Event psychology, or ‘Eventology’, as we call it here at Top Banana, is in essence, about a journey.
It starts with the end in mind “where do we want to get to?” The desired outcome. The things you want people to think, feel and do as a result of your event.
Before we start working towards the outcome we need to understand “where are we starting from?” The audience’s mindset. The elephants in the room. The barriers to achieving the desired outcomes.
Once you are clear on your objectives and your barriers to success, you can start to build the event. Where will you take people? Who should be there? How will it feel? What do they need to know? What skills do they need? What will be the ‘memory’ moments and how can we make them stick?
Start at the audience’s beginning, not yours
Before we build engagement we need to recognise the barriers, address the noise in peoples’ heads, ensure the audience feels listened too. Without this, crafting an effective event agenda to meet your objectives is a little bit like composing music without the key. You will only ever know what you said, rather than what your delegates heard, driven by their own perspective and mindset. This can involve pre-event focus groups, engagement websites and more, including working with specialist business psychologists, to bring out the key issues.
We recently worked with a client who was losing market share. One of the key objectives was to transform their employees from feeling like losers to feeling like winners. We organised pre-event communications asking “what is stopping us from being brilliant?”, to understand what was driving these feelings. A focus group during the planning stages of another event highlighted that there was a lack of both accessibility and transparency of the Board. Part of our event strategy saw an audience member randomly selected to ask the CEO challenging questions, which had been gathered anonymously on a pre-engagement website. With no prepared Q&A sheet, the honesty, authenticity and transparency of the CEO’s responses modelled the exact behaviour that was needed in order to break down barriers and drive change.
Create ‘memory’ moments that will be remembered
We all have memories, both happy and sad. Who remembers where they were when JFK got shot, or USA landed on the moon, or for the younger ones, when Take That split up? These events surprised us and our brain remembers that. It’s important for an event to create memories for the delegate, to make them laugh and sometimes make them cry, to be inspirational or to be motivational. Memory moments are when we create an impact with a delegate by doing something unexpected. These moments build engagement and confidence by starting to get people excited about where the company is going, what their role will be and how that could feel.
Working the senses through visual, auditory and physical stimulants often create these moments and memories which feel good and that are re-lived and remembered further down the line. In a previous event, a multi-sensory dinner at No. 1 Marylebone used blindfolds and creative culinary design to assist a storyteller in transporting guests to and from exotic destinations to communicate the power of the imagination, which was central to the brand’s positioning. An element of surprise added even more theatre as the storyteller was revealed as the team’s very own leader.
Turn belief into action with active participation
But it’s not just about creating fireworks, flashing lights and rousing videos. There needs to be substance behind the ambition and authenticity in the leader’s message to help delegates understand the plan and the rationale, enabling them to recognise it up close, to believe it, buy into it and importantly, play their part in it. Interaction plays a key role here. That famous Chinese proverb of ‘Tell me, I will forget, show me, I will remember, involve me, I will understand’ is so true within Eventology.
Generate individual accountability that sticks
Most great sales people always say, at the end of a call ‘ask for the sale’. Well, in events, we need to ask for a commitment. What will they do differently as a result? Otherwise why even bother! Delegates have engaged, now you need them to commit, taking responsibility for their part of the puzzle. What do I need to do to make this happen? How will I be accountable? How will I be measured?
At the end of one of our events this year, each delegate received a numbered card and was asked to write down one action they would take away from the event. The cards were added to a wall, made up of everyone’s personal pledges. This simple, written commitment had a lasting impact. At the end of a different event, a highlight video of the live call to action was handed to everyone who attended the event, along with a lapel pin that stated their acceptance of the challenge. It became a badge of honour amongst employees and the sense of unity and empowerment spread like wildfire.
The creative execution of every event will be different but if approached with the audience in mind, Eventology can be maximised and consequently, so too will the positive impact on the business we are working with. We can move people, excite them and inspire them so that they grow as individuals and in turn the business does too.
Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor