I am a great believer in the influence events play in our lives, our interests and the paths we take.
So it has been fascinating watching the influence recent events and various forces have played on my son’s interests. And it’s interesting to see how Jack is being influenced into what sports he follows and participates in. There are some patterns emerging, which I think are worth learning from, and sharing.
The Influence of the People Around Us
As we know (and studies show) the families we are born into dictate many of our interests, such as the sports we follow, and the teams we support. And ever since cousin Albert Collier played for Collingwood in 1927, my wife Kristy’s family have been Pies supporters (I know, I know… I didn’t know what I was signing up for, but I do love the banter!). So Jack is going to be a Pies man, with a little help from his friends.
The Influence of the People, and, the Things Around Us
What has also influenced Jack recently is the socialisation effect of starting at school, and therefore the influence of the people around him. His best buddies play AFL, and not only that, there is the influence of the things around him. Readily available footy balls, and other symbols of the game, such as guernsey wearing friends, and now, the presence of AFL footy cards in the playground, are all excellent examples of the physical catalysts that engage an audience.
Jack currently actually plays soccer, so it will be fascinating to see what influences him the most, in the battle between our sports codes to capture hearts and minds.
And, I also know some recent events have caused a deeper connection for Jack.
The Influence of Experiences
As a club member Jack was invited by Collingwood to play on the MCG before a recent match – bucket list ticked at age 5! – creating a deeply engaging experience that has connected him to his club, and the AFL.
As we know… people will ‘never forget how you made them feel’.
The Influence of Events
As I am sure you have experienced yourself, exposure to a big event is a massive catalyst to becoming interested in something, and can be highly influential in creating a connection to a sport.
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say experiencing a match day at the MCG has shifted Jack quickly from the ‘aware’ fan state to ‘active’ fan / fanatic! And these LIVE event experiences have been the influential platform that have pushed him towards following on other platforms (games on TV, etc etc).
Likewise a BBL match was transformational in Jack connecting to cricket, these events have been influential eye openers into a new world.
The Influence Within Us
Which brings me to the influence of the thoughts within us, and the latest in a series of shortcuts which influence our minds.
There is a thing called the ‘Availability Bias’ which refers to a common mistake that our minds make, that the things which come to mind easily are also the most important or prevalent things. And, that we overvalue the importance of things that we often see, and we undervalue the prevalence of the events we hear nothing about.
Ok, so this one may seem obvious, but think it through before you dismiss it. And how it may work for you.
As I have seen, this ‘Availability Bias’ has played a massive role in Jack’s world. The availability of AFL, in front of him, in the people and things around him, the events and experiences he has been involved in. I am sure this has, and will, influence his life greatly.
We know availability bias influences and applies to all ages. For example the symbols of AFL are everywhere in our lives.
So Availability matters. How can you use this?
1. Be available
I know it can be tough to take comparisons from the large scale sports, brands or organisations, but we can apply the principles that have worked for them in our own strategies, even if it is at a different scale. And having a think about how you can be present in the lives of your audiences, at critical times, as this can have a disproportionate benefit.
2. Be in front of people
You need to get your triggers in the lives of your audience. The symbols of your event in front of people, physically, and online. And we need to acknowledge that where these triggers need to be placed is constantly changing. I participated in an event again recently and wondered why we hadn’t heard much from the organisers. On reflection the event comms had been the same, the problem was me, and my mates had shifted channels. We are on WhatsApp, messenger and facebook. Not looking on email or websites. The problem was the event organisers hadn’t moved their triggers to shift with us. We must be in front of our audience, not behind them.
3. Provide the Props In a great study by Professor Jonah Berger into why some things catch on, and some do not, he found one of the key elements was having a public presence.
“Built to show, built to grow”
The research found the more public something is, the more we are likely to imitate it.
4. Make it more Public
As event organisers, we are at an advantage. Often, your event is for public show. And so the physical presence of the event itself can be a very public display to leverage off. People seeing your event is a great moment to leverage. Seeing a large group of people is likely to cause those spectators to overestimate the importance or popularity of the events or activities they have seen. And it is at this time we need to promote to them. This is a key window of opportunity.
There has been some debate over the influence of major events on our behaviour. However you only need to observe the peak in interest around events like the Australian Open, to see the effect on how much people are interested in, talk about, and play more tennis at that time.
So what to do?
As I hope you can see, the influence of people, events and experiences can be used to great effect. And that the influence of time is also important. That increasing the availability of your event can be achieved in many ways, but it takes some planning. And Experience Design is ideally placed to address these strategies. Using the influence of events, the people and things around us, to change what people are interested in.
And sometimes, we can even influence their lives.
If you need some help with that, give me a call.