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Maximising the influence of others

We’ve been talking about the influence of people on what we do. After all, this is pretty fundamental in events, as ultimately we are all just trying to bring a group of people together.

We can use the influence of others to get people to come together, and then, we can use the influence when they are together.

The influence of people being together

Research shows us that as individuals, the ‘Social Facilitation Effect’ means we do things better when other people are watching us, or doing it with us. Studies have shown that we bike faster, perform better, even donate more when we have other people watching us. With or without realizing it, the effect works on us, and for us.

I know I run a bit faster, ride a bit quicker even when on a social jog with someone. Many a parkrun has turned into a quick run without planning it. And I’ve done a few half marathons I certainly would not have finished on my own!

So how do we use this in events?

Facilitating ‘the effect’

Simply by coordinating an event, by bringing people together, we can facilitate this effect. Whether it is a sports event, a fundraiser, or education event, the positive influence may occur.

If you set it up well, people are likely to perform better, run or ride better, to fundraise more. And of course, we’ve also seen supportive fans facilitate a better performance on the field, and on the stage.

But, as I like to say, there are 2 sides to everything.

One area where this ‘social facilitation effect’ does not to work is when we are trying to perform difficult or unfamiliar tasks, where someone watching us actually makes us worse. This may be due to the stress or pressure of trying to perform that unfamiliar task, or the diversion in our attention required for more technical tasks.

Do you ever find it harder to type on your keyboard, or spell, when someone is leaning over your shoulder? I do!?

So when your event involves a difficult activity, it may be best to set it up so that people can prepare and perform that task without the full view of others.

Opposites don’t always attract

The other time this social comparison with others can work against you as an event promoter is when the other event participants seem much better than me.

We spoke last week about how ‘people like me, do things like this’, – we can also see how the opposite is also true.

There is a simple formula – the more the people at your event look like me, then the more I want to come to your event. 

And when people are uncertain of whether your event is right for them, the more important this is.

But, if we see these other people as being much ‘better’ than me – fitter, faster, smarter, richer, more fashionable, – then – that may put me off. That is, the comparison may have a negative effect. Instead of being motivated by being alongside them, I am actually fearful of attending your event!

The challenge for you

I see this as a primary design challenge for event organizers. We must tap into this social facilitation effect, and harness the potential influence it can provide for our participants. And we must make sure they feel a positive influence, not a negative effect!

So what can you do?

Firstly, the easy part, to maximize the social facilitation effect, we need to provide the public platform. A gathering, an event where your audience can share in an experience. One that is designed so that the influence of others is a positive one.

To do this:

1. Facilitate an event, a meeting of like-minded people

2. Make sure the activity is aspirational, but not too difficult

3. Provide an environment where other people provide a positive influence, not negative. Especially if it is challenging for them. And especially if they are comparing themselves with others.

4. Support people, to provide them with the capability to participate.

This might be about the why, the how, then when and where. It is all in the ‘Experience Design’, allowing your people to do more, feel more, belong more, or even to be more.

I call this a ‘Channel of Aspiration’, and we will cover that more in the coming weeks. Where you give your audience the aspiration – and – the capability to do something special.

The important thing is to facilitate the positive influence of other people. After all, events are all about bringing people together to experience something special, together.

If you need some help – just let me know.

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