Awe. What Are You Famous For?

In our study of the worlds iconic events, we found they all famous for something. For moments of awe. Whether it be a World Cup final or the Super Bowl, Carnivale or Coachella, TomorrowLand or a TED Talk. We experience awe in all these events. The events capture our minds and create a feeling of amazement, for in a moment in time. A place where awe embraces us. Influencing our thinking, our reactions, and our reflections. Creating powerful, influential events.


Awe is a sense of something immense. When we experience that ‘wow factor’. When your 100% enthralled, and your heart is pumping. That is awe.

The Power of Awe

We experience awe at events, in experiences which are grand, sublime, challenging or emotionally charged. I call these ‘moments of impact’, and we have all experienced it. That moment at an event when you have been inspired. Sport or entertainment, music, arts, or an intellectual event. It has cut through and connected with you. It has changed you. What you will do, now, and next. Your interests, your friends, how you feel about things, maybe even your beliefs and your goals. It has changed your path. In small ways and bigger ways, events are influential in our lives.

Awe creates influence


To create attention, action. To rise up, remember, or, to celebrate. To connect, engage, and influence. To sell those tickets, memberships, products and services. To raise funds and awareness.

To engage with our tribe, our community.

We can impact in that moment, and for the future.

Given the power of these experiences, as event managers we are all searching for that ‘Wow Factor’ that provides these moments of awe. These influential moments create highly influential, memorable, shareable events.  Changing what we think, feel, do and say.


The Value of Awe

Awe is a highly influential catalyst. Awe provides unbreakable connections to audiences, and exponential exposure. Experiences of awe are naturally shareable and remarked upon, amplifying the impact of events.

“People will never forget how you made them feel”

The Rio Carnival provides awe. Described as the “Greatest Outdoor Party in the World”, one of the grandest, most beautiful, loud festivals in the world – of dancing, partying, and parades… ‘a riotous rainbow of people and parades that fuels wonder’ in those that attend .

“It is the most OTT party on the planet and it will leave you completely mesmerized” – Fleur Rollet-Manus

Enabling awe creates events that are better than the rest, more shareable and valuable. The Rio Carnival creates some awe in economic returns. In 2018 the revenue is expected to be R$11.14 billion, with a total of 10.69million Brazilian travellers and 400,000 international tourists.

The value of awe is evident in all iconic events. Superbowl is famous for being the greatest show, with the half time show. The World Cup Finals will see a penalty shootout likely bring a nation to ecstasy, another to it’s knees. For Glastonbury it’s the headliners hitting the stage, when the bulls come running in Pamplona, the fireworks on New Years Eve. Having these moments makes then bigger than the rest, more memorable, more famous.

Moments of Impact

One of the biggest moments on Facebook across all activities in 2017 was an event, the Super Bowl, with more than 262 million views of videos on the platform. As usual, one moment drove the bulk of the conversation, the half time show with Lady Gaga. But more specifically, by far the most shared moment was when she jumped off the stage. One of those moments of impact.

Defining Moments that Matter

Creating these moments is critical. Olympics Games and major Event director Carissa Harris spoke about this in our Event Show podcast recently. Her team at Cricket Australia refer to them as ‘moments that matter’, across an Ashes Test, a T20 or ODI. It’s about identifying moments to wow your customers. As did Tom Kiely, founder of the global Xterra series. Tom has seen from over 20 years and thousands of events and he told us a successful event is one that has a talking point, something that it is famous for. An infamous hill, an amazing beach. Whatever it is, it is something his ‘Live More’ tribe feed off, and feed out, creating those experiences that are remembered, and shared via ‘word of mouth’ (which wins every ‘how did you hear about us’ survey that ever existed). And if we look at the worlds most iconic endurance events they all have something they are famous for. Something to remember. The common element is awe. And these events are good examples of both sides of awe. Sometimes awe is about the admiration, some inspiration, and sometimes the fear… The spectacular or gruelling, inspiring or imposing.

Creating Awe

So how do you create the moments of impact?

Often we think of a ‘can’t buy this’ experience, and we build an event around this.

If you have that moment, that experience to offer, then that is awesome. Or, if not, you must identify the journey you have for your participants, your attendees. You can then identify the moments that you can influence, and influence for most effect. And while every experience will be different, there are always patterns which you can identify, and use. People will go through the same states, from awareness, to interest, to action, and reflection. Ideally then, creating awe-inspiring moments.

Regardless of either approach, our events must have something that stands out from everyday life. An event by definition is the coming together of people at a time and place for a common purpose, for an occasion. So we must strive to create moments of inspiration, the wow factor, and in the least engineer a little bit of awe.

But we don’t have the resources

But yes, most events have less resources than expectations. So being smart with where we invest our time, money and energy is crucial. Creating influential, and achievable events. A ‘more with less’ approach, focusing your influence on those moments that matter.

More with Less?

While we aim to provide an seem-less experience across all the touch-points in our event campaigns, it is likely the 80/20 rule* applies more to events than we realise. * The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In fact, studies show that ‘peak moments’ influence how memorable or valuable an experience is. Not the whole experience, not the sum of all the moments. It is one or two defining moments that determine the perception, and the all important recollection of an experience. These are the ‘Moments of Impact’.

Evidence relating to the peak end rule tells us is a psychological heuristic (bias) in which people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (i.e., its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.

For example when we reflect on a marathon, or a fun run, we are more likely to recall the feeling of accomplishment after the finish, rather than the possibly unpleasant toil of the earlier miles. This may explain how the ‘never again’ statements we make are often forgotten! (of course, the opposite may also occur, if the pain was that severe that may well be our enduring memory). Likewise, if you reflect back to the last World Cup, Olympics or that music festival, it is more likely to will recall those peak moments, which are what we base our current evaluation of that experience on. Not the many other moments, the many other hours of the experience. And this ‘moment of impact’ is important, when we seek to get you back to our event.

It turns out we have a ‘Memory bias’ for more emotional events (i.e. why the peak is memorable). People exhibit better memory for more intensely emotional events than less intensely emotional events. The precise cause of this is unclear, but it has been demonstrated, for decades, across a wide variety of surveys and experiments.

(Also, it turns out people have better memory for both the beginning and end of sequences, phenomena known as primacy bias and recency bias, respectively. So there is some science behind making sure ‘first impressions count’, and ‘finishing with a bang’ at your event).

In short – moments of impact – experiences of awe – are more recollected, and more likely to be remarked on.


And while you must be famous for something, sometimes this is planned, and sometimes the awe just comes out from what you create. Those unexpected moments are often the best moments. So ideally we build the platform for these moments to emerge. These moment of awe may be spontaneous, but they are a product of the environment that has been created.

So how do we bring Awe to our event?


I’m currently running ½ to 2 day Design sprint workshops with event teams, creating more influential, successful events.

Let’s talk more about your event or customer experience.

andrew@andrewoloughlin.com / + 61 423 359354

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