What are event design models?

Event design models are frameworks that help guide the planning and execution of successful events. Having a robust design model ensures events meet goals and objectives while delivering value to attendees and stakeholders.

What are event design models?

When designing events, organizers must make decisions about the event purpose, format, activities, staffing, budget, promotion, and more. An event model provides a structure for tackling these planning areas methodically. Models remove guesswork and enable teams to collaborate efficiently on event production.

This article explains popular event design frameworks, discussing their origins, components, and real-world applications. Read on to gain key insights you can use to boost event ROI and innovation.

Types of Event Design Models

Several established models exist for designing all types of corporate, association, and other special events. Each has unique features but share the overarching goal of enabling flawless event execution.

Madders Event Matrix

Created in 1999 by UK-based event consultant Paul Madders, this 4-quadrant matrix classify events along two spectra:

  • Level of attendee participation
  • Degree to which content is customized

The quadrants help identify suitable formats, budget needs, and resources based on where a proposed event falls. For instance, large conferences rank low on customization and participation whereas corporate retreats are highly participatory and tailored.

This model makes the early planning phase more definitive so subsequent decisions align. It works for events of all types and sizes.

LAB Profile

The LAB Profile comes from EventCanvas CEO and noted event architect Cathy Key. The acronym stands for:

  • Learning profile – attendee needs
  • Activity profile – how they’ll participate
  • Business profile – event business goals

After profiling these three areas, organizers synthesize insights to craft events guaranteeing ROI. It puts attendee experience first while keeping business needs in focus throughout planning.


The SOAP model was created specifically for medical events but is expandable to other verticals. SOAP stands for:

  • Scientific – Content quality and credibility
  • Organizational – Logistics and coordination
  • Appraisals – Evaluation methodology
  • Personal – Customization per attendee

SOAP ensures events supply the latest knowledge while remaining coordinated, measurable, and tailored. Medical conferences have embraced this framework to aid transparency and Continuing Medical Education (CME) compliance.


REST was conceived by marketing guru Guy Masterman for brand/product events. Like SOAP, it uses an easy-to-recall acronym:

  • Return – Event ROI
  • Experience – Attendee experience goals
  • Synergy – Strategic partnerships
  • Theatre – Dramaturgy and staging

The focus here is crafting events as storytelling platforms to engage visitors. REST introduces theatrical technique into planning, scripting attendee journeys for maximum wow-factor.

Using Event Design Models

These frameworks bear similarities but suit different purposes. Madders and LAB Profile work early on to define direction while SOAP and REST address tactical production aspects.

Most organizers blend models to capitalize on strengths. For example, galvanizing around LAB Profile areas then detailing plans via SOAP or REST. Or using Madders to frame the event then REST to theme it for attendees.

Models typically involve cross-functional collaboration. It takes expertise across event departments – program, logistics, sponsorship, promotion, etc. – to extract insights from the frameworks during planning.

Because models provide both forest and tree-level views of events, they enhance creativity, innovation, and goal-setting. Rather than jumping straight to tactics, groups can whiteboard possibilities starting from attendee needs and business priorities.

Key Benefits of Event Design Models

Using one or more established event design frameworks offers advantages over ad hoc planning, such as:

Strategic Direction

Models compel stakeholders to align around what success means early on before getting overwhelmed by logistics. This heads off scope creep and confusion.

Risk Mitigation

Methodical planning minimizes chance elements, safeguards budgets, and ensures compliance via measures like SOAP. Models make it easier to anticipate pain points.

Repeatable Process

Frameworks allow organizations to repeatedly stage events knowing the proven templates will facilitate efficiencies across iterations.

Audience Centricity

Putting attendee needs first, whether via LAB Profile or REST guidelines, makes it easier to attract and satisfy target demographics.


Taking a step back from tactical weeds fuels out-of-the-box thinking as teams ideate events tailored to goals. New concepts emerge.

Real-World Applications

Event design models not only work in theory but actively guide production for marquee happenings worldwide.

Healthcare Conferences

FRAME, a variation on SOAP, helped British Medical Journal craft its first virtual conference during the pandemic focusing on crucial areas like evidence-based content.

Product Launches

A major software firm credits REST with its successful inaugural user conference that wowed attendees with an immersive brand experience.

Hybrid Events

The Event Design Collective uses LAB Profile to advise clients like TEDx and the World Economic Forum on transitioning offerings to digital and hybrid formats.

Experiential Events

Madders heralds its matrix as vital for gathering insights that concessions giant Sodexo Live! tapped to develop a 12,000-attendee festival-style event for a vehicle client.

These examples demonstrate the tangible ROI, innovation, and risk management benefits conferred by dedicating upfront planning to robust event models.

Key Takeaways

  • Event design models provide planning frameworks to optimize event format, activities, and resources based on goals and audience needs.
  • Popular models include Madders Event Matrix, LAB Profile, SOAP, and REST – each with unique applications.
  • Blending models combines strengths; models promote cross-functional collaboration.
  • Design models drive strategic direction, risk mitigation, repeatability, attendee focus, and innovation.
  • Models actively guide major events from healthcare conferences to product launches worldwide.


Developing events today is infinitely complex, with remote/hybrid formats adding further intricacy. Attempting to plan such endeavors without an organizing framework is ineffective and risky.

Event design models remove guesswork by supplying proven templates honed over decades facilitating flawless gatherings. Understanding these models – Madders, LAB Profile, SOAP, and REST – enables organizers to bring strategic direction, innovation, and audience-centricity to all event formats and verticals.

Blending frameworks unique strengths while tapping cross-functional perspectives maximizes the power of design models. Events leverage insights around experience, participation, customization, dramaturgy, and more to create holistic offerings guaranteeing business ROI. With the right event blueprint, success becomes repeatable across iterations.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are some examples of event design models?
    Some popular event design models include the Madders Event Matrix, LAB Profile, SOAP, and REST frameworks. Each focuses planning on areas like attendee participation, business goals, personalization, and staging.

  2. How do event design models work?
    Models supply templates for methodically addressing elements like format, content, logistics, promotion, attendee experience, and post-event measurement based on overarching event goals. Applying insights across planning phases optimizes events.

  3. When should you use an event design model?
    Event models provide the most value when applied early in the planning process before tactical details overwhelm. Models drive strategic direction so subsequent decisions align towards success measures.

  4. Who utilizes event design models?
    Event models work across corporate, association, special events, and other verticals. Groups like conference organizers, event marketing agencies, corporates staging launches/experiential events, as well as medical/academic groups use design frameworks.

  5. How do event design models help with budgeting?
    Because models consider revenue goals early on while clarifying resource needs for proposed formats, they enable accurate budget forecasting minimizing risk. Tight cost management ensures positive ROI.

  6. Can you blend multiple event design models?
    Absolutely. Combining models promotes innovation. For instance, galvanizing with LAB Profile insights first, then planning/execution using SOAP or REST tenets based on the event’s focus area and desired attendee experience.

  7. How do models encourage event innovation?
    Taking a high-level view of attendee wants, business priorities and partnerships fosters creative thinking. Models allow groups to brainstorm event ideas customized to goals before entering logistics details. Fresh possibilities emerge.

  8. Do event design models ensure accessibility?
    Yes. Frameworks putting the end-user first via personalization and profiling (SOAP, LAB Profile) automatically account for accessibility. But planners must additionally highlight accessibility needs when detailing programming formats and staging.

  9. What companies use event design models?
    Organizations like British Medical Journal (Healthcare FRAME model), software giant Intuit (REST model) and concessions leader Sodexo Live! (Madders Matrix) actively use design frameworks to develop conferences, experiential events, launches and more.

  10. Why are models important for virtual events?
    Remote programming involves new intricacies around technology, engagement, and customization. Models tailor virtual/hybrid events for financial and experience ROI – important given digital production costs. For instance, LAB Profile aided TEDx’s pandemic transition.

  11. When was the Madders Event Matrix created?
    Expert Paul Madders first conceptualized his event classification framework in 1999 based on two spectra – attendee participation and content customization – that drive decisions on programming formats and resources.

  12. What does the acronym REST stand for in event models?
    REST was created for brand events to deliver ROI, experience goals, strategic partnerships and creative staging/theater – thus spelling REST. The model introduces dramaturgical techniques to script attendee journeys.

  13. Can event models facilitate repeat events?
    Yes. Because design frameworks supply replicable strategic templates that tap cross-functional expertise, the insights they provide are applicable across event properties and future iterations allowing for scalable growth.

  14. How can event models help secure sponsorships?
    Models consider partnership potential early, which is key to locking sponsorships integral to event ROI. Frameworks also allow prospects to clearly visualize synergies and experiential benefits from underwriting different programming and engagement opportunities.

  15. Why focus on attendee experience via models?
    Attendee experience drives events’ financial, branding and other success measures. Models that explicitly profile attendees and activity needs (LAB Profile) or customize participation (Madders Matrix) satisfy visitors for positive outcomes.

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