What Can the Events Industry Learn From ‘Emotioneering’?

This top trend for 2024, according to VML Intelligence’s “The Future 100: 2024” report, could be key to fulfilling what your audience most wants to get out of attending your event. They just may not recognize it themselves.

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       

Among the slew of ads that aired during the 2024 Super Bowl in February, the best (at least according to a New York Times critic) had one thing in common: They sought to stir our emotions, from the uplifting (the NFL) to the nostalgic (VW) to the tearjerker (Kia — above).

Turns out, making a play for our heartstrings is a sound strategy. “Two-thirds of people globally say they want brands to help them feel intense emotions,” according to VML Intelligence’s “The Age of Re-enchantment” 2023 report. “At a time when people feel burned out, disconnected, and jaded,” the report stated, “77 percent say they ‘just want to feel something, to feel alive.’”

VML named “emotioneering,” or “crafting experiences with emotional payback,” a top trend for this year in its subsequent “The Future 100: 2024 report.” Couple that with the fact that 70 percent of those surveyed by VML said that they prefer to spend money on experiences, not things, and planners have their marching orders: Make your audiences feel something.

This echoes some learnings from the just-released “Freeman Trends Report: 2024 Attendee Intent and Behavior,” which Convene Deputy Editor Barbara Palmer recently talked to Ken Holsinger, Freeman’s senior vice president of strategy and research, about. Among the findings in the report, based on the responses of 2,100 individuals who had attended in-person and online business events over the past 12 months: 35 percent of survey respondents chose “inspired and motivated” when asked how they would ideally like to feel after listening to a keynote or plenary session — a close second to “informed,” chosen by 38 percent.

And when asked to rate what elements are most important to the on-site experience at events, more than three-quarters percent cited “inspiration about my field,” second only to “discovering new products/solutions.”

All this brings to mind something close to home (as in my neck of the woods) that recently caught my eye — a new event series called “Happier Hours,” which invites participants to connect over live music, art performances, and movement. The series is the first offering of The Drop In, which founder Gillian Zettler calls a “platform for diverse experiences and ideas that encourage human connection.”

The idea behind the new venture, Zettler said, is to create “joyful in-person events, rooted in movement and music, that offer opportunities for mindfulness and attention in the midst of life’s many obstacles.” In addition to the Happier Hours events, The Drop In offers weekly classes, other pop-up events, multi-day retreats, and custom programs.

The Drop In’s first Happier Hours event held last month in Charleston included a performance from Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and poet Mary Lambert and a 50-minute dance-based workout led by choreographer Kristin Sudeikis. More events — designed to create “unique experiences that cultivate resilience and build joy” — are planned for Charleston as well as Austin.

Jennifer N. Dienst is senior editor at Convene.

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