HOW STUDYING MORE CAN MEAN LESS WORK
Nerds. They've been coming into their own for a good decade now. No longer just a taped glasses visual joke, nerds and nerdiness have realized their cultural and economic power and have been unleashing it unabashedly. And while you might think this post is a celebration of the ending of Revenge of the Nerds, it's not. It's simply a message to event professionals that has come in loud and clear: You mean that nerd in junior high was right? We should pay attention to science? and homework? and methods? and analysis? Turns out, yes.
See, we (anyone in the experiential arena) are in the human business. There is little denying this. Sure, people are often the go to "planner" because of their ability to handle logistics. And yes, style might be the deciding factor when selecting an event "designer." But make no mistake about it, what we truly do isn't just about being "special." What we do is often powerful. Meaningful. Purposeful. We are entrusted to elicit human emotions, behaviors, thoughts and actions. And while that process might include to-do lists, and while the end product might necessitate some visual styling, what we must all decide to become are people experts.
Notice the use of the word expert. Have you ever known someone who was an expert without either rigorous study and/or decades of experience? Live events (conferences, trade shows, festivals, meetings, social events, marketing campaigns) people tend to be informal. Casual. We move and talk in anecdotal formats. We rely on intuition and what we have seen. That's all well and good. But that doesn't get you to "effective" or "proven" with any depth or speed.
What does get us there - to expert level as an industry - is the application of science to our end product: human behavior. Ugh, that sounds like homework. Well, yes. Just not at home. It's called WORK. It's what we all do as a profession. So it should feel rigorous at times. But it's not as difficult as we think. Two things get in our way on a constant basis and we need to remove them. The internet has helped with each.
First, scientific studies are not so esoteric anymore. They don't just sit in a book in a lab. They are available to all of us and in digestible formats for us "non-scientists." So we all need to start collecting, in a qualitative and not so much "fake news-accepting way", the ideas science is putting forth about how humans behave and why. Read them. Adopt them to what you do. Explain them to clients. Experiment with them. Don't be afraid. Failure is the quickest way to success.
Secondly, share what we have learned. Listen, we can all do with a 10% increase in fees, yes? Raising the bar of EVERYONE involved brings bottom lines up higher. In a world where many clients don't appreciate the value of experts in our field and price shop, we need to raise the minimum performance (and pricing) standards so that our worth is inherent. Sharing gets everyone there faster. Write. Post. Capture. Present. If breakfast cereal producers can work together to get to $6.00 a box for wheat chaffe and sugar, we can do far more for transforming our audiences.