. Empathic design applies to anything you want your customers or members to experience. It’s particularly important when designing an event. We typically use the word “planning” for an event, but I think designing is actually more appropriate. That language assumes that you are taking creative ownership over your event and the experience, which is vital.
So what does empathic design look like for events?
The first step is to imagine every piece of the event experience. This goes from the first time the attendee learns your event exists, to the last time they ever think about it. An event lasts so much longer than the 2-3 days you have your programming! Here are some examples of things you’ll want to think about.
Before the Event
During the Event
After the Event
Of course this is not an exhaustive list of the things to think of when designing an event, but imagining it from a human perspective is an excellent way to start. Imagine your attendees as complete people with families back home, personal lives, and different personality types. While more and more education is moving to the virtual space, in-person events are still (literally) the place to be for networking and fostering connection. What you’re selling is an experience, and if you can design it with empathy you’ll be able to create a much better one for your attendees!