Event Design Toolkit – Design Events That People Want To Attend

By designing the customer experience you create events perfectly aligned to your customers. The canvas helps you to unleash the full potential of your event brand, deliver unforgettable experiences that go onto to fuel growth.

If you want to step-change how you design your event, avoid the normal traps when planning an event and create impact, then use the Event Design Toolkit.

Each section is fully explained as you go through this guide. If you have any questions on how to use this or how to facilitate a workshop using this canvas then contact me and I’ll help you.

A few years ago I created an infographic that changed how many people used social media and planned their events. The social event management infographic was shared over twenty-one thousand times (note: I changed my domain and lost 11k of shares). This is an evolution of that model that has been adapted over recent years.

The Event Design Toolkit is an event canvas that you can use to design your events. It is inspired by the famous Business Model Canvas and Value Proposition Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur.

The Event Design Toolkit uses a design thinking to event model generation, in a similar way to the business model canvas.

The Four Stages Of The Event Design Toolkit

  1. Mapping your stakeholders – set the goals and objectives
  2. Focus on your target audience – creating the customer profile
  3. Understand their needs – develop your event value proposition
  4. Design the event – create the customer experience

How To Use The Event Design Toolkit

What makes the event design toolkit so powerful is that it works for lots of different types of events.

  • Conferences.
  • Product launches.
  • Trade Shows / Expos.
  • Field Marketing / Activations.
  • VIP Events.
  • Seminars.
  • Internal Company Meetings / Periodic Business Gatherings.
  • Thought Leadership and Networking Events.
  • Ceremonies / Galas.
  • Fundraising events.
  • Job Fairs / Recruiting Events
  • Team Building.
Top Fact

According to a recent Bain & Company survey of 650 US senior marketing executives, using the right approach to launch a product, feature or campaign allows companies to realize 1.5 times to 2 times higher annual revenue growth rates for a brand. 

First of all, I’ll walk you through each section and why it is important. Then, step by step, I will show you how to use the Event Design Toolkit to design your events.

Why Use Design Thinking For Events?

Design Thinking Events
Design Thinking for Events

The event canvas is based on the design thinking approach and harnesses the power of collaboration to design customer-centric events. I’ll help you understand the complete event design methodology from start to finish.

You don’t need to know about design thinking to use the canvas.

I’ll briefly explain it so that you have a working knowledge of how and why design thinking can be applied to event design.

The design thinking approach helps you craft a value proposition – ‘reason to come’ that is magnetic for customers. It focuses on the value you will deliver, what they will learn, how and what benefits they will take away having attended.

Your event needs a powerful and compelling brand promise. But even more important is how and what you need to then deliver that. You brand promise links directly to what people expect from an event.

Use the canvas to set yourself apart and clearly position your event brand in the market.

Event Model Generation

Modelling your event will help you to:

  • Event Purpose. Clearly communicate your event to stakeholders so they have a shared understanding of its purpose.
  • Event Brand. How and why the brand fits with the event purpose and the customer.
  • Fit to Customers. How the event will benefit customers and what they will take away from having attended.
  • Fit to Market.
  • Costs and Revenues. A detailed understanding of how the parts of the event contribute to the costs as well as generate the sales/revenue.
  • Buy-in. Your event will be more successful and have more momentum if all the key stakeholders have been involved, collaborated, shared ideas and contributed to the overall event model.

Why Use Design Thinking For Event Design?

I wanted to create a set of tools for all those interested in event innovation, for movers and shakers as well as event and conference organizers who design events as part of their work.

Design Thinking places the emphasis on the customer and not the business. It encourages people to step into the shoes of the customer and understand their world, their journey.

The Event Design Canvas uses the design thinking methodology to plan events through the eyes of the customer.

1. Mapping Your Stakeholders

Event Stakeholder Analysis Radar
event stakeholder analysis radar

Events of any size normally have a mix of stakeholders. For a large B2B conference, there will be multiple stakeholders – sales, marketing and senior sponsors.

It’s important that during the early stages of the event design, there is shared time to work through the detail of the canvas.

External stakeholders need to be considered as well, e.g. media, influencers, recommenders, institutional leaders…

When all stakeholders have been involved in modelling the event, it is much easier to then move forward with the planning and design stages.

The main stakeholders though are your customers. In the canvas, the main stakeholders need to be considered according to their different expectations, needs and value you can deliver. I’ll cover more as we go through the event canvas model.

The Event Stakeholder Analysis
The Event Stakeholder Analysis

2. Develop The Customer Profile For Your Event

Develop An Event Persona

A first step is to develop a persona for your ideal customer/stakeholder to understand who they are. If you have more than one customer segment then a persona for each one. As an example, I ran an event for Disney, the event had two sets of people 1. the main customers who were potential buyers for their media products. 2. the executives from the top clients.

When we were designing the event it became obvious the customer journey needed to be very different for each. We created a VIP lounge, had VIP assistants and many other elements that made the event hassle-free for the busy and time-constrained executives.

Of course, the main customers also had a great experience. We designed small handbooks that were easy to put in a pocket (compared to big A4 or A5 size booklets and each one had their personalized itinerary, floor guide, help numbers, points for asking for help, an app for networking and more.

How To Create A Persona For Your Event

If this is your first event and the first time you are targeting a set of customers then you need to do some research on your potential customers. I suggest a good start point is to look at your niche marketing strategy and your overall customer segmentation.

Some Tips On Customer Segments For Events

Events have a wide range of stakeholders and potential ways to create segments. Remember, that the goal is to not make things too complicated, but instead deliver value in a cost-effective way.

Often it is small touches and thoughts that make huge impacts on how people think and feel at events.

However, if you already have a customer base and data then you simply need to review attendees and understand if there are some obvious ways to segment your customers. From my experience here are a few starters that help:

  • Economic buyers vs. full price/feature set.
  • By function/role e.g. Buyers vs Sales vs other roles.
  • New attendees vs. existing customers.

Of course, another obvious segment is the media – journalists, bloggers and potential influencers in a market. I encourage you to think about how you to consider how you can help them achieve their goals.

Step Into Their Shoes – The Empathy Map

Empathy Canvas For The Event Canvas Development
Event Design Toolkit – The Empathy Map for Event Model Generation

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When using the empathy canvas you are aiming to walk through your event and imagine what it from the perspective of the customer. Consciously and with all our senses, we go through the experience the way a customer would go through!

After this, it is useful to define hypotheses on the team or by using existing data (feedback from previous years, sessions/days attended, downloads before the event/after the event. The picture of the persona becomes clearer and more solid with each iteration.


  • Evaluate your feedback – what areas need to improve. Why?
  • What days were the most popular/sessions? Did this cause queues/problems?
  • Evaluate breakout sessions and attendance rates – where there obvious collisions between popular topics/speakers.

The event industry runs on methodical planning, but there are still opportunities to do things better than the competition, to be innovative, to care about the detail and small touchpoints that delight customers. Go to events, attend events similar to your own and be that customer. Make notes and talk to people – what are their frustrations, pains and how do they feel?

Talk To Customers/Attendees

To obtain initial knowledge about attendees, another tool that helps is the AEIOU method. AEIOU helps us to capture all the moments that someone has experienced. You can ask people to think about and recall their experiences from a previous event or other events they attend.

The task is clear. Get out and speak to potential customers.

AEIOU Framework

When using the event design toolkit canvas you want to think in broad terms of the event activities, environment and how people interact with each other and devices/objects.

The AEIOU framework is a great way to think about the social context of your event (adapted from Wasson, 2000).

ActivitiesWhat happens?
What are people trying to do?
What are the tasks?
What activities do they do?
What happens before and after?
What workarounds do they use?
EnvironmentWhat does the environment look like?
What is the nature and function of the space?
How does each area flow to the other?
InteractionsHow do the users interact with one another?
Where do users interact with one another?
What systems do they interact with?
What interfaces?
What interacts with staff do they have?
ObjectsWhat objects and devices are used?
Who uses what objects and in which environment?
How frequently?
UsersWho are the users?
What role do the users play?
Who influences them?
Event Persona Canvas Small
event persona canvas small

The Event Design Toolkit canvas helps you to collaboratively design your event:

  • discover the frustrations and motivations of attendees.
  • design a powerful value proposition.
  • create a compelling reason to come.
  • join the dots to your brand promise.
  • identify what you need to deliver your brand promise.
  • map the skills, knowledge and new behaviours that they will learn.
  • design the customer experience from pre-event, event and post-event.

These are the main sections of the Event Design Toolkit canvas:

  1. Section 1. Value Proposition ( sections 1 to 6)- this section focusses on the customer and how you develop a brand and value proposition that matches your customer segment.
  2. Section 2. Customer Experience Design (sections (7 to 9) – this section is where you put the magic into your event, you deliver your brand and make it a remarkable experience from pre-event to post-event.
  3. Section 3. Learning Experience (sections 10 – 12) – this section of the Event design toolkit helps you plan out what customers learn, the order they will learn it and how to craft the learning experience.
  4. Section 4. Financial Model (sections 13 and 14) How you make money from your event. The revenue streams and costs associated with your event.

The diagram above is an example of how the canvas helps you to connect the dots. Your brand promise impacts your customer’s expectations – what they expect from your event not only in terms of content but also serve and development.

3. Create The Value Proposition

Event Value Proposition Canvas
event value proposition canvas

The sections of the event design toolkit work together to generate a powerful event model. The following is a brief overview of each section:

  1. Jobs to be done. Generally, jobs to be done are things your customers are trying to get done in their work or life when at an event. If you understand these jobs and their importance (high vs low), you can tap into when designing your event.
  2. Pains. Pains describe anything that annoys your customer before, during and after trying to get a job done. Use these to understand what frustrations they currently experience (events/work/life).
  3. Gains. Gains describe the outcomes and benefits your customers want from your event. Some gains are desired and even expected and some would surprise them.
  4. Gain Creators. Gain creators describe how your event produces the benefits and outcomes that your customer expects, desires and will be surprised by.
  5. Pain Relievers. Pain relievers describe how your event will help alleviate or solve specific customer pains.
  6. Reasons To Come. This is you where you create your value proposition for your event. Great value propositions are expressed as clear reasons that match pains and pain killers, gains and gain creators – all of which are linked to the jobs to be done.

In the next sections, I’ll guide you in more through each section and to get the best results when using the Event Design Toolkit.

Section 1. Jobs To Be Done

What are the goals of your customer? The jobs they need to get done.

The Jobs To Be Done Approach To Event Design
The Jobs To Be Done Section of the Event Design Toolkit

If you are new to jobs to be done, I have included a short video below from the famous Harvard Professor -Clayton Christensen explaining jobs to be done.

How to use Jobs To Be Done for events. First of all, you need to consider the overall goals of the person in the context of your event. As an example, a B2B conference will have a higher level of focus on formal education in relation to a professionals career. On the other hand, a B2C fundraising event will focus on how a person wants to make a difference or feel good about contributing.

There are three levels to consider:

  1. Functional jobs – what is your customer trying to achieve in terms of tasks or solving a problem.
  2. Social jobs – when your customers want to look good, gain status and be improve connections.
  3. Personal/emotional jobs – these are emotional states your customer wants to achieve e.g. feeling secure in their job.

Two important ways to sort and prioritize jobs:

  1. Importance: How important is this job to the customer?
  2. Value: How lucrative would it be if you helped them achieve this job?

Discuss these as a group, use any data and feedback you have. After you think you have all of the jobs place them into common themes and then score them on a scale of high priority to low priority.

Questions to help guide you

  • What is your customer trying to get done?
  • What type of jobs are they trying to achieve?
  • What are the functional jobs that are specific – pre-event, event and post-event?
  • How important are these jobs?
  • How lucrative are these jobs?

Common mistakes

Remember at this stage not to jump into solutions. This is easy to do because in our jobs we naturally want to solve problems. Stay in the pains mindset and try and relate to the things a customer sees, feels does…


After completing the event jobs to be done section you will have a set of prioritized jobs.

Section 2. Pains

What are their fears, frustrations and obstacles?

Event Design Toolkit Canvas Pains Section
The Pain section of the Event Design Toolkit

Pains are the obstacles that get in the way of doing something, the frustrations and undesired outcomes. They can be functional, emotional or ancillary. They are the workarounds, issues and challenges that people face when getting things done.

  • Functional – the ticketing app doesn’t work online.
  • Emotional – annoying – there is no list of local hotels for an event or after arriving no floor plan.
  • Ancillary – the buffet ran out of food by the time they got there.

Describing in detail a customers pain is crucial to making it valuable. If someone complains about not enough time between sessions what you want to know is their view of the world – how many minutes would they feel is the right amount of time.

Questions To Guide You

  • What are the customer’s frustrations, obstacles and fears?
  • What makes them feel bad?

Common Mistakes

A common mistake is to assume you know their pains and that they are obvious. Try to use data and pull together a range of views and observations to get a rounded perspective.


After completing the pains part of the Event Design Toolkit you should have three to five prioritized pains.

Section 3. Gains

What do they need, want and dream about?

Event Design Toolkit
The Gains Section of the Event Design Toolkit

For your event, you want to understand your customer’s motivations, the outcomes and benefits they want.

Questions To Guide You

  • What do they expect to gain from attending?
  • What quality of service do they expect?
  • What skills, knowledge and other benefits so they want?

Common Mistakes

Describe the detail and create sentences that are meaningful. As an example, if you a customer wants more networking what does that mean? How many people do they expect to meet, how much time do they need? What type of locations do they want the meetings to take place? For how long?

This is just a simple example – your event might be different in terms of theme and context.

A clear statement might be: “Our attendees want to improve their networking. They want to have two networking opportunities, an hour each, and meet eight people of interest.”


At the end of this section, you will be able to clearly state three main gains.


Do you want a canvas that helps you organize and prioritize jobs, pains and gains?

Customer Segment Job Pains Gains
Prioritize Jobs, Pain, Gains In The Event Design Toolkit

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Section 4. Pain Relievers

What can solve their pains?

Pain Relievers - Event Model Generation
The Pain Relievers Section of the Event Design Toolkit

Pain relievers describe how you intend to remove or reduce the things that frustrate, annoy or get in the way of your customer. The goal is to reduce the potential barriers to your customer accepting your value proposition – the reason to come.

Questions To Guide You

  • How can you save them time?
  • How can you make it easier?
  • How can reduce fear?
  • How can you reduce risks/friction?


At the end of this section of the Event Design Toolkit, you will have the three strongest pain killers that relate to your pains.

Section 5. Gain Creators

What can help them achieve their wants, needs and dreams?

Gain Creators For Mevent Model Generation
The Gain Creator Section of the Event Design Toolkit

Gain creators create the gains that you found earlier in the process. Typically gain creators are focused on outcomes. For your event consider what they will have gained by coming.

Questions To Guide You

How will your event:

  • delight your customers?
  • create positive new relationships?
  • do something specific that benefits the customer?
  • move their skills, knowledge or behaviour forward?
  • exceed their expectations?


A prioritized list of gain creators from this section.

Section 6. Reasons To Come – Value Proposition

Why come to your event?

Two things to consider when designing reasons to come:

  1. If you are running an annual event you want to have reasons to come for this event and your following events.
  2. Split this into two reasons to come…value propositions.

You will harness the power of this when you come to plan your post-event planning and communications.


Take time to distil things into an expression of value that is easy to understand. If it is too complicated and long, you may need to break it up into smaller simple expressions. Often this helps you clarify your ideas and helps you to eliminate weak propositions.

A value proposition is not a value statement.

A value statement is what’s important to your company, what it prioritizes, and how it conducts itself.

A value proposition is a statement that paints a clear picture of what your brand has to offer. It tells your potential customers:

  • How your event solves/improves problems.
  • What benefits customers can expect.
  • Why customers should buy from you over your competitors.

Identify the value proposition first, then write an easy to understand sentence explaining your compelling reason to come.

4. Design the Event Experience

Event Experience Design Canvas
event experience design canvas

In this section discuss and collaborate with others, use data where you can to support decisions and place yourself in the shoes of the customer.

  1. Expectations. These are the expectations a customer will have as a result of your value proposition (reasons to come and brand promise. These set the stage for creating experiences that match your brand promise.
  2. Customer Experience Design. The experience design section of the event design toolkit section is you map the customer journey and plan the most important moments and how they are delivered. You can use the customer journey map canvas to initially map out ideas and then refine them for your event canvas.
  3. Satisfaction. This section sets your goals for how your customer will be transformed by your brand after attending your event and what actions you need to take to build the post-event relationship.
  4. Instructional Design. Whether you’re launching a new product of designing a conference your audience will expect to be transformed by interacting with your event. As an example, conferences they will expect to gain new knowledge and skills.
  5. Learning Experience. This section focuses on the content, communications and learning that you design for your customers.
  6. Impact. How will you measure success? What are your core metrics?
  7. Event Costs. The is where you can highlight the costs that relate to your event. In most cases, your costs are born out of the event experience and brand delivery – the location, CRM systems, marketing costs, staff…
  8. Event Revenue. There are multiple event revenues possible from an event – sponsorships, tickets and access to post-event content. You can capture these in this section.

Section 1. Expectations

What are your customer’s expectations for this event?

Expectation Section Of The Event Design Toolkit
Expectation section of the event design toolkit

Through your brand promise and reason to come you have created an expectation of what your event will deliver.

However, your customers will also be influenced by their previous experiences and other events in your market or industry. In this section define the expectations of your customers.

Questions To Guide You

  • What are your customer’s expectations?
  • What other events do they attend?
  • How do other events affect their expectations?


The outcome from this section of the event canvas is to have clearly defined expectations that are prioritized.

Section 2. Customer Experience Design

What will your customers see, hear, feel and see at the event?

The Customer Experience Design Toolkit. How To Design Event Experiences.
Event Design Toolkit – Customer Experience Design

Great customer experiences are designed not left to chance. This is where you map out the key defining moments from first impressions through to the last moment when they leave.

Considerations for your event design:

  • What do they see/feel/hear as they enter your event?
  • Who interacts with them and how often?
  • What technology and interfaces support customer experiences?
  • How you make it easy for them to find information, find other people…

Section 3. Satisfaction

How will you know if you helped customers achieve their goals? How do you continue the relationship?

The Customer Satisfaction Section Fo The Event Design Toolkit
Event Design Toolkit – Customer Satisfaction

After the event how do you want your customers to feel? How will you delight them and build on the relationship and experiences from the event?

As an example, if you hold an annual event you can build relationships with the key influencers to help create early awareness pre-event for the next year.


Describe clearly how you will get feedback, delight customers post-event on continue to build the event.

Section 4. Instructional Design

How will the event change them – what will they learn?

Event Design Toolkit Brand Learning
Event Design Toolkit – Brand Learning

Customers expectation can be met through helping them to achieve their goals – functional, emotional or social. Brand learning is how you define how your brand will help them achieve their outcome through specific learning experiences.

  • product demonstrations for a launch event.
  • keynote speakers, Q&A’s, case studies, reports and trends for conferences.
  • dedicated time and space at a fundraiser to see/meet impact of fundraising activities


On the event canvas, write down how you will help your brand learning ideas.

Section 5. Learning Experience

How will your customers experience learning – what communications, content and interactions do you need?

Learning Experience Design For Events
The design of the learning journey – Event Design Toolkit

This is where you operationalize brand learning and define the content and communications that transform your customer.

What Is Learning Design?

Learning design is the creation of learning experiences and materials that results in the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills.

It is based on assessing needs, designing a process, developing materials and evaluating how effective they are.

Because we understand the pains and gains of our customer/stakeholders, we can tailor the learning design to meet their needs.


You have a clear learning journey for your customer that sets out learning foundations and then builds on them throughout your event.

Section 6. Impact

How do you measure the impact of your event? what metrics do you use?

Event Brand Impact
Event Design Toolkit – The Brand Impact Section

Too often the metrics and measures used are vanity metrics – they focus on the barebones of the event. Tickets sold, average ticket price and the number of attendees.

Like other areas of innovation, you want to measure the sentiment of your brand, understand brand impact across channels as well new customer sign-ups for your next event.

Depending on your mix of stakeholders you might also want to measure:

  • articles in media
  • brand reach
  • influencer reach
  • promotions and reach of any vendors


Clearly define what you want to measure and take into account the broader set of stakeholders.

Section 7. Costs

Event Costs For Event Modelling
The cost structure of your event

What costs you incur will depend on your event, location, the number of attendees, equipment and technology…Make a note here of the main costs including often forgotten costs such as promotional budget, marketing systems and other resources you identified in your brand delivery section.


A list of the main costs for your event model.

Section 8. Revenue

Event Revenue Streams To Consider When Event Model Generation Canvas
Event Revenue Streams section of the Event Toolkit Canvas

The revenue streams are how you generate money from the different revenue opportunities for your event. Try to be inventive in this area – often there are creative ways to generate new revenue streams from non-traditional sources.


Define your main revenue streams and estimations.

Download The Event Design Toolkit


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Contact Me

I love working with people on scoping out there events – if you need help then contact me.