Jun 30, 2016

The New Narrative of Delivering Successful Events

Every event will have one or more key objectives.  Usually, objectives will include outcomes such as Networking, Motivation, Communication or Sharing of the strategic narrative/plan.  But, I often wonder whether, when planning an event, there is ever any thought or discussion given to the desired or required behaviour change?  

If we think about it, the purpose of any event is to create positive behaviour change.  In my opinion, to achieve that you need to create a level of emotional engagement and importantly, you need to understand how people learn.  It has been proven that people learn least effectively through listening.  It is my belief that too often events focus, wrongly, on the messages that need to be shared and conveyed and not enough time and thought is given to how to share it or how to engage your audience around that story.  Too many meetings and conferences involve too many upfront presentations and whilst they have their place, they rarely achieve their objectives; they rarely inspire and most certainly rarely engage their audience to drive the required behaviour change. 

Sometimes for presenters it’s a difficult and painful message.  However, whether the presentation is 3 minutes, 30 minutes or 3 days, your typical attendee will be inspired by a maximum of 3 things.  In many cases, attendees will value personal interaction over presentation (irrelevant of who the speaker is). 

To understand how to maximize your audience engagement opportunity, you could do a lot worse than take a look at how we humans learn.  Applicable to both genders, all cultures, crossing the age divide and importantly inclusive of all, whether a factory worker or a senior leader of a multi national global company, the statistics are revealing…..the least effective way of learning is passive learning and we learn less from lectures or talks than any other form or tactic.  

I use this insight as the guiding principles of audience engagement.  I strongly believe that learning behaviour should influence meeting content and structure. 

By now I hope you realize that I am a passionate proponent of audience engagement!  So to help, here’s a list of some key principles you may want to consider next time you have an event on the horizon…

  1. Ask yourself, and your key stakeholders, what behaviour change are you looking to positively impact? 
  2. Storytelling – it’s a very powerful technique and a core skill of inspirational leaders and speakers.  Are you delivering your message through telling enough engaging stories? 
  3. Engagement through inclusion.  Creating the environment for discussion and allowing people to share their views is key.  People engage more when they are participatory and made to feel included.  Ask them to play a role within the session, rather than just being “member of the audience”.  Your delegates have a voice and should be encouraged to share it.  Are you asking the right questions and are you listening to the audience voice? 
  4. Linking to storytelling, bring your words alive visually through pictures.  As the learning behaviours tell us, we humans engage more visually than we do through words.  Just like the age old saying “A picture paints a 1000 words”.  Are you painting enough engaging pictures?
  5. Blend the physical world with the digital at your event.  Digital solutions and techniques can deliver powerful ways to support audience engagement.  And via Real-time analytics from your digital event tools, you can gain real insights about your audience’s voice that can optimize the event whilst it’s happening.  Are you making the most of your digital event strategy? 
  6. The engagement opportunity starts many days & weeks ahead of the event and continues many days & weeks after it too.  Have you planned an ongoing integrated pre and post engagement and communication plan? 

In conclusion, the physical event world is changing.  Beyond recognition.  Early adaptors of this change have seen their event outcomes benefit from new and disruptive techniques in audience engagement.  Focus on the new narratives of event planning outlined in this article.  Behavior change.  Storytelling.  Participation.  Visualisation.  Digital.  Insights.  Integration.  These are the new frontiers of event delivery and the new opportunities to truly engage your audiences in ways that give all involved the outcomes they desire. 

For more information please contact:  Mike Ford  44 7872 507462