When planning a training event, you may look for expert advice about how to ensure that it runs glitch free – that everything works according to plan. But these days, being glitch-free is the minimum of what your attendees expect. Often, they are looking for something more – something a bit special. An experience that is engaging, worthwhile, memorable and even social media-friendly.
How can you create this experience for them? Thinking about what appeals to the brains of your attendees is a good place to start.
Make sure you are appealing to all of your attendees’ senses.
In other words, don’t just check that the audio quality is satisfactory, but make sure the lighting creates a suitable ambiance. Use music where appropriate. Make sure that the room smells pleasant, the chairs are comfortable and the food is delicious.
Whether we consciously realize it or not, our senses are influencing our thoughts, emotions and behaviors every minute of the day. Therefore, thinking from a multi-sensory perspective, rather than a mono-sensory perspective, means that your event room becomes more than the sum of its fittings, fixtures and furniture.
Instead, it creates an experiential atmosphere with a buzz. It brings people together. It fosters a sense of curiosity. And it uplifts their mood.
Curiosity evokes interest and facilitates learning. There are different types of curiosity to think about. We can be curious about things we see, hear or touch; curious to learn something new; or curious to find out about the people around us.
Building curiosity into your event means creating situations where your attendees can come across something that causes them to sit up and take notice. Help them discover something that is slightly unexpected, partly hidden, out of context or incongruent. It will cause their brains to ask questions like, “What is that?” or, “What’s over there?”. It will motivate them to approach, to question and to explore – all useful behaviors in an event environment.
Remember, though, that curiosity takes time. It is unlikely that people will show much curiosity if they are dashing to their next session or rushing to meet a friend. Instead, curiosity works best when people have time to linger.
Events also work best when there are workshops and roundtable discussions that provide time for sharing ideas, solving problems and being creative.
Science shows that one of the best ways to get their creative juices flowing is by generating positive energy – making people feel happy. So starting off a working session with a feel-good video, inspiring demo or fun activity is therefore, a great way to get people in the right mood for innovative thinking.
But don’t forget to build in rest breaks. Giving the brain “time out” engages its default mode, which has been shown to help creativity, too.
Engagement, not Boredom
However interesting your training sessions and speakers are, you may still be at risk from your arch-nemesis: attendee boredom.
Boredom happens when the attentional system fails to work properly. Attendees can’t sustain their focus when they want to, and their minds keep getting drawn away by minor distractions: a low whisper from the back of the room, a worry from work that keeps nagging at the back of their mind, a daydream about their upcoming holiday. To make matters worse, boredom puts people in a bad mood, and it makes time seem to go more slowly.
Ensuring that your event is jam-packed full of eye-catching, ear-catching, nose-catching sensations that grab attention is one way to counteract boredom. Whether it is through audience involvement, handouts, props, gestures, surprises, vocalizations or emotional stories, there are so many great ways to get people to sit up and take notice – to keep them alert.
But it’s not just the content that is important. The context matters, too. A hot, stuffy, airless event room will provide the ideal breeding ground for boredom, as it reduces people’s level of physiological arousal. Make sure you use the temperature, lighting and even smell of a room to create an environment for wakefulness and energy. Keep attendees’ brains from flipping the mental switch from a state of concentration to a state of soporific mind-wandering, and boost their level of attention and engagement.
Planning Something a Little Different
So, don’t just think of itineraries and timings when planning your next training event. Make sure you use the many lessons from the world of neuroscience to maximize your event’s brain-appeal. Create something just a little bit different that maximizes engagement and learning and is a memorable and share-worthy experience.