Pathable : Event App Technology Blog

What’s More Important: Meeting Form or Function?

Pathable’s leadership and development team is in the process of imagining the next phase of event apps and conference websites for meetings and conferences. As we’ve been researching, discussing various ideas and concepts, and developing ideas on the whiteboard, we discovered that we wanted to open up the conversation a little larger to hear from industry experts on how innovation and imagination are changing events and hospitality. One topic that continues to rise to the top is around event and meeting design.

John Nawn, CEO and Founder of the Perfect Meeting, was delighted to share with us a series of expert thoughts we just couldn’t keep to ourselves. We hope you enjoy it and that you’ll stay tuned for future thought-provoking pieces we hope you can’t miss!

And…if you or someone you know has been doing some cool, innovative, or just plain interesting, we’d love to hear and share about the experiences or topics. Email ideas to Lindsay (

–The Pathable Editorial Team

What is Design’s Place and Meaning in Events and Hospitality?

What do you think of when you hear the word, “design”?

If you’re like most MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) professionals, you might be thinking how your meeting or event looks. You might be thinking about lighting design or stage design or even the décor you chose for a luncheon or dinner. These are among the traditional design disciplines MICE professionals are familiar with. They deal primarily with aesthetics – a concern for beauty or the appreciation of beauty. Aesthetics are important.

The word “design” has been getting a lot of industry press lately. We’ve seen Freeman hire rock star designer Bruce Mau. We’re seeing Maritz transform their company’s value proposition around experience design. We just saw ASAE reimagine what was formerly known as “Springtime” into “XDP” (Xperience Design Project).

These folks are not using the word “design” in the traditional sense. They’re using the word in an entirely new way. To understand what they mean, consider this quote from Steve Jobs:

“”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. ‘People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we (Apple) think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

What Does Your Meeting Look Like?

Now think about your meeting or event. You invest a lot of time and energy in making sure it has the proper look and feel – the right aesthetic. But how does your meeting or event work or function? And more importantly, how much time and energy do you invest in making sure it works or functions as intended?

By “work” or “function”, I’m not talking about making sure the proverbial ‘trains’ run on time. That’s certainly important but it doesn’t really get to the heart of why we’re meeting in the first place. For the vast majority of MICE professionals, the question of why we’re meeting is often left out of the process in our urgency around executing today’s meeting or event and our rush to start planning tomorrow’s.

More often than not, this question just doesn’t get asked or answered.

Events and Hospitality are Experiencing a Paradigm Shift

This idea of how meetings and events work or function represents a paradigm shift in how we approach our work and it’s going to impact nearly every aspect of our work. It represents a shift from “design” in the traditional aesthetic sense to “design” in the functional sense. It represents a shift from meeting planning to meeting design. It represents a shift from the tactical to the more strategic.

So, What Matters More for Events: Form or Function?

Aesthetics are important. Function is important. But function is more important than aesthetics.

Design is the common denominator between aesthetics and function. It is the key to maximizing both. But in order to move beyond aesthetics to making meetings and events that also work or function, we need to think about “design” differently. That’s what this column is dedicated to help you doing.

Next Column: The Business Case for Design (or why you should care about design and how to help your boss or conference committee care too)

John Nawn is CEO and Founder of, a design firm specializing in optimizing the attendee experience. John is a leading authority on Meeting Design and determining the business value of meetings and events.

© 2017

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