Here it is. My take on making comprehensive overview of what to think about when designing an event or an activity of any kind. Things to think about is who is it for and why should they care about doing it? Look what others have designed before you and steal the best parts and experiment with them.
1. Build a story that it is easy to share into the activity you are designing!
2. Use Design Thinking! Who is your audience?
3. Onboarding and sacrifice are things to consider.
4. Find your ambassadors and elevate them!
5. Give people the option to hack and improve the experience!
6. Build content and a community around your event and prolong the experience!
Make things full with Flow, Fun, Friends and Meaning [Design For Engagement]
When designing any kind of activity, game, competition, puzzle, event, learning, system or challenge it’s good to have in mind the basic fundamentals of what motivates and triggers people to join in or take action. This is also great advice when doing crowdfunding events on sites like Kickstarter.
The activity can be learning a skill or a trade. All things we do is practice and leaning in some way towards some form improvement or mastery. When things are “Just For Fun”, it’s mostly then we are learning the fastest. Getting into “Flow” is usually the most effective way of learning something or to be the most productive in that activity. Some of the thinking here I have borrowed directly from Amy Jo Kim’s lecture mostly about gaming. I think it can be applied to most human activities. I also focus mainly on the positive motivations. Sure there are many strong negative feelings that drives change and motivation like fear, hate, revenge. But I don’t go to into how to design for them here. Instead I try to focus what makes things fly.
If you think something is missing or needs to be changed just comment below or contact me 🙂
Lets do better design thinking when we design our activities.
Triggers of The Element
[Cognitive – Athletic – Competition – Cooperation – Exploration – Expression- Collecting]
There are 6 elements in an activity that can be combined to trigger different kind of things in people: Cognitive Challenge, Athletic Challenge, Competitive, Cooperation, Exploration, Expression. The users, combatant, player and adventurer is just not one style but a combination of these. Get to know your different user styles of the activity. Find out what types they are and how to design for them.
There is also the bonus category of Collecting
1 Cognitive Challenge
Many games – puzzles and activities revolve around a cognitive challenge that we can solve in some kind. Without this challenge many of feel that a challenge becomes dull rather shortly. It is all about hitting that sweet-spot of Flow where the challenge is just hard enough.
2 Athletic & Agility Challenge
Just as many activities contains challenges for the brain many other contains physical challenges for the muscles in some way. Be it agility, endurance, strength, or athletic ability. Almost all sports fall in the category and triggers us in so many ways. But there are also lots of other activities that we do just for fun or the challenge of intrinsic mastery. Here is also the sweet-spot of Flow somthing thats makes the activity engaging.
Many of us trigger by the need to compete and measure us against each other. Be it the sole competitor or a whole team against each other. This is a basic human need. The need to seem strong in front the tribe. And to seem extra useful for the Tribe. This usually followed by increased status, fame and attractiveness in the fair sex.
Competitions, Sports, Games and different forms of Challenges can been used to trigger this part of us.
4 Cooperation & Social
Humanities greatest feast is the ability to co-operate towards a common goal. A lone human had little chance of survival in the past. A great tribe of a 100 individuals could solve almost anything. We have it built into our DNA to work together and get rewarded for it on many levels. Jonathan Haidt explains this so well.
It feels great giving and helping others without the need for reciprocity. It is what binds tribes together.
Some people just like to play games as it is an activity we do together with other people. We like to do social activities.
We humans are also explorers by nature. Not all, but some of us get the sudden urge to seek out new unknown territory to wander in. The lust for exploration is very strong and can take form in many shapes. This is very powerfully portrayed in the this epic clip narrated by Carl Sagan: Wanderers.
Activities that includes Adventure, Mystique and Puzzles Solving are all good ways to “explore” this drive in human nature.
One of our most unique traits is the ability and need to express ourselves. From how we look, dress and garnish our body to external expression through art and stories. The need to both be unique, and fit in, in the tribe at the same time. To put our twist on ourselves. And also the need to create, tinker, improve and “hack” things.
Radical Self-Expression is also part of one the 10 principles of Burning Man.
Making Things Magic!
Of course there are many more needs and desires that drive us humans like love, lust, belonging, righteousness, rebellion, fear, hate, revenge and need for the adrenaline rush. Still, these 6 big is a great way to start when designing an activity. Just focusing on one of them works great. Or combining them for a complex activity that attracts different people for different reasons works even gretater. Especial if it’s an activity done together with others.
With this is in mind, we can easier understand how to make an event more magic.
7 Harvesting – Collecting & Hoarding
There is also another aspect we trigger when we play games. Is has to do mostly with gathering side of Hunter gathering, that later lead to many of us being able to farm and harvest as a way of living. It’s both sowing things, and help them grow, and at last harvesting them.
We also like to collecting things. And when have things we like to sort and arrange them in different ways too. We get a kick out of finding that rare bush of berries or that occasional lagoon full of oysters. This is easily transferable into an activity or game of any kind where we can collect things and hunt down rare objects.
It’s okay to be hoarder 😉
Intrinsic Motivations and PERMA
When we know what kind of activity to make we can then increase the level of engagement people feel when doing it. There are many models and names for the intrinsic motivations we have. I chose to incorporate them into Martin Seligmans’s and Jane McGonigal’s PERMA model. In it we divide out internal motivations into 5 categories. One that can arguably be said is missing is the reward we feel during and after any physical performance. And ultimately like I do, the ability to put oneself into trance and triggering the Hive-Switch in the brain. Still here we go. Put more PERMA into your design:
P – Positive Emotions – We all like experiencing positive emotions like urgent optimism, joy, peace, gratitude, satisfaction, trust, pride, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love. These emotions move us along when triggering the other forms of motivations. Arguably we can put the feelings we feel when sexually aroused or the rush we feel when dancing with danger here too.
E – Engagement (or flow) – When a situation, task, or project are in the sweet-spot between our current skill level and the difficulty of the activity we often experience a state of flow. We lose track of time & space around us. We becomes totally engulfed in the activity at hand. The ability for a person or a whole team to themselves into flow has been measured to be the largest contributor to the success of any endeavour. This is linked to the oh so popular concept of following ones passion. This is the right path towards mastery.
R – Relationships – The need for belonging in a social context is very strong. We all want to be seen, heard and acknowledged within the tribe. It’s also more important to been known for contributing to the tribe than actually doing it without any recognition.
Being social with others is at the core of what it is to being human. When having good relationships with others, is when are at our best. Co-operation and friendly competition brings out the best in us. Make the user interact with others in the system or have them sharing about content in the system outside it.
M – Meaning – Meaning comes from creating a purposeful narrative about our lives. A story where we are part in something bigger than our-self. We will often sacralize something in the group that brings meaning to us. Finding ones purpose in life can be a powerful thing indeed. Humans have it in them seek meaning and spirituality. It’s what we do. Here is great clip about Burning Man explaining it all.
Designing activities with a greater purpose and a greater vision behind them is the way to go. So many things and leaders in our society, act without a clear vision where they are taking us.
A – Accomplishments – We often seek Mastery in some form. And completing our goals and following our core values. Or we can just get good feedback and rewards from an activity we are carrying out, which also give great satisfaction. Enhance the progress the user is making by giving them great feedback.
Integrate feedback into the activity loop of the current activity. We just love checking things of our to-do list. Or getting the great feeling of completing or launching things on a grander scale. When we down that boss in an epic game. Throw your arms in the air for that great Fiero moment.
What humanity desperately need right now is a vision where we can go as a species – #BurningMan
Another way and model that I also like is the one called the 4Ps by Storyarchitects with People – Purpose – Passion – Pleasure developed by Jasmine Idun Lyman. You can probably see where this model overlaps with the one above.
Flow – Mastery and Passion
On of the most talked about thing now is the notion that you should find and follow your passion. This is both true or as Tai Lopez calls it: Accurate. It’s all about design an activity with life-cycle aspect in mind. Start with Onboarding for the Newbie like Amy Jo Kim says. Then makes sure there are different challenges with increasing difficulty so that a participant can easily get into flow depending on their skill level. Not all event should have all skill levels depending on what type of activity it is. Over time a well design activity develops passion in the participant as they increase their skill level on their journey.
Tim Ferriss has a new TV show out called The Tim Ferriss Experiment where he tries to master 13 different challenging skills in just 5 days. In order to do this he needs apply a very precise set of points to stay in flow and take the quickest route towards the path of mastery. He shows us that it is possible to learn a skill very fast with the right and best teachers, science, technique, motivation, attitude and design thinking.
Stories – Ambassadors – Choice – Sacrifice – VIP – Adrenaline Rush – Prolonging
All great activities and products have an inbuilt story. One that we can tell our self while doing it. A kind of internal Self-Narration. And another that we can tell others and share before, during and after an activity. Here it helps designing content and context around the activity that can be shared and easily internalized.
We are basically a storytelling ape with a big brain that is excellent in recognising, enjoying and telling stories.
Sacrifice and Pain
Some activities also benefits if there is some kind of sacrifice, hardship and pain built into them. It scares some people away and attract others. Physical challenges and some competitions often use this to great benefit. The benefits of doing something hard and painful are often enjoyed after the event. When the pain is forgotten and all we have left is a good story. Doing hard stuff together with others and sharing the pain also brings people closer together and builds bonds.
It also makes people much more emotionally invested in the event. Which in turn makes for better long term commitment and creates excellent ambassadors.
Try to sell the story people can tell when they are part if an exclusive tribe that have mastered the challenge.
Scarcity and VIP
We all like to be VIP och part of some exclusive tribe sometimes. By making an activity only available to a selected few who either cued for the event or paid extra to get extra treatments and perks is great way to increase the overall attractiveness of the event. This is used with great success in crowdfunding activities with different perk levels. Here scarcity both in time and in the number of available slots serves a way to make people sign up faster.
Give people the ability to feel or dream about the status and exclusiveness that a special offer or VIP treatment brings.
Any event or activity also needs great Ambassadors to flourish. Try to find people who are willing to invest time and energy into it. Or the people who are already doing it. The can be in it for some of the different reasons mentioned above. Interact with them. Give them VIP treatment. Ask them how you can improve the experience. Study them. Give them options to tell your story to more people.
Find your ambassadors and elevate them!
Feel the Rush
Some activities is all about the adrenaline or rush we can feel when doing something exciting and dangerous. Some people become adrenaline junkies and are always looking for more ways to experience more rushes. All things that get the human mind rushing is alluring.
How can you make your activity more exciting?
Choice and Autonomy
People like making choices. This makes us feel autonomous. It’s just that we are different when we think about what rules we want to follow when making choices and forming habits. Gretchen Rubin divides us into 4 different type of people when adopting new habits: Obligers, Questioners, Upholders and Rebels. Of course many of us like the excitement and angst when choosing between different options.
Give people the option to hack and improve the experience!
Prolong and improve the experience
If you are dealing with a event or happening in any way the is ways to prolong and extend the experience. Build up the campaign with onboarding and signaling. Like in the Tesla Launch.
Use social media and #hashtags to get people talking and interacting both with you and other fans long before the event. During the event get people talking using #Hashtags and other tools. make them livestream the event with their smartphones and do use a professional livestreaming team as well. After the event encourage people to share their experience with all kinds of media like videos, photos, blogs, podcasts, forums and Facebook groups.
Build content and a community around your event!
Life and gaming is about making interesting choices 🙂
And remember: Be nice!
Extra Bonus Update!!!
You won’t believe what happened next! [6 Signs You Are A Sharer]
As with any great activity it’s helps get momentum if people tell other people about it. We now live in a time when it’s not only mass media who gets to decide what gets attention and not. We humans have always shared stuff through language. It’s what we do. We have always done it on small limited scale within our tribe. It has just got a whole lot easier and scalable to share stuff. Then what do we share?
According to Jonathan Berger who has done som research on the subject it all boils down to six categories on why we share stuff. Not just online but we still share most of it mouth to mouth.
Social Currency — We share things that make us look good
Triggers — Top of mind, tip of tongue
Emotion — When we care, we share
Public — Built to show, built to grow
Practical Value — News you can use
Stories — Information travels under the guise of idle chatter
Build a story that it is easy to share into the activity you are designing.
That way you will get more attention to it. Unless you want to keep it a secret 😉