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Abigail Conlon

By: Abigail Conlon on April 17th, 2019

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Aligning the Human Experience at XDP

Event Marketing | Brand Marketing | Association Management

mailto:demo@example.com?Subject=HighRoad Solutions - interesting article

Powered by ASAE, the Xperience Design Project was an inspiring two-day learning opportunity focused on creating successful association events and experiences. With time to exchange business ideas and network, XDP provided an open and creative space to share and learn from partners, vendors, and association professionals. Attendees learned how to attract the right registrants, create meaningful connections, and deliver a return on investment year after year.


As a first-timer at XDP, I went in with a fresh set of eyes and an open mind. An innovative layout presented three speakers on one stage and the option to tune in to your preferred speaker with complimentary radio earpieces. While I mostly enjoyed this experience, I felt a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) while other speakers were delivering different messages to the left and right of me. Did I choose the wrong session? What if I am missing something that my clients would benefit from? Should I tune in to hear more about strategy or community? To remedy this FOMO I turned to the hashtag #myXDP on Twitter to see what everyone else was learning. After I found a work around to my FOMO, I focused on my key takeaways from my experience at XDP, feeling inspired and empowered to help my clients grow their base, overcome obstacles, and focus their attention on their members’ needs!

You Are Your Brand

Every interaction that your consumer has with you, your employees, your communications….they all curate your brand. Every meeting you have, every tweet, every phone call, they all serve to create your brand and your story. In order to do this a brand has to evoke emotions. “People share emotions. When you evoke emotions, that’s how it spreads, that’s how it works” Scott Stratten, President of UnMarketing, explained. Not centered around a logo or an image, a brand is how people feel about your organization and the experiences they have shared with you. Illustrated by the story of Joshie, the stuffed giraffe left behind at a Florida Ritz Carlton, Stratten articulated the importance of the experience that consumers have with your brand and how a story can change that. Once associated with words like “expensive” and “luxury”, Stratten now associates The Ritz with the story of Joshie and two workers at the Ritz that took Joshie on an “extended vacation” before he was sent back to his family in Arizona. This was the most important takeaway from Stratten’s message...no matter who you are in your organization, whether you are in the marketing, finance, or IT, "...we are always marketing. We are always branding (Stratten).”

Alignment is Key

When was the last time you experienced chaos in work or in life? How did you handle that chaos? Did you communicate effectively to your team members and roll with the punches? Corinne Hancock, International Leadership Coach, delivered an empowering talk on chaos and how we have the ability to align ourselves with our team and thrive in times of trouble. Her chaos framework focuses on preparation and focusing on your mission. Using real time experiences as a leader and international development worker with C.U.R.E. , Hancock emphasized the choices we have in chaos that lead us to succeed or fail. First and foremost, preparation is the foundational aspect of the chaos framework. Preparation means that as a leader you ensure that all team members in your organization are ready when chaos strikes. If your team is prepared the chances of success are far greater than the chances of failure. Focusing on your mission is another key aspect of the chaos framework. This will ensure that all team members are aligned with your common goal. Focusing on the mission also ensure that each team member is clear on their role in achieving the larger organizational goal. “Chaos may be inevitable, but if everyone knows what they should be doing at this moment to accomplish goals, they won’t just survive—they’ll thrive (Hancock).”

Leverage Human Creativity

As technology continues to evolve you may have have asked yourself if you will be replaced by a robot. Do you fear that artificial intelligence will take your job? Are AI and robots the inevitable future? Dr. Natalie Nixon, Founder and President of Figure 8 Thinking, delivered a keynote focused on innovation, change management, and leveraging human creativity. As a digital marketer working closely with association professionals, I work to build “martech” stacks that empower organizations to think like humans and build an experience catered to them. Although I use the technology to leverage the experience, my creativity and innovation allow me to create the perfect experience for my clients and their members. Using the tools at my disposal, my ability to understand other humans and the experience I am creating cannot be replaced by AI or a robot. Nixon articulated the importance of leading with creativity through the 3i Creativity Framework centered on intuition, insight, and improvisation. While AI has intent to free us from mundane and repetitive tasks, the human mind and its creative capabilities cannot be replaced. After all, “to be human is to be hardwired to be creative.”

Didn’t get a chance to experience XDP for yourself? Share these key takeaways with your team and learn how to deliver the most authentic and memorable experience for your members and clients:

  • You are your brand and you have the power to change your brand by telling a story and evoking emotion
  • Thriving in chaos requires alignment, not agreement...align your expectations with your reality
  • Leverage creativity and lead with empathy to build customer-center experiences

Looking for another, more unique recap of the keynotes and learning experiences at XDP? Check out Johnathan Mann’s "Song A Day" recap “They’ll Remember How You Made Them Feel”! After all, we are hardwired to retain more with music!

*More on Stratten’s keynote and the story of Joshie here

*More on Hancock’s chaos framework here