How to use psychology to create influential events

Understanding the mind of your delegates can inform the way you organise events, says Raimond Torrents at IBTM World.

Raimond Torrents, meeting designer and general manager at Event Management Institute, says event organisers should also try to surprise delegates, and make them feel as a part of a group, because events can help to motivate and engage delegates at events.

Speaking in Barcelona at ibtm World on 27 November, Torrents said events are best thought of as a way of communicating, with the aim of influencing an audience, to behave in a way that is in the interest of the organiser.

"Psychology can help us to better know our audience, our target group. It can help us to know better how the public react, what they like and what they do not like, what motivates them and what discourages them," Torrents said.

"[At an event] we want to surprise, in order to be relevant, notable, and memorable to our audience. There are many ways to surprise, many ways to achieve the so-called ‘wow’ effect’.

Torrents presented conclusions drawn from a research paper, where a group of nine psychologists looked for scientific explanations to answer critical questions.

The research paper, called Events and persuasion: From the message to behaviour looked at audience behaviour at an event, how motivation and surprise work and why people identify themselves with certain groups.

Torrents went on to present ways in which psychology and sociology can be used to make an event more successful:

How can we surprise?

  • Use something improbable in an otherwise a concrete scenario.

  • An intensive activity, either visual or using sound.

  • In more general terms, storytelling helps keep the audience's attention.

  • Introduce something new without notice.

How can we make people part of a group?

  • Identify common elements shared by all group members. Make them obvious and it will be easy for people to feel part of a group.

  • Knowing the characteristics of a group can define how successful an event is.

Why do people identify themselves with certain groups?

  • People identify with groups with whom they share objectives, experiences, personal characteristics, hobbies or share similar emotions with

What were the main conclusions of the research?

  • Psychology and sociology are fundamental to understanding the behaviour of the public in events.

  • Psychology tells us that emotions are key if we want to motivate an audience.

  • Without emotion, you will lose the attention of the audience. Without their attention, they won’t remember what was said.  

  • Without memory, there is no reaction, there is no behaviour and there is no persuasion.

What did you want people to take away from your presentation?

Psychology, sociology and neuroscience can help us to know our audience better. So study, investigate and don’t conform to intuition or common sense.

  • Motivation is the most important goal of an event, so people voluntarily and even enthusiastically, behave in way that we would like.

  • Emotions are important to the primitive part of brain and force it to react, to generate behaviours. Without emotion, we can’t motivate our audience.

  • We are social beings, so we can’t understand a person if we don’t understand their environment.

  • Capturing the interest (attention) of the public is key.

  • Make the audience understand the message (perception)

  • The event will only be profitable if we make a long-lasting effect (memory) on the public

  • Future research into neuroscience will reveal what stimulates our brains and how it manages emotions. These will be crucial in designing events and effective messages that influence target audiences.

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