The Science Behind Your Events

The Science of Events

As you and I know events are a catalyst, which causes a reaction. To get people to think and act in a certain way, to show up, sign up and share your event, our actions need to cause this reaction. We’ve spoken about concepts like the Network Effect, and if your event can harness the power of physics, and cause a ‘chain reaction’, then the influence of your event will be amplified, attract more people, more profile (and more partners), again, and again.

Chain Reactions

If you struggle in Chemistry class like I did you may not know that ‘Chain reactions’ are where the outcomes of your event may be used to promote and produce your next event, chaining the positive effect of events together, in a self-perpetuating/generating lifecycle of growth.

“You are only as good as your last event”

As we also know, the best path to more successful events is having a successful event.  So if we can build some momentum by creating chain reactions, we can get to a positive place.

Big and small reactions

Chain reaction events can occur at a ‘macro-level’, where an event as a whole creates an impact. And these catalysts can occur at a ‘micro-level’, being the activities within your event, which create a positive impact.

Mega Events – Influence at scale.

I was reminded recently of how events can cause chain reactions from an individual level, to national and even a generational level.

Women’s sport is undergoing a dramatic transformation, and some of the critical drivers of this are emerging from influential events.

Tennis is a primary example. The incredible career of the Williams sisters has been a hugely influential force in the world of sport, and, is all the by-product of an influential event.  As the famous story goes, after watching the 1978 French Open,   Venus  and Serena’s father  Richard was amazed that the winner Virginia  Ruzici  had just made $40 grand in a week (more than Williams  Snr  had earned all year). So he  famously came home to tell  Mrs  Williams “we need to make two more kids and make them into tennis superstars”. The rest of that story is now a part of our sporting history. But there was more to come in what is a fascinating chain reaction of events.

The reigning Australian Open winner Naomi Osaka’s life was also heavily influenced by a catalyst event.  When Osaka was three years old, her father was inspired to teach her how to play tennis after watching the  Williams sisters  compete at the  1999 French Open.

And also ironically, it was Serena that Naomi beat to claim the 2018 US Open.

Chain Reactions at Scale

It is likely that Naomi Osaka’s  win may actually have even more impact in 15 years than it has today.

In a fascinating study, author Daniel Coyle looked at the ‘ignition event’ of many high achievers, in what he calls the ‘Talent Code’. Coyle cited many examples of events being the catalyst, not just of individual cases, but also across a generation of a nation.

This was the case in a whole generation of female golfers emerging from South Korea. Over a 10 year period, these young women went from having very little involvement, let alone a win on the global circuit, to dominance in the game (winning 1/3rd of all tournaments). The event pinpointed for this influence was May 18, 1998, when Se Ri Pak won the McDonalds LPGA Championship. What happened was that Se Ri Pak became a national icon, and caused many to believe “if she can do it, why can’t I”. Creating a chain reaction in young Korean women, to believe they too could be world-class golfers.The influence of events can be immense. At an individual level, and on a global scale.

Influential events – from iconic to everyday

Of course, the reality is that as much as we would like to influence generations and nations, that doesn’t occur all the time. But the chain reaction effect can also apply just as much within your event.

We can all harness chain reactions within our event – the ‘cause and effect’ of the interactions you create, and the experiences you provide can be just as powerful.

Our run sheets are basically a set of cues, from which we should endeavour to create an effect.

In my current work on international cricket, I’ve been spending a lot of time watching fans watching cricket. And it is fascinating to observe the cues that create a reaction. From small things like music stings to more tangible things like bucket’s on heads, and more dramatic stuff like pyros. These cues all cause a reaction, which has a ripple effect on fans, with fans telling other fans. You can almost see the chain reacting around the stadiums. Less visible but equally powerful is the sharing of the experience after the match. The moments and experiences create a powerful chain reaction to promote your event. To get people to show up, with others, again, and again.

The use of pyro is a great catalyst to amplify reactions and has become a core trigger in a fan experience run sheet. Kind of like a big ‘bunsen burner’ really!


Where are your chain reactions?

Everything we do as event managers should have a ’cause and effect’ rationale behind it.

Like any scientist, we need to test and learn from the things that act as a catalyst, to create a positive reaction. We then need to use this evidence, to create more, bigger reactions.

When we map out our event experiences, we look at each phase, even each moment, to see what effect that moment had, and what benefit we (and our participants/fans) received from it. We also take a ‘cost-benefit’ approach for each interaction and touchpoint, to see what return we got on the investment of our time, money, and even the return on the stress and hassle factor!

The positive and negative.

These natural laws can, of course, have either have a positive or negative effect. Like the difference harnessing the chain reaction of atomic particles has for either creating nuclear energy, or, creating a nuclear bomb.

The tragic Luzhniki Disaster where 66 lives were lost in a crowd crush, was reportedly caused in the first instance by a simple, innocent act of women stopping to pick up her shoe. This created a domino effect and set off a tragic chain of events.So how do we apply this to positive effect?

Observing and understanding the cue and response loop is an easy way to build your insights and evidence. To understand the catalysts to influence people to act and think the way you would like them to.


Your event is a cue, a catalyst to get people to sign up and show up. And your run sheet is a series of cues, to shift people through a desirable journey.

Measuring (or even just observing) which cues do or don’t work, and how much impact they have, is a great thing to do.Going Nuclear – how to amplify your event

Next week, we will look at how to build momentum from chain reactions, to create the tipping points towards critical mass. Where your event reaches a self-fulfilling cycle, of sell-outs creating sell-outs, event after event.

As it turns out, sometimes science is worth understanding a little more!

If you need some help with that, let me know!

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#EventPlanning #InfluentialEvents #BehaviouralInsights #EventManagement #FanEngagement #DesignThinking #Events #CustomerExperience #ExperienceDesign #AndrewOLoughin #EventDesign

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+ 61 423 359 354

andrew @ andrewoloughlin.com

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