Now for something completely different! Designing events post-Covid

This is a guest post written by Richard Carlstrom

Not surprisingly, with the spread of Covid-19 and social distancing becoming the norm, the events industry has come to a halt. Yet there is light at the end of the tunnel.

As countries see success in flattening the curve and explore opening up again, we’ve had our thinking caps on about what’s next for industry events. We believe strongly that there will be two major themes at play when we get back to interacting in person at events such as product launches, leadership summits, sales meetings and employee meetings. One is a return to the basics of human interaction. The other? The need for novelty. Here’s our thinking.

The power of gathering The world has been isolating for months now and new paradigms have organically cropped up everywhere, from Zoom happy hours to spontaneous serenades from balconies all over the world. It all goes to show how social we are as humans. We’ve yearned for recognition of ourselves and to be in each other’s company like never before.

Yet will technologies such as Zoom and Facebook replace the yearning for in-person interaction?

We say no. In fact, we are certain that, as the world begins to come out of social isolation, audiences will crave a richer way to connect with each other as human beings. This notion has already gotten us thinking of new ways to delight attendees when it comes time for events to bring people together again.

Even though technology allows us to connect remotely, what we learned when webcast technology first came about, for example, is that, though expedient, it just wasn’t the same as being in the room with like-minded people.

One of the main reasons is that webcast events don’t offer opportunities to truly network. Even though attendees may complain about having to travel, surveys emphatically indicate that eventgoers prefer an in-person experience because of the energy exchange that occurs. At a live event, your audience adds value to the messaging they just heard by interacting with each other spontaneously and then again immediately after. It’s a shared experience that has yet to be duplicated in cyberspace.

So the need for being in each other’s presence will come back stronger. We simply will not outgrow our desire to be among other people. What’s more, we’ll want new ways to wake up our senses when we get together.

The human brain is a “novelty detector” When we were building this business a couple of decades ago, we immersed ourselves in learning the most innovative approaches to theater production, performance art, and live concerts. What we learned early on is that the most satisfying, thrilling, and memorable experiences were ones where a sudden left turn was taken. And research backs us up.

Scientist Daniela Fenker and her colleagues have used MRI scans to measure the activity of brain regions based on blood flow. They found that novelty enhances memory. The hippocampus—the part of the brain that regulates motivation, emotion, learning and memory—actually triggers dopamine (that “feel good” chemical in our brain) when it compares new sensory info with stored knowledge.

In other words, surprising your audience with the unexpected sends powerful impulses to them through the brain’s “novelty detector.” It’s what makes an experience unforgettable and stimulates inventive thinking, two reasons (out of many) why clients count on us to bring new experiences in all the right places.

A bigger opportunity We’re very excited to roll up our sleeves and, instead of panicking about the current pandemic situation, use this time to bring people together to connect in a deeper, more impactful way. We have a chance to shake things up, to build events differently and to use unexpected approaches to trigger the coveted dopamine for attendees.

Want to learn more about how we can help you harness the hippocampus to fulfill needs for novelty while enabling all-important networking at your next events? Talk to us.


This article first appeared here