I listened to Rodger Dooley’s podcast with Tedi Asher, the first and only museum neuroscientist, and it made me think about the parallels between museums and event planning as well as adoption of neuroscience and psychology in the events world.
First, a very simple question. Neuroscience is obviously gaining traction and is being applied in a wide variety of fields and industries. It used to be a highly specialized niche, whose findings did not apply anywhere else but to health and the like. Now we see it’s booming, and its knowledge boosts the development of many organizations and institutions, from retail to, well – museums. Once again, my question is simple: why has the events industry lagged behind in adopting the rich knowledge provided by science? In planning an event, why don’t we have a neuroscientist or a behavioral scientist on staff? At the very least, why do we not educate ourselves on the topic as much as possible to take advantage of it for our own events?
Then, if someone questions the need to do it, I find this quote fascinatingly compelling as an 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’.
When I listen to Tedi, I find that museums and business events have a lot in common. She says: ‘it’s physically, emotionally and intellectually kind of exhausting to spend hours in a museum setting’. Just replace the word ‘museum’ with ‘event’ and you’ll see what I mean. Right?
Additionally, she describes solutions they’ve got for museum exhibitions, which are also buzzing in events – such as providing multisensory experiences to improve engagement, or utilizing technology, or finding ways to combat museum fatigue (which, in events terms, I would call “conference fatigue”).
One particular solution looks highly relevant to the event environment, and I’d like to highlight it here. Tedi explains that there are three components of engaging visitors: attention, emotion, and memory. It looks like a mantra to remember and an action plan for the organizers: “..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 pros can learn from comes from Tedi’s further explanation of the experiment where it was found that having a viewing goal or a purpose (e.g. looking at an art piece) affects viewing behavior (they looked twice as long at it, for example) and creates higher levels of engagement (due to activation of self-referential thinking). That made me wonder: could we use the same technique for events? How about giving attendees some sort of task BEFORE the event session, to those who registered or who expressed enthusiasm for a specific topic, to get them focused and more engaged? A lot to think about.
Here are three quick conclusions:
- this conversation above is an example of how looking at other fields helps eventprofs expand their horizons and deliver better events;
- the events industry really needs to look into neuroscience and psychology; hopefully this will lead to the first event neuroscientist appearing soon;
- event planners should get educated on at least the basics of applying behavioral science to events as soon as possible. The Event Psychology Lab course is exactly what you need to get started.