Use “Social Proof” to make for more effective events

One more observation about social proof, as described in “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” by Robert Cialdini. It can be extremely powerful at events.

For example, a few weeks ago I was visiting a church to give a workshop for their adult Sunday School, so I attended their worship service before hand. As with most churches, they passed around the offering plate, and I had to decide “do I put some money in?”

What did I do to decide? I looked around me to see how many other people were putting their money in the plate. I relied on social proof. And when I saw a lot of people not putting money in the plate, I figured I could get by doing the same.

Now, I’m sure most of the folks who passed the plate on are giving to the church, but I didn’t see that. Social proof told me it was okay not to put money in the plate.

Lots of people make the same decisions when they attend an event. They look around to find out “should I wear a nametag? Should I sign in? Should I give my email? Should I make a donation?”

That’s why a smart event organizer makes sure that enough people know what they are doing at an event that other people copy them. They know to wear a nametag. They know to write clearly when they sign in and to give their full contact information. They know to give a donation.

That way, when the people who don’t know what to do come in, they see good examples of people who are fully participating in the event and modeling the behavior you want from everyone.

One way I use this at events is to never send around a blank clipboard. I always sign it first, and I always fill out it out completely and check the “I want to get more involved” box. That way, when the next person takes the clipboard and wonders “should I give my email,” they see that yes, they should. After all, that’s what the first person did.

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