In the midst of the pandemic that we’re currently facing, many of you would have taken the difficult step of postponing your event. However, while you may not host your event at this time, it doesn’t mean that your role as the organizer is redundant.
Your guests would have been looking forward to your event. What was initially a feeling of anticipation and excitement may turn to frustration and disappointment for your attendees, which means it’s up to you to keep that anticipation train moving.
By doing this, not only are your guests less likely to cancel their tickets, but it also gives them something to look forward to.
In this blog, we’re going to explore the psychology of waiting for something and how you can maintain engagement and excitement to ensure that your event will be a successful one.
The Psychology of The Wait
Consumer experience is a crucial element to the success of any event. However, once you’ve postponed it, maintaining interest is the challenging part, especially when there’s no way of knowing when your event may be able to go ahead.
However, even in this day and age, there are still some things that people are willing to wait for.
For example, how often have you seen great big queues of people looking to get their hands on the latest iPhone or Black Friday bargain?
As an event organizer, your job is to make the wait for your event less frustrating by building up that excitement repeatedly to ensure that people are willing to wait for you. We’ll cover some suggestions for doing just that in the next section, but we’re going to look more closely at the psychology of waiting for now.
Unoccupied Time Feels Longer
When you have something to distract yourself with, time seemingly passes more quickly. An excellent example of this is the mirrors that are placed next to and inside lifts. While waiting, people pass the time by looking at themselves in the mirror.
People Like to Get Stuck In
This is precisely why restaurants offer you a menu while you wait for a table and why you’re often called into the dentist’s chair and left to sit there for a little while before the actual examination commences.
If a wait is tied into desperation, such as waiting for a plane, the wait seems far more unbearable. The same applies to your event; with the anxiety that faces us all and the fact that no one knows when things may get back to normal, the wait for someone looking forward to your event may seem more excruciating.
Undefined Waits Feel Longer That Known Waits
If you’re sat in a doctor’s office, and you’re told that you’ll be seen within thirty minutes, more often than not, you’ll be more than happy to sit there patiently. However, if you’re waiting for longer than that, you begin to become impatient and restless.
The More Valuable the Service, The Longer People Will Wait
You’re far more likely to wait longer to talk to a doctor than to a sales clerk. Similarly, you’ll wait in line for the latest iPhone, but there’s no chance you’re waiting any length of time for a toothbrush.
How to Maintain Engagement
Now we’ve covered the psychology of waiting for your event; it gives us a good idea of how important it is to give your audience something to get their teeth into while waiting for your event.
In this section, we’re going to walk through a few things you can do to keep your audience on board even in the face of indefinite delay.
Utilize Social Media
Over the past few weeks, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat have understandably become gathering places, so your presence there must remain strong. As well as engaging with your audience, it’s essential to keep everyone abreast of any announcements regarding your event.
Share Content From Previous Events
One of the best ways to maintain engagement is to remind your attendees of what they were excited about to begin with. Videos, graphics, and images from previous events are perfect for social media.
By posting regularly, you’re building anticipation that keeps your audience returning for more. And although there’s nothing wrong with putting out a link to videos already uploaded on YouTube, now is the perfect time to upload any of that exclusive content that, up until now, hasn’t been utilized.
Now is the best time to be open and honest with your audience. If you’ve had to change your venue, for example, your attendees must be informed. Once you’ve penciled in a new time, date, and location, let everyone know so they can add it to their calendar. Regularly letting people know what’s going on will let them know that you’re still on the ball.
Create Buzz Amongst Attendees
By creating a private Facebook group exclusively for event attendees, not only are you creating a useful hub for updates, but you’re also giving them a place to chat and share ideas with like-minded individuals.
Look in on the group every so often and ask some questions and engage with the community. For example, if you’re hosting a gaming conference, ask the community what their favorite platform is or what retro game they’d love to play again.
In the next few weeks and months, people will be looking to this community, particularly those who live alone, so now is the time to cultivate new relationships.
While your attendees are waiting for the live event to go ahead, there’s no reason you can’t keep them entertained with webinars, quizzes, and online Q&As.
These can be snippets of what’s to come – they don’t need to be large in scale, just enough to keep your audience’s appetite for the real thing.
For instance, if you had a few guest speakers lined up for the event, ask them if they’re available for interviews or AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions through Facebook Live, Zoom, and Reddit.
Don’t Stop Marketing Your Event.
You’ve put a lot into planning your event, but now is the time to ask just that little more of your marketing plan. Sit down with your team and work out exactly how you’ll keep people interested and how best to impart information, such as venue changes.
If some of your guests are no longer available or you’re aren’t able to set up the same experiential set pieces, then you’ll need to promote these changes. This doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, though; there’s still plenty to be gained from reaching out to new audience bases that may be interested in the new speakers that you may not have tapped into the first time around.
Triggering curiosity in your attendees is what gets your emails opened, social posts read, and keeps your audience curious about your rearranged event.
It would be best if you threw a little teaser out every once in a while. Let’s retake the gaming event example; perhaps some of your speakers will be happy to tease some artwork, behind the scenes footage, or original music to keep people curious for more.
Community is Key
Times are tough at the moment, and it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable for you to lose touch with your attendees while everything is the way it is.
However, this simply isn’t an option if you want your event to work – even the biggest companies in the world require a passionate community behind them.
Remember to let people know that they’re not alone, and remind them that there is a whole community of like-minded folks available for them to talk to. Let everyone know, in no uncertain terms, that you’ll be back, bigger than ever once we’re on track again.
Think About the Future
There may be no definitive time frame as to when we might be able to get back to normal. Certainly, social distancing looks to be something that will be in place for some time to come yet.
Although you come to start thinking about rescheduling the event by the time social distancing measures will be significantly more relaxed than they are now, you must still think about being flexible and adaptable.
When hosting in an event hall, it’s challenging to control the flow of people. However, hosting a roadshow event means that you’re hosting outdoors, and you can outline your rules for social distancing beforehand by marking outdistancing proximities. You can also restrict the number of people in one place by spreading your event across several days, which may not be possible when using a brick-and-mortar establishment.
Hybrid events are also a good idea when you’re looking to ensure everyone is included, but you’re looking to dial back on physical footfall. Hybrid events mean that some of your audience will be participating online, while some will be physically present at the venue.
Evolving technologies mean that there is no end to the possibilities when you’re thinking about ensuring that your event is safe for your attendees.
If you’re utilizing everything we’ve mentioned, then you’ll naturally be building up a buzz around your brand, which can prevent people from canceling their tickets. Secondly, you’ll be in an excellent position to attract new attendees for the show, that is, enjoying what you’re putting out there.
Tim Cook is an event and marketing expert and the managing director of UK based events company versatilevenues.co.uk.