Jonathan Izzard, Strategy Director at Wonder, featured in the July edition of ALHAUS Magazine, shining a light on topics including the role of strategic storytelling and how to rethink traditional experiential formats.
What does taking an ‘audience first’ approach mean to you?
One of our core values is helping businesses build experiences that can better connect with the people that matter to them. We don’t think about delegates, customers, attendees, employees, stakeholders or shareholders, but people. We build more human experiences, and taking a people-first approach through smart strategic thinking and insights is vital to this vision.
People-first means building events and experiences that are meaningful in the face of shifting expectations and evolving mindsets. People-first experiences are not only more appealing to attend, and more engaging in the moment, but they are more likely to encourage tangible action in the wake of an event.
We talk about events built for people’s ‘whole selves’; mindful of the inescapable merging over the past two years of work and home lives, what we do needs to reflect a less binary business existence and B2B experience. For us, in practical terms, this means that with any brief, interrogation of the event audience is the first and most crucial step.
The pandemic has shifted approaches to both work and play, joining remoteness and connection hand-in-hand forever more. How do hybrid events help bridge the gap between these two feelings?
The concept of ‘hybrid’ is nothing new. From FIFA World Cup Finals to Saturday night at Glastonbury, remote connections with live moments that matter is commonplace. In the context of our industry, ‘hybrid’ is, perhaps, the best means of expressing the smoother and more meaningful interaction between real and virtual worlds.
For us, the ‘hybrid’ is simply a description of the process of blending perfect experiences. Understanding who our audiences are, where they are and what they want – and building the most engaging and appropriate experiences to meet their relative needs. URL will never replace IRL, but in some instances it can have advantages over it. Our job is to bottle the value of each and deliver this to our audiences, wherever they are.
Conferences, summits and exhibitions are all about inspiration and education. What are your top tips for creating a curiosity-driven environment at these events?
B2B events need to engage a diverse range of personalities and people across a business and its customer base. Building experiences around the post-pandemic intersection of work and life allows us to engage attendees progressively, as their whole selves. We do this by defining a set of experience principles designed to engage, educate and entertain, meeting both business and human needs.
This means experiences that don’t just deliver insights but enable personal discovery – not just facilitating networking, but creating moments of togetherness. Experiences should provide not just value, but meaning.
This can play out in a number of ways: rethinking traditional format constraints such as venue, keynote or roundtables; embracing more ‘open-source creativity’, bringing to bear influences from beyond business to engage and inspire audiences; connecting with attendees via strategic storytelling; and weaving a compelling narrative into the experience they have and the messages we give.
How important is storytelling to your branding and marketing strategies?
Throughout the pandemic, content of all shapes and sizes fuelled, revived, nourished and informed us. Lockdown living was made more bearable by on-demand programming, flexing to meet our often complex needs. While terrestrial television still plays a big role in households, the universality of streaming and the proliferation of access points to high-quality, non-linear content changed our relationship with it and our expectations of it.
Whether through a more traditional medium or one of the new kids on the block, one of the key components of content is its ability to tell a story. Compelling narrative arcs deepen our emotional attachment to a moment, a product, or a relationship. For B2B experiences, consideration of the ebb and flow of the ‘story’ being told, its timing and the mediums through which to express it are all key to delivering content that is both engaging and effective.
For Wonder, this means non-linear, people-focused content design, human storytelling through human experiences, and a healthy mix of both personal and communal moments, stimulating both introspection and interaction.
With the return to business experiences in full swing, brands are seeking new ways to meaningfully connect with their audiences. There's no one size fits all approach, but by gaining a deeper understanding of the people that matter most to your business and rethinking how we communicate with them, the possibilities are endless.