Let’s talk about how the emotional state of your participants affects the outcome of your meeting or event. By Nigel Collin

Here’s the deal. Conference goers don’t want to sit there all day being spoken at. You know that, I know that and more importantly they know that.

In essence we are all emotional creatures because it’s how our brains are wired, so if we want people to engage, remember things and take action, we need to stop bombarding them with tirades of facts, figures, bullet points and content heavy lectures and start finding and leveraging an emotional connection.

So before we get too touchy feely, here’s what happens neurologically. When your brain receives information it filters it through the part of your brain known as the limbic system, which processes emotion. This determines how you are feeling about the input, such as are you anxious, grumpy, depressed, bored, excited or happy, and then works out what happens next.

So for example, if you are feeling stressed or anxious about something, the limbic system tells your brain, ‘look out, something’s not right’, or ‘we’re being threatened’ and sends your brain into fight or flight and survival mode by channelling incoming information away from the thinking part of the brain to the more primitive part of your brain that keeps you alive.

However, if you are feeling happy, excited, or curious about something then your limbic system works out that you are not under threat and sends the information through to the thinking and creative part of your brain for processing.

What this means is your delegates are either shutting down cognitively because they are bored, or feeling threatened, or they are engaged and enthused because they are emotionally excited.

So it’s vital to plot the emotional connections of a business event with the participants to ensure they take ownership and stay engaged.

1. Know your audience.

It’s really important to understand what your audience want and don’t want. You need to honestly ask what’s in it for them, what their hot buttons are, and what their concerns are. This way you can construct your program and the delivery of difficult, touchy topics in the right way. It will be different for every audience.

2. Take me on a journey

Yes I know ‘journey’ is one of those business ‘buzzwords’ we all cringe at however, there’s much merit in it as a concept. Like a good movie you need to build the tension and excitement as you go, and every so often bring it back down before you build it up again. Try visually plotting the emotional journey of a meeting or event by highlighting the highs and lows so you can see the journey.

3. Get them involved

Participation is key. We create emotional connections when we become involved and it helps us take ownership. So plan where and how you can pass the ball to participants so they become not just involved physically, but cognitively and emotionally as well.

Above all else, remember it’s finding and tapping into the emotional connection of participants that will make the difference between whether they connect or disconnect. Which also means it will make all the difference to the outcome of your meeting or event six months down the track.

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