A courtroom, a dark alleyway, or a poorly lit subway station at night… Not the most inspiring places to gather and socialize, right?
You might even feel like they’re quite intimidating. Why is that?
Something about those places says “not safe!” or “this is not a place to connect with people and, only come here if you have to!”
So, imagine yourself in one of these places, say the dark alley… How creative or outgoing do you think you’d feel standing in that dark alley?
Not very, right? But why?
Well, the idea that your environment can affect your thinking is pretty standard for architects and people designing workspaces.
Even something as simple as ceiling height has been proven to affect how we think. Research done by the University of Minnesota found that lower ceilings help us focus, while higher ceilings help us think more imaginatively and on a grander scale!
So, how does this relate to events?
The environment that you gather in is a prompt for the emotions that your guests can feel at your gathering!
What does this mean?
It means that the places that people gather directly affect how we feel.
A slightly cliched but easy to imagine example of this idea would be a stereotypical romantic getaway.
Most of us would think of an environment with candlelight, wine, good food set in a quiet and peaceful location. And what does a romantic getaway environment allow us to feel? We can relax, slow down, open up, and connect with our partner.
Contrast the romantic getaway with a classic business boardroom. Nothing about a boardroom says relax or “share your feelings.” Instead, it can make you feel guarded, defensive, or competitive. There’s even research about table shapes and seating positions affecting whether you have a collaborative or adversarial conversation with the people you sit with!
Does that mean event venues can affect every part of a guest’s experience?
“Venues come with scripts. We tend to follow rigid if unwritten scripts that we associate with specific locations.” Priya Parker, the author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters
That means that you can completely change the dynamic of a business meeting by gathering on a beach or a boat rather than in an office!
While an office has all the traditional associations of work, obligation, and grind, a beach is a cue for most people to relax and enjoy themselves. And a boat can create a feeling of luxury and maybe even encourage big spending decisions…depending on your boat.
But choosing a venue is tricky business; it requires a lot of logistics, and experienced event hosts will tell you that venues tend to overpower the content of your meeting.
So, what to do?
Let your event space embody the true purpose of your gathering.
Here’s an unlikely example that will surprise you.
When the clock hits 3 pm at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the classroom door opens to let the freshmen in. It’s a wide-open bright space with a giant pile of chairs in the middle of it, all tangled up, stacked on top of each other.
Students are utterly confused, looking at one another and at their teacher Wendy Woon for some sort of explanation. Woon doesn’t intervene and lets the students find their bearings in this strange environment. Little by little, students start interacting with each other and asking questions to figure out how to collaborate and solve this puzzle together.
Their interactions grow more amusing by the minute.
What’s the idea behind Woon’s unconventional approach to gatherings?
She says: “The reason I do this is to challenge the traditional hierarchies of teaching and learning. The design of social space, physical space, and emotional space affect how people engage with ideas, content, and each other. And I wanted to show my students that you must actually design a ‘space’ for exchange and also then invite participation by design.”
Woon’s approach to the design of social spaces worked perfectly for an in-person gathering. It’s interesting, unexpected, and arouses a great deal of curiosity while encouraging human interaction.
You might be wondering… How does this translate to the online event space?
Surprisingly, it is pretty similar! When choosing the right venue in the online arena, the first step is to find the right platform that enables you to invite participation by design, which means that you should focus on finding a customizable experience that will allow your guests to interact more.
So, it is crucial to understand to what extent your tech platform will mimic real-life gatherings?
Ask yourselves: Can you customize your theme? How much freedom can you provide your guests to move around and network? Can you integrate an element of surprise?
The idea is to elevate the quality of human interactions online, so by designing a virtual venue that’s extraordinary and engaging, you can ensure that the experience is awesome for your guests but awesome for their interactions too.
Which brings me back to my point, regardless of whether your event is in-person or online…
Venues can and should take your guests out of their comfort zones.
Confinement and quarantine have brought us indoors indefinitely. Where we eat, work, and sleep are now all in one place. Wouldn’t you agree that we’ve gotten a little too comfortable with this new reality?
So, just as Woon did, now is the perfect opportunity to take your guests out of their comfort zones for them to truly engage themselves in the act of connecting with one another.
Even if just a little, as the event host, you can liberate them from the idea that virtual events can never achieve what in-person events can in terms of elevating human interactions.
Take Zoom, for instance. You might feel that you are trapped in little cubicles of faces. However, even the ability to change your background to the Iron Throne can pave the way for humorous conversations, and you may find your true Game of Thrones pal!
Remo takes this one step further. There, you have the freedom to design your own venue! By creating a custom floor plan, you can reshape how your guests feel and interact with each other in an unconventional virtual experience.
What this really means is that you can host a business convention on a beach without worrying about the sand! Taking this even further, you can design an extraterrestrial spaceship or a boat floating in a pink ocean and have your wedding there!
With a little bit of effort and some forward-thinking, your virtual event can make your guests observe their surroundings and interact with it at a whole new level. This will allow you to set the right mood for your guests, leaving them feeling more relaxed and encouraging more genuine interactions at your online event. Take a look at some of these crazy ideas and remember — never underestimate the “wow” factor!
And you can do the same thing for the schedule in your event. A little forethought mixed with some unexpectedness can spark magic for your guests.
Think about it… Sitting still in front of a screen for multiple hours can turn any interesting conference talk mundane, so why not flip your event upside down with a sudden musical performance and get your guests to bond over this moment of elevation!
After all, we all love plot twists! So, GO BOLD!
The place you choose to gather and how you organize your event will be a catalyst for the emotions that your guests will feel in the moment. And, when your guests feel at ease and inspired, it makes your job as the event host easier as you’ll be giving your guests at least one thing: a feeling of connectedness even at a virtual event. Don’t we all need that nowadays?
Whether it is to network, socialize, or just to keep the business running, you have a myriad of possibilities to select the visual environment that will embody the true purpose of your gathering and allow for more authentic conversations that drive meaningful relationships.
For now, you may not be able to physically tangle up some chairs to elevate human interactions. However, by creating surreal moments on your virtual conference platform, you can challenge the everyday mundanity of confinement and spice up our new Zoom culture!
If you want examples of how virtual hosts are redefining the possibilities for online events, check out the Remo Revolution Community to witness the evolution day-by-day!