Updated: Aug 20
As you and I reassess the state of our events, and, our roles in the world of events, it’s a good time to be thinking about what you can achieve. And it may be more than your thinking!
Are you just creating an event, or could it be ‘a Movement’?
If you have read my stuff before you will know I’m a bit advocate for events to influence people in some way, in that each and every event can (and should) have an effect on people, their interests, sometimes their lifestyles, and even their beliefs.
I think we’ve all experienced it, that event which influenced us in some way, perhaps in a big way or in some smaller ways these events have influenced our lives. Or you’ve seen it in your participants and fans, the influence the experience can have. And so, we know the potential power of events.
I also suspect that you work in events to have an influence, to put something out into the world, to make a bit of difference, in whatever context that is for you. And so, I think that you can be looking at your events differently right now, with an even bigger picture, to have an even bigger aspiration.
Events as ‘a movement’?
Mass movements have changed the world over history, and more than ever before we are seeing movement emerge, as people rise up to express their beliefs and create awareness and influence over something.
By definition, these movements are “a group of people who share the same beliefs, ideas, or aims”, which in many ways mirrors the purpose of events, being “the coming together of a group of like minded people, to share an interest at a time and place”.
Mass movements are growing, and likewise (pre-Corona) our events were playing an increasingly significant role in our lifestyles, as a means to connect and share life’s experiences. So can the energy of movements, and events, be combined for good effect?
Energy in, influence out
We’ve all seen that events that have a strong purpose, a shared reason to exist can have a massive influence on our communities. These ‘movement-based’ events have captured our hearts and minds. These events draw energy and attention in, and influence flows out, changing what we know about, think about, how we feel about things, and ideally, influencing what we do. And it works, Climate Change protests have placed that issue in the front of minds, the Bush fire appeals produced millions, and the YES vote came in.
It has never been easier to start a movement, or (pre-COVID) to launch an event, whether that be on mass at scale or a simple idea that has a deep connection with a small group of likeminded people.
We know you can create events – so how might you create a movement?
There is an ‘Event Movement’ for everything
So how do you start a movement? (with your event)
It may feel too soon to be planning events, but it’s not a bad time to be re imagining and dreaming big. People have always needed to gather, and we will again. And we always need to work together to achieve a common goal. And we will again, events will thrive, they may just look a bit different.
What we can learn from Mass Movements – to use in Events
– the 7 elements you need, and the 7 steps to bring it to life –
#1 It takes a provocation
All the influential movements over time have had a common situation, a context around them that has ignited their growth. There is always a catalyst, a shared restlessness that causes them to start, and grow whether it be some adversity, uncertainty, or a promise of something better.
And in our events industry, we are currently living through a once in a generation period of change, and those that have an understanding of what people need, and want, will be the ones that lead the way.
Your Event Design Playbook Step 1. What’s the purpose? What’s the problem?
To design an event that will have the influence you are seeking, you must first start with understanding what will be an idea that will connect with people, what will solve some of there issues, and amplify their aspirations?
A fundamental principle of Experience Design is empathy – to walk in the shoes and get inside the minds of your audience.
# 2 It takes a culture of change
As Seth Godin puts it, a ‘movement is an idea that spreads through community’, and influences the culture, the shared behaviour, attitudes, and beliefs. And likewise, events can capture and showcase an idea, to be a lever, a change agent in a community acting as a call to action, and a catalyst to what comes next.
We all know that changing a person, let alone a community is difficult to achieve, but when there is a culture of change, there are more opportunities to identify and run with. This may sometimes just be a small crack in a culture, but the ‘true believers’ leverage this crack and amplify it. And as there is an extraordinary phase of change going on around us right now, so out of this will come extraordinary opportunities.
“As things change, a gap is left, and something always needs to fill that void”.
As people try and deal with the ‘VUCA’ (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world we live in, it is natural for them to seek support and meaning from others around them, and to come together to do so. So, simply by serving a community, in a time of change, with a call to action that helps soothe some sort of restlessness, it’s possible you could be igniting a movement with your event.
Your Event Design Playbook Step 2. – find an “idea on the rise”
The perfect idea may not be obvious, but by closely observing what is going on within your community, it may give you an insight from which to shape your event around. And when you see it, get in front of that wave, and ride it.
What’s going on right now in your community, your ‘target audience’?
People often want to become involved and to contribute to something bigger than themselves, and I believe the recent T20 World Cup managed to tap into a current cultural ‘zeitgeist’ a shared belief that women’s sport deserves a higher profile. The result was more than an event, a mini-movement if you like, and igniting a sense of purpose and action in many.
#3 It takes a call to action
What is also clear from the mass movements of the past is that there was a shared belief that ‘things must change’, from addressing racial inequalities, to climate change, or any successful cause-related campaign, there is a tipping point where a unified change occurs.
But a tipping point can only occur once some astute people can identify what that call to action is, what will create an itch that people just need to scratch. And as Scott Goodson calls out in his brilliant book UPRISING, sometimes it is not looking at what your audience wants, it’s more about finding what they are against, and that will show you what your call to action needs to be.
“Them against us” is the age-old motivator for a group of people. As is the idea of being an insider, not an outsider, and looking into this can help you find your core audience – your ‘true believers’.
Your Event Design Playbook Step 3. – Create a shared purpose
Thanks to technology, it has never been easier than it is today for people to come together around a shared interest, an idea or a passion – however – it’s fair to say our audiences have never been more disconnected, and a need for reconnection.
So it is essential and fundamental to find that shared purpose, that problem you can solve, that thing that will bring people together.
Our Playbook approach looks to find common ground between your audience, and your organisation, and how you can bring that to life in your event.
Your Next Steps…
You may not have visions of changing the world, but you might want to play a role. And your event idea may not be for the masses, it may be for a small community, but still have a meaningful impact—something important to you, and them.
Next week we will share the final 4 steps you can take to building your movement, large or small.
I do think now is a good time to be thinking about what’s going on around you, what is the idea on the rise, and, what your call to action is.
If you need some help with that, please let me know!
Take care, Andrew