How to Ensure Your Event has a Magnetic Personality


In the first season of the Amazon streaming series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the main character, who is practicing her skills as a stand-up comedian, goes to a series of parties to hone her craft. Time and again, she stops the party down as people gather to listen to her humorous and engaging stories.

That is the definition of a magnetic personality: the ability to draw people in so they actively listen to what you have to say. Professional politicians, entertainers, and entrepreneurs, in general, all of these people have utilized a magnetic personality to achieve an elevated position in their chosen field. In fact, a magnetic personality, in conjunction with some combination of drive, experience, and talent, is a gateway to success.

“The marriage of confidence and competence is capability, and capability over time builds mastery.” That was said by Andrew Sykes at the Convening Leaders 2019 event. Sykes, the Founder of the Behavioral Research Applied Technology Laboratory (BRATLAB) and co-author of the book, “The 11th Habit: Design Your Company Culture to Foster Habits of High Performance,” led a session titled “High-Performance Habits of Magnetic Human Beings.” One intriguing element to come from the discussion was Sykes’ suggestion that it’s not just people who have magnetic personalities: he made the case that events have personalities too.

“Our personalities, who we are at our core, is nothing more or less than the sum of the habits that we practice, and the same is true of our events,” Sykes said.

“Your event has a personality. It’s like a person. The experience people have there is like the experience they have interacting with a person, and that experience is defined entirely by the habits of the people who organize the event, who are working at the event, the speakers of the event, the people who greet you and check you in, people in the hotels. The sum of those habits determines the experience and the personality you will have.”

According to Sykes, four habits directly impact the personality of events.

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Ask A Powerful Question

“What’s your question that drives the performance of your team at the event?” Sykes asked. “[What is] the one question that has your event’s personality shine through? If that question is not clear to you, my challenge to you is don’t let the year end without [answering] that question, because it is the single question that can drive the competitive advantage of your event.”

Sykes used the example of Kimpton Hotels, which has its employees address each situation with a single question: “What’s the one thing I can do right now to make this guest experience awesome?”

Naturally, the solution will vary from situation to situation, but it’s the simplicity, the single-mindedness of the question that enables it to fit any circumstance.

“It’s a very different approach from many other hotels that have a formula like, ‘This is the way we treat guests, the same in every hotel across the world,’ and both are interesting models, but Kimpton’s commitment is to uniqueness. They invented the boutique hotel, and they want to have a unique experience for each person,” said Sykes.

Discovering what this question for your event will help you find the emotional appeal of the event. This is different from the goal of the event (which could be to increase sales, promote a product or company, drive brand awareness, etc.) because it encompasses the method in which you intend to engage attendees and ensure they remain engaged.

Listen Empathetically

Active listening is a technique where the listener concentrates fully on the speaker to be able to completely comprehend what is being said, respond thoughtfully, and remember the conversation later. Sykes recommends adding another component to listening: empathy.

“Below what we say, below what we feel, are the concerns we have in life,” he said. “And if we can listen not only to what someone says, if we can listen for how they feel, and listen way beyond that deep down to what really matters to them and connect there, people will feel not just listened to, not just heard, but what I describe as ‘gotten.’”

Sykes cited the online shoe retailer Zappos, which is well-known for its customer service policy. When you call Zappos, you will always speak to a person, and their representatives are given a great deal of autonomy when it comes to making customer-service decisions. As an example of empathetic listening, Sykes says that when a Zappos rep hears a baby crying during a call, they will send that customer a onesie, or if a dog barks in the background, they will ship out a tennis ball.

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

When employing empathic listening at events, the point is to truly listen to your attendees – not just to what they say but also to the meaning, the emotion, behind how they say it.

“The key habit is having your team listen,” Sykes said, “and listen empathically, to what makes a difference to people at an event.”

Deliberate Practice

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule,” it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to achieve mastery in any field. Sykes says it is this act of “deliberate practice” that many people overlook when they attempt to perfect a skill. Instead, people tend to simply perform the same act over and over again without the goal of improvement. Someone who is deliberately practicing is not performing a series of repetitive tasks, they are focused on growth.

“I would say that the events team, including the speakers as part of that events team, have a set of habits, and it’s those habits that determine the personality of the event for participants. Those habits are not often very deliberately designed, so that you may have one experience working with someone who greets you and checks you in, and then a different experience from the speaker. And there’s not often this consistent planning that says, “As Event X for the American Medical Association, we are all going to practice the habit of smiling when we greet someone,” he said.

Give, Receive, and Use Feedback

Instead of the traditional practice of sending out post-conference questionnaires, Sykes recommends having your staff reach out to attendees while they are still at the event to ask about their experience and discover if any improvement can be made. 

The ability to make real-time improvements based on immediate feedback can be extremely powerful.

“The first objective I have is for people to think about their event as if it’s a person,” Sykes said in an interview with pcma, “ and to ask the question, ‘If my event or conference was a person, what personality would it have and what personality would I like it to have? Do I want it to be fun-loving, or professional, or entertaining, or boring?’ I’m sure you don’t want your event to be boring, but many people do go to events and come back and say, ‘Same old stuff as before.’ They make a judgment about the event in the same way that they judge people — unfairly, but the judgment happens nevertheless.”

It is possible to create events with magnetic personalities that draw attendees back year after year.  For expert advice and help designing and implementing your ideal activation, give an Event Architecture expert a call at 972-323-9433.