Why events are good for us
They say everyone loves a wedding but do we know why? Weddings are complex events comprised of a wide range of elements: venue, guests, the ceremony, catering, styling, music, speeches, transport, accommodation, photography….
I could go on. Weddings are defined by culture. A Jewish wedding will have rituals and symbols that distinguish it from, say, a traditional Balinese wedding or a Chinese wedding. But all weddings involve families and friends gathering together to acknowledge the decision of two people to spend their lives together. Weddings pulse with emotion. Tears are shed amidst laughter and smiles in a complex web of emotions. Weddings mark significant, shared moments in our lives. Put simply, they bring real people together in real time to generate meaning.
The same could be said of all types of events. When Essendon play Richmond at the MCG in front of 60,000 fans; when a thousand doctors from different countries get together for a medical conference in Dubai; when locals and tourists spend the day throwing ripe tomatoes at each other in the world’s biggest food fight at Bunol, Spain; when Taylor Swift walks on stage and the audience ignites; when Dior launches a new fragrance for the media and buyers at a swish event in a disused warehouse; and when you spend Sunday morning at your local organic market chatting to the stall holders and sipping your fair trade coffee.
Events mean something to us because they bring us together for leisure, pleasure, business, tourism, competition, creative interaction, commemoration, celebration and social cohesion.
And this is not new. Throughout history events have served the purpose of binding us together as colleagues, friends, families and communities. So much so that over the years the events industry has formed and flourished to the point where it now offers a fabulous array of career paths for those passionate and committed enough to immerse themselves in it.
In the age of social media, rapid transit information and complex communication channels events are now content generators. Words, images, video, music, statistical data and user interaction can be used to exponentially extend the life of an event beyond its occurrence in real time. Marketers know this and have a special term for it. “Experiential marketing” starts with an event that provides attendees with a real time experience to generate positive associations with the brand, company, person, team or other point of focus. The event team is responsible for the design and execution of the event and spares no detail to ensure that all the right messages are conveyed in the event experience. But that’s just the beginning. Once the content is “live” the social media process kicks in and the event content reverberates through multiple channels to reach its targeted destination. In business terms, the investment in the event can be returned many times over by using experiential marketing techniques.
Is there a down side?
Dr. Susan Greenfield is a scientist who specialises in brain physiology. Her research suggests that the use of information technology has serious effects on the function and structure of the human brain. In particular, Greenfield argues that human communication is a multi-faceted, interactive process that uses body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and other cues to process the content and intent of the interaction. The rapid growth of technologically driven social networks is gradually eroding communication across the broad spectrum provided by face-to-face interaction, according to Dr. Greenfield.
Young people are particularly avid text-based communicators – in 2013, 96% of young people ages 16-24 used text message every day to contact friends and family, and three-quarters used social networks. Face-to-face communication was less popular, with only 63% talking face-to-face with friends or family daily.
Furthermore, Greenfield suggests that the predominance of screen-based activities has harmful effects on the structure and function of the brain. In other words, our brain chemistry is being radically altered by our screen obsessions. She goes so far as to suggest a link between severe conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Fortunately, the brain is a robust organ that can resist the negative effects of the overuse of technology. We just need a bit of balance between our phones and the ‘real world’ around us.
Events play an important role in keeping it real. True, we can conduct business and personal relationship online. But a deal is rarely sealed without all parties sitting at the table, eyeballing each other and talking things over before signing the contract. And I don’t see online weddings becoming the next big thing. Eventually, we need the human touch. Events give us the best of both worlds.
It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be the event manager who brings it all together.
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