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Psychology for Event Planning: The Attendee Hierarchy of Needs

Whether or not you took Psychology 101 in your college days, you must have heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – a theory of the human motivational model proposed by A. Maslow. It states that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy, starting with basic needs for survival and progressing to self-actualization.

More importantly, the lower level of needs must be fulfilled before one can move on to the next level. “It is quite true that man lives by bread alone – when there is no bread.”, he said.

The same idea can be applied to event planning. Yes, events are all about networking and learning opportunities, but what if the other needs of attendees are not fulfilled? It will prevent them from meeting the goals of attending your events.

Read on to learn how to use the attendee hierarchy of needs, and design the most satisfying experience for your attendees!

1. Physiological Needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep

A meeting room or event hall with good ventilation and an ideal temperature is the first thing you can get for your attendees. I once watched a movie at a very nice theater. Almost everything was perfect except for one big minus – I could barely breathe normally with the strange unpleasant smell in the air. Needless to say, I couldn’t enjoy the movie as much as I wished to.

The room temperature also needs to be well-adjusted to make sure no one is feeling too hot or too cold that they can only think of how uncomfortable they feel during your event.

Although food is not always required, water, coffee and tea are highly advised to be at your attendees’ disposal – especially when you expect them to stay enthusiastic and engaging (and when the need for sleep won’t be fulfilled!)

You might have been guilty of this before – not all seatings are equal. Attendees – wherever they sit – should be able to perfectly hear and see the speakers to be well aware of what is happening around them.

In this age of technology, WiFi passwords should be made visible at the reception area. You won’t want them to have any difficulties sharing the buzz on social media.

Eventually, make sure the restrooms are easily accessible and clean. It would be a nasty experience to be forced to sit on a smudgy toilet bowl. What about letting attendees enter a restroom with relaxing music and air filled with the scent of lavender?

2. Safety – protection, security, order, law, freedom from fear

Psychology for Event Planning: The Attendee Hierarchy of Needs - SafetySource

Is it easy to find the event venue? Are there enough of signage to assist attendees navigate around the place? Should they require help, will there be staff within reach to support?

People often feel nervous when they go to an unfamiliar place. Help your attendees relax by knowing that there is enough guidance and help when they need it.

Show attendees they are cared for right from the point of queuing to check-in through an exchange of greetings and smiles. You can go the extra mile by providing maps/directories, transportation and ushers – just in case your event venue is at an exotic location or too large.

Event agendas are necessary to make attendees feel on track. You can leverage on technology to make event agendas, ticket details, event venue info, policies, and everything else stay in one place for your attendees.

3. Love and Belonging – friendship, intimacy, affection and love

Psychology for Event Planning: The Attendee Hierarchy of Needs - Love and BelongingSource

We are talking about one of the most vital goals of event attendees when coming to your event. Yes, it’s networking.

Facilitate activities that deepen relationships among attendees. You can choose to include attendee bio in the name badges and event app, then let them interact through internal messages. Arrange seating in a way that encourages people to move around and network, for example, in a lounge room layout. Icebreaker games and discussions are very effective options for most event planners.

Remember that they must be able to feel a sense of belonging—that they are part of the event, part of the groups of attendees. Go digital with these 7 best social media wall platforms to show real time updates, tweets, and online conversations and keep everyone in the loop. Furthermore, with these 5 gamification apps, you can create incentives for attendees to encourage event participation. 

If you doubt networking opportunities are still not enough to fulfill attendees’ social needs, we are on the same boat! Discover a way to design more human-centered conference experience.

4. Esteem – achievement, status, respect from others

Even the most humble man would want recognition of his humility. This is a very legit need but not easy to fulfill. Imagine holding a big event with hundreds to thousands of attendees. How on Earth can you make sure everyone feels recognized, honored and respected? No way, right?

I was kidding. That is actually achievable.

During the event, you should always be looking for opportunities for attendees to contribute to the event. The speakers can ask questions and demand answers – or a show of hands. You can invite some attendees on stage to participate during talks and presentations.

Again with social media wall, you can let attendees broadcast their opinions to the whole crowd at the event and to their social networks.

Self-esteem of the attendees can even be boosted after the event by sending them a genuine thank-you note and asking for their feedback. If they feel they are being treated as important people, they will want to attend your next event.

5. Self-Actualization – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth

Psychology for Event Planning: The Attendee Hierarchy of Needs - Self ActualizationSource

This is where the content of your event comes into play. People come to your event expecting to leave with inspiration, knowledge that improves their lives and transformational experience.

It doesn’t matter how great you are. They only care about how great they could become after attending your event. If you give them something that changes their lives for the better, congratulations! You have managed to fulfill the highest level need of attendees.

The personal growth is a process. That is why you need social media hashtags to keep alive the discussions, recorded sessions and slideshares available in a digital publishing platform. This platform can be the event website, your company/organization website or your blog.

What do you think?

Do you find the attendee hierarchy of needs helpful? What other frameworks are you using to make decisions in the best interests of your attendees? Let us know in the comment section below.

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