The difference between Starbucks and McDonalds from a coffee perspective is what? The experience. Starbucks wants almost $4 for a cup of coffee near me, and McDonalds wants $2. Starbucks wants $6 an hour for wifi, and McDonalds wants $2. It’s far more cost effective for a road warrior to sit in a McDonalds doing their internet chores.

But would you tell a client you’re sitting in a McDonalds? Would you say Starbucks? See?

I think the difference is in the experience and how it’s been crafted. By the way, McDonalds is working on it. They’re putting in leather sofas and tile and all kinds of things to support a change of experience. But enough about my example. Let’s talk about experience building and how it relates to life hacking.

Experiences

I’m using this term as a noun. I mean to call this something similar to a “chapter” or a “scene” in a book or play. An experience has a beginning, middle and end. An experience is a small measurement, where an “event” is the larger collection of these. Going to a wedding is an event (a series of experiences). Having a private moment with the two sets of parents in a private setting by a stream during the reception is an experience. Make sense?

Experiences can be built around job interviews, if you’re the interviewer. A series of experiences can be built into a dinner party. One might be the entrance to the party. You can let guests come right to the door, or you can start the evening with a big banner that says, “Bring your best ideas to this dinner.” A team meeting can be an experience. A software code review can be an experience.

Oh, a quick disclaimer: just because you craft an experience doesn’t mean people will get the desired result you want. I once went to a well-crafted dinner party. The hostess had French cuisine, soft lighting, lots of new artwork for us to view, and a carefully crafted series of compact discs loaded with the soundtrack of our night. Two discs in (and several beverages later), someone said, “Hey, I’ve got the sountrack to ‘Undercover Brother’ with me!” Off went the hostess’s disc; in went the

Elements of an Experience

The following are the elements or levers or building blocks that you can use to generate an experience:

  • people- you need someone to experience the experience. Right?
  • time of day- is a breakfast meeting more fun than dinner?
  • lighting- Barry White or 2001 white?
  • music- Soundtracks to experiences
  • food- if you serve pizza or jumbo shrimp skewers, what’s the difference?
  • mood- your face and tone set the stage too, right?
  • props- having a cookout? What would some inflatable palm trees do? Bring sponge gavels to the next meeting.
  • scripts- this gets hoaky, but remember, you can plan the conversations a bit, or at least seed them.
  • plants- not bushes, but people allied to the cause. Imagine a dinner party where you “hire” friends to make sure the conversation works right.

Why Bother?

Sometimes, the reason to bother is self-explanatory. When you plan a birthday party, you’re crafting an experience. Why wouldn’t you want it to be fun? Do you have pin the tail on the donkey? That’s an experience within the event. Are you planning a pirate theme? Ditto.

The plan here, or the way to think of this, is to consider the crafting of experiences in non-traditional settings. How would a team meeting feel if you took some account to some of the elements listed above? Do you need your team to be more energetic? Why bring them to a room in the building with no windows, nothing but white? Bring them to the mall. Take them somewhere that stimulates. Go out to a nature observatory.

Mod This

Have you noticed that I write most of my hacks with the ending reading something like How would YOU change this? That’s on purpose. The best hacks are the kind you can make your own, right? Before iTunes and playlists, I had to just deal with other people’s sorting methods for my music. Before blogging software, I had to craft HTML to fake it. But my blog is different than this blog, is different than blog software pressed into service as a catalog.

Posting comments about how you’d make this hack your own is part of the process. That grows the experience. We love to read them. Most of you have received personal emails from me after a comment. That’s because the conversation is part of the hack and the offering of such.

Jump in. Tell me it’s stupid. Tell me how to take the part that works. Move it forward.

–Chris Brogan is Chief Content Officer of Grasshopper New Media. He blogs at [chrisbrogan.com], which lately has been pretty much nonstop PodCamp. That’ll change soon.

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