What Makes Experiences Memorable: 5 Takeaways from Webinar

A recap of the IAAPA Education webinar, “What Makes a Memorable Experience and Why Does This Matter to Us All,” October 2021

At WhiteWater, we build more than parks. We build joyful lasting memories for families all over the world. But we’re not the only ones. That’s why we have invited attractions industry experts in an IAAPA Education webinar to weigh in on what makes memorable experiences—and why this matters. Together, we reflected on the value of what our industry does for guests, especially after what the world has been through in the past year and a half.

On this panel were Andreas Andersen, CEO of Liseberg; Denise Weston, Owner at Infinite Kingdoms; Taylor Jeffs, President of Legacy Entertainment; Emily Colombo, Vice President, Strategic Partnerships at WhiteWater; and moderator Una deBoer, Director of Global Marketing at WhiteWater. If you missed it, here are five key takeaways for attractions industry managers and operators.

1. Observe, observe, observe

If you want to know how to create memorable experiences, the first thing you should do is observe your guests interacting in your venue. A lot. You see what works and what doesn’t work with what kind of people. You pay attention to how children react and how parents react to how their children react. You look at what triggers a response. You listen to what your guests are saying.

“The more you observe and see those emotional reactions, the more these become tools for you,” said Denise.

How many reactions can you observe here?

2. Surprise your guests

“Things we remember are the things that surprise us; they don’t have to be big or expensive,” said Taylor.

Emily agreed, “Things we remember are things that are different from the everyday.”

Fortunately, our industry is one that can engage all the senses to create new things. When you design an experience, you can think about not only what it looks like, but what it feels like, what it smells like, what it sounds like. You can use these techniques to trigger an emotional response. What we do is creating real life, in-person experiences, in contrast to virtual reality.

3. Set the stage

You can’t decide how guests are going to enjoy what we have created, but we can set the scene for them; give them the tools to create those memories. “If you give people a stage and it is grand, they will play their part,” said Taylor.

One important element of this “stage” is a safe environment that encourages exploration. Fear is an easy memorable moment to create, that’s why we have thrilling rides, mega drops, and Halloween festivities. We are able to enjoy these because of safety measures.

Another part of the stage can be technology, as it is ever present in our everyday lives. Through personalized settings, you can leverage tech to allow individual guests and families to co-create memories with your park. It can make the guests feel like they hold the magic in their hands.

4. Involve staff

Happy staff, happy guests.

Guests are not the only ones who want memorable experiences, your staff members do too. Often, the special moments in your park are the ones that involve a staff member who took extra care of the guests.

“Create an environment where the employees can interact with the guests in a positive way, play a role on the stage we’ve created,” said Andreas.

Staff members make a lot of observations, so involve your front-line staff in the design of new attractions or experiences.

A good example of memorable staff-guest interaction is FlowRider instructors. They are passionate about what they do, and guests big and small feel a sense of achievement when they learn to surf, not to mention the gratefulness parents feel when they see their children having fun and being taken care of.

A part of this environment is making sure that the guest experience and your operations are seamless so that guests can stay in the mood of creating happy memories and don’t get distracted by things that don’t work as well as other irritations and unpleasantries.

5. Include the whole family

Our industry is one of few that can be enjoyed by the whole family, by people of all ages. A park can contain multigenerational memories, meaning that a grandfather spending a day there with his granddaughter is bringing his own memories of this place in addition to creating new ones.

“Acknowledge people. Let them know we remember them. Give them a sense that they belong here,” said Denise.

As consumers re-evaluate what is important to them post pandemic, places that can make memorable experiences and help them create precious moments with loved ones now hold so much more meaning.

And that drives the bottom line.

IAAPA members can learn more and view the full webinar here.

Harmony Liau Mueller