Carrie Abernathy CMP, CEM, CSEP is an award-winning event strategist who has been active in the world of meetings for over 15 years. Carrie was co-founder of the Association for Women in Events, the Events Industry Sexual Harassment Task Force, and is a speaker, blogger and coach at A Woman with Drive. Carrie also co-hosts the talk show “Events: From Black to White,” which explores equality in the events industry.
How to Help Your Attendees Discover Sustainable Happiness
Last year, I took the Yale certificate course on the science of wellbeing. This fascinating topic really hit home with me. I started to dig into more of what makes long-term happiness sustainable. Once I grasped Yale’s model behind sustainable wellbeing, I started translating that to my events and to my daily life to test it out. It turns out that Yale was on to something. Below are some tips and tricks to make your events (and perhaps your personal life) more joyful!
1. Human Connection
We all crave some sort of human interaction — even introverts like myself weren’t spared when the pandemic hit. Now, more than ever, attendees are looking for ways to connect. Zoom fatigue is absolutely real. Staring at a screen watching content as a bystander is no longer acceptable to most attendees. The easy solution is to give attendees an experience and way to interact with one another! Make it simple for attendees to chat or schedule one-on-one video meetings within your platform. I recently attended two virtual events that were great on content, but terrible with the human connection component. If you tried to reach out to an attendee, they were sent an email and there wasn’t a clear way to “chat” within the platform. Make sure that when you assess your virtual providers, there is an element to facilitate those connections that are needed in today’s sometimes isolating working environments. Matchmaking, mentorship and normal live conference components should not be ignored just because you move your event online.
2. Exercise and Movement
Science heavily points to exercise being an incredible reliever of pain, depression, fatigue and other ailments. Just because you may not be meeting in person doesn’t mean you can’t add exercise to your agendas to lighten your attendees day! I’ve held events where we pre-recorded meditation, yoga and boot camps so that attendees can choose their own adventures. These were wildly successful because attendees could do them on their own time. However, you can incorporate that human connection element many other ways—perhaps through a friendly walking competition or Peloton challenge. Get creative!
3. Gamification and Experiences
Content is no longer king. Adult learning styles have changed significantly over the past decade, with a massive shift in attention spans shortening over the past 12 months. Not only do we have to give our attendees great content, but we also have to provide experiences, edu-tainment and gamification to keep all adult learning styles engaged! Just remember there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” model when it comes to content and engagement. A healthy mix of on-demand, virtual live, pre-recorded and entertainment should keep even the most discerning attendee engaged. And don’t shirk gamification! At a recent virtual event, we offered “pizza for a year” to the top points-earners through our conference platform and found that our attendees had quite the competitive spirit! We drove high content engagement through gamification, and you should be considering that when choosing your virtual providers, as well.
4. Give attendees a PURPOSE!
Studies show that when we do good for others, we can have happiness lasting up to 10 weeks. That is incredible! Attendees crave learning and networking, but giving them a purpose and adding in charitable/altruistic components to your meeting just may be the icing on the cake. With the onslaught of virtual events, you can still deliver on philanthropy. Perhaps attendees are being sent care packages to put together for their local shelters, or writing notes to health care workers. Don’t underestimate the power of “good” when putting together your experiences in the future.
Of course, there are many other ways to add joy to your attendees event experiences, but these are a few starters backed by science! In short, experiences, movement and connection are the next normal when it comes to virtual and in-person events moving forward.