“Sweeeeeet Emooooooootion”…is a great Aerosmith song and happens to be featured in one of my favorite Disney Pixar films, Inside Out. While the movie never plays the entire song, the chorus plays enough to stick in your head. Why? Those two words sum up the movie’s message perfectly: emotions are key to creating lasting impressions.
Perhaps you’re not into animated movies, but take note – the message applies to anything, especially your event. If audience experience is your focus (and it should be), understand that eliciting a strong emotion (positive or negative), lays down the tracks for a strong memory. And the bigger the emotion, the more likely it is to be tied to a “core memory” as Inside Out addresses. Think about it: recall a memory that is important to you. Maybe from earlier in the week when you (insert funny/realistic example here); maybe from childhood when you (insert funny example here). How you felt is likely more salient than the details. It’s like the Super bowl commercials we all anticipate. We remember the ones that made us laugh or cry and the best ones can even go viral. We remember the story of the commercial often better than we remember the company that created it.
You want people to feel that attending your event was a wise decision. And you want them to relive the moments and recall the experiences well after checking out of their hotel or driving home. You want people to spread the news, on social media, to friends and co-workers when they get home. You want people to walk away feeling inspired, energized, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic. To do this, you need to think deeply about what creates emotional connections and then strive to strike those emotional chords.
How do you do this? Create emotional moments to bind memories.
You have a finite number of moments at your event where you have the attention of your entire audience. Don’t miss the chance to leverage every moment.
Look for opportunities during your event where you can surprise, include and delight your attendees. These are elements that create binding emotions.
Do the unexpected
Have unannounced speakers, entertainers, musicians, etc. Being from Seattle I was particularly delighted to see Satya Nadella invite Russell Wilson on stage at Microsoft’s Convergence event in Atlanta this year. Fly a drone through the common area with a video camera and project the video for all to see, it excites and delights everyone. Salesforce is excellent at creating surprise moments. Last year they had The Beach Boys play at their event unannounced. It was a complete shock for the audience and a great surprise. Never in my life had I even contemplated seeing The Beach Boys live and now…I have, and I have Saleforce.com to thank for that treat.
Get in the audience
Include the audience where possible. Bring them closer to your speakers. Create the thrill of getting to see your keynote speaker up close. This year at Cisco Live, John Chambers walked through the aisles and engaged directly with the audience. If you check out the video of the keynote you can see the excitement and enjoyment of being so close to Mr. Chambers. Mark Benioff and his executive staff that spoke in the main keynote at Dreamforce all walked the floor of the keynote space. Mark made sure he walked down every aisle. This ensured he was no less than 5 seats away from every person in the room at some point during his keynote. I watched everyone swivel their heads to watch him and pull out their phones to snap photos of him as they came by their seat. These people won’t soon forget that experience.
Make your event a happening
I said it in my first blog, and I meant it. You need to focus on turning your event into a happening. Make it something people don’t want to miss.
Welcome reception: Kick off your event on a high note. You want them to be excited to be there and you want them to stay for your entire event. This is where you capture people’s attention. Your chance to make a brilliant first impression. Don’t pass it off as compulsory.
Keynote: Invite speakers that think outside the box. Speakers can help create the emotion connection you want with your audience. If you need the audience to recognize that security is the most important aspect of today’s society, get an expert that highlights this serious threat and people will remember that you warned them and you had a solution.
Celebration: A standard in corporate event culture is to get a band to perform at your celebration. This is always fun and always a draw. However, you can do more. Here’s one example. Look to the city where you are holding your event. When people travel to an event, they rarely get to experience the place they have traveled to. It’s usually airport, hotel, conference rooms, restaurant, hotel, and finally back to the airport for a flight home. Hold a street fair that showcases what the city is known for. Serve food the city is known for, have activities and local merchants particular to the city, have local bands playing at different spots and times during the street fair.
Closing keynote: Think about every great book you’ve ever read. Did the end just kind of whimper and fade away or was an ending that felt fulfilling and even left you wondering what would happen next? Treat closing your event with the same reverence as an author crafting the end of their story. You want everyone to know they have reached the climax of your event and you want to leave them wanting more. You want them to be hungry for next year’s event.
When you bring all of these elements together, you have the opportunity to create a lasting impression that goes beyond the immediate buzz of the moment. You are truly able to give your audience an event that they’ll be talking about for a long time to come. And the mark of true success is when they come back next year and bring their friends.
When you bring all of these elements together, you connect emotionally. It becomes memorable.
As CEO Randy sets the vision for the company, building strategic partnerships, and ensuring the Spur culture thrives. Randy has been with the team for over 14 years and has been instrumental in growing the business and developing our people.