Updated: Sep 6, 2021
It seems like we’re talking a lot about endings at the moment.
The end of lockdowns, the end of a pandemic, hopefully, all coming soon. This is natural, as even in less traumatic scenarios, as humans we tend to look towards the end of things, as important milestones in our lives. The end of days, years, and, events.
We’ve also been talking about endings quite a lot in the World Experience Organisation (WXO), where some clever experience designers have been harnessing the power of endings, in the events and activities we are providing.
That’s because the end of an experience is often much more influential than any other part of it. The end of an event, an episode, a season, a session, or a show - the end of anything really - has a much greater influence on how we feel about it than the moments that came before it. And even if the importance of finishing on a high is something you already know, it's possible you could be using the influence of endings even more.
The last thing is the first thing we remember
If you think back to an activity or an experience you had recently, it's likely that how it ended was the first thing you said about it afterwards. And importantly, it's likely that the end of the experience determined how you felt about the whole experience. For example, I was speaking with a colleague in the WXO who works in travel and had just come back from a long and enjoyable trip, but the things she wanted to talk about first and most was the end of it, a six-hour hassle filled experience they had endured on the way home. Which, in the whole scheme of things was only a small part of their twelve-day journey, but, the ending had overshadowed all the good stuff that had come before it.
Why is this?
The simple reason why we pick certain moments to remember and talk about is that there are too many moments to remember and talk about! Apparently, there are about 600 million 'moments' in an average lifetime (that's about 600,000 every month), so our poor little minds aren’t going to grab all those and use them, it's only going to recall a few of these moments the next time we need them. And so, with all these moments in life, and in our events, our minds need a way to deal with that, so our brains choose a few things to take in, and leave out (my kids do this every day!).
To help our minds cope with all this it uses things like the ‘recency bias', which means we recall the things that happened most recently, more than things that happened before them. Perhaps that’s not so surprising, but it does mean the end of things is even more influential than the things before it. And in another shortcut our minds make, the 'Peak-End Rule’ means that even if people have a worse experience than others, but it ends on a high, they rate the experience much better than those that actually had a better overall experience. And vice versa, for those that had a good experience, but it ended poorly, they thought and spoke about it much less fondly afterwards!
All of which is important for us to note, as for an event, how it ends plays a bigger role in how it is rated and recalled later. And even when that event may last a few hours or a few days, it is that short, last moment, that will stay with them for much longer.
Intuition and Intention
The importance of these endings may not be surprising to you, as we do intuitively emphasise endings in the experiences we have in life. We bring out the cake toward the end of a celebration, an episode finishes with a cliffhanger, a band plays its best hits last at a gig, we bring a workout to an end with a high energy track. So we do see heightened endings across our lives because we know that it is best to end on a high. But even though we intuitively do this, when we are designing or redesigning an experience, we often don’t intentionally do this. So, if you’re providing an event, an activity, a session or a program, it’s worth looking at how you can save some of the best till last, and finish on a high.
Engineering an ending
Whilst we like to look at ALL the different moments that make up the experience, to make sure the sum of all those moments is a positive one, it is likely that one moment that will decide what they will say about you and whether they come back again - and that will be the last ones. Especially if they need to think back over time to remember the experience they had, the end may be what they recall the most, when they are deciding whether to show up again.
Begin with the end in mind
A strong rule in many situations (a project, a plan, or a process, and especially for an event or experience), is to start with the end in mind. Knowing where you need to get to, and how you want to end up. And so, in the events and activities you provide, it may be best to start with, and investing more time into designing the end of the experience. As it may have a much greater influence as to whether people want to sign up and show up again.
There are lots of ways to go about this, and many of the tools we’ve shared before are perfect for making the most of your ‘end moments’. Our 'Journey Maps', 'Moments of Influence' workshops, and the 'Experiences of Value' canvas are all easy tools you can use.
Extending (or removing!) the ending
Working on a fan experience recently, we identified that the end of the event was often a frustrating one when trying to leave the busy car park or catching public transport home. So we've now made sure that this isn't 'the end' experience that our fans now have. They now receive some follow-up contact, some content sent directly to them from the players, so that this becomes that final moment in each matchday experience. By extending the ending you can leave your audience on a positive note.
End more often
What we have also been doing, is use the influence of ends more often. The end of preparation, the end of each session, the end of the activity, the end celebration, are all endings worth embracing throughout the experiences you often. Finishes, deadlines, meaningful milestones can all be used to make the overall experience more meaningful.
Or, why not just remove the end – so that the finish becomes the start of something else.
The end as a beginning
Another thing we always do when we design experiences from start to finish is that the last of the ‘12 moments of influence’ on the journey that we work through, is not the end, but ‘the next step’. That is simply to recognise that although we should always end on a high, the finish of an event or activity should also be the start of something else. This is important as we often forget to put the next step in front of people, the next thing that they can do with you, whether that be to participate again, sign up for something else, or engage with something else.
This step in our Journey Mapping process helps us keep in mind that the end should not be the finish.
End better, achieve more
With many of us having even less time and resources than ever before, I think we are all trying to invest our time and money into the things that will matter the most.
And it turns out that perhaps the end, the last part we often think about or plan for, is what we should actually be thinking about first.
I do hope this helps you not just with your endings, but your experiences as a whole. And if we can help you design or redesign the end of your experiences, and maybe some of the things that come before that, please do just let us know!
To map our your audience journeys, and create an ending that matters more, please touch base, it would be great to hear from you.
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