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Creative Group i|xperience® Process Reflects Emphasis on Program Design

Creative Group Senior Vice President Shireen Moore and Experience Design Director Pete Dufner share with RRN the company’s new approach to event design it calls i|xperience®. The process, they say, focuses on achieving client goals by emphasizing a systematic program design approach based on the six “I’s” of experience to change behavior before, during and after events. 
Ask Shireen Moore and Pete Dufner at the Creative Group Inc. the essence of what organizations are trying to accomplish when they hold an event, and their answer is simple: “Drive behavior.” Explains Moore: “We tailor events to create and reinforce the client objectives, and we try to do that at every touch point. It’s a participant journey. We want to ensure we create the inspiration, intrigue, influence, impression, interruption and immersion necessary to achieve our clients’ objectives. When you successfully put all these pieces together, that’s what we call an i|xperience. Using a systematic approach makes sure clients step out of their own boxes to make sure their events go beyond an exciting experience to achieve the organization’s key objectives.” 
Schaumburg, IL-based Creative Group is a 49-year-old performance improvement company that specializes in sales incentives, channel loyalty, employee engagement and recognition programs, as well as meeting, event and group travel management. Creative Group recently expanded its West Coast presence with the purchase of The Performance Group, a meeting, event and incentive agency based in the San Francisco Bay area.  The Performance Group is now branded as Creative Group. 
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A Systematic Approach Governs Planning 

Moore says applying a systematic approach to experience design can have an impact on every aspect of the program, starting with site selection. “For instance, we had a client whose dealer program audience skewed high-energy males. They had always selected Las Vegas for their event. However, when we applied our i|xperience framework and examined the underlying objectives and audience, it actually made sense to go to Dallas for an event at Cowboys stadium. “When you look at venue selection through the standpoint of the i|xperience, even the brand of the venue is an important consideration.” 
Adds Dufner: “There are many reasons to hold a meeting, but it almost always boils down to the need to tell a story that changes or enhances behavior…we are ‘productizing’ an approach to creating a three-dimensional experience. Clients like the idea that we have a consistent way of planning their programs.”
Moore and Dufner explain the essential elements of the i|xperience event planning framework, beginning with Inspiration. “Inspiration is the idea of creating an engaging story that achieves the organization’s objectives,” Moore says. “We start with understanding the brand and the objectives and build everything from that. The story begins before the event and continues during the event and after. We don’t look at an event as one point in time. You want to make the impact last longer. There’s the build-up, the explanation, the grand event and experience, and then then you want to carry it forward. It’s not an event; it’s a journey.” 
Dufner notes that the event is all about the individual. “We focus on the participant, not just during the event, but before and after.” In fact, he adds, the opportunity is to engage even those who didn’t qualify for the incentive trip. “If planned properly, there are ways to inspire even those who did not go on the trip so that they strive harder the following year in order to participate.” 
After Inspiration, the next critical element, they maintain, is Intrigue. “You want to engage and entertain,” says Moore. “We want to lock participants in to the program and keep them engaged through communications and at the actual event. Intrigue can start with a teaser sent out in advance of the trip. It could include a questionnaire seeking to find out about activity preferences. The idea is to involve participants, to get them thinking.”
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It’s About Behavior Change 

Next comes Influence, which the Creative Group executives explain is about changing behavior. “There are many reasons why companies hold meetings, events and incentive travel programs,” they note. “We want to make sure that we translate those events into actions that achieve the goals of the meeting.” 
Impression, they continue, is about “touching all the senses. What are the participants hearing, seeing, touching? We consider all the senses. When people are fully engaged, they are more aware and are more likely to get involved with the mission.”
Interrruption is “about taking people away from the daily grind,” Moore says. “The idea is to get people out of the ordinary, so they get immersed in the event. Immersion is about involving participants through the interaction. The idea is for participants to learn, do and be a part of the event, and not just be spoken to.” 
Sums up Moore: “If you take all these I’s and put them together, you’ll have a truly memorable event that changes behavior and builds the brand over the time. Applying a systematic approach doesn’t limit creativity, it makes sure we address all the key drivers of success. It’s about using a systematic approach to make sure we address creativity in a strategic way.” 
Concludes Dufner: “People are always looking for experiences. We’re in an experiential economy. The brand our clients are trying to create drives all our thinking—even with our vendors. Whether we’re working with a hotel or destination management company, sharing with them our framework and our customers’ needs helps stimulate their own creativity as well.” 
The company has posted the following information on the i|xperience concept:

For More Information:
Scott Tarnoff
Vice President Business Development

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