Events are shared experiences. We come together at a time and place. A group of likeminded people sharing a passion.
We also like to share these experiences, before, and after the event. The experiences are amplified, through word of mouth, in real life, and online. As event promoters, the more we can encourage the sharing of the experience in both dimensions, both at the event with others and after the event itself, the greater the event becomes.
In our study of the worlds most successful events, we found 7 common elements. One of these is the ability to create a shared experience. Whether it be the Super Bowl, Pamplona or Color Run, Mardi Gras or TED Talks, these events are shared, and highly shareable.
Shared, and Shareable Experiences
People are motivated to experience something. We obviously like to do things for our own enjoyment and satisfaction. To do things, think, and feel, to see, smell, taste, touch and hear. And we find these experiences are more powerful when they are shared with others.
“How we share our days, is of course, how we share our lives” – Annie Dillard
Engineering Shared Experiences
The more we can engineer shared experiences, the more powerful our events become. The richer and the more meaningful the experiences are, the more likely they are to bring the results (or influence) we are seeking. And we create greater depth and breadth by engaging people together. A shared experience unites people. Increase the engagement – increase the influence. The greater the influence, the greater the returns.
Being seen in the right place, at the right time
The whole point of an event is to bring together a group of likeminded people. And as event promoters we know the power of being the ‘hot ticket’ or being seen as the place to be. The ‘Herd Effect’ is or ‘Herd Behaviour’ is a strong magnet to bring people together. People do what others are doing, and you could call it the FOMO (fear of missing out) effect, or, the ‘social currency’ of being where the people are. This is a huge asset in the world of events. If you can demonstrate (as Seth Godin would say) ‘people like us do things like this’ you will be in a powerful position as the event host.
“Did you hear about …!?”
Share together, and share later. The Social Currency.
People care about how they look to others. We value being seen to be in the know on something. Interesting things are entertaining, and make the person who shares them interesting and entertaining. This is our social currency. Knowing the inside word, the new place in town, the news, the gossip. We need to be seen to be in the know, and, have something to share.
Events thrive on this need for social currency. You could argue the industry is based on it. More than ever before. FOMO is a huge driver. Having content for your social feed is essential in many worldviews. In fact, nearly half of millennials (48%) say they attend events, so they have something to share on social channels. Even more for others; 61% admit to attending events to gain social media material. So tapping into this need to build social currency is valuable.
‘Conspicuous consumption’ is the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display status, and as we have seen the shift from products to experiences in an ‘experience economy’, events are increasingly seen as a means of achieving social status in today’s world. And this works well for event promoters!
‘Experiences are the new luxury good’ – Will Dean, Founder Tough Mudder
It must be said that if your event isn’t providing some social currency, then it is dead.
The whole point of an event is to bring people together for something they can connect to, and something to share. Then, the best events set up their content up, so it is easily shareable.
Engineering a shared experience
TED was conceived in 1984 by Richard Saul Wurman, a conference for those interested in the themes of technology, entertainment, and design (that is, “TED”). Not many know that the first conference was financially unsuccessful, and it took six years before the second conference was organized. It wasn’t until the event model was flipped to a more ‘shareable’ one that the event received the recognition it does today. TED reached its billionth video view 5 years ago, but it took some strategic shifts to get to be this shareable.
“It used to be 800 people getting together once a year; now it’s about a million people a day watching TED Talks online. When we first put up a few of the talks as an experiment, we got such impassioned responses that we decided to flip the organization on its head and think of ourselves not so much as a conference but as “ideas worth spreading,” building a big website around it. The conference is still the engine, but the website is the amplifier that takes the ideas to the world.” – head of TED Chris Anderson in 2012
A large part of the success of TED Talks is the quality of the content, which attracts people to share it together. In what is essentially a series of conferences, they have leveraged a theme of “Ideas Worth Sharing” brilliantly. Not just sharing in the moment, but also how they have made it readily, freely available to everyone to share later.
The amplification is impressive, as is the financial model. TED is currently funded by a combination of various revenue streams, including conference attendance fees, corporate sponsorships, foundation support, licensing fees, and book sales.
Another example of engineering a shared experience is the global phenomenon that is Tough Mudder, which deliberately set out to create shareable experiences. Founder Will Dean set the goal of being the talk of the water cooler on Monday’s, and they achieved this by creating shareable experiences, social currency content, in ‘adrenaline-inducing obstacles’, and, ‘a gauntlet of emotions’. Participants create user-generated content by taking part, and then package it up and broadcast it, via word of mouth in real life and online.
Likewise Color Run is another modern day ‘active entertainment’ success story, built on highly shareable experiences (and visuals). You can go to a Color Run on your own, but your much more likely to bring a friend (or 5). Like Tough Mudder, whilst there are no formal teams, the natural inclination is to share these experiences. There is a natural thinking is these are activities you need to have other people with you to participate properly. If you are on your own it’s a bit awkward throwing paint at people you’ve never met before (well for starters at least!). Likewise when asking someone to push your butt over an enormous slippery muddied wall. It is better if you’ve brought someone with you. And when you’ve just summoned the courage to run into an electric shock, it’s nice to share the moment with someone. This gives you so much to share when you are there, and of course later, in real life and on your social feeds. Color Run and Tough Mudder was built in, and built on, a Facebook and Instagram generation.
And in the cause related world, a master of engineering shared experiences is creating hugely influential events. After leading the crisis relief efforts at major international disasters, Peter Baines is an incredible guy, who has now applied his belief in the power of shared experiences to cause related events. His 800km ‘Hands Across the Water’ bike rides are fully subscribed each year, creating powerful connections between participants and communities, and, among participants. They raise funds for orphanages, and have changed many lives, in Thailand communities, and in the lives of those who participate. Creating valuable legacies. They rides are long remembered by those that participate, and they come back. The influence of these shared experiences is tangible.
The power of this ‘shareability’ isn’t just a recent phenomenon, it is not just for the social media generation. It has driven the growth of arguably all popular events. Our most famous events have started with a small group of like-minded people, those who were so invested and inspired they shared what they were involved with. They were in the know and wanted to bring others to it. Others saw it and wanted to get in. Like the 177 runners in the original New York Marathon. Many don’t realise it today, but only 1,500 people came to Glastonbury in 1970. The same year 145 people attended Comic Con. They now get 145,000. The early adopters were joined by the masses, and we have what we have today.
These highly shared and shareable events capture our hearts and minds, bringing more people together than other events. They are more talked about, and they are highly shareable. The experiences themselves are almost contagious in their transmission. They are truly influential.
Event people know events are created to be shared – and shareable.
So how do we create a more shareable event?
With the Experience Design Playbook, we create Shareable moments.
As we invent or reinvent your event we MAP ‘moments of impact’ with ‘elements of value’ to amplify the influence.
We make sure the experience it one to be shared, and be shared again.
Please contact me now to talk about your event.
You can subscribe here to read the ‘Iconic Events’ case studies on each of the 7 elements in action.