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Getting Attendees to Engage

Psychology of Meeting Attendees: What Inspires In-Person Attendance?

As an organizational psychologist with a hotel background, I apply tenets of consumer, social, and organizational psychology to the travel, hospitality and tourism industry. I help my clients apply and use what we know about human behavior to help them figure out what delights their customers and inspires their employees.

What I do in my consulting, speaking and coaching work can help you as a meeting planner.

In the age of technology, when virtual interaction is becoming a more acceptable method of communication by the day, what inspires physical attendance at meetings and conference.

Nothing will replace in-person, experiential, shared learning. However, technology has changed our experience of experiences. Due to several psychological reasons, people are more increasingly apt to post something on social media when it relates to showcasing some kind of travel or hospitality experience. This represents a phenomenon that I have coined the “Digital Parallel Experience”, wherein the physical attendance of events is not the sole motivation to engage: it is just as important to the individual to be documenting their experience in-vivo as it is to be actually having the experience itself.

Today’s attendance is documented and also experienced, in parallel via social sharing.

These days, if someone has not posted a selfie with someone they were happy to run into or posted a pic of the food they ate for lunch, it is possible that no one will ever believe they attended a conference at all. I am sort of joking when I say this, but on some level, even the attendee themselves may never believe they attended a conference at all. There used to be a commercial for a cassette tape that had the tagline “Is it real or is it Memorex?” Now, most people ask themselves: “Was that experience real? Did I do that? Was I there? I better go back and re-live what I posted on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter…”

The Pursuit of Connection

What is a sense of belonging? The field of psychology defines belonging as a feeling of being taken in and accepted as part of a group. Being approved by society, a group or tribe. Its opposites are alienation, abandonment, or estrangement.

In-person attendance at an event or conference provides us with the potential to gain something we all universally long for – even for those who are introverts. Gaining a sense of belonging is priceless – experiencing a rich and layered sense of connection with peers is a pursuit we are all innately drawn towards.

When we are deciding whether not to attend a meeting or conference, our logical, business perspective may help us decide by saying: “This conference would be a great opportunity to form some partnerships and meet potential clients”.

What we are really trying to accomplish when it comes to connecting with others comes down to are the feelings and emotions that dictate our decisions. Maybe we are motivated to not be “left out”, and attending a conference will help us to keep our ear to the ground and be in the know in our industry. Maybe we simply want to have fun and want to be with friends and colleagues, and meet some new ones too. Maybe we want to feel some sense of visibility and be around people who will like us – and who are like us. Maybe we want to grow our credibility, and be around people who can help us to stretch and grow who are more innovative, creative, or experienced…

Gaining a sense of belonging is priceless at a conference for all of these reasons, but is also highly valuable because it can have an impact that lasts well beyond the conference. It can cause us to re-think our own sense of who we are, and help us become newly motivated. Forming these connections helps us realize new heights of creativity, energy, inspiration, productivity, and focus.

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