Getting people to sign up for a conference or an event is an art and a science. You have to persuade them to do so. The good news is, academics have been studying the science of persuasion for decades, and we can learn a lot from their experimental findings.
Hi Kelvin, welcome to our studio.
We're going to talk about persuasion, of people, and the science about it, but, then I'm already lost. Help me out. What is it about?
Well, I think one of the things that's really important for event planners to realize is that no matter what their job is, no matter what type of event they're planning, obviously they're trying to persuade people to do something. And normally that's to persuade them to sign up, or give money, or become a sponsor, or any other variety of things. Once you kind of understand, actually, a lot of our jobs are about persuading people to do things that you want them to do, that kind of gives a slightly different way of thinking about what our job is about. And the good news is that there's a huge amount of academic research and even kind of popular business books written about the actual, the art of persuasion, the science of persuasion. You can understand, it makes planning events quite a lot easier to do.
And, can you give some tips and advice on how to do that in the event planning industry?
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think one of the ideas that's really, really good to get your head round is this idea of scarcity. And, there's kind of the idea that something is hard to get hold of, the person who then gets hold of it has a greater value with that. And, you know, what does that then entail? Well, I run a free event course, or dealing with free events. A lot of free events, are conference-based, you know, they're kind of almost infinite supply, of the tickets that are available, they want, you know, to get as many people through the door as they possibly can, because the more people they get through the door, the greater that they can charge their sponsors. But the problem then is, that the people don't actually value coming to your event, you get a much higher dropout rate, and people don't necessarily value the content, the show, the event, so what we try to do is something, well, how can we make that scarce? Well, actually we'll limit the number of tickets that we'll do, we'll try and make sure that the people who get hold of the ticket appreciate that other people lost out, you know, a sell out is really, really good. But, I mean, I see the opposite all the time, take in award ceremonies where they're always extending the date, the date of entry, on, and that's kind of doing the opposite, you're showing that actually you don't need to get that then, that you don't need to register early to get into this event, because actually it's not so valuable.
But, do the same laws apply to paid events, because you're now talking about free events?
Yeah, I mean, I think exactly the same as well. Because, you've got a slightly different dynamic there, because they've paid for it, you don't necessarily get that oversubscription, it's hard to achieve, but it's still exactly the same. The thing they're paying money for, we see people queuing up to get the latest console when it's launched, or the latest iPhone when it's released. And that's because there's scarcity, you know, there's value and it's hard to get hold of. We'll try and think about ways that you can limit your demand, but another one that's really interesting is this idea of anchoring. So, anchoring is the idea that, you know, that there's something to kind of set this up would be, kind of say, you know, if you ask two groups of people 'How many sweets are in this jar?'. If, with one group, you say 'Are there 500 sweets in the jar, more than 500, or less that 500 sweets in the jar?' and then ask them how many sweets are in the jar. Take another group and say 'Are there more than 250 sweets in the jar?' And then ask them the same how many sweets in the jar question, and the people that have the 500 generally guess higher, because they've anchored, they've set the expectation of what that should be.
And how do you translate that principle into the event industry?
Well, I mean, sometimes it can be, one thing that we've done is, you know, we've got a free event, we've got pay-for options in America, or we have an additional option, which we kind of jokingly call our Super Awesome Ticket, where it's deliberately priced high, and we know we're not going to sell many of those tickets, you know, the super V.I.P. Service, and in fact the tickets there are not because we want to sell them, but to make the other pay-for options look less expensive, as it were.
So that 's one way that you can have anchoring, and the other one as well, if you have an early-bird price, and this is a really, really simple one to do, if you've got an early-bird price, show the price that it's going to be, and then have it kind of cross through, as it were, when you've got a reduction or a discount in place, show what the price was before, and simply by doing that, suddenly then you're giving this perception that actually it is cheaper now than it was before, so people sort of get that anchoring and that sense of what we call anchoring.
I also read something about loss aversion. How does that principle work?
Yeah, I mean, I think loss aversion is similar to the kind of idea of scarcity. And basically, something, with loss aversion, people tend to feel the value of loss more than they feel the value of gain. That kind of utility society that they thought about, so kind of losing 5 dollars or 5 Euros is worse than, the kind of impact from, the benefit of getting 5. If you see what I mean. So you actually feel the impact of loss a lot more. So, some of the ways you can think about doing that, is again around the scarcity thing, so how do you get people to feel that they're missing out on something. And some, kind of a good example is like, your email, or I can copy to your website, about what you're going to miss, by not coming, rather than what they're going to get by coming.
Okay, that's an interesting thought to build up your marketing with. But, maybe the last one is also an interesting one. It's about decisions you already made in the past. How they influence your positions right now.
Yeah. That's kind of this idea of choice supports advice. And with all these big ideas I've been talking about, there's great Wikipedia pages going into this as well, and there's a really good book called Predictably Irrational, and choice supports advice is this idea, well, what we tend to do, is we think that decisions we've made in the past are better than perhaps they were. So, at a point in time, it might have been an emotional decision, it might have been driven by discount, it might have been, kind of, a random decision where we, you know, tossed a coin, effectively, in our heads, but then after that point in time, we tend to believe that we made a really rational, sensible decision. Now, some of the ways that this can work in events is actually, how can you get someone to agree to do something small? You know, how can you get them to make a small purchase? Because once they've made that small purchase, they'll often think that we're better in the future. That can be a kind of, you know, can you do an online event to get people to go to your webinar first? Can you get them to sign up for a free download, or download a white paper? Because then they believe that they made that decision quite rationally when they then come to… Or, in a kind of, you know, if you're running a consumer business, how can you get someone to believe that you're the expert in that area? People, we've got to get them to make them get that small first 'Yes', they'll tend to favor you and make decisions in your favor down the line, even if indeed that first decision was a kind of a lighthearted or quick decision to make.
And you tried those principles yourself in the events you organize?
Yeah, I think with all of our events, it's kind of, we try to build them around those principles. I think scarcity is the one that we use most frequently. But also we do use the anchoring, we have this super expensive ticket option which we sell maybe one or two tickets for, but it does make our mid-price tickets seem a lot more affordable than they would do when that option wasn't there. And then also the choice supports advice, we’re all trying to get them to come to our first event, in fact, a huge amount of effort in getting people to attend one of our first events, or to make the first sponsorship deal for one of our concerts, because we're then confident that afterwards they'll continue to attend in the future, indeed sponsoring in the future as well.
Kelvin, I really want to thank you for sharing these tips with our audience.
Thank you very much, I enjoyed sharing it.
And you at home, thank you for watching our show, I hope to see you next time.