Event Model Canvas - A Visual Event Language

How would it be to have a language whereby you could explain the story of your event crystal-clear in less than 60 seconds. A language that both the event-owner and the event-planner understand. Roel Frissen and Ruud Janssen came up with the Event Model Canvas. A visual language to solve this problem.

Kevin Van der Straeten
Comment on this tv episode

Do you have an account on eventplanner.net? Log in here
Do not have an account yet? Write your comment here:

Also available as a podcast:

Also on podcast:

Listen on Google PodcastsListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Shopify


How would it be to have a language whereby you could explain the story of your event crystal-clear in less than 60 seconds. A language that both the event-owner and the event-planner understand. Roel Frissen and Ruud Janssen came up with the Event Model Canvas. A visual language to solve this problem. 


Hi Ruud, welcome in our studio.  


Thank you Kevin. We are live from Huis ter Duin, in Noordwijk in the Netherlands, where this afternoon MPI Netherlands will be hosting a session about the Event Model Canvas. So we're delighted to be in the studio as well with you today, to talk about the Canvas. 


But what is the Canvas about?  


The Event Canvas is really a way to articulate how their event creates value, on one piece of paper. Let's call it the flight simulator for events. 


But practically: what does it do for my event? Why should I use it? 


So if you were the event-owner, the Event Model Canvas allows you to look at the event from different stakeholder-perspectives. So let's say we're in the recording studio. Your stake is that you own this event, my stake is that I'm a presenter in this event. And we can map out the two stakes of our behavior before this event, the behavior after the event, as you exit the event, and there's a sequence that you can use to articulate how your event creates value, to design and prototype and document your events. 


To make that a little bit concrete; can we work with an example?  


Let's take Huis ter Duin, for instance. Here where we are in the Netherlands. Back in March the Nuclear Security Summit was held as an event where 58 heads of state gathered at the World Forum in The Hague to talk about securing nuclear material. Well, that's quite a complex event as you can imagine, because you have heads of states that are arriving, you have the prime-minister of the country that is hosting this event, you have venues and contributors that create the decorum and the infrastructure around the event, and you have content providers plus all sorts other stakeholders. Now, to bring that complexity down to something understandable, to tell the event-story, we've created one of these Event Canvasses, which illustrates how the previous events led to this event, what the event promises, what the customer-journey is for the participants to that event, what's the instruction design and jobs it gets done. The core function why it has been put in place actually came from a frustration that I think a lot of people have in this industry, where the conversation we have about events is very often done at very different abstract levels and people misunderstand each other very quickly. 


That sounds familiar.  


So Roel Frissen and I are on a mission to create a common visual language for events which allows everybody what their stake is, and to create a framework, a boundary-box around an event, and prototype event-designs before you decide on which one to do, and how to do it. And the important part is: the team that creates the event, so the event-owner and the event-team, can use this canvas to frame that conversation and make it fun to design events. 


And if I want to start as an organizer, I want to start using your tool. How does it work? What do I need to do? 


Excellent, we're delighted that you're asking the question, because our mission is to get as many users as we possibly can. So the good news is that you can go to the website www.eventmodelgeneration.com, and download under the Creative Commons the A4-sized paper or the PDF that you can print on your printer, to get started right away. 


So it's for free? 


It's for free. So the Canvas in itself, under Creative Commons, is the way that the story around the event can be built, and that we can build the language. Now this Event Model Canvas has been adopted already by over 500 users across the world, so we're very curious to see how people are applying it. Now we observe it by working with teams in their corporations to design their events from A to Z. If you want to get started yourself, there are some instructional videos that you receive after your download, that explain what the process is of documenting this event. In an essence, let me give you the steps: Step 1 is that you would say: "who has something at stake at my event?" It takes at least a minimum of two stakeholders, to create an event. Because once those two come together, you have an event. But the complexity could go up to eight, or ten or twelve different stakeholders. Let's take two for example. You would then use the guiding questions that are on the Event Model Canvas to take you through the entry behavior. So what is the behavior that that stakeholder shows before the event? We have a number of guiding questions. You would then think about: what are the jobs to be done by that person? The functional, social, emotional jobs. And what are their basic needs? Out of these jobs to be done, these can be done with an event or without an event, you have a number of pains and gains. So by identifying these pains and gains for that specific stakeholder, you map those out in two separate boxes. Then you think about: what is the commitment and the return that you get from potentially attending that event that you have in mind. And these are the non-monetary things that you need to do. So you need to maybe give up days of your work. Or you maybe need to travel to go somewhere, to attend this event. And then the return that you expect from that. The core part and the most important thing is to design with the end in mind. And we all know that events create value through behavior-change, so articulating the exit-behavior is one of the most important things that you need to do, with any event. But the Canvas allows you to do it very specifically, with guiding questions. Now people have an expectation when they go to an event, which is another box. And depending on their expectation, they will have satisfaction. And these we can actually put in to place between what you would see in terms of what is the cost and the return that's involved with that, and when you have that you can formulate what the event promises. So what's the gift that you get when you create this event as an event-owner or that you get if you're a participant. And with that we then describe, which is the middle part of the Canvas, which is kind of envelope-shaped, that's where you prototype the event-designs. So you could replicate the exact same event that you did last year, and you could document it with pictures. And you could show: what do you as an event-participant experience as a customer-journey, step by step. You could also articulate in the instructional design, what are the content-components that you consume that give you skills or that give you knowledge or that give you a change in attitude or that allow you to get to know other people. Which are the content-components to actually deliver that promise. If you put all of those together and you frame those on one thing, you have one prototype of your event, from one stakeholders perspective. And what you'll see that if as a team you ask yourself these questions and you put this in a big format on the wall, and you start working on it, you'll visualize and have a very sensible discussion about the framework of the event, so the boundary-box, which is the outside, and the design which is the inside of the event. And you'll not just design one, but you'll come up with like three or four different ideas about how you could deliver that promise in different ways. 


Yes, that was what I was thinking: the good thing about it is that it makes you think upfront about where you want to go. 


Exactly, so what we see is a couple of things, in the use. First of all, we see that many people as a first step like to document a first event. So what did that event look like? Usually they have pictures, they have video, they have testimonials, or they have artifacts like badges or certificates of attendance or different things that people have around an event. You can put them in that framework, which visualizes that picture already. Now, you always need a number of strategic options before deciding on your next event. You already have two: one is, do the exact same thing as last time. The second is: have no event. And if you design those two and you think: "what would happen if we stopped doing the events? Or what would happen if we'd do them the exact same way". And as you're having that conversation, I guarantee you that the team will come up with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 different prototypes of how else you could organize this event, depending on how important the stake is of that prospective stakeholder. So by isolating the stake, looking at it from that stakeholders perspective, then putting those layers on each other, you come up with different what we call 'back-of-the-napkin'-sketches that allow you to come up with a much more interesting discussion. But also a much harder output which allows you to create much better events I think, down the line. 


Ruud, thank you very much for joining our show. 


My pleasure Kevin, and thank you for the opportunity. 


And you at home, thank you for watching. I hope to see you next week.