Walt Disney was a genius on so many levels, says Nigel Collin, who finds lessons in what he did and achieved for the meetings sector.

Years back, when designing Disneyland and Disneyworld, Walt Disney created a concept which is not just very cool but insanely useful. It’s called ‘The Beckoning Hand’.

It is of course, (cringing as I write), not a literal hand but a way of leading people through a space or environment. The beckoning hand creates interest, stimulates curiosity, incites a sense of mystery, and draws people to the next stage.

In the realm of a theme park it is present at the park gates, welcoming and teasing further into the park. It is there at the ride queues, drawing you in with a sense of adventure and trepidation. It is always there and always present, enticing you to enter
the next stage. Brilliant.

For business events the beckoning hand goes way beyond the physical environment because it is also extremely valuable in the design of an entire program and event structure. Since I first learned of it when studying organisational creativity at Disney, the beckoning hand has always been part of my arsenal. It creates engagement, triggers an experience, gets you involved both physically and mentally, stimulates thinking, and keeps you on your toes, wanting more. And what’s really great is that no-one else seems to know about it or use it.

Today, as I work primarily as a speaker and facilitator, I still live by the beckoning hand when working on structure or delivering a keynote or coaching others on their presentations.

So how can you use it for your event?

  1. Break down the stages. The first thing to do is look at all the different stages included in your event such as the invitation, the arrival, the opening session, the breaks, the program, the close and so on.
  2. Make each stage enticing. The Beckoning Hand welcomes you and lets you know you are in for something special so think about ways to do that at each stage. How can you get me curious and excited?
    For example, your invitation isn’t just about the details, it must tease me, create an emotional connection, let me know what value I’ll get, make me want to read all of it and jump straight to the RSVP. At arrival get me excited before I get there by staging or entertaining me on approach, maybe when I get off the plane or park my car.
  3. Draw me to the next stage. The Beckoning Hand isn’t just about what’s happening, it also draws me towards what is next. You’ve got to tease, make me curious and want to go to that next session.
    Good programs are designed this way. For example, the morning session inspires me with aspirational speakers and leaves me wanting to know how I can apply the content to my own situation. The next session gives me the tools and know-how leaving me wanting to build an action plan at the end of the day. The conference close is designed to make me want to sign up and pay for next year.

You need to make each stage of your event welcoming and at the same time you need to entice them to the next stage. The beckoning hand keeps drawing you to what’s next. And it never stops.

Yet just as the beckoning hand keeps drawing you to the next stage, there is another important side of the equation to make things even more interesting and more effective. You also need to get out of each stage early and before it’s finished. Which is what we are going to tackle next time.