360 Live Media
360 Live Media is an event strategy and digital marketing agency in Washington, D.C. serving association, professional society, and not-for-profit conferences.

Don’t Make Me Think

I recently attended a conference that was held at a very large casino hotel. The problem with very large casino hotels is that they are intentionally difficult to navigate. So, while I knew the meeting room name, I had no idea how to find it.


I checked the event app for a map—no map of the property.


I looked at the FAQs—no mention of where the meeting space was.


I looked back at my emails, but no info on location.


I looked in the hotel room, no map of the property.


I looked at the hotel website and found the floor plans for the meeting space, but it did not mention where the conference center actually was. And to further complicate things, I learned that the floors that had the meeting space were not called, “1,” “2,” “3” but were labeled things such as “Cleopatra” and “Blackbeard” (not the real names), so I couldn’t easily orient myself that way.


I spent 30 minutes trying to figure out where I was supposed to be the next morning, time that could have been spent catching up on work, talking to my wife, or just relaxing and preparing myself to get into the right headspace for the next day’s event. Instead, I became more and more frustrated, and the first touchpoint for my on-site experience was negative.


Eventually, I stumbled across a property map while searching for a place to eat dinner. I learned that my hotel room was conveniently located in the same tower as the conference center. If I had been given that information from the event, my experience would have been flipped, and I would have been praising them for a smart choice of space instead of being frustrated and confused.


I frequently travel to events—I measure my life in packing cubes and meeting schedules—and yet I am still surprised to encounter this experience over and over again.


It has been almost 20 years since Steve Krug wrote the book, Don’t Make Me Think, the authoritative book on Web design and usability. Krug posits that a well-designed website lets people accomplish their intended tasks as simply and directly as possible. Every action is clear and easy to find, to the point where it becomes almost subconscious. And I believe it is a concept that should translate to live events.


It is more than just comfort; there is research that shows that when the mind is taken up with details and decisions, there is less “brain space” available for thinking, absorbing ideas, and finding insights. It’s why Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein wore the same outfits every day.


To me, human-centered design is “don’t make me think” design. Every action I need to take is apparent, freeing my brain to focus on what I’m there to accomplish.


You want your event to be the place where they find their epiphany. The thing that moves them forward. Then your event becomes the place they want to come back to, because it’s easy to be there, and it feels easy to get insights.


Creating an easy experience is a good way to stand out in a crowded event landscape. How can you make your next event the best possible experience? Spend an hour walking through the attendee journey. Look through the eyes of someone who hasn’t spent the past six months focused on menus and meeting space. Every barrier you eliminate is a win for your audience and, ultimately, a win for you.