Fireside Chat: The Psychology Behind Effective Event Marketing

Event professionals today are required to arm themselves with the tools and the ‘know-how’ with regard to understanding the audience and their needs while also staying on top of the hype that is often put by virtual tech platforms. The fireside chat promises to be an interesting exchange between two experienced marketers who provide the framework to understand the audience better.    

Keep it simple – is the only mantra you need to believe in – and after watching this webinar you will understand why a focus back on the basic principles of marketing & human behavior will yield you the maximum gains. 

In this fireside chat we feature: 

Victoria Matey, Co-Founder at Matey Events 

Victoria is an event planner turned event consultant, author, speaker, and content creator. Her specialty, and what we will be learning about today, is the application of scientific findings on human behavior and psychology to event design.

Your host and co-guest: 

Ankush Gupta, Founder at Eventible.com – The TripAdvisor for Events 

Ankush is a marketer with over 20-years of experience with global companies like the TATA Group and MPhasis. He is a pioneer in the space of B2B Media, having been nominated for a Digiday award for Publisher of the Year. Currently he is founder at Eventible.com – a platform designed from the ground up to help event profs get the word out and use the power of social proof to accelerate their event brands. 

Ankush Gupta: Hi, there. I’m Ankush, the Founder of Eventible.com, the world’s first review platform. Today I have with me, Victoria Matey of Matey Events. Hi, Victoria. 

Victoria Matey: Hello.

Ankush Gupta: Victoria is an Event Planner turned Event Consultant, Author, Speaker and Content Creator. Her speciality, and what we will be learning about today is the application of scientific findings on human behavior, and psychology to event design.

You know, getting into your attendees heads, at a time like this, where there is so much change going on, has got to be invaluable. So, keep watching as we unravel some fascinating layers of event psychology, and how that can help you design better event experiences.

Thanks for joining in, Victoria.

Victoria Matey: Thank you for having me.

Ankush Gupta: Victoria, quickly, before we begin, you know we are now at an interesting time where we’ve seen the rise and rise of virtual events as the pandemic took hold, and then came the Zoom fatigue. And now, after all the mass vaccination projects around the world, we’re talking about the reopening, and going back to in-person events. How have you been processing all this?

Victoria Matey: You know, obviously now, the requirements and expectations change at a rapid pace right now, and moreover, the level of uncertainty is very high right now. So, I think the event planners, me included, have to deliver and to deal with things under pretty tough conditions.

And at the same time, we know that the budgets got smaller, the teams lost their members, and overall, the burnout and stress of those limiting factors, when it comes to improving the quality of the event or creating out the box solutions, right?

And I think that this is yet another reason why it’s critical for event planners to embrace approaches that work better under these new circumstances, and those approaches that can help solve all these challenges at once, right?

Ankush Gupta: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, I think so, that’s true, Victoria. I agree with that. I think, for everybody watching, we can just jump into learning more about how you came to be in the field of event psychology.

I find it really fascinating, and I’ve read so many of your interviews and articles, and I just can’t get enough of it. So, let’s just jump in there and see and explain to our audience that’s watching, what are some of the things that they can take away.

Victoria Matey: Yes, of course. That would be my pleasure. Well, you know, it’s interesting. At my first university, I studied Psychology as a side field, and I wrote the thesis on Cognitive Linguistics, combining two disciplines. And since then, and during my time at work in events, I’ve been researching and reading a lot about psychology and neuroscience.

And somewhere along the way, I got this insight that events are the most people’s business ever, meaning that it’s all about how we think, learn, and communicate. And that if we understand people better, that is, how they make decisions and what drives their actions, we would be able to fine tune our practices based on solid science and on solid proof rather than just gut-feeling, right?

And I started doing what I call translation from the science language to the events language, and I’m researching behavioral science concepts and tools, and analyzing how they can be used by event planners and event industry partners to solve challenges that they may face. And what I love about it is that it provides us with creative, and often, low cost solutions.

Ankush Gupta: Right. I think neuromarketing itself is attracting so much interest from marketers today. And I think this is a really great niche to really apply these principles to event marketing, and see how you can design better events and better experiences for attendees. So, I’m all ears. Are you going to share something with us? Do you have a couple insights you could share?

Victoria Matey: Yes. I do have something to show. I wanted to share some quick tips. And let me just start this. So, as I said, I’ve been doing consulting and teaching on event psychology for a while right now.

And what I want to highlight again is that if you want to increase attendance and make the learning more effective, or if you want to make the experiences more memorable and engaging, you need to understand how it works inside our minds, because experiences happen inside our heads, right? Not outside.

And with all the information overload that we have— like some estimates by the way, adults are exposed to around 3,000 messages a day on average. Can you imagine that?

Ankush Gupta: Wow! Yeah. 

Victoria Matey: Yeah. I mean, that’s just unbelievable.

Ankush Gupta: It’s like, one of the words I heard sometime back to describe it, is ‘content shock’. We are living in a world where we’re just shown so much, that’s being thrown at us.

Victoria Matey: Absolutely. That’s a great definition. Plus you know all the fatigue, both from online and offline, now you have distractions, now restrictions of all kinds. So with all of that, how do you make people decide in your favor, buy a ticket, or show up for a free event, or promote the event within their network? How do you convince them to come back? How do you impress them? How do you make them focus? How do you prevent non-helpful behavior, and guide people in the right direction?

And this is where understanding how people think and behave is critical. Even some basic understanding and knowledge can produce amazing results. And that is why I’m helping event planners and event tech providers apply such knowledge to the event planning practices and services. And, as I said, I teach and speak about, what I call, event psychology.

So, now let me share a few examples of how event psychology and scientific insights on human behavior can make a huge difference. My first example is about adding breaks to the event agenda. I regularly review event concepts and agendas, and I’ve been arguing for adding breaks to their agenda since forever. But somehow, it’s not a common practice yet, I mean, things are better now.

Since the pandemic changed everything, we went online and people realized how bad Zoom fatigue is for their events. But I was recently reviewing the online agenda for the client, and I noticed that, once again, there are no breaks. And the client argued that the event was only three hours long. But to me, it only proved that they are not aware of how brains work and what a devastating effect not taking breaks can have on either their learning, dissatisfaction, and consequently, on their decision to return. 

Ankush Gupta: And also I’m sure, Victoria, this has got to do with your attention span, right? Your attention span has to be limited. You can’t just keep sitting in a room for three hours, and most people will just log out. 

Victoria Matey: Absolutely. And I mean, we had this problem before the pandemic but the pandemic just highlighted it, and brought it to a new level because people realized that it’s real, the problem is real. But somehow, what I see is that, as I said, it’s not common practice yet. But if the event organizers knew what some studies showed, they would have added breaks long ago.

Just let me show you how science and studies back it up. This is the latest research by Microsoft, you see the screenshot from the study, from the research. And it literally shows what happens in our brains during non-stop virtual meetings. Without a break, people are doomed to get more stressed and lose focus. Taking breaks improves engagement and concentration significantly, as you can see.

Ankush Gupta: Wow, that’s a huge disparity. 

Victoria Matey: Exactly, yeah. But moreover, it doesn’t cost you a lot to make such a tiny change, but it does have a huge impact on the event outcomes.

The second example is about post-event communications, and these are the study results in which people were asked personality test questions on the Likert scale, and at the same time, their non-conscious reactions were measured. And then you can see, it’s amazing that it’s clear that what they say in reply to the questions and how they really feel about the questions don’t match.

So, a variety of other studies demonstrate how careful we should be about market research and surveys, and so on. It has to do with how our memory works too because people remember, on average, only 10% of the information they consume after 48 hours. So, we need to take that into account when we ask questions on post-events, right?

Ankush Gupta: Yeah.

Victoria Matey: We also tend to remember what happens at the end of the experience. That is something that we also need to consider. So, it’s really important to know when and what questions to ask to get the answers that you can draw on. The lack of such knowledge leaves you in the dark. And sending out post-event surveys doesn’t really help because you may collect answers but their reliability will be questionable.

And anyway, another quest is to get those answers because people are hesitant to share feedback. So, you have to be creative to persuade them and to know how to do that. And I can give one science based tip that is extremely helpful and extremely simple, and proven to be effective. You just change the word ‘survey’, to the word ‘advice’.

See, because, yeah, just this tiny change increases the quality of the feedback because the studies show that people feel more on the same level of expertise with those who ask those questions, and they feel like they are special because they are asked for advice. And this is how they are more likely to provide quality feedback.

Ankush Gupta: That’s very interesting. I think I’m going to, in fact, make a note of that and probably try that out for our own platform. It’s never occurred to me.

Victoria Matey: Yes, please do and we can discuss it afterwards, you know, the results, and yeah, how all that affects the outcomes.

And the third example is about social proof concepts. And I have this funny picture here but actually, there was one interesting experiment run in 1968, by psychologists Milgram, Bickman and Berkowitz. They conducted a study which was later called The Street Corner Experiment.

So, first they asked one person to stand on a street corner and stare at the sky for 60 seconds. Most of the passersby ignored him. Then researchers repeated the experiment with five men. When five men gazed at the sky, 18% of passersby also looked up.

Ankush Gupta: Wow.

Victoria Matey: When the researchers asked 15 people to look in the sky upwards, 45% more pedestrians stopped to join them. Can you imagine? 

Ankush Gupta: Wow. Yeah.

Victoria Matey: So, this is one of a number of experiments that demonstrated the power of social proof. And I can say that this is the most researched behavioral bias, which shows that we look to others to validate our behavior, especially if we are in a situation of uncertainty, which is again, very valid these days. Social proof is a super powerful concept. 

Ankush Gupta: Absolutely.

Victoria Matey: Yeah, I’m sure you encounter it almost on an everyday basis, right?

Ankush Gupta: Yeah, everyday.

Victoria Matey: Yeah, I mean we all are encountering it. So, I think marketers have been using it for long, and some event organizers too, but still, it has more of, again, a gut-feeling based usage than intentional application.

And, before today, there were not smart tools and platforms like the ones that we have today. So, I think now it’s the time to start using it and being more intentional about it because if done right, it can be a powerful tool for promoting and enticing the audience to your event.

Ankush Gupta: Absolutely.

Victoria Matey: And it’s great to see that, imagine, people give you such an opportunity, right? Because we don’t have a lot of such tools yet.

So, these are my three examples of how some event challenges can be solved with science backed tools. And again, as I said, I work with both event planners and providers in a variety of things.

And I also have the online course on Event Psychology that covers some more interesting behavioral science concepts, and with practical recommendations and examples of how the scientific insights can be applied.

So, I encourage our listeners to visit Matey.Events for resources and also eventpsychology.thinkific.com for the online course. And if you have any questions just do get in touch, I’d be happy to help.

Ankush Gupta: Awesome. Thanks, Victoria. I think that you really gave a sneak peek or a window into what event psychology is, how it works, how you can really start to design better event experiences. And I’m sure that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much more.

Unfortunately, we just don’t have the time today to cover a lot more but as Victoria said, yeah, if you’re interested, just head over to her website, get in touch with her, contact her and just run with it.

I think it’s a fascinating concept, and it’s funny that you mentioned social proof. A couple of years back, when I was actually thinking about the ideas that led to me starting this platform; Eventible, I had no idea about event psychology. I didn’t even know it was a thing.

And my main motivation was that I had travelled a long way to get to the Dreamforce event in San Francisco, California, which, as you know, every year is put up by Salesforce.  And before I got there, I wasn’t able to read any reviews. I was curious, what are marketers like me thinking? Why aren’t there any reviews about this event? And we live in an economy today, which is so review driven. Before you order a pizza, or you order a book on Amazon, you read reviews, you know, you go on a holiday, you’ll look up a hotel review on TripAdvisor.

Victoria Matey: Yeah. And going on the other side of the world, right? Just without knowing…

Ankush Gupta: And we’re going on the other side of the world, and we’re living in a world filled with these, where we are continually asked to rate and review things. So, my big question was, why not events? Why can’t people make participation decisions for events by reading peer reviews? It just makes so much sense, right?

Especially, the cost of events before the pandemic, for the live events was going up to $1500-$2000, and it was bizarre that you just couldn’t read reviews, and you had to make the decision based on a very limited set of data that was presented to you.

So, that was really the motivation for starting my platform, and it meshes so well with the concept of social proof that you’ve been talking about. And that’s what I found pretty remarkable when I first came across your body of work, etcetera. I said, it all just fits in, what Victoria’s been saying and what we’ve been trying to do. Now there is some verbiage around it.

Victoria Matey: Yeah.

 Ankush Gupta: Let me just share a couple of slides for the folks watching. So, they have a better idea of what it is that we are doing and how we can help them take forward some of the concepts being mentioned here by Victoria.

So, Victoria, as you know, Eventible is the name of our platform. And what we’ve been trying to build since the last couple of years really is the TripAdvisor for Events. A review platform. We are now the world’s first review platform for events, and it’s pretty easy to think of it as a TripAdvisor, right?

It’s very simple, we invite and solicit reviews from attendees, speakers, sponsors, in the hope that future attendees might want to refer to them. So, we started out addressing a couple of problems, one is, how do attendees discover events today? And we found that that process is fairly broken.

Most people learn about new events, either through something that pops up on their LinkedIn feed, or their Facebook feed. Or they come across an advertisement somewhere, or it’s a word of mouth thing, and when a friend says or a water cooler conversation, when someone mentions that you might wanna check out this event.

So, there is no efficient framework in place. It’s not a very intentional activity, right? It’s very ad hoc, it’s very random, it’s very cluttered. And people aren’t really aware that there might be a better event for them right around the corner, and they don’t have a framework to find these events.

And on the other side, event profs, event marketers and organizers spending money on advertising, on marketing campaigns, and that money necessarily is not always translating into long term brand value. It’s a very transactional short term thing, you know, you want attendees? You spend some money here.

But the question is then how can an event organizer really start to think about building a long term brand? And that’s where the importance of reviews and social proof really comes in. And this is why we really built Eventible from the ground up, to address some of these concerns, right?

So, as I mentioned before, we are a review platform, we allow attendees, speakers, and sponsors, to provide reviews of their event experiences. And quite simply, these reviews then help the events get scored, algorithmically scored, and then ranked for a certain category.

So, very simple. The good events surface to the top, and it helps them attract another audience. There’s a couple other things that we provide at the back end. Event organizers can download ratings badges for their particular events and put them on landing pages on their event sites.

So, basically what you want to say is that we aren’t the only ones saying that, we put on a great show, our attendees say it, right? That’s social proof, and it’s coming from a third-party neutral site, and that’s very, very powerful.

And we’ve built an entire backend for event organizers to operate on their own, it’s very simple. In one place, they have an idea of how the events are doing, how they are being perceived by people, and they can take control of the entire brand, the entire exercise.

Right, so, ultimately, and quite simply, if you’ve done the hard work and you’ve put on a great show, you want to get the word out, right?

Victoria Matey: Right. Absolutely.

Ankush Gupta: If you’re an event organizer, you want to get the word out, right?

Victoria Matey: Yes.

Ankush Gupta: And which is what we’ve really based Eventible to do. So, you start by creating an account in Eventible, you work with us to source the reviews, and you just let the magic happen.

Finally, you take these little badges and you put them back on your website, and you start showing your community, you start showing your audience, you start showing the world that this is really what our attendees think about us. We’ve been rated highly for networking, we’ve been rated highly for learning and development, we’ve been number one event in our category. And it’s not just us saying it, it’s our attendees who’ve reviewed us and rated us, which has led to us ranking so well.

And I’m happy to really chat with any event organizer watching this right now. Just book a chat with me. I’m happy to take you through the platform in detail. And as you can see, we’ve got a bunch of event companies and brands already using the platform, right from WBR to Mobile Growth to Informa, AD World, Third Door Media.

There are some big names who’ve realized early that reviews are a good thing, transparency is a good thing, getting the word out is a good thing. Every review doesn’t have to be positive. But yeah, and just getting the voice of your attendees out there in an authentic way, I mean, that is what is going to help you grow your brand, and that is what is going to help you create a sticky community.

Victoria Matey: Right. I think it’s amazing. It solves so many issues on different levels because this is a tool where you can both provide the feel of authenticity and have the advantage in these problems. You don’t want to commit to going to an event on the other side of the pond without even knowing what it is about, right? And paying for the ticket, paying for traveling or whatever might be the case. But it definitely helps event attendees but it also helps event organizers to kind of show their credibility.

 Ankush Gupta: I think, what was word of mouth earlier, you know, in the old days when there was no internet, has become like an online review now, right?

 Victoria Matey: Yes.

Ankush Gupta: Because earlier you would wait for a friend to tell you something, you’d take that, you’d trust that. Simply, people want to trust other people, right? It’s as simple as that.

 Victoria Matey: Absolutely, yeah.

Ankush Gupta: Now, instead of trusting the word of a friend, they can go online and see what other people like them are saying, what they’re thinking. So, it’s a very simple premise.

Yeah, so I hope that the audience watching today, Victoria, has learnt something new both about Matey Events and about Eventible. Please feel free to get in touch with both of us, if you would like to continue the conversation. We’re always happy to chat. We’re both on LinkedIn.

Thanks a lot for your time. Thanks a lot for your time, Victoria, pleasure talking to you as always.

Victoria Matey: Thank you. Pleasure is mine.

 Ankush Gupta: And hopefully we’ll do it again soon.

Victoria Matey: Yes. It was great to see you and to have this chat. 

Ankush Gupta: Thank you. Bye.

 Victoria Matey: Bye.

More about Building Awesome Events: The series aims to help you acquaint yourself with the who’s who from the events industry. This is an opportunity to listen in as we get to know interesting personalities from the events space. The show aims to understand why we believe in events, what we are trying to accomplish, the technology being used and the challenges that need to be overcome.

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