Meetings + Events

The power of gathering people

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Happiness Matters

Inject your programs with positive surprises to boost the attendee experience—and your event’s value.

Tahira Endean, CMP, DES, CED, author of Intentional Event Design, outlines how injecting programs with positive surprises can boost an attendee’s experience—and your event’s value

Events offer many opportunities to instill happiness. The very basics of good nutrition, exercise, a sense of belonging, recognition for contributions and oppor­tunities for creativity and play all work together to create a sense of joy. When we purposefully add in moments for reflection and gratitude for what attendees are experienc­ing, not only do we change their perspective in the moment, but we can begin or reinforce a habit participants can carry forward. Combined, these have power to create a more open environment for learning and connection as our brains liter­ally open up!

I like to call these moments Positive Surprises—event com­ponents that wake up the brain and incite curiosity. They are effective because humans are hardwired for anticipation: Our brains welcome positive surprises. There are many ways to pro­vide them and encourage participants to viscerally respond dif­ferently, and to become more engaged in the discovery process.

There are many ways to balance positive surprises for guests with our need for safety, and to do it in a budget-friendly manner that shows value. Some ideas:

MAKE AN ENTRANCE. Welcome entertain­ment sets a tone and provides a delightful start; no matter how your guests arrived, if you can mentally transport them from the beginning you have impact.

CREATE THOUGHTFUL TRANSITIONS. Allow time for serendipitous hallway conver­sations between sessions. Changing seating patterns and the feeling from the entrance to the next learning or connection arena continues to wake up the brain.

FUEL UP. Provide healthy, fun food and they will be more able to actively participate in the long hours required at meetings.

GET OUT OF PLACE. Seek out alternate, unusual venues to add a sense of edginess and delight.

MAKE BREAKS MEANINGFUL. Lead five minutes of mindful meditation; or five minutes of breathing, inside or outside. You can also provide inspiration through a quote, reading or musical interlude.

ADD ACTIVITY. Blender bikes offer a fun way to mix it up at a break when you hop on, blend your own drink and get your blood pumping.

Excerpted and edited from Intentional Event Design, Our Professional Opportunity by Vancouver-based event producer Tahira Endean.

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