“The more that you can be aware that [going along with the crowd is] our natural instinct, the more you can guide [people] to their best solution,” says Jeff Kreisler, editor-in-chief of PeopleScience.
“Behavioral science is having a moment,” according to PeopleScience, a platform designed to harness behavioral science insights and apply them to the world of business. Owned by Maritz, the platform launched last year to be the gathering space for industry leaders, researchers, academics, public policy professionals, and journalists, and to make the field accessible.
When you consider that Maritz is the company that established the gold watch as a reward for longtime service to a company, developing PeopleScience to “[spark] the ideas that lead to better performance, outcomes and lives,” builds on the company’s origins in a rich, multidisciplinary — and as the website says, “modern marketplace” — way. Convene sat down with PeopleScience’s editor-in-chief, Jeff Kreisler, to learn how the initiative, which includes a website, social channels, and live events, informs the business events industry.
Kreisler, who writes the editor’s notes and newsletters, and solicits and curates PeopleScience’s content, is anything but a dry academician — he’s a keynote speaker, standup comic, TV pundit, and co-author, with Dan Ariely, of Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter, published in 2017. It was his work on this book, Kreisler told Convene, that made him a “convert to the field of behavioral science and behavioral economics.”
What has it been like to lay the foundation for PeopleScience?
We’ve had a great first year. It exceeded our expectations, and I think we’re very much at a moment where behavioral science is something that a lot of different industries are looking at for answers or potential answers to what’s next. We’ve had this data revolution — everyone has data on everything that everybody does. Now I think we have to remap that to “What do people do? What’s the human psychology? What do we do with this data that connects to how people actually behave?”
In terms of behavioral science for events, what kinds of topics have you touched on?
A few things leap to mind. We’ve published [content about] the peak-end rule, which is this scientifically proven principle that people remember the peak moment in an experience, and the end moment more than anything else. I did a lot of standup comedy — it’s always about “What’s your closer?” Right? How do you end? You end on a high note. Whatever that closing is, is what people think happens for the whole event. They reflect upon a three-day conference based upon how it ends.
We’ve also written about the power of travel as an incentive, and how non-cash rewards are actually more motivating for employees than just cash bonuses. And we’ve covered something called the “Ikea Effect” — you know, you go to Ikea and you buy a bookshelf for $50, you make it yourself, it falls apart, it barely holds the books, and it’s crooked. But you value that more than a perfect bookshelf you bought for $50 because you put effort into it.
This Ikea Effect can apply to people in their work, right? For employee engagement, [it’s about having] people help design their own work life. It can apply to experiences and
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events — like have people design part of that experience themselves and they’ll become more invested in it.
It can be crowdsourcing. Or something simple. I went to a conference where they gave little pins [for lanyards] that sort of identified topics you were interested in talking about, like a mug if I like talking about drinking, or a gavel, if I like talking about law. You designed your own lanyard, and it’s the only lanyard I’ve kept. Normally, I toss these lanyards, but here is one that I designed myself, and so I value it more and I think about that conference when I see it, and it has sort of a long tail.
What other behavioral science principles seem particularly relevant for events?
There are plenty of things, like social proof, which you might think of as peer pressure on one hand or wisdom of the crowd, where people will go along with what they see others doing. In particular, if it’s in situations that they’re not sure what to do and those other people they consider their close peer group. So if you imagine at a big event, people are not really clear what they should be doing, and they sort of go along with the crowd.
The more you can be aware that that’s our natural instinct, the more you can help guide them to their best solution.
This has been your first exposure to the business events industry. What has struck you?
Everything, and I will say I’ve had, as I reflect upon it, a lot of experience here. I was a standup comic, so I’ve been a performer at events. I’ve been a caterer waiter, I’ve helped with registration, I’ve been the person that books things. I ran a conference in law school, which is another chapter of my life. I’ve sort of touched on a lot of aspects of this, but I hadn’t really put it all together as, “Oh, it’s this one industry.”
For me, there are a lot of fascinating things, but this idea of the evolution of the field to being less about logistics and more about making an experience delightful and memorable — that is something that really attracts me to it because, obviously, in my moments as a speaker and performer, that’s been my goal, to make something memorable and delightful and fun and unique.
And then looking at what the science is, a lot of the science is sort of driven to that — to making the challenging stuff easier, right? Like registration takes too long or choosing a hotel is too cumbersome — using behavioral science to make that easier, or making the stuff that’s positive even more positive.
I’ve found everyone within the industry has that same goal. Even if their job is “how many coffee cups do we need for 10,000 people?,” they’re trying to do that so that we don’t run out of cups and have disappointed, angry people. Having an industry that’s really focused on providing memorable experiences for people to connect and learn is — it’s just really exciting. Anything in an event, at a conference, is for the betterment and advancement of everyone attending. I think that’s a wonderful aspect.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been excerpted from a longer conversation. Look for us to feature PeopleScience content in upcoming issues.
Michelle Russell is Editor in Chief of Convene.