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How to Create Emotional Connections with Event Attendees

by | May 15, 2014 | Industry News & Trends

Take a moment and think about the last event that you attended that you really loved.  Now think about why you loved that event.  What was it that made that emotional connection with you? Was it good content or great educational materials and courses?  Or was it something else, maybe something you can’t quite put your finger on.  What made it an experience and not just another forgettable event?

More than likely during the event you had an emotional response to a person, a presenter, or an activity.  As humans, we remember our emotional responses and connections. While the content may be amazing, it doesn’t warm our hearts and give us a feeling of familiarity.

A great way to make a personal connection with your attendees is by “surprising and delighting” them!  You will be amazed on how little time and money is needed to create great experiences!

Let’s take a quick look at what surprise and delight really means.  A surprise by definition is something unexpected.  Delight provides great pleasure or satisfaction.  Taking these words and their meanings into account, here are two great ways to surprise and delight, and ultimately, make an emotional connection with your attendees.

Remind Your Attendees of a Positive Memory from their Past 

Recently I was conducting a presentation on Event Branding, and during the presentation I asked a simple question, “How have you surprised and delighted your attendees?”

One example that was shared had all the surprise and delight that I could ask for.  The attendee referred to an event where they had a S’mores bar for their attendees.  Who hasn’t experienced the wonderful delicacy known as S’mores?  A flame-roasted marshmallow placed in between two graham crackers with some chocolate.

Not only were they delish, but also, they did something else that no one might have expected.  This simple treat – the way they smelled, the way they tasted – struck a nerve with their attendees.  Some started making comments like that they hadn’t had a S’mores since they were children.  Others reminisced about how they used to make S’mores with their families while camping or at a beach bonfire.

The emotional response was complete and a connection was made.  The woman that shared this story said that the overwhelming success of the S’mores Bar led to it being demanded at their next few events.  The attendees may believe they like them because of the way they taste, but this dessert hit them on an emotional level without them even knowing.

Other quick emotional triggering treats that you can serve at events:

  • Root Beer Float Stations
  • Vintage Candy Tables – candies from their childhoods like Boston Baked Beans, Charleston Chews, Etc.
  • Novelty Ice Cream Station – include Bomb Pops, Ices, Drumsticks, etc.
  • Sundae Bar – supply everything from cherries to Nerds!

Award Your Attendees for Unexpected Reasons

In the time I have been attending conferences, it always seems like the same people get recognized year after year.  This may appear as isolating to those members who contribute to the organization in different ways other than just sitting on boards or committees. (Although those individuals are important too!)  How do you inspire others to get involved with your association without having to take on a board or committee position?  And how can we value our members in different ways?

One way is to recognize your attendees with unexpected and unadvertised awards based on their actions and history with the organization.  Your member database will really come in handy to identify these individuals by utilizing some quick reports that will show you the not so hidden “A” players.

Here are some examples of “special awards” you can use to recognize the contributions of your attendees:

  • Longest number of years as a member
  • Attended the most association events
  • Most active contributor to your online forums and blogs
  • Most frequent volunteer
  • Most active fundraiser
  • Greatest number of member referrals
  • This list can go on and on and on!

Well, it is time to start planning your next event and to decide how to surprise and delight your attendees!  Remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive; it just needs to evoke emotion.  Make your events those that members want to attend and not just need to attend.


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