Memorable events and experiences are undoubtedly a sought-after requirement by anyone looking to reward or recognise positive behaviours and performance. Psychology Today provides insight from an article, written by Peter Noel Murray Ph.D., entitled “How Memories of Experience Influence Behaviour” [1].

The article reports a talk given at a TED conference by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner and one of the founders of behavioural economics, on why our experiences and our memories can be so different.  These are extracts from the article:

  • Kahneman’s research reveals that the experiences we remember are defined by change. Our stories are made up of experiences that are new, novel and those that have greater significance. In addition, our Remembering Self likes endings—how episodes and other individual experiences conclude.
  • Kahneman cites travel as a great change-inducing experience. Because travel provides an ongoing supply of new and novel experiences, it is an almost perfect memory-making activity. It is a guaranteed path to achieve long-term quality of life.
  • Kahneman made the following distinction about how experience and memory affect our future behaviour: “We actually don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences. And even when we think about the future, we don’t think of our future normally as experiences. We think of our future as anticipated memories.”

Events that live in the memory

Incentive travel, corporate hospitality, conferences and product launches are all examples of business events that can create positive, lasting memories for company hosts and their guests.  The power of experience is in stimulating the senses, but the effect of those event experiences is stored and recalled later.  If the experience is unique and enjoyable, the feelings evoked will be motivating.  As Professor Kahneman said, “We think of our future as anticipated memories.”

Anticipation is a powerful influence over behaviour.  Offering travel incentives combines the prospect of personal reward and recognition with a chance to enjoy different experiences.  Those who qualify for these event experiences and awards gain a heightened sense of achievement and self-esteem.  They also return with memories of all the surprises and delights of the travel experience which they will almost inevitably share with friends and colleagues.  That has the double-whammy effect of encouraging others to work towards similar awards in the future whilst also driving performance across the team to sustain and improve the company’s performance.

A memorable incentive event, corporate end of year conference and thank you experience does not have to be expensive or exotic.  The impact may be less, but if the outlay is also lower the proportionate benefits will be much the same.  Incentive travel represents terrific value for money when measured against the big targets, such as market share, profitability, staff retention and stability.  Long-term business performance relies on the support and cooperation of the whole team however, not just the superstars.  There are plenty of ways that live events help with performance improvement, can sustain morale, loyalty and engagement for many key players, tactically as well as strategically.

Events to suit every purpose

Why is it just as important to plan every detail of a regional sales meeting or a departmental team-building activity as it is to organise a high-budget overseas programme?  Quite simply because they should each have a valid purpose and clear objectives.  Assuming that to be the case, the first step is to “write the brief”, or specification, for the event.  If it is not possible to predict a real return on investment, then an event may not be the right choice.

Precise event planning is the key to success.  The underlying purpose of any live event is to change behaviours, to produce a change in the status of the organisation.  If, for example, the event is designed to bring people closer together and to help them work more efficiently as a team, their change in behaviour (closer co-operation and mutual support) will reduce staff turnover and lower recruitment and training costs.  With that outcome in mind, the event can be designed to reinforce the behaviours that are expected and inject fun into the learning process at the same time!

There is seldom a single purpose behind planning an event.  The reasons may reflect a number of related issues and opportunities.  Events are flexible and event planning is a creative process, which means that your corporate event should be “bespoke”, not an off-the-shelf packaged solution.  Whether they are labelled as hospitality, team-building, business or incentive, each of your events is a piece in a jigsaw puzzle.  As the full picture emerges, your events are adding definition and depth by revealing the true colours of the organisation through shared experiences.