What gets us up in the morning, lights that inner fire to not just work, but pursue a craft we relish in performing?

While shaping my September and October 2021 posts, Cultivating Passion with Steve Boyett and Creativity, Passion & Perseverance with WiL, I began pondering my passions and values. I’ve been through numerous effective values surfacing exercises over the years, have a good idea of what they are, but realized I wasn’t entirely sure what my central, driving passion is. Isolating it proved to be challenging. 

A winning Mekong River experience; courtesy Smiling Albino

Travel has dominated much of my professional journey, but I’ve also been paid to write, lead executive development sessions, work with HR teams, serve as a bartender, DJ and even repair roller skates. But what’s the common thread running through all of those? It eluded me for nearly a week. The harder I pushed, the further away realization was. Then while swimming laps it hit me – bang – out of nowhere. ‘Experience’. Be it sharing the most authentic curbside meal in Bangkok with travelers, facilitating a training program that resonates and inspires, or ensuring a night’s mix of songs brings everyone in the room to a peak, experience is at the heart of them all. Crafting thoughtful experiences that deliver maximum value at all levels, for all stakeholders is what I live for. It’s easy to rise with an eager smile each day with that at heart.  

But the line between powerful, memorable experiences, and generic, meaningless, typical ones is razor thin. 

Bland Experiences

  • Finish your coffee and the staff don’t say “thanks” or “please come again“, instead staring at their phone, leaving you no compelling reason to return.
  • Being transferred on a consumer helpline, and the first person doesn’t bother to tell the next what you’ve discussed so far, leaving you to start at the beginning. Again.
  • Attending a development session that’s clearly not tailored to its unique audience for maximum impact, which could have been done with a wee bit of effort and care.
  • Having a meeting with someone who hasn’t learned anything about you or your offering beforehand (eg. LinkedIn search), doesn’t ask good questions, cuts you off and fails to listen actively.

These all firmly fall flat. Splat!

Meaningful Experiences

Entertaining a rowdy bar crowd
  • Being walked out of a store by the attendant after making your purchase.
  • The hotel pool boy cleaning your sunglasses while you take a dip.
  • On your first day together, your tour guide remembers what you like to drink, then offers you that beverage after a satisfying mountain hike on Day 2 of the trip (also opens the can as they hand it to you).
  • A facilitator gathers everyone in a creative, non-traditional setting, leading to group breakthroughs and insights that wouldn’t have occured in a stuffy hotel function room.
  • Receiving a hand-written postcard.

These inspire. Wow!

Why Experience Matters

People remember thoughtful experiences for years, if not the rest of their lives. These memories often evoke strong emotions and sometimes compel people to tell others about them (further driving pleasure and business). Delivering powerful experiences allows me to bring enjoyment to others, while continually upping my game. It’s fulfilling on various levels for multiple stakeholders. Crafting high-value experiences:

  • Continually pushes one to grow, improve and excel; it’s Kaizen in action.
  • Drives creativity.
  • Sparks belief that there’s always a more innovative, compelling way to execute. 
  • Allows you to show your heart, personal values and who you are from conception to delivery.
  • Creates powerful connections. 
  • Broadens your network as you uncover options, deliver the goods, ammase collaborators and create fans along the way.
  • Inspires others to push further and continually scale their deliverables.
  • Reveals and opens unknown doors, paths and options.
  • Positively impacts others, creating lifelong memories and sometimes has life-changing effects.

Powerful Experiences Should

  • Be smooth.
  • Anticipate patron’s desires, needs and improve along the way as user information is acquired. 
  • Unfold seamlessly, almost ‘magically’.
  • Be thoughtful.
  • Exceed expectations as often as possible.
  • Combine the best elements of other experiences that lend themselves to this one.
  • Be easy and fun to share as a story.
  • Create an emotional connection and response. 
  • Be clear, easy and pleasurable to digest/use/enjoy/understand.
  • Anticipate next questions/steps/needs.
  • Create fans and promoters.
Building outdoors

Deliver Winning Experiences

  • Promise-realistically, over-deliver.
  • Plan for as many contingencies as possible; have back-up and back-back-up plans.
  • Learn about your audience beyond surface-level details (eg. What does the audience want to gain from this?; What’s most important to understand after this workshop?).
  • Ask powerful questions, create shared understanding, alignment and expectations (then exceed those expectations during delivery and post-experience opportunities). 
  • Seek feedback, iterate, continually tighten the nuts and bolts.
  • Ask others for ideas.
  • Ask a ton of “what if” questions during the design phase.
  • Demonstrate expertise asap: putting people at ease as quickly as possible/establishing trust; doing so removes doubt, helps users open-up, disarms them and ultimately be more receptive to your ability to deliver.
  • When you fall short, be humble, empathize, listen, explain truthfully, understand, evolve, iterate and improve.
  • Be okay with the fact that not everyone will love what you or what you do. In such cases, ensure they feel listened to and understood.
  • Ensure everyone knows they are appreciated for their trust, time, and financial commitment (time being the most important as we can’t create more of it).
  • Ask your fans to tell others. 
  • Be confident and smile if you’ve done the above.

With experience at the heart of everything I do, I’m going to bed excited, can’t wait to crush it tomorrow, create fans and wow them along the way.

Leave a Reply