Emotional Mapping uses the Run of Show to map out the highs and lows of the event based on what’s happening on stage or in whatever space you’re focusing on (marketplace, lounge, food area, etc).

Emotional Mapping is often used with Guest Journey Mapping.



Seemingly simple, Emotional Mapping is one of the more powerful tools you can use to create a successful event that will not only garner rave reviews from your audience but also spark inspiration, empathy and ultimately, action (read: donation, volunteering and promotion of your brand). However, it isn’t a common practice for event design because – frankly – it takes time and space for creative thinking.

Teams often don’t agree on what creates a high and low emotional state and it takes time to design something that intentionally leads an audience from state to state. Once done, you’ll leapfrog ahead of the pack and surprise your audience with a next-level experience beyond what you’ve already accomplished in the past.   



Ideally, you’ll create an Emotional Map after you’ve generated at least a first draft of your run of show.


Define the purpose and desired outcome(s) of the event.

It’s important to get really clear about this before beginning. For instance, if you’re PunchDrunk (creators of Sleep No More) and working on your next moody, slightly-spooky project, then your desired outcome is very different than if you’re Maryellis Bunn (creator of the Ice Cream Museum) working on your next rainbow-hued, Instagram-inspired experience.

What is the purpose of your event?

Draw a timeline of the event. The timeline would include touch points or major actions that will happen throughout the day(s) of the event (examples: guest registration, start of program, keynote speaker, mid-morning break, etc.)

Then, through the timeline, map the emotional highs and lows of the event experience. Label the action/emotion of each peak and valley. For instance:

Flat line (w oppty to be a high emotion point) /
Feeling: is it dull frustration because of a slow line and lack of organization, or is it bemused and delighted by the lollipop a volunteer in costume just handed you as you wait?

Start of Program:
Slight high point /
Feeling: is it excitement as the guest receives a conference bag filled with goodies and clear directions on what to do next, or is it anxiety as the registration desk gets backed up as the show starts?

Think through each step as if you were the guest. Think back to the previous times you’ve planned this event and what the guest experience was. You might need to do this several times to outline the experience of different types of guests:

  • Early arrivers

  • VIPs

  • Speakers

  • Board Members

  • Latecomers

  • Etc.

Once you’ve created the Map, review it with your team. Together, ask these questions:

What kind of experience are you creating?

  • Do you need to add more peaks? Higher peaks?

  • Where is your experience flat lining?

  • How will you ensure that your attendees will connect with the emotional highs you are planning?

  • Should your tweak the flow of your event elements to create more unexpected emotional turns and excitement?

  • What time of day are your emotional lows? Are they after a meal? If so, should you move those lows and create highs after meal functions?

  • Does your event start and end with an emotional high or low?

As you answer the questions, you’ll discover areas you want to improve and creative ways to enhance the experience.

After your event, re-map the event experience based on guest feedback. Do not consult the original map while doing this. After you’ve finished mapping the event based on the actual experience of it, compare it to the original map.

1.      Where did you succeed in delivering the intended highs/lows?

2.     Where can you improve the experience next time?

3.     What actions had the intended impact? Which didn’t?

Emotional Mapping works particularly well when used with the Guest Experience Journey.



The benefits of emotional mapping are many:

  • Increased empathy with your guests or audience members, giving you the ability to anticipate their requests and needs.

  • Ability to create an experience for your guests or audience that resonates with their innate human needs and desires, leaving them feeling cared for and fulfilled.

  • Increased trust and connection between you and your audience.

  • Ability to strategically and intelligently plan for a specific outcome or goal set – less guessing!

  • A more positive audience experience means that you’ll have more repeat audience members, referrals and shares for your next event.

If you would like support in creating an Emotional Map of your past or upcoming  experience, get in contact to set up a free 20 min initial consultation.