Now that IMEX America 2019 is over, I want to tell you about what it was like (Spoiler: it was awesome 🙂 )
Talking Event Psychology
First and foremost – I got to speak about #eventpsychology! Having already been excited about sharing insights on applying psychology and neuroscience to events with fellow eventprofs, I got even more excited when I saw a packed seminar room with people standing around. This feeling is hard to describe, but it gave me goosebumps! It is clear that the event community is becoming more interested in the topic. The evidence I have comes from the feedback I have received online, my own session experience, and looking at the IMEX agenda, which has a number of similar topics (e.g. the measurement of emotions; how to improve learning and networking experiences with science-backed methods).
Three ways to improve engagement
Secondly, I’d like to share three cool things I experienced firsthand at IMEX that have a lot to do with my favorite subject above and in particular, the concept of engagement I discussed during my presentation. Here are these three things.
There is never a shortage of creativity among exhibitors at IMEX. You can find all kinds of great ideas implemented at every booth designed to draw visitors: from wax figures of Channing Tatum and Bradley Cooper (looking very much alive) to giant chairs to a flower lady. Yet, co-creation or co-experience is what drives the best engagement. My observations at this and other trade shows confirmed this once again (not surprising if you understand the psychology involved).
A few examples from IMEX 2019 first: a live box training session at Thailand’s booth; a ‘send-a-postcard from Taiwan’; a traditional Maori tattoo at New Zealand’s booth; or making a bespoke wine stopper at GES’s booth (below).
Participants were actively involved in a designated activity in all of those. This is what makes it stand out, increases engagement, and makes it a meaningful, potentially business-building action.
The science confirms the benefits of co-creation. This study, for example, shows that “co-creating with consumers can be a strategic method to positively influence product perceptions and behavioral intentions”. Another study suggests that sharing co-creation activities contributes to consumer satisfaction. It is also important to not forget about the IKEA effect – a cognitive bias that makes people value things they created more highly. What’s behind it? Here is a comprehensive answer: “The effect has a range of possible explanations, such as positive feelings (including feeling of competence) that come with successful completion of a task, a focus on the product’s positive attributes, the relationship between effort and liking (Norton et al., 2012), a link between our creations and our self-concept (Marsh et al., 2018), as well as psychological sense of ownership (Sarstedt et al., 2017)”
Nook Event Pods
As I walked towards the exit at the end of the day, I noticed a cute little half-‘house’ where two men were talking. I got curious and slowed down, and David and Dan invited me to take a seat. As it turned out, the house I wondered about was a cozy, multifunctional space designed to fill the needs of both event organizers and audiences. In addition to enjoying the product itself (it’s portable, noise dampening, and customizable), I enjoyed learning about the concept behind it. It’s all about removing friction and distraction on the way to a better event experience for attendees.
Here’s how it relates to event psychology. Studies suggest that the more comfortable our environment is, the more engaged, focused and satisfied we become. (Also read about the importance of attendee comfort in Professional Meeting Management: A Guide to Meetings, Conventions, and Events). By providing a comfortable, intimate and easy-to-set environment, Nook, helps organizers show they care about attendees’ needs, whether that be charging their phones, having a meeting, or just relaxing quietly on their own. Results? Happy participants – just what event planners aim for.
Laughter Yoga Sessions
As I worked on my presentation for IMEX19, I was excited to share laughter yoga session as an example of practical activity that not many people are aware of (let alone practiced). Yet it offers so many benefits that I think it should be a must-have for any event. You can judge for yourself: it’s fun (this is a core); it’s healthy (this is yoga, right? ); and it helps spread positive emotions among the group of people gathered together.
A combination such as this is definitely a winning one, also from a scientific perspective. Research has shown that laughter affects our bodies (burning calories, increasing heart rate and respiration, stimulating the immune system) as well as our minds: it reduces stress and improves memory and concentration. Yoga element is about relaxation, mindfulness and concentration. Sharing positive emotions that come with laughter and yoga, contributes to overall satisfaction with the event experience. So I’d say that, of all the possible activities, laughter yoga sessions are one of the few that are firmly rooted in psychology. What a surprise it was when I opened IMEX agenda and saw laughter yoga sessions. Surely, I made a note to participate, and a Laughter Lab by Sarah and Rachael did not disappoint.
(Upd-1: here is an interesting podcast about neuroscience of laughter)
(Upd-2: for more fun activities and inspiration, check out this thread from the EventPlannersTalk twitter chat I co-hosted in July 2021).
The event community is increasingly recognizing the benefits of behavioral science knowledge in events, judging from the feedback from my IMEX session and examples above and from elsewhere. It’s important to realize that event psychology – regardless of whether you use it for your events or not yet – is already a must-have skill. Do you want to master it so that you can engage attendees better, boost attendance, and make your online or in-person events exceptional? If yes, get in touch.