Designing Successful Events:
What Participants Really Want

Throughout the world there are various events: meetings, incentives, conventions or events. Participants have to choose the most suitable from the variety of offers and have less and less time and budget available for attending. Organizers must therefore tailor their programs as precisely as possible to their target groups so that they not only participate, but also return again in the future. However, what do participants actually want?


Although each event is organised in a different way, it is possible to identify consistent core activities at a back level. These activities match the expectations and desires according to which people actually participate in events. In order to explore them, we have carried out a three-year applied research project at the Donau-Universität Krems and the Universität Wien to investigate a variety of events and interview participants and organisers. Using cognitive and social science analyses, we then identifi ed, described and illustrated the nine most important core activities by using sense-making processes and are presented in a practice-oriented way especially for organisers. The more precisely an event meets the expectations – expressed in core activities – of the target group, the higher the possibility that participants are satisfi ed with the event, recommend it to others and want to participate again. To ensure that these concepts are not only scientifi cally described, but can also be used practically for events, we have created a compact handbook. In addition, we have developed a set of cards to create an innovative event independently (even without a book) in three steps. With the help of the book and the card set, organisers can develop and offer those services based on the selection of core activities that best suit the target audience. Three important dimensions have to be considered for each event.


1) Architectonic dimension: The three-dimensional and architectural dimension significantly influences the behaviour of the participants. Depending on the type and design of the rooms, architectural equipment and „atmosphere“, different interactions and group formations are enabled or hindered.
2) Social dimension: Each event integrates social methods and formats to promote the interaction of the participants.
3) Technological dimension: In this dimension both physical materials (e.g. program booklet) and software (e.g. apps for person matching) are described, which support the participants with analog and digital solutions.

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Lukas Zenk
The Lightbox Network

For each dimension, we have developed 13 solutions to provide a com-prehensive overview and inspiration for innovative event design.


1) Identify core activities: Why does your target group participate in the event? The activities will help you to fi nd the most important reasons.
2) Select appropriate solutions: Which solutions are most appropriate for your event? Based on the activities, solutions will be recommended to you.
3) Develop an event format: How can the different solutions be integrated into an overall experience for the participants? The card set allows you to design your event in a playful way.

This approach enables agencies, organisers and customers to redesign their own event or trade fair in an innovative way.

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Lukas Zenk