Sunday, May 10, 2009

Make Your Next Event the One Everybody Attends

As a kid I remember my mom saying things come in threes. I don’t know if there’s any scientific validity to that but it always seemed like famous people died in sets of three. Right or wrong, superstition or coincidence, what my mom said stuck with me. So, when I recently noticed three similar things occurring in a relatively short period of time I thought I should write about it in this week’s blog.


What I’m going to share might just help your next event be a little more successful, and a little better attended, because of the power of persuasion.


A good friend asked me to review an invitation she was getting ready to send for an upcoming webinar. Part of the invitation read as follows:


“Registration limited to only 20 organizational teams, and 4 teams have already signed up.”


Mentioning the limited seating was good use of the principle of scarcity because people are motivated to act when things they want appear to be limited, rare or dwindling. The fact that only 20 teams would get to participate should motivate people to sign up rather quickly so they won’t miss out on what could be a great learning opportunity.


However, mentioning only four teams had signed up was working against my friend because it was not a motivator to sign up. In fact, it was a demotivator because it goes counter to another principle of influence known as consensus.


Consensus is the name for the psychological principle that tells us people look to others when deciding what actions to take, especially when they’re not quite sure what to do. With kids we call it “peer pressure” but that same psychological pressure is at work on us as adults, too. If we see many people, or people similar to ourselves, doing something, we tend believe it’s probably the right thing to do and quite often we go along with the crowd. If you don’t believe that then ask yourself why you stood up last time there was a standing ovation for some event that really, you didn’t particularly care for.


Consensus can help motivate people to action but it can also work in reverse. If we don’t see many people doing something then we might not be inclined to do it either. For example, talking about what a shame it is that so many people don’t vote only legitimizes not voting in the minds of many people. As far as my friend’s invitation, although four registered teams before the official invitation went out was a good thing, my advice was to change the wording, or remove it altogether, because people receiving the invitation might see that as a lack of participation and decide not to sign up.


At the beginning of this week’s posting I said three things came to my attention so here are the other two. These were also invitations to public events but they differed slightly from the previous example. When I went to sign up for these events there was a section at the bottom of each registration page with a list of attendees. Because I went to the registration sites as soon as I got the email invitations I noticed there were no attendees listed on either Web page. Falling back on my understanding of consensus I knew that was not going to motivate anyone to sign up and could actually be a deterrent.


As I’ve been writing this I just saw another invitation, this for a networking event, and 53 were signed up to attend and another 21 were interested. Those numbers will most likely entice others to join the crowd.


Consider this for just a moment; what would you think if you went to register for some event you thought was going to be a big deal but only saw a couple of people on the guest list? You might not feel the event will be worth your time. So here’s my suggestion; if you use Web sites that allow you to show people who’ve registered, don’t show the list until some critical mass is achieved. Otherwise it will probably work against you. Doing this might just make your next event the one everybody wants to attend!


I welcome your feedback so click on the comments link below and let me know what you thought of this week’s article.

Brian, CMCT 
influence
people 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

2 comments:

  1. Great thoughts Brian! Do you have any recommendation or advice on how to influence or inspire the sign up, aside from the number of participants situation you discuss? Do we say "Don't miss the event everybody wants to attend!" in our advertisement or what might be an example from your thoughts?

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  2. Dennis,
    Liking is tough to tap into when people may not know the speaker. However, authority can be powerful if you tout the speaker's credentials with particular emphasis on what makes the person truly unique or an expert.

    Legitimate comments about consensus - what everyone else is doing, or scarcity - limited space or time are probably the best and easiest to tap into. Another scarcity angle could be a valuable give away where you go with something like this, "The first X number of people get a copy of my book for free."

    Reciprocity could be used but that's tougher because to do because you have to give something in advance that makes them feel like signing up to return the favor.

    If you've had prior contact with people consistency could come into play, "I remember you said you were looking for training that does A and B before year-end. Great news, I'll be in your area talking about both on [date]."

    Do these examples give you some ideas?

    Brian

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