In the Brain-Based Events Exchange Café--recently presented at e4--we talked about ways to engage an audience at an event and make sure that your message is communicated in a way that people will remember.
Emotion has been proven to increase the rate of recall in events. When there’s an emotional context, the brain secretes adrenaline and this helps to fuse memories. This creates a powerful event where more key information is retained by attendees.
Within our café session, we asked participants to brainstorm ways that they can add emotion into an event. Here are some of the great answers we received:
Share stories: Stories activate the brain and engage us emotionally. A story can be an anecdote or can even be the “story” of a product.
Create a personal connection: Good speakers get audiences to relate to them using rapport, anecdotes, humor, etc. Creating a personal connection could also mean making it possible for people to bring and share their own experiences within an event. Setting their own powerful, highly-personal goals and outcomes.
Incorporate humor: Ellie and Eddie the Eagles are good examples of incorporating humor into an event. You don’t have to have a giant talking eagle co-hosting to engage the audience in a humorous way, though. Jokes, anecdotes, videos, etc. are also ways to add humor.
Create competition: In the Brain-Based Events session, we played an audience-response game show to re-engage participants, but also to create the emotional experience of competition.
Inspiring videos: Hollywood spends millions of dollars producing products that will emotionally connect with an audience. In the right context, an inspirational video can be extremely powerful. (The locker room scene of “Miracle on Ice” comes to mind.)
Use music: Our brains are wired to engage with music. The music you use as the audience walks in, leaves, and reflects/discusses during the event can have a huge emotional impact. On example of musical mis-use? I attended an event where the opening song, as the audience walked in, was “Rainy Days and Mondays (always get me down)”. Talk about setting an inappropriate context for the event!
Scents: We saw scents being used at the e4 event to draw people into areas. Scents can have a powerful emotional connection—the smell of popcorn in the lobby, fresh-baked bread, the sharpness of peppermint etc. Keep in mind, though, that scents are somewhat risky to employ at an event because there can be so many sensitivities, and strong scents can be a trigger for headaches.
Nostalgia: Company heritage pieces are a good example of using nostalgia for emotional impact. Old photos, sound clips, etc. can also be employed.
Novelty: Changing up the program and adding elements that are completely new and surprising can provide an emotional experience.
Photos: There’s a reason that people display “happy snaps” on the morning of the second/third day of an event. It reconnects people with their experience at the event.
Environment of the room: Lighting, seating, staging, etc. can all subtly influence emotion in the room. Dark rooms with close seating create a different feel than an open room with theatrical, flashy lighting.
Interaction: Interacting with the audience at an event can foster an emotional experience… but more on creating interaction later!
Emotional connection with an audience doesn’t have to be complex, and it doesn’t have to be one single emotion. Making an event FUN adds emotion. Having a team competition adds emotion… And that all leads into higher content retention and a more effective event for you and your clients.
Dan Yaman is the Founder and CEO of Live Spark, the event design firm that produced Eddie and Ellie the eagles. Live Spark also consults on presentations and events, designs custom game and audience-response experiences and more. You can check out our blog for more tips and event insights—or check back here for more postings to come.