I listened to Rodger Dooley’s podcast with Tedi Asher, the first and only museum neuroscientist, and it inevitably made me draw some parallels between museums and event planning and think about adoption of neuroscience and psychology at events world.
First was a question, quite simple one. Well, neuroscience is obviously gaining its place under the sun and is being applied within yet more fields and industries. And by that I mean that not that long ago it was a highly specialized niche, findings of which were not considered applicable anywhere else but health and the like. Now we see it’s booming, and its knowledge boosts development of many organisations and institutions, from retail to, well – museums. So my question is again, simple: why does events industry lag behind in fully adopting rich knowledge provided by the science? Why do we not have a staff neuroscientist/behavioural scientist when planning an event? Or, at least, why do we not educate ourselves on the topic as much as possible, to be able to leverage it to the advantage of our own events?
Then, if someone questions there is a need to do it, I find this quote fascinatingly compelling as the answer: ‘So the neuroscience initiative at PAM… was really the brainchild of our CEO and director Dan Monroe. And according to Dan, all experiences are created by the brain, and he figured that therefore perhaps better understanding how the brain worked could help us to create more compelling experiences’.
Listening to Tedi I find there is much in common between museums and business events. She says: ‘it’s physically, emotionally and intellectually kind of exhausting to spend hours in a museum setting’ Now, just substitute ‘museum’ with ‘event’ in this quote and you get what I mean. Right?
Furthermore, she describes solutions they’ve got for the museum exhibitions that are buzzing in events, too – like offering multisensory experience to improve engagement, or using technology, or finding ways to fight museum fatigue (which in events terms I would say ‘a conference fatigue’).
There is one solution I’d like to highlight in particular, as it looks highly relevant to apply within events environment. Tedi talks about a three-parts formula to engage visitors where the parts are attention, emotion and memory. The following looks like a mantra to remember and a call-to-action for the organisers: “..engagement occurs when attention is captured or directed in a way that elicits emotion and leads to the formation of a memory. So those three elements of attention, emotion, and memory are really central to this idea of engagement..”
Another thing event pro can learn from, comes from the experiment Tedi further describes where they found that if a visitor had a viewing goal or a purpose when looking at a piece of art, that actually impacted their viewing behaviour (they looked at it twice as much, for example) and meant increased engagement – and that was due to activation of self-referential thinking. So that made me think: can we use the same technique in events? How about giving some sort of task BEFORE the event session, to those who registered or expressed interest in specific topic, to activate their focus and get them better engaged during the actual experience? A lot to think about.
So, I end up here with two short conclusions:
- events people should start seriously embrace knowledge provided by neuroscience and psychology; this will hopefully lead to announcing soon there is the first event neuroscientist!
- the discussion above provides a great case for how looking at other fields would help expand eventprofs horizon to deliver better events.