5 Feelings That Make the Event Magic Happen

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What makes people gather, enjoy and talk about events? Here are five universal feelings that make normal events become outstanding.

5 Feelings That Make the Event Magic

Have you ever attended an event that was great, so great that you keep telling your colleagues or friends through the year? Probably you have. Yet is highly likely that, despite your incredible enthusiasm, it is hard for you to say why it was so special.

Maybe it was a specific time of your life, or just the perfect weather. .

Amazing Experience, Incredibly Engaging

Every industry has its buzzwords. In the event industry, we overuse engagement and experience.

When we market our events, we often use these words in conjunction with positive adjectives, with the hope to sell that unique feeling.

The thing is that an incredibly engaging experience is usually a result of careful planning plus that “x factor” we can’t often explain.

So let’s try to explain it.

The Difference Between a Great and an Outstanding Event

It is my belief, that the difference between good and freaking awesome events is in the planning.

Event planning is seen by the outside world as a mechanical process for control freaks and coffee addicts. A not necessarily difficult task that is just complex and requires controllers.

I know it sounds harsh, but I’ve heard it many times. I’ve also attended the events of those who think this way and they are incredibly average.

Reducing event planning to a mechanical exercise that just requires budgeting, team control and crisis management usually results in mediocrity. Well planned events that are simply boring.

I believe feelings make events outstanding. While feelings are almost always the result of co-creation and interaction in the event setting, I believe we can incorporate them into the event planning process to make our audience have superbly engaging experiences 😉

So let’s look at five sentiments making us shiver and say ‘This event was awesome!’ – each feeling will have a video to explain how it works for events.

1. Fun

Fun is a feeling we always tend to forget in our planning. Specially in the MEETINGS industry. See gloomy that word can be, MEETINGS!!!. Meetings as well as music festivals and football matches can be fun.

Regardless of the nature of an event, adding an element of fun to your events will always deliver memorable experiences.

So let me explain it to you with a video. Sasquatch ’09. Popular video that got viral back then. There is an artist performing and the crowd is pretty unresponsive. But there is one guy…

If you can’t see the video, click here.

If it wasn’t for the funny and extremely catchy performance of that one audience member, probably nobody would have remembered that moment. Yet it is know being watch by more than 11 Million people.

You may think this is random, but it is not. As an event professional you can cater for horizontal elements of fun and vitality that make the event unforgettable.

One of the greatest examples I always like to reference is how Holland Tourism created the fictional character of Mr Holland. A quintessential Dutch going around exhibitions around the world, taking pictures with attendees.

See the latest at IMEX:

Mr holland Imex

See the original post by Meet Mr. Holland.

This fun and engaging character, makes the experience of getting to know about Holland as a destination, fun. The guy is almost a celebrity for us planners.

The benefits of fun and play are immense, but there is a post on that coming up tomorrow by Cathy Key so I won’t anticipate much.

2. Frustration

If you have kids, you know how powerful frustration can be. A frustrated human being in their first years of existence could cry for days or keep you up at night for weeks.

The power of frustration is immense. The whole marketing industry is based on frustration management.

When we think about planning events, we are always focussed on creating flawless experiences. Don’t get me wrong, this is great and how it should be. Yet adding elements of frustration along the path, may move static attendees to be more engaged and involved with the event.

Little pinches of frustration here and there, can make the event experience more surprising and rewarding.

Let me give you an example. This is 2010. An important Champions League final (for the gentlemen in other countries you can swap that with Football, Cricket or Rugby final of your choice). Have a look…

If you can’t see the video, click here.

I must say the agency went really hard with frustration, but can you not see the moved faces of the previously sleepy audience?

Would they have enjoyed the surprise so much without the frustration of missing a classic match you only see five or six times in your life? Probably not.

In an event context, you can plan small frustration spots to make your audience value more your performer. Think about lines. While lines at registration are completely useless in most events, in some events they need to be there.

They are a sign of the popularity of the event. Lines are the story you tell your friends after coming back from a concert. ‘I waited 3 hours in line, but it was awesome’.

I would question whether sometimes what we appreciate is just the frustration avoidance (‘I am at the end of the line, I can finally enjoy the event’) rather than the event in itself. We convince ourselves the event was great because we waited so much and got so frustrated for it.

This principle could be explained by cognitive dissonance and cognitive bias. What I want you to remember though is to use frustration in moderation and for good purposes.

3. Surprise

Surprise is usually tied to frustration. Oh, the wait before Christmas presents (frustration) and the joy to unpack them (surprise).

So how can we use surprise in an event context.

I love this video from the ever awesome Improv Everywhere guys. It needs no intro…

If you can’t see the video, click here.

The feeling of being in something usual that ends up in surprise is amazing. The fact is that it communicates the message very clearly.

Planned surprises could be a great addition that break routine and make attendees happy.

The power of surprises is also a strong ally when you are trying to make an impact online. Surprises immediately move attendees to reach to their mobile and take pictures or videos.

If the surprise is meaningful and really unexpected it will make an impact online.

4. Anticipation

Anticipation is a luxury only few events can afford. It comes with prestige and reputation. It comes with time.

Those events you cannot wait for are indeed the ones that you will mostly be enthusiastic about. Creating a feeling of anticipation is an art. Steve Jobs was a master of such art.

See this video.

If you can’t see the video, click here.

How many times have you seen people clapping and cheering to a product announcement? Did you notice the audience amazement when Steve Jobs was scrolling up and down?

Of course we are talking about incredible technology but it is not just that. I’ve covered before how Apple is genius in creating anticipation and how fanboys learned through repetition and consistency to expect great things at each WWDC or Macworld.

Anticipation is not only a medal you earn on the field. It needs to be fostered with the right choices:

– Similar format that is tweaked only in details over time.
– Consistent audience or community of attendees.
– Top notch experience that delivers on the basic attendee needs.
– Uniqueness and exclusivity.

Only those events that tick all these boxes are those we do not forget and ‘can’t wait to attend!’

5. Spontaneity

Spontaneity is usually the result of serendipity. Which is usually the opposite of planning. Or is it?

Can you plan for serendipity? Can you plan for the attendees to experience unexpected good vibes?

Have a look at this video:

If you can’t see the video, click here.

The stilt dancer was the ‘planned event’ – the little boy is the event.

Nobody could care less about the stilt man anymore, because there was a much better show to watch.

So how do you get spontaneity and serendipity. This is the simplest of all: by empowering your attendees. By giving space to your audience to participate, present, sing, dance – or whatever your event is about – you open the arena to the unexpected.

This is the concept at the basis of models such as the unconference or barCamps where the agenda is made on the spot and there are no spectators, only participants. What you will discover at an event like this is the unexpected, which could be good or bad, but it’s definitely not boring.

In Conclusion

I hope I have inspired you with these five universal feelings to make your attendees feel the beat of their heart.

Truth is that emotion without planning is a missed opportunity so always use emotions as the great condiment of a perfectly planned event.

If you are planning to use one of these feelings as the cherry on top of your next project, make sure to send me an invite, I can’t wait to attend!