So I’ve been cooking this post for quite some time by now. You know I firmly believe eventprofs should apply scientific insights more intentionally. For that, we need to start educating ourselves on behavioral science and psychology. One great way to do that is of course, through reading books. Below is my top 6 list of behavioral science books for event planners I highly recommend. They all are authored by renowned researchers and – this is the best part – are written for professionals from other industries and generally all interested, so they are engaging and very much fun to read.
- Alchemy by Rory Sutherland. A fascinating read about human nature and marketing full of wit and wisdom, often in the form of ‘roreisms’. E.g. this one ‘There are often two reasons behind people’s behavior: the ostensibly logical reason, and the real reason’. There are 11 Rules of Alchemy in the book. The most cited (and rightly so!) is ‘The opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea’.
- Behavior Business by Richard Chataway. Most likely the first practical edition showing how behavioral science can lead and improve business, with dozens of examples from business world, and descriptions of amazing experiments. ‘If you’re in business, you’re in business of behavior’ – so true for events! In addition, you can now enjoy Richard’s podcast named the same, Behavior Business.
- Engaged by Amy Bucher. If you are designing digital experiences (and most of us do these days) this book should be on your bucket list. An aside note, I love how Amy addresses ever question ‘isn’t it all manipulation?’ She says: ‘For better or for worse, psychology is not magic. And it’s certainly not about forcing people to do something! There’s no guarantee that using psychology will yield the desired outcome 100% of the time for 100% of the people. But what psychology can do is increase the odds that products built with its tools and insights will be effective at changing specific behaviors in the people who use them.’
- How Emotions are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett. I am learning a whole new world about my own emotions by reading this book. Demystifying lots of myths dwelling among both scientists and general public, it’s a great book to understand emotions, the most crucial element when designing event experiences. ‘You experience emotions without conscious effort, but that does not mean you’re a passive recipient of these experiences.. What’s innate is that humans use concepts to build social reality, and social reality, in turn, wires the brain.’
- Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions by Carmen Simon. One of my favorite books describing how human memory works. Carmen leads you, step by step, through the process well researched by neuroscientists – yet she does it in a way that is simple and clear, yet very captivating, for non-scientists. It’s truly a must-read if you want your event to be memorable. ‘To be on people’s mind, you must become part of their reflexes, habits, and/or goals they consider valuable’.
- Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini. In author’s words, ‘it identifies what savvy communicators do before delivering a message to get it accepted’. It’s an essential read for event planners who by their nature should be able to communicate effectively. If you want to learn how to draw attention, how to create solid trust, and how to win hearts – read this book. And did you read Influence by the way?
And lastly, if you want to read about some of the behavioral science concepts applied in events, here is an excerpt from my book on Strategic Event Planning as featured in Smart Meetings Oct 2020 edition.