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The Talking Point: The IMEX Group Podcast with Kit Watts and Ruud Janssen #Nature in #EventDesign

A podcast from the IMEX Group. The Talking Point explores the biggest topics in the Meetings and events space. Twice a month Kit Watts, IMEX Strategic Communications Director, talks with people influencing positive change in the industry, through the lens of their annual Talking Point for 2020 and 2021: NATURE.

It’s episode 2 of The Talking Point! We’re embracing nature in event design with @RuudWJanssen. Find out about nature in the event design process, how events are shifting to experiences and how event planners can use nature to influence the behaviour


[00:00:00] I love being in nature, finding your piece of quiet on self and reflection, nothing beats nature,

a podcast from the IMEX group. They’re talking point explores the biggest topics in the meetings. Space twice a month. We talk with people who are positively influencing change in our industry today. We’re exploring nature in event design with Rudy Anson managing partner and co-founder of the event design collective.

So whether you’re listening in the gym on your journey to work, or frankly, anywhere else, we really hope you enjoy the IMEX group podcast.

Rude. It turns out the, or Dutchman who lives in Switzerland because of your love of nature. Is that right? I love the mountains. The tallest mountain in the Netherlands, I think is 328 meters. [00:01:00] And I currently live at double that altitude. I have two English bulldogs. There are my sanity check when I’m basically in my home in Switzerland and the other ones that keep my rhythm, you can set the clock when they want.

They will tell you when they want to go take a walk in nature and their timing is much better than mine. I want you to improve your inner bulldog. How much does the issue of nature, the natural environment? How does that inform the event design process? Okay. You try to deal with it consciously, but very often he does let me cite this example.

So I’ve been to this event three times in a row. That’s pretty intense in a castle in Poland. With hidden Dungeons and strange things going on for a full week. I realized that it took me quite a bit of time to decompress from the event and even just walking in the mountains in Switzerland wasn’t enough and actually went diving the week afterwards, for which, for me is like the extreme form of immersion in nature.[00:02:00] 

Because you can’t talk, you suppress one of the senses you’re underwater. You can S you need to have a buddy. You cannot dive alone. Right? It’s not a solo sport. And even if you dive with people, you don’t know, you can spend an hour under one. Observing the most incredible stuff, something we don’t understand at all and come up and be best friends for the rest of your life.

Without speaking of word, that’s amazing. Right? That’s extraordinary. I think that shows the power of nature. Um, and also the beings in nature, we’ve done 18 event design certificate programs at universities in different places on the planet. Most of them are. In the campus environment where you’re inside the room very much like we’re used to doing at conferences and events, because we have an event program in January in San Diego.

And really because the panels in the wall are not suited for hanging our event. Canvases. We use these poster boards that you can very easily take outside and put under a Palm tree. So we see the actual dynamic of people designing inside [00:03:00] and outside side by side and you see impact and how people get.

No way to kind of laughable. It might be two words that come towards the mind. Right? You, you can not explain what happened to you when you went through it yet. You know, you went through it and then ineffable, meaning that if you would try to explain that to someone else, you wouldn’t be able to do that.

Right. I didn’t know what these words meant until I experienced three times. And we tried to map out what actually happens in a canvas because we get very geeky about coding and decoding behavior change and how it happens at events. You know, we, we try to understand this. Because we’re not scientists. We kind of use our very human thinking to try and label it and maybe draw it out or maybe take pictures of it while it happens and then figure out what happens in the gutters between the pictures, like in a comic book or right.

And that in itself and storylines from different stakeholders is a fascinating phenomenon. That’s why.

How do your clients or people who are interested [00:04:00] in doing the event, canvas process, does this come up as a subject for them intuitively or is it, are you starting to see it more in that design process or a desire for connection or tool, or is it even sometimes for you to state the obvious, which is, you know, Process we’ve ended up talking about all morning and the canvas you’ve ended up with is a very sort of internal, uh, looking one or perhaps a very built environment.

Looking one, if you’ve considered all the elements of your human delegates, I think the biggest context that you have are the humans themselves, wherever the humans are, could be the open air. It could be in a closed room. It could be wherever it needs to be. Definition of an event that we use is anything that changes behavior and the desired direction of change before.

Which involves at least two stakeholders. This implies that it has a human to human interaction as its core we’re creatures of habit. Now we’re like the penguins walking on the ice, creating this little trench that we all walk through and thinking that’s the only way to go. [00:05:00] We’re very easily falling into the trap of thinking that, you know, ballrooms, foyer spaces, airports, and everything in between is the core ingredient of doing.

So the humans can determine where they are, right? Cause we can get up and get out of the room and walk outside and have the conversation. But then even the recording of this podcast, we’re very sensitive to audio. If you would have too much surrounding noise, now the room is a great cubicle to record a podcast.

And this conversation, this interaction becomes more effective because of it creates focus. You know, you have kind of padded, you have things around that make the audio and the acoustic. Uh, ideal. Right? So we’re creatures of habit and breaking habits with everything we know is difficult. I don’t think that’s the most difficult thing.

I think we can break that habit. I think one of the most difficult things is changing the infrastructure around the habits. The business models are based on our habits. If the business model is too [00:06:00] stars too strong, or is what drives the habits. And if you change the habits that business model would change.

It would mean revenue loss for a specific vendor sets. It would mean that infrastructure that’s built for the long-term will no longer be purposeful. I think that’s where the really scary change will happen down the line because these things are built for the long-term usually are not for the short term, but don’t we already seeing some of that change happens.

I w as you were talking, I was thinking about even the, I call it the E word, the shift from the word event to experience. A demonstration of this broader canvas that we’re now all trying to embrace when we do plan and deliver curate and event is obviously I’m a writer. So I love words. But to me that that word is quite powerful because in itself it breaks us away from the boundary of thinking of it as an event, but thinking of, and cherishing the idea that there’s a human here, who’s in having a very strong [00:07:00] internal experience that you get.

We get to guide and inform. I’m very privileged position in that, you know, your fascination with words, I have the same thing with sounds, right. It’s I’m fascinated by sound. I’ve recently started playing the ALP horn,

which is a Swiss instruments, uh, without any keys, it’s basically a piece of wood that grows at 1600 meters altitude and the very specific angle of. And they chop it into two pieces and they carve it out like a canoe and it becomes this long three meter, 40 piece of wood out of three pieces that has 16 to 19 and harmonics.

The outport is really the old iPhone, right. It’s what they used to call out over kilometers, distance and mountains to communicate to each other. And in order to do that, you need a specific echo or direction or humidity in the air or whatever it is that determines how far the sound okay. And it’s fascinating when you start thinking about that [00:08:00] interactions of humans, plus their devices, whatever they may be, maybe a piece of wood, you know, a tree trunk that you kind of, you know, try to make sound out of or a technical device.

We use to record a podcast. Still the influence of the people is what changes to things. I think groups have harmonics and how they communicate and how they resonate with you. I find that, uh, you know, the people that designed events using this methodology, it’s usually a group of 6, 7, 8 people, ideally seven who go through a process to think together.

And by the togetherness of different people, with different brains and different backgrounds and different preferences, you see that they have different ways of approaching what will create the best behavior change for what you’re trying to design within the design restrictions is the thing. And I think this is where the power of events comes in.

Events become experiences when people in those events are able to change differently or quicker or differently from the way that they would do that individually or in a smaller group. [00:09:00] I think that diversity in that collective is what makes it work, right? So our organization is called the event design collective for a reason when the collective does something it’s very different than when one person.

And by definition, you cannot. What we do is called event design. You can’t do it alone. It’s just not possible. I’m not going to try it on my own. It just sounds fun to me. That’s why seven people do it together. Seven people do that together, and then it’s fun when you allow people to prototype differently.

After having framed the problem to create prototypes around a certain behavior change, and you’d be amazed at what, how well they can design because the more people are included in this. And can become part of the prototyping and the inclusive of ideas and things that they want out of it, because they’re not biased by restriction or by pre-programmed habits.

You still need to curate down to the effect of time. You want to spend together with that group of people. But the inclusives of a thought at a much larger scale [00:10:00] becomes a very, that in itself became very valuable. Before you have what we would then call the events. Right? But they’re all events. It’s just a series of interactions between humans that create a bigger interaction between humans and then dissipate into interactions of smaller groups of humans to then build up to the next, you know, I mean, you guys do the same at IMAX, right?

It’s core team, different stakeholders, you bring them together. And then all of a sudden 14,000 people show up in Las Vegas or in Frankfurt. It’s amazing. It’s a surprise to me. And obviously our team has been where we’re 65 people based in Brighton in the UK. And we spend all year round working on this and then we get here and it’s suddenly alive and it still surprises me every time.

It’s like a moment it’s like magic. I mean, I should understand how we do it, but I still don’t. If there is something very much cool about this business and the guests, that’s why people that you meet, he keep coming back and working in it. There’s something that feeds our human desire for connection. [00:11:00] You know, we are all connected as is our strap line.

And for no, it is not a coincidence it’s because we, we truly believe that humans are connected. We were connected, connected by our basic humanity. That’s what we share. But also in this industry we’re only ever going to improve iMac stands for uniting and advancing the industry that’s only ever going to happen collectively.

It’s not a one man, one woman. Very true. Creating a family, feeling like you guys do at IMEX. It takes a very big chunk of let’s say business world into a place. It becomes kind of this family cubicle. It’s a big family, your 5,000 people. I mean, how many people come to IMEX America? 14,000 people. That’s like, I can’t imagine my family to be that big.

My family’s four, I’ve got two kids and two dogs and my wife and it’s lots of, definitely six of us. So that’s kind of family I can normally embrace, but here I have new family members in the same line of work. It’s funny. It was just [00:12:00] having a conversation before we came in with four or five different people who I keep meeting in different parts of the world.

We’re having different contextual conversations. But I remember going to the very first IMEX in Frankfurt and now this one, you know, X number of years later, And you look at all the iterations and the change in between of the people you spoke with, how they’re developing, why they keep gravitating back to this.

That’s fascinating. That’s nature as well. That’s a human nature, I guess.

If you want to know more about IMX and the work we do, you can find us or you can seek us out on the usual social media channels. We’ve put all the notes below for you. Otherwise we hope to see you next time.[00:13:00]