The highlight of our family summer holidays this year was a short trip to Billund, Denmark – birthplace of Lego and home to the newly launched Lego House.
As you approach the House, set in a residential area, it stands out – it’s designed to look like Lego. 23 metres tall, and designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, the clay tiles on both the outside and inside walls were designed to Lego brick scale and colours, creating the illusion of 21 floating LEGO bricks.
Home of the brick, so the tagline says, but so much more than that. The brand values of creativity and play are hardwired in the whole experience; every single instant has been thought through to maximise meaningful moments and create an engaging experience for adults and kids alike.
At a time when events in every sector are fighting for both marketing attention as well as engagement onsite, it seems to me that there are six lessons for those creating, curating and hosting events to be learned from this temple of creativity.
1 It’s all about the experience
From the moment you walk in, Lego House puts you at the centre of the experience. From customer service people who are more like inspirational teachers or youth leaders (“what are you interested in doing today? Oh, if you like problem-solving you’ll really like the Robo Lab in the Blue Zone, we’re all working together to save people trapped on the ice”) to really clear, fun, colour-coded zoning that does away with dull directional signage and makes your user journey seamless.
I really thought I was doing my kid and his friends a favour – sure, I like Lego, what geek doesn’t – but I thought upfront that I was the grownup “taking” the kids to do something because that’s the kind of great mum I am. But the Lego House creators have turned that on its head – I had a great experience, I made video animations, played with the Lego/AI interface, experienced robotics and generally wondered at the creativity of it all.
The main entrance houses a 4-storey 15-metre Lego tree – the Tree of Creativity (get that biblical reference?) – that grows all the way up the central atrium, and you can hear the constant wows as you walk in. The welcome is warm and all about you and both gives you direction and helps you navigate your day.
Event takeaway – experienced event producers know that an event needs a “big welcome” setting out the purpose, enough highpoints to keep your attention, and an ending / resolution that leaves you on a bit of a high and with a total sense of what you’ve achieved.
2 Know your purpose
The first question I ask all clients is “what’s the purpose of your event?” What do you want to achieve, or how do you want your guests to feel when they leave? Are you trying to effect change, and if so, what is it?
And Lego House does just that. There’s a huge depth of thinking around the Lego values. One of the museum exhibits demonstrates the iterative thinking process over decades to get to the core values of play / creativity / community
The purpose of Lego House is to bring the Lego brand to life, and for guests to live and feel what that means to them. It’s a living embodiment of David Kolb’s experiential learning model – you’re actively involved, you can reflect on the experience, you use your analytical skills to conceptualise the experience and you work on your problem-solving skills.
Lego has clearly worked on its mission, and the whole place is a clear embodiment of “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow.” The vision – “inventing the future of play” came alive with Lego-clad photo booths at every corner, where your photos were immediately scanned to your wristband and downloaded straight to the easy to use / great GUI app. The spirit of “only the best is good enough” is truly embodied in the quality you feel about everything you touch and experience.
As a family and personally we left feeling energised and inspired to create – and not just Lego.
Living the values when you bring your brand to life, or creating a live experience to effect change, to bring your participants on a journey is an elevated experience compared to “just another conference” – and that’s exactly what happened in Billund.
3 Understand your audience
The next question I ask clients is “who’s the audience?” and Lego House really know their audience.
Surprisingly, the audience isn’t just kids – my visit to Billund introduced me to the AFOL (adult fan of Lego), and there’s a whole area of the exhibit dedicated to quite incredibly detailed and imaginative works by adult fans. But kids and playfulness are at the core of the experience, and Lego really get that. From the thoughtfully designed bathrooms with both adult and kid-height sinks, as well as baby rooms in both male and female toilets, and acccesible everything I felt like I was in a place where someone had thought about my needs.
The whole venue is really clearly laid-out, in primary / Lego colours – the Red Zone for spontaneous creativity and free-building, the Green Zone for roleplay with your own characters and stories, the Blue Zone for putting your cognitive skills to the test and the Yellow Zone for playing with emotions. It’s designed in a way that makes it child’s play to navigate, and gives everyone the sense that it’s been made with them in mind.
And of course that’s what you want your event particpants to feel – whether it’s the wifi code on everything, because we know it’s the fourth utility, to phone charging points for heavy-user delegates, the obligatory stickers at a tech event, or a programme with the right mix of personal and professional to keep you excited – knowing and experiencing that someone has really put themsleves in your shoes is a truly elevating experience.
Which brings me to point four…
4 Elevate the experience
In a busy world where most people (including me) may not read to the end of the email, let alone engage with what time the event starts, catching people’s attention is vital. Speaking to them on a personal level with the right tone of voice and experience means you can’t not engage with the experience.
Example: the Lego restaurant is not your regular grab-a-bite on a family day out. The following day, we went to Legoland, and the restaurant there is a screaming-hell of pizza and pasta and yelling kids, desperate parents and staff who just want to get to the end of the day.
The Mini Chef Family restaurant is a totally playful experience – you place your order by selecting Lego pieces from a tiny four-piece set, building a shape you then slot into the “commputer” where a personalised animation takes you through the process, reminding you when your order will be delivered by the robots on the track coming from the kitchen. And of course your (quite delicious) lunch is delivered in – yes you guessed it, Lego shaped insulated lunch boxes. It’s one holiday mealtime that was full of fun and excitement. And you got to take home your mini-order Lego, and the kids got a Lego minifig chef as a gift.
The take-away for event producers and hosts? Doing something unexpected, magical, playful totally takes the experience to another level. I totally didn’t expect to be as excited as a little kid watching my Lego robot lunch delivery. How great is it if your delegates get an extra gift – of specialist content, a chance to meet with that speaker you’ve always wanted to talk to or try out that great piece of tech they’ve been itching to play with. The goodie-bag, writ large, personal and uplifting.
5 Be surprising
Towards the end of the day, as you wind your way down the stairs, you find yourself next to an enourmous Lego machine, pumping out individual Lego sets of red bricks. This is a unique set (624210 LEGO House 6 Bricks) only available at the Lego House, containing six red 2×4 bricks which can be combined in 915,103,776 different ways. As you leave the Lego House, you are given a unique card showing one possible combination – yours, as well as your set of bricks.
What’s the lesson? Two-fold – don’t forget that everyone is unique, event attendees are consumers even if they’re at a business event. And secondly, that extra surprise, gift, experience can be the very thing that speaks directly to your attendee.
6 Don’t hard sell
Lots of entertainment attractions make “the shop” the focus of the guest experience. A number of major London art galleries now have satellite shops as the last stop of major exhibitions; you can’t leave without walking through the perfectly selected merchandise.
Legoland (next door) is no exception – there’s a huge shop by the exit that you basically have to walk through with your sugar-high pester-powered-kid in tow, as well as micro-shops in each zone.
Lego House is low key. And boy, does it work. The shop is tucked away in a corner of the entrance / exit hall, it’s not forced, it’s not in-your-face, and you could totally leave without visiting.
Except, you’ve had an amazing time. Your sense of your own creativity is at an all-time high. You feel like you could solve any problem, collaborate with any group, you’re inspired and elevated. Of course you want to take home a memory of such a fabulous day. And your kid has a voucher for free bricks…
It’s impossible to do justice to the experience, but I walked away from the Lego House inspired – to build, play, create.
And explore – when you walk out the building, you can climb up to the top of the enourmous Brick-esque structure, and you can play at every level; climbing frames, swings, toys. Another surprise. Keep ’em coming.