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Leadership, Fun and Noise: Keys to Shaping Engaging Experiences 

Your expectations shape the experiences you create.

Meaningful experiences don’t just happen, guidance is such a key element that brings it all together.

It’s similar to cooking. You can follow the recipe to the letter, but where is the fun in that? The real magic happens when you throw in spontaneity, embrace the unexpected, add something new and let the flavour of the moment unfold naturally. 

When you get it right, it fosters active participation, a real sense of enjoyment and deeper connections.

Let’s look at shaping the experience and not always following what inertia has taught us.

Better Experiences Go Against The Norm

It’s the commitment to immerse ourselves fully, and not to get too comfortable with familiarity but sometimes embrace the unknown. This allows people to experience what they haven’t been a part of before. 

A friend mentioned they had a haircut whilst in Amsterdam. Bubblekid is a hairdresser that breaks a custom when it comes to a haircut. When you visit the salon, there are no mirrors. Your ultimate trust is in someone else, rather than a ‘Can I have a bit more off.’ The delivery is still a haircut, but it’s the way that it’s done is different.

The only way to have the experience is to be a part of the experience. For instance, when we have our Lunch Club events, whilst a work-themed event, we want it to be fun. The restaurant is known for its huge pizzas and bringing in World Records to each event, now has its place as an icebreaker. It’s for people to know that joining in is central to everything that is happening. 

It’s all about pushing the needle and how an experience can become better, over time, based on what you are learning along the way. It’s never a new experience if all you is what everyone has done before. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures, but the tiny additions can make such a difference. 

Navigating People Coming Together

Two months from now is YATM Creator Day (April 25th). People are travelling from around the country to come to Poole.

Since 2022 we introduced an element to the day where people work together. This doesn’t happen at too many events where there is an emphasis on making the most of people with the same shared mindset, in the same place, for a moment in time.

Perhaps this is something you plan to do with your efforts, where you are asking people to do something they haven’t done before, or experienced? I now realise that what matters is setting the stage for people to work together and seamlessly transition from being a host to a facilitator.

Here’s where I fumbled in the past and the lessons I picked up along the way when it comes to shaping a better experience:

Crystal-Clear Communication: 

It’s easy to assume that if you put the information on a website, everyone will read it. People don’t always do that, so you can’t rely on one medium to convey a message. Lesson learned. When people are involved, communication needs to be everywhere, not just in one corner. For instance, on Tuesday this week, we had a session on Zoom explaining the whole day. We haven’t done this before. 

Making People Feel at Ease: 

Introducing a “working together” section, in 2022, was a bit like throwing everyone into the deep end. Not everyone took the plunge. Why? People need to feel safe, not like they’re about to be judged for their work. It’s voluntary, but for a part of the day, everyone has to recognise that it’s an opportunity to get to know others better and recognise people are on their side.

Guiding, Not Assuming

When you’ve got a plan in your head, remember, it’s only in your head. I learned the hard way that assuming everyone would catch on didn’t work. Clear guidance at every step is key. When you start something new, you have to be specific at every step.

Fun Shouldn’t Be Hidden Away

In the pursuit of productivity, I forgot that we’re all normal. People need a bit of fun with their work. I was too focused on the “doing” part, forgetting that sometimes, you need to let your hair down. There has to be a real sense of enjoyment that goes hand in hand with the activity.

Where Structure Heightens The Experience 

So, here we are in 2024, taking things up a notch but still keeping true to our intentions. 

Being Crystal Clear from the Get-Go 

Transparency is everything. Letting people know what’s expected of them and what they can expect in return. This element of fun has to be clear from the outset. It doesn’t help if people think they are about to walk into a ‘round table’ or a ‘hot seat’ type environment where they think they may be judged by others. For the record, we don’t do that at YATM.

Prepping the Ground

What we are doing this year is effectively starting the events two months before. For instance, a Saturday email now helps to set the scene and make sure everyone is comfortable. I want people to feel ready and excited before entering a venue. It is important to promote familiarity. 

We have also introduced a WhatsApp Group for Creator Day. The reason we have WhatsApp Groups for our events is to heighten bonds. It’s good for people to look around and connect beforehand.

Finding Leaders

When you take everything on board and it is all on your shoulders, chaos ensues. It is always important to bring others in who are familiar and want to help out. It could be adding skills that you don’t have. For instance, we have a surprise at the start of Creator Day, through to Gordon Fong taking the ‘collective action’ segment for another year where everyone joins in, for a shared task.

Letting Loose and Getting Loud

When you want people to join in, it’s great to be noisy. The only way for people to partner up with others is to recognise a way that is easy to participate and has that element of controlled chaos and fun. The louder, the better. 

Guiding Participation 

Engagement is the secret sauce. It helps progress the discussion and encourages the group to join in. During Creator Day we encourage being around others. It’s about empowering the flow of conversation. We make sure it doesn’t stop when the event finishes. We keep the chat alive, whether on WhatsApp or LinkedIn, because good vibes need to keep rolling.

Find A Way To Conclude 

As well as a start, there has to be a way to galvanise and conclude the journey together. 

Our way to finish is going to be to invite the groups to share what they produced, on Zoom. This also provides the opportunity to connect with others who were not in the same group but at the same event. From ideas bouncing around to the final creation, every voice matters.

Let’s Round-Up 

The journey of shaping better experiences is more than just a series of planned steps. I realise that everyone taking something from joining in to say, ‘That felt good,’ comes from a blend of clear communication, shared expectations, and a touch of spontaneous fun.

Embracing the unknown is fine, you never know what you can uncover to work at and progress from the initial idea. To make it work, it does require guidance, clarity and above else active participation for everyone to feel a sense of achievement.  

For YATM, we’ll keep going with the ‘working together’ giant experiment. It’s something new, but I’d rather learn each year and make it a positive experience where there is transparency, inclusion and guidance and where everyone can look back and recognise they were a part of something special. 

Whatever you create for people to join in with, in the end, it’s not just about the event; it’s about the connections made, the collaborations formed, and the shared sense of being part of something extraordinary. 

Shaping a better experience is an ongoing journey, and being committed to learning, evolving, and making each year a positive step forward.

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